really,thatitgave.Themandidnotknowthat,orcareparticularly.Hehadbeen wandering about a long time—not in years, for he was less than thirty. But it seemedaverylongtime. Atthelittlehousenoonehadseemedtothinkaboutreferences.Hecouldhave givenoneortwo,ofasort.Hehadgonetoconsiderabletroubletogetthem;and now,nottohavethemaskedfor— TherewasahouseacrossandalittlewaydowntheStreet,withacardinthe window that said: “Meals, twenty-five cents.” Evidently the midday meal was over; men who looked like clerks and small shopkeepers were hurrying away. TheNottinghamcurtainswerepinnedback,andjustinsidethewindowathroaty barytonewassinging: “Homeisthehunter,homefromthehill: Andthesailor,homefromsea.”
AcrosstheStreet,themansmiledgrimly—Home! For perhaps an hour Joe Drummond had been wandering up and down the Street.Hisstrawhatwassetonthebackofhishead,fortheeveningwaswarm; his slender shoulders, squared and resolute at eight, by nine had taken on a disconsolatedroop.Underastreetlampheconsultedhiswatch,butevenwithout thatheknewwhatthehourwas.Prayermeetingatthecornerchurchwasover; boysofhisownagewererangingthemselvesalongthecurb,waitingforthegirl ofthemoment.Whenshecame,ayouthwouldappearmiraculouslybesideher, andtheworld-oldpairingoffwouldhavetakenplace. TheStreetemptied.Theboywipedthewarmbandofhishatandslappediton his head again. She was always treating him like this—keeping him hanging about, and then coming out, perfectly calm and certain that he would still be waiting.ByGeorge,he'dfoolher,foronce:he'dgoaway,andletherworry.She WOULDworry.Shehatedtohurtanyone.Ah! Across the Street, under an old ailanthus tree, was the house he watched, a
small brick, with shallow wooden steps and—curious architecture of Middle Westsixties—awoodencellardoorbesidethesteps. In some curious way it preserved an air of distinction among its more pretentiousneighbors,muchasaveryoldladymaynowandthenlendtonetoa smart gathering. On either side of it, the taller houses had an appearance of protectionratherthanofpatronage.Itwasamatterofself-respect,perhaps.No windows on the Street were so spotlessly curtained, no doormat so accurately placed, no “yard” in the rear so tidy with morning-glory vines over the whitewashedfence. The June moon had risen, sending broken shafts of white light through the ailanthus to the house door. When the girl came at last, she stepped out into a worldofsoftlightsandwaveringshadows,fragrantwithtreeblossomsnotyet overpowering, hushed of its daylight sounds of playing children and moving traffic. Thehousehadbeenwarm.Herbrownhairlaymoistonherforehead,herthin whitedresswasturnedinatthethroat.Shestoodonthesteps,thedoorclosed behind her, and threw out her arms in a swift gesture to the cool air. The moonlightclothedheraswithagarment.FromacrosstheStreettheboywatched herwithadoring,humbleeyes.Allhiscouragewasforthosehourswhenhewas notwithher. “Hello,Joe.” “Hello,Sidney.” He crossed over, emerging out of the shadows into her enveloping radiance. Hisardentyoungeyesworshipedherashestoodonthepavement. “I'mlate.Iwastakingoutbastingsformother.” “Oh,that'sallright.” Sidneysatdownonthedoorstep,andtheboydroppedatherfeet. “I thought of going to prayer meeting, but mother was tired. Was Christine there?” “Yes;PalmerHowetookherhome.” Hewasathiseasenow.Hehaddiscardedhishat,andlaybackonhiselbows, ostensiblytolookatthemoon.Actuallyhisbrowneyesrestedonthefaceofthe girlabovehim.Hewasveryhappy.“He'scrazyaboutChris.She'sgood-looking, butshe'snotmysort.” “Pray,whatISyoursort?” “You.”
