Volume II
Chapter VII
 

But she did not "look out about the booze." Each morning she awoke in a state of depression so horrible that she wondered why she could not bring herself to plan suicide. Why was it? Her marriage? Yes--and she paid it its customary tribute of a shudder. Yes, her marriage had made all things thereafter possible. But what else? Lack of courage? Lack of self-respect? Was it not always assumed that a woman in her position, if she had a grain of decent instinct, would rush eagerly upon death? Was she so much worse than others? Or was what everybody said about these things--everybody who had experience--was it false, like nearly everything else she had been taught? She did not understand; she only knew that hope was