Shelaughedsoftly.“You'reagoose,Joe!” Shesettledherselfmorecomfortablyonthedoorstepanddrewalongbreath. “HowtiredIam!Oh—Ihaven'ttoldyou.We'vetakenaroomer!” “Awhat?” “Aroomer.”Shewashalfapologetic.TheStreetdidnotapproveofroomers. “Itwillhelpwiththerent.It'smydoing,really.Motherisscandalized.” “Awoman?” “Aman.” “Whatsortofman?” “HowdoIknow?Heiscomingtonight.I'lltellyouinaweek.” Joewassittingboltuprightnow,alittlewhite. “Isheyoung?” “He'sagoodbitolderthanyou,butthat'snotsayinghe'sold.” Joewastwenty-one,andsensitiveofhisyouth. “He'llbecrazyaboutyouintwodays.” Shebrokeintodelightedlaughter. “I'llnotfallinlovewithhim—youcanbecertainofthat.Heistallandvery solemn.Hishairisquitegrayoverhisears.” Joecheered. “What'shisname?” “K.LeMoyne.” “K.?” “That'swhathesaid.” Interestintheroomerdiedaway.Theboyfellintotheecstasyofcontentthat always came with Sidney's presence. His inarticulate young soul was swelling withthoughtsthathedidnotknowhowtoputintowords.Itwaseasyenoughto plan conversations with Sidney when he was away from her. But, at her feet, withhersoftskirtstouchinghimasshemoved,hereagerfaceturnedtohim,he wasmiserablyspeechless. Unexpectedly,Sidneyyawned.Hewasoutraged. “Ifyou'resleepy—” “Don't be silly. I love having you. I sat up late last night, reading. I wonder whatyouthinkofthis:oneofthecharactersinthebookIwasreadingsaysthat
everymanwho—whocaresforawomanleaveshismarkonher!Isupposeshe triestobecomewhathethinkssheis,forthetimeanyhow,andisneverjusther oldselfagain.” Shesaid“caresfor”insteadof“loves.”Itisoneofthetraditionsofyouthto avoidthedirectissueinlife'sgreatestgame.Perhaps“love”islefttothefervent vocabulary of the lover. Certainly, as if treading on dangerous ground, Sidney avoidedit. “Everyman!Howmanymenaresupposedtocareforawoman,anyhow?” “Well,there'stheboywho—likesherwhenthey'rebothyoung.” Abitofinnocentmischiefthis,butJoestraightened. “Then they both outgrow that foolishness. After that there are usually two rivals,andshemarriesoneofthem—that'sthree.And—” “Whydotheyalwaysoutgrowthatfoolishness?”Hisvoicewasunsteady. “Oh,Idon'tknow.One'sideaschange.Anyhow,I'monlytellingyouwhatthe booksaid.” “It'sasillybook.” “Idon'tbelieveit'strue,”sheconfessed.“WhenIgotstartedIjustreadon.I wascurious.” Moreeagerthancurious,hadsheonlyknown.Shewasfairlyvibrantwiththe zest of living. Sitting on the steps of the little brick house, her busy mind was carrying her on to where, beyond the Street, with its dingy lamps and blossoming ailanthus, lay the world that was some day to lie to her hand. Not ambitioncalledher,butlife. The boy was different. Where her future lay visualized before her, heroic deeds, great ambitions, wide charity, he planned years with her, selfish, contented years. As different as smug, satisfied summer from visionary, palpitatingspring,hewasforher—butshewasforalltheworld. Byshiftinghispositionhislipscameclosetoherbareyoungarm.Ittempted him. “Don't read that nonsense,” he said, his eyes on the arm. “And—I'll never outgrowmyfoolishnessaboutyou,Sidney.” Then,becausehecouldnothelpit,hebentoverandkissedherarm. Shewasjusteighteen,andJoe'sdevotionwasverypleasant.Shethrilledtothe touchofhislipsonherflesh;butshedrewherarmaway. “Please—Idon'tlikethatsortofthing.”
“Whynot?”Hisvoicewashusky. “Itisn'tright.Besides,theneighborsarealwayslookingoutthewindows.” Thedropfromherhighstandardofrightandwrongtotheneighbors'curiosity appealedsuddenlytohersenseofhumor.Shethrewbackherheadandlaughed. Hejoinedher,afteranuncomfortablemoment.Buthewasverymuchinearnest. Hesat,bentforward,turninghisnewstrawhatinhishands. “IguessyouknowhowIfeel.Someofthefellowshavecrushesongirlsand getoverthem.I'mnotlikethat.SincethefirstdayIsawyouI'veneverlookedat anothergirl.Bookscansaywhattheylike:therearepeoplelikethat,andI'mone ofthem.” Therewasatouchofdoggedpathosinhisvoice.Hewasthatsort,andSidney knew it. Fidelity and tenderness—those would be hers if she married him. He wouldalwaysbetherewhenshewantedhim,lookingatherwithlovingeyes,a triflewistfulsometimesbecauseofhislackofthoseveryqualitieshesoadmired in her—her wit, her resourcefulness, her humor. But he would be there, not strong,perhaps,butalwaysloyal. “Ithought,perhaps,”saidJoe,growingredandwhite,andtalkingtothehat, “thatsomeday,whenwe'reolder,you—youmightbewillingtomarryme,Sid. I'dbeawfullygoodtoyou.” Ithurt herto sayno.Indeed,she couldnotbringherself tosayit. Inallher shortlifeshehadneverwillfullyinflictedawound.Andbecauseshewasyoung, anddidnotrealizethatthereisashortcruelty,likethesurgeon's,thatismercyin theend,shetemporized. “Thereissuchalotoftimebeforeweneedthinkofsuchthings!Can'twejust goonthewayweare?” “I'mnotveryhappythewayweare.” “Why,Joe!” “Well,I'mnot”—doggedly.“You'reprettyandattractive.WhenIseeafellow staringatyou,andI'dliketosmashhisfaceforhim,Ihaven'ttheright.” “And a precious good thing for you that you haven't!” cried Sidney, rather shocked. Therewassilenceforamomentbetweenthem.Sidney,totellthetruth,was obsessed by a vision of Joe, young and hot-eyed, being haled to the police station by virtue of his betrothal responsibilities. The boy was vacillating between relief at having spoken and a heaviness of spirit that came from Sidney'slackofenthusiasticresponse.
“Well,whatdoyouthinkaboutit?” “Ifyouareaskingmetogiveyoupermissiontowaylayandassaulteveryman whodarestolookatme—” “Iguessthisisallajoketoyou.” Sheleanedoverandputatenderhandonhisarm. “Idon'twanttohurtyou;but,Joe,Idon'twanttobeengagedyet.Idon'twant tothinkaboutmarrying.There'ssuchalottodointheworldfirst.There'ssucha lottoseeandbe.” “Where?”hedemandedbitterly.“HereonthisStreet?Doyouwantmoretime topullbastingsforyourmother?OrtoslaveforyourAuntHarriet?Ortorunup anddownstairs,carryingtowelstoroomers?Marrymeandletmetakecareof you.” Once again her dangerous sense of humor threatened her. He looked so boyish,sittingtherewiththemoonlightonhisbrighthair,soinadequatetocarry out his magnificent offer. Two or three of the star blossoms from the tree had fallenallhishead.Sheliftedthemcarefullyaway. “Let me take care of myself for a while. I've never lived my own life. You knowwhatImean.I'mnotunhappy;butIwanttodosomething.Andsomeday Ishall,—notanythingbig;Iknow.Ican'tdothat,—butsomethinguseful.Then, afteryearsandyears,ifyoustillwantme,I'llcomebacktoyou.” “Howsoon?” “HowcanIknowthatnow?Butitwillbealongtime.” He drew a long breath and got up. All the joy had gone out of the summer night for him, poor lad. He glanced down the Street, where Palmer Howe had gone home happily with Sidney's friend Christine. Palmer would always know howhestoodwithChristine.Shewouldnevertalkaboutdoingthings,orbeing things.EithershewouldmarryPalmerorshewouldnot.ButSidneywasnotlike that.Afellowdidnotevencaresshereasily.Whenhehadonlykissedherarm— Hetrembledalittleatthememory. “Ishallalwayswantyou,”hesaid.“Only—youwillnevercomeback.” It had not occurred to either of them that this coming back, so tragically considered, was dependent on an entirely problematical going away. Nothing, thatearlysummernight,seemedmoreunlikelythanthatSidneywouldeverbe freetoliveherownlife.TheStreet,stretchingawaytothenorthandtothesouth intwolinesofhousesthatseemedtomeetinthedistance,hemmedherin.She hadbeenborninthelittlebrickhouse,and,asshewasofit,soitwasofher.Her
handshadsmoothedandpaintedthepinefloors;herhandshadputupthetwine onwhichthemorning-gloriesintheyardcoveredthefences;had,indeed,with whatagoniesofslackinglimeandaddingblueing,whitewashedthefenceitself! “She's capable,” Aunt Harriet had grumblingly admitted, watching from her sewing-machineSidney'sstrongyoungarmsatthishumblespringtask. “She'swonderful!”hermotherhadsaid,asshebentoverherhandwork.She wasnotstrongenoughtorunthesewing-machine. SoJoeDrummondstoodonthepavementandsawhisdreamoftakingSidney inhisarmsfadeintoanindefinitefuturity. “I'mnotgoingtogiveyouup,”hesaiddoggedly.“Whenyoucomeback,I'll bewaiting.” The shock being over, and things only postponed, he dramatized his grief a trifle,thrusthishandssavagelyintohispockets,andscowleddowntheStreet.In thelineofhisvision,hisquickeyecaughtatinymovingshadow,lostit,foundit again. “Great Scott! There goes Reginald!” he cried, and ran after the shadow. “WatchfortheMcKees'cat!” Sidneywasrunningbythattime;theyweregaining.Theirquarry,afour-inch chipmunk,hesitated,gaveaprotestingsqueak,andwascaughtinSidney'shand. “You wretch!” she cried. “You miserable little beast—with cats everywhere, andnotanutformiles!” “That reminds me,”—Joe put a hand into his pocket,—“I brought some chestnutsforhim,andforgotthem.Here.” Reginald's escape had rather knocked the tragedy out of the evening. True, Sidney would not marry him for years, but she had practically promised to sometime. And when one is twenty-one, and it is a summer night, and life stretcheseternitiesahead,whatareafewyearsmoreorless? Sidneywasholdingthetinysquirrelinwarm,protectinghands.Shesmiledup attheboy. “Good-night,Joe.” “Good-night.Isay,Sidney,it'smorethanhalfanengagement.Won'tyoukiss megood-night?” She hesitated, flushed and palpitating. Kisses were rare in the staid little householdtowhichshebelonged. “I—Ithinknot.”
“Please!I'mnotveryhappy,anditwillbesomethingtoremember.” Perhaps, after all, Sidney's first kiss would have gone without her heart,— whichwasathingshehaddeterminedwouldneverhappen,—goneoutofsheer pity. But a tall figure loomed out of the shadows and approached with quick strides. “Theroomer!”criedSidney,andbackedaway. “Damntheroomer!” PoorJoe,withthesummereveningquitespoiled,withnocaresstoremember, andwithapotentialrivalwhopossessedboththeyearsandtheincheshelacked, cominguptheStreet! The roomer advanced steadily. When he reached the doorstep, Sidney was demurelyseatedandquitealone.Theroomer,whohadwalkedfast,stoppedand took off his hat. He looked very warm. He carried a suitcase, which was as it should be. The men of the Street always carried their own luggage, except the youngerWilsonacrosstheway.Histasteswereknowntobeluxurious. “Hot, isn't it?” Sidney inquired, after a formal greeting. She indicated the placeonthestepjustvacatedbyJoe.“You'dbettercooloffouthere.Thehouse is like an oven. I think I should have warned you of that before you took the room.Theselittlehouseswithlowroofsarefearfullyhot.” Thenewroomerhesitated.Thestepswereverylow,andhewastall.Besides, he did not care to establish any relations with the people in the house. Long eveningsinwhichtoread,quietnightsinwhichtosleepandforget—thesewere thethingshehadcomefor. But Sidney had moved over and was smiling up at him. He folded up awkwardlyonthelowstep.Heseemedmuchtoobigforthehouse.Sidneyhada panickythoughtofthelittleroomupstairs. “Idon'tmindheat.I—IsupposeIdon'tthinkaboutit,”saidtheroomer,rather surprisedathimself. Reginald, having finished his chestnut, squeaked for another. The roomer started. “Just Reginald—my ground-squirrel.” Sidney was skinning a nut with her strongwhiteteeth.“That'sanotherthingIshouldhavetoldyou.I'mafraidyou'll besorryyoutooktheroom.” Theroomersmiledintheshadow. “I'mbeginningtothinkthatYOUaresorry.” Shewasallanxietytoreassurehim:—
“It'sbecauseofReginald.Helivesundermy—underyourbureau.He'sreally nottroublesome;buthe'sbuildinganestunderthebureau,andifyoudon'tknow abouthim,it'sratherunsettlingtoseeapaperpatternfromthesewing-room,ora pieceofcloth,movingacrossthefloor.” Mr.LeMoynethoughtitmightbeveryinteresting.“Although,ifthere'snestbuilding going on, isn't it—er—possible that Reginald is a lady groundsquirrel?” Sidneywasratherdistressed,and,seeingthis,hehastenedtoaddthat,forall heknew,allground-squirrelsbuiltnests,regardlessofsex.Asamatteroffact,it developed that he knew nothing whatever of ground-squirrels. Sidney was relieved.Shechattedgaylyofthetinycreature—ofhisrescueinthewoodsfrom a crowd of little boys, of his restoration to health and spirits, and of her expectation,whenhewasquitestrong,oftakinghimtothewoodsandfreeing him. Le Moyne, listening attentively, began to be interested. His quick mind had graspedthefactthatitwasthegirl'sbedroomhehadtaken.Otherthingshehad gathered that afternoon from the humming sewing-machine, from Sidney's businesslike way of renting the little room, from the glimpse of a woman in a sunnywindow,bentoveraneedle.Genteelpovertywaswhatitmeant,andmore —the constant drain of disheartened, middle-aged women on the youth and courageofthegirlbesidehim. K.LeMoyne,whowaslivinghisowntragedythosedays,whatwithpoverty andotherthings,satonthedoorstepwhileSidneytalked,andsworeaquietoath tobenofurtherweightonthegirl'sbuoyantspirit.And,sincedeterminingona virtue is halfway to gaining it, his voice lost its perfunctory note. He had no intentionoflettingtheStreetencroachonhim.Hehadbuiltupawallbetween himself and the rest of the world, and he would not scale it. But he held no grudgeagainstit.Letothersgetwhattheycouldoutofliving. Sidney,suddenlypractical,brokeinonhisthoughts:— “Whereareyougoingtogetyourmeals?” “Ihadn'tthoughtaboutit.Icanstopinsomewhereonmywaydowntown.I workinthegasoffice—Idon'tbelieveItoldyou.It'sratherhaphazard—notthe gasoffice,buttheeating.However,it'sconvenient.” “It'sverybadforyou,”saidSidney,withdecision.“Itleadstoslovenlyhabits, such as going without when you're in a hurry, and that sort of thing. The only thingistohavesomeoneexpectingyouatacertaintime.” “Itsoundslikemarriage.”Hewaslazilyamused.
“ItsoundslikeMrs.McKee'sboarding-houseatthecorner.Twenty-onemeals forfive dollars, andatickettopunch.Tillie,thedining-roomgirl,punchesfor every meal you get. If you miss any meals, your ticket is good until it is punched.ButMrs.McKeedoesn'tlikeitifyoumiss.” “Mrs.McKeeforme,”saidLeMoyne.“Idaresay,ifIknowthat—er—Tillie iswaitingwiththepunch,I'llbefairlyregulartomymeals.” It was growing late. The Street, which mistrusted night air, even on a hot summer evening, was closing its windows. Reginald, having eaten his fill, had cuddledinthewarmhollowofSidney'slap,andslept.Byshiftinghisposition, themanwasabletoseethegirl'sface.Verylovelyitwas,hethought.Verypure, almostradiant—andyoung.Fromthemiddleageofhisalmostthirtyyears,she wasachild.TherehadbeenaboyintheshadowswhenhecameuptheStreet. Ofcoursetherewouldbeaboy—anice,clear-eyedchap— Sidneywaslookingatthemoon.Withthatdreamer'spartofherthatshehad inheritedfromherdeadandgonefather,shewasquietlyworshipingthenight. Butherbusybrainwasworking,too,—thepracticalbrainthatshehadgotfrom hermother'sside. “Whataboutyourwashing?”sheinquiredunexpectedly. K. Le Moyne, who had built a wall between himself and the world, had alreadymarriedhertotheyouthoftheshadows,andwasfeelinganoddsenseof loss. “Washing?” “I suppose you've been sending things to the laundry, and—what do you do aboutyourstockings?” “Buycheaponesandthrow'emawaywhenthey'rewornout.”Thereseemed tobenoreservewiththissurprisingyoungperson. “Andbuttons?” “Usesafety-pins.Whenthey'reclosedonecanbuttonoverthemaswellas—” “Ithink,”saidSidney,“thatitisquitetimesomeonetookalittlecareofyou. If you will give Katie, our maid, twenty-five cents a week, she'll do your washingandnottearyourthingstoribbons.AndI'llmendthem.” SheerstupefactionwasK.LeMoyne's.Afteramoment:— “You'rereallyratherwonderful,MissPage.HereamI,lodged,fed,washed, ironed,andmendedforsevendollarsandseventy-fivecentsaweek!” “Ihope,”saidSidneyseverely,“thatyou'llputwhatyousaveinthebank.”
He was still somewhat dazed when he went up the narrow staircase to his swept and garnished room. Never, in all of a life that had been active,—until recently,—had he been so conscious of friendliness and kindly interest. He expandedunderit.Someofthetiredlineslefthisface.Underthegaschandelier, he straightened and threw out his arms. Then he reached down into his coat pocketanddrewoutawide-awakeandsuspiciousReginald. “Good-night,Reggie!”hesaid.“Good-night,oldtop!”Hehardlyrecognized his own voice. It was quite cheerful, although the little room was hot, and although, when he stood, he had a perilous feeling that the ceiling was close above.HedepositedReginaldcarefullyonthefloorinfrontofthebureau,and thesquirrel,aftereyeinghim,retreatedtoitsnest. ItwaslatewhenK.LeMoyneretiredtobed.Wrappedinapaperandsecurely tied for the morning's disposal, was considerable masculine underclothing, ragged and buttonless. Not for worlds would he have had Sidney discover his threadbareinnercondition.“Newunderwearforyourstomorrow,K.LeMoyne,” hesaidtohimself,asheunknottedhiscravat.“Newunderwear,andsomething besidesK.forafirstname.” He pondered over that for a time, taking off his shoes slowly and thinking hard. “Kenneth, King, Kerr—” None of them appealed to him. And, after all, whatdiditmatter?Theoldheavinesscameoverhim. Hedroppedashoe,andReginald,whohadgainedenoughcouragetoemerge andsituprightonthefender,felloverbackward. Sidneydidnotsleepmuchthatnight.Shelayawake,gazingintothescented darkness,herarmsunderherhead.Lovehadcomeintoherlifeatlast.Aman— onlyJoe,ofcourse,butitwasnot theboyhimself,butwhathestoodfor, that thrilledherhadaskedhertobehiswife. In her little back room, with the sweetness of the tree blossoms stealing throughtheopenwindow,Sidneyfacedthegreatmysteryoflifeandlove,and flungoutwarmyoungarms.Joewouldbethinkingofhernow,asshethoughtof him.Orwouldhehavegonetosleep,secureinherhalfpromise?Didhereally loveher? Thedesiretobeloved!TherewascomingtoSidneyatimewhenlovewould mean, not receiving, but giving—the divine fire instead of the pale flame of youth.Atlastsheslept. A night breeze came through the windows and spread coolness through the little house. The ailanthus tree waved in the moonlight and sent sprawling shadowsoverthewallofK.LeMoyne'sbedroom.Intheyardtheleavesofthe
CHAPTERII SidneycouldnotrememberwhenherAuntHarriethadnotsatatthetable.It was one of her earliest disillusionments to learn that Aunt Harriet lived with them,notbecauseshewishedto,butbecauseSidney'sfatherhadborrowedher smallpatrimonyandshewas“boardingitout.”Eighteenyearsshehad“boarded it out.” Sidney had been born and grown to girlhood; the dreamer father had gonetohisgrave,withvaluablepatentslostforlackofmoneytorenewthem— gone with his faith in himself destroyed, but with his faith in the world undiminished:forhelefthiswifeanddaughterwithoutadollaroflifeinsurance. HarrietKennedyhadvoicedherownviewofthematter,theafterthefuneral, tooneoftheneighbors:— “Heleftnoinsurance.Whyshouldhebother?Heleftme.” Tothelittlewidow,hersister,shehadbeennolessbitter,andmoreexplicit. “Itlookstome,Anna,”shesaid,“asifbyborrowingeverythingIhadGeorge hadboughtme,bodyandsoul,fortherestofmynaturallife.I'llstaynowuntil Sidneyisabletotakehold.ThenI'mgoingtolivemyownlife.Itwillbealittle late,buttheKennedyslivealongtime.” ThedayofHarriet'sleavinghadseemedfarawaytoAnnaPage.Sidneywas still her baby, a pretty, rather leggy girl, in her first year at the High School, prone to saunter home with three or four knickerbockered boys in her train, reading“TheDuchess”stealthily,andbeggingforlongerdresses.Shehadgiven up her dolls, but she still made clothes for them out of scraps from Harriet's sewing-room.IntheparlanceoftheStreet,Harriet“sewed”—andsewedwell. ShehadtakenAnnaintobusinesswithher,buttheburdenofthepartnership hadalwaysbeenonHarriet.Togivehercredit,shehadnotcomplained.Shewas pastfortybythattime,andheryouthhadslippedbyinthatbackroomwithits dingywallpapercoveredwithpaperpatterns. On the day after the arrival of the roomer, Harriet Kennedy came down to breakfastalittlelate.Katie,thegeneralhouseworkgirl,hadtiedasmallwhite apron over her generous gingham one, and was serving breakfast. From the kitchen came the dump of an iron, and cheerful singing. Sidney was ironing napkins. Mrs. Page, who hadtakenadvantageofHarriet'stardinesstoread the obituarycolumninthemorningpaper,droppedit.
ButHarrietdidnotsitdown.Itwashercustomtojerkherchairoutanddrop intoit,asifshegrudgedeveryhourspentonfood.Sidney,nothearingthejerk, pausedwithherironinair. “Sidney.” “Yes,AuntHarriet.” “Willyoucomein,please?” Katietooktheironfromher. “Yougo.She'salldressedup,andshedoesn'twantanycoffee.” SoSidneywentin.ItwastoherthatHarrietmadeherspeech:— “Sidney, when your father died, I promised to look after both you and your motheruntilyouwereabletotakecareofyourself.Thatwasfiveyearsago.Of course,evenbeforethatIhadhelpedtosupportyou.” “Ifyouwouldonlyhaveyourcoffee,Harriet!” Mrs.Pagesatwithherhandonthehandleoftheoldsilver-platedcoffee-pot. Harrietignoredher. “You are a young woman now. You have health and energy, and you have youth, which I haven't. I'm past forty. In the next twenty years, at the outside, I'vegotnotonlytosupportmyself,buttosavesomethingtokeepmeafterthat, if I live. I'll probably live to be ninety. I don't want to live forever, but I've alwaysplayedinhardluck.” Sidneyreturnedhergazesteadily. “Isee.Well,AuntHarriet,you'requiteright.You'vebeenasainttous,butif youwanttogoaway—” “Harriet!”wailedMrs.Page,“you'renotthinking—” “Please,mother.” Harriet'seyessoftenedasshelookedatthegirl “We can manage,” said Sidney quietly. “We'll miss you, but it's time we learnedtodependonourselves.” After that, in a torrent, came Harriet's declaration of independence. And, mixedinwithitspatheticjumbleofrecriminations,hostilitytohersister'sdead husband, and resentment for her lost years, came poor Harriet's hopes and ambitions,thetragicpleaofawomanwhomustsubstitutefortheoptimismand energyofyouththegrimdeterminationofmiddleage. “Icandogoodwork,”shefinished.“I'mfullofideas,ifIcouldgetachance toworkthemout.Butthere'snochancehere.Thereisn'tawomanontheStreet
whoknowsrealclotheswhensheseesthem.Theydon'tevenknowhowtowear their corsets. They send me bundles of hideous stuff, with needles and shields andimitationsilkforlining,andwhenIturnoutsomethingworthwhileoutof themesstheythinkthedressisqueer!” Mrs. Page could not get back of Harriet's revolt to its cause. To her, Harriet was not an artist pleading for her art; she was a sister and a bread-winner desertinghertrust. “I'msure,”shesaidstiffly,“wepaidyoubackeverycentweborrowed.Ifyou stayedhereafterGeorgedied,itwasbecauseyouofferedto.” Her chin worked. She fumbled for the handkerchief at her belt. But Sidney wentaroundthetableandflungayoungarmoverheraunt'sshoulders. “Whydidn'tyousayallthatayearago?We'vebeenselfish,butwe'renotas badasyouthink.Andifanyoneinthisworldisentitledtosuccessyouare.Of coursewe'llmanage.” Harriet's iron repression almost gave way. She covered her emotion with details:— “Mrs.LorenzisgoingtoletmemakeChristinesomethings,andifthey'reall rightImaymakehertrousseau.” “Trousseau—forChristine!” “She'snotengaged,buthermothersaysit'sonlyamatterofashorttime.I'm going to take two rooms in the business part of town, and put a couch in the backroomtosleepon.” Sidney's mind flew to Christine and her bright future, to a trousseau bought with the Lorenz money, to Christine settled down, a married woman, with PalmerHowe.Shecamebackwithaneffort.Harriethadtwotriangularredspots inhersallowcheeks. “Icangetafewgoodmodels—that'stheonlywaytostart.Andifyou caretodohandworkforme,Anna,I'llsendittoyou,andpayyouthe regularrates.Thereisn'tthecallforitthereusedtobe,butjusta touchgivesdash.” AllofMrs.Page'sgrievanceshadworkedtheirwaytothesurface.Sidney andHarriethadmadeherworld,suchasitwas,andherworldwasin revolt.Sheflungoutherhands.
“I suppose I must do something. With you leaving, and Sidney renting her room and sleeping on a folding-bed in the sewing-room, everything seems upsidedown.IneverthoughtIshouldlivetoseestrangemenrunninginandout ofthishouseandcarryinglatch-keys.” ThisinreferencetoLeMoyne,whosetallfigurehadmadeahurriedexitsome
timebefore. Nothing could have symbolized Harriet's revolt more thoroughly than her goingupstairsafterahurriedbreakfast,andputtingonherhatandcoat.Shehad heard of rooms, she said, and there was nothing urgent in the work-room. Her eyes were brighter already as she went out. Sidney, kissing her in the hall and wishingherluck,realizedsuddenlywhataburdensheandhermothermusthave beenforthelastfewyears.Shethrewherheadupproudly.Theywouldneverbe aburdenagain—never,aslongasshehadstrengthandhealth! ByeveningMrs.Pagehadworkedherselfintoastateborderingonhysteria. Harrietwasoutmostoftheday.Shecameinatthreeo'clock,andKatiegaveher a cup of tea. At the news of her sister's condition, she merely shrugged her shoulders. “She'll not die, Katie,” she said calmly. “But see that Miss Sidney eats something,andifsheisworriedtellherIsaidtogetDr.Ed.” VerysignificantofHarriet'salteredoutlookwasthiscasualsummoningofthe Street's family doctor. She was already dealing in larger figures. A sort of recklessnesshadcomeoverhersincethemorning.Alreadyshewaslearningthat peaceofmindisessentialtosuccessfulendeavor.SomewhereHarriethadreada quotation from a Persian poet; she could not remember it, but its sense had stayedwithher:“Whatthoughwespillafewgrainsofcorn,ordropsofoilfrom thecruse?Thesebethepriceofpeace.” SoHarriet,havingspilledoilfromhercruseintheshapeofDr.Ed,departed blithely. The recklessness of pure adventure was in her blood. She had taken roomsatarentalthatshedeterminedlyputoutofhermind,andshewasonher way to buy furniture. No pirate, fitting out a ship for the highways of the sea, everexperiencedmoreguiltyanddelightfulexcitement. Theafternoondraggedaway.Dr.Edwasout“onacase”andmightnotbein until evening. Sidney sat in the darkened room and waved a fan over her mother'srigidform. Athalfafterfive,JohnnyRosenfeldfromthealley,whoworkedforaflorist afterschool,broughtaboxofrosestoSidney,anddepartedgrinningimpishly. He knew Joe, had seen him in the store. Soon the alley knew that Sidney had received a dozen Killarney roses at three dollars and a half, and was probably engagedtoJoeDrummond. “Dr.Ed,”saidSidney,ashefollowedherdownthestairs,“canyousparethe timetotalktomealittlewhile?” Perhaps the elder Wilson had a quick vision of the crowded office waiting
acrosstheStreet;buthisreplywasprompt: “Anyamountoftime.” Sidney led the way into the small parlor, where Joe's roses, refused by the petulantinvalidupstairs,bloomedalone. “Firstofall,”saidSidney,“didyoumeanwhatyousaidupstairs?” Dr.Edthoughtquickly. “Ofcourse;butwhat?” “YousaidIwasabornnurse.” TheStreetwasveryfondofDr.Ed.Itdidnotalwaysapproveofhim.Itsaid —which was perfectly true—that he had sacrificed himself to his brother's career:that,forthesakeofthatbrilliantyoungsurgeon,Dr.Edhaddonewithout wife and children; that to send him abroad he had saved and skimped; that he still went shabby and drove the old buggy, while Max drove about in an automobilecoupe.Sidney,notatallofthestuffmartyrsaremadeof,satinthe scentedparlorand,rememberingallthis,wasashamedofherrebellion. “I'mgoingintoahospital,”saidSidney. Dr.Edwaited.Helikedtohaveallthesymptomsbeforehemadeadiagnosis orventuredanopinion.SoSidney,tryingtobecheerful,andquiteunconscious oftheanxietyinhervoice,toldherstory. “It'sfearfullyhardwork,ofcourse,”hecommented,whenshehadfinished. “Soisanythingworthwhile.Lookatthewayyouwork!” Dr.Edroseandwanderedaroundtheroom. “You'retooyoung.” “I'llgetolder.” “Idon'tthinkIliketheidea,”hesaidatlast.“It'ssplendidworkforanolder woman.Butit'slife,child—lifeintheraw.Aswegetalonginyearsweloseour illusions—some of them, not all, thank God. But for you, at your age, to be broughtfacetofacewiththingsastheyare,andnotaswewantthemtobe—it seemssuchanunnecessarysacrifice.” “Don'tyouthink,”saidSidneybravely,“thatyouareapoorpersontotalkof sacrifice?Haven'tyoualways,allyourlife—” Dr.Edcoloredtotherootsofhisstraw-coloredhair. “Certainly not,” he said almost irritably. “Max had genius; I had—ability. That's different. One real success is better than two halves. Not”—he smiled downather—“notthatIminimizemyusefulness.Somebodyhastodothehack-
work,and,ifIdosayitmyself,I'maprettygoodhack.” “Very well,” said Sidney. “Then I shall be a hack, too. Of course, I had thoughtofotherthings,—myfatherwantedmetogotocollege,—butI'mstrong andwilling.AndonethingImustmakeupmymindto,Dr.Ed;Ishallhaveto supportmymother.” Harriet passed the door on her way in to a belated supper. The man in the parlorhadamomentaryglimpseofherslender,saggingshoulders,herthinface, herundisguisedmiddleage. “Yes,”hesaid,whenshewasoutofhearing.“It'shard,butIdaresayit'sright enough,too.Yourauntoughttohaveherchance.Only—Iwishitdidn'thaveto be.” Sidney,leftalone,stoodinthelittleparlorbesidetheroses.Shetouchedthem tenderly,absently.Life,whichthedaybeforehadcalledherwiththebeckoning fingerofdreams,nowreachedoutgriminsistenthands.Life—intheraw.
CHAPTERIII K.LeMoynehadwakenedearlythatfirstmorninginhisnewquarters.When hesatupandyawned,itwastoseehisworncravatdisappearingwithvigorous tugsunderthebureau.Herescuedit,gentlybutfirmly. “YouandI,Reginald,”heapostrophizedthebureau,“willhavetocometoan understanding.WhatIleaveontheflooryoumayhave,butwhatblowsdownis nottobetouched.” Becausehewasyoungandverystrong,hewakenedtoacertainlightnessof spirit. The morning sun had always called him to a new day, and the sun was shining. But he grew depressed as he prepared for the office. He told himself savagely, as he put on his shabby clothing, that, having sought for peace and nowfoundit,hewasanassforresentingit.Thetroublewas,ofcourse,thathe came of fightingstock:soldiersandexplorers,evenagentlemanadventureror two,hadbeenhisforefather.Heloathedpeacewithadeadlyloathing. Havinggivenupeverythingelse,K.LeMoynehadalsogivenuptheloveof woman.That,ofcourse,isfigurative.Hehadbeentoobusyforwomen;andnow he was too idle. A small part of his brain added figures in the office of a gas companydaily,forthesumoftwodollarsandfiftycentspereight-hourworking day.ButtherealK.LeMoynethathaddreameddreams,hadnothingtodowith thefigures,butsatsomewhereinhisheadandmockedhimasheworkedathis task. “Time's going by, and here you are!” mocked the real person—who was, of course,notK.LeMoyneatall.“You'rethehellofalotofuse,aren'tyou?Two andtwo are fourandthreeareseven—takeoffthediscount.That'sright.It's a man'swork,isn'tit?” “Somebody'sgottodothissortofthing,”protestedthesmallpartofhisbrain thatearnedthetwo-fiftyperworkingday.“Andit'sagreatanaesthetic.Hecan't think when he's doing it. There's something practical about figures, and— rational.” He dressed quickly, ascertaining that he had enough money to buy a fivedollar ticket at Mrs. McKee's; and, having given up the love of woman with otherthings,hewascarefulnottolookaboutforSidneyonhisway. He breakfasted at Mrs. McKee's, and was initiated into the mystery of the
ticket punch. The food was rather good, certainly plentiful; and even his squeamishmorningappetitecouldfindnofaultwiththeself-respectingtidiness of the place. Tillie proved to be neat and austere. He fancied it would not be pleasant to be very late for one's meals—in fact, Sidney had hinted as much. Someofthe“mealers”—theStreet'snameforthem—venturedonvarioussmall familiaritiesofspeechwithTillie.K.LeMoynehimselfwasscrupulouslypolite, but reserved. He was determined not to let the Street encroach on his wretchedness. Because he had come to live there was no reason why it should adopthim.Buthewasverypolite.Whenthedeaf-and-dumbbookagentwrote somethingonapencilpadandpushedittowardhim,herepliedinkind. “We are very glad to welcome you to the McKee family,” was what was writtenonthepad. “Very happy, indeed, to be with you,” wrote back Le Moyne—and realized withasortofshockthathemeantit. Thekindlygreetinghadtouchedhim.Thegreetingandthebreakfastcheered him;also,hehadevidentlymadesomeheadwaywithTillie. “Don'tyouwantatoothpick?”sheasked,ashewentout. In K.'s previous walk of life there had been no toothpicks; or, if there were any,theywerekept,alongwiththefamilyscandals,inacloset.Butnearlyayear of buffeting about had taught him many things. He took one, and placed it nonchalantlyinhiswaistcoatpocket,ashehadseentheothersdo. Tillie,herrushhourover,wanderedbackintothekitchenandpouredherselfa cupofcoffee.Mrs.McKeewasreweighingthemeatorder. “Kindofanicefellow,”Tilliesaid,cuptolips—“thenewman.” “Weekormeal?” “Week.He'dbehandsomeifhewasn'tsogrouchy-looking.Litupsomewhen Mr.Wagnersenthimoneofhisloveletters.RoomsoveratthePages'.” Mrs.McKeedrewalongbreathandenteredthelambstewinabook. “When I think of Anna Page taking a roomer, it just about knocks me over, Tillie.Andwherethey'llputhim,inthatlittlehouse—helookedthin,whatIsaw ofhim.Sevenpoundsandaquarter.”Thislastreferred,nottoK.LeMoyne,of course,buttothelambstew. “Thinasafiddle-string.” “Justkeepaneyeonhim,thathegetsenough.”Then,ratherashamedofher unbusinesslikemethods:“Athinmealer'sapooradvertisement.Doyousuppose thisisthedogmeatorthesoupscraps?”
TilliewasanieceofMrs.Rosenfeld.InsuchmannerwasmostoftheStreet anditsenvironsconnected;insuchwisediditssmallgossipstartatoneendand pursueitscoursedownonesideanduptheother. “SidneyPageisengagedtoJoeDrummond,”announcedTillie.“Hesenthera lotofpinkrosesyesterday.” Therewasnomaliceinherflatstatement,noenvy.Sidneyandshe,livingin the world of the Street, occupied different spheres. But the very lifelessness in her voice told how remotely such things touched her, and thus was tragic. “Mealers”cameandwent—smallclerks,pettytradesmen,husbandslivingalone indarkenedhousesduringthesummerhegiraofwives.Variousandcatholicwas Tillie's male acquaintance, but compounded of good fellowship only. Once, years before, romance had paraded itself before her in the garb of a traveling nurseryman—hadwalkedbyandnotcomeback. “And Miss Harriet's going into business for herself. She's taken rooms downtown;she'sgoingtobeMadameSomethingorother.” Now,atlast,wasMrs.McKee'sattentioncaughtriveted. “For the love of mercy! At her age! It's downright selfish. If she raises her pricesshecan'tmakemynewfoulard.” Tilliesatatthetable,herfadedblueeyesfixedonthebackyard,whereher aunt,Mrs.Rosenfeld,washangingouttheweek'swashoftablelinen. “Idon'tknowasit'ssoselfish,”shereflected.“We'veonlygotonelife.Iguess abody'sgottherighttoliveit.” Mrs.McKeeeyedhersuspiciously,butTillie'sfaceshowednoemotion. “Youdon'teverhearofSchwitter,doyou?” “No;Iguessshe'sstillliving.” Schwitter, the nurseryman, had proved to have a wife in an insane asylum. ThatwaswhyTillie'sromancehadonlyparadeditselfbeforeherandhadgone by. “Yougotoutofthatlucky.” Tillieroseandtiedaginghamapronoverherwhiteone. “Iguessso.Onlysometimes—” “Idon'tknowasitwouldhavebeensowrong.Heain'tyoung,andIain't.And we're not getting any younger. He had nice manners; he'd have been good to me.” Mrs.McKee'svoicefailedher.Foramomentshegaspedlikeafish.Then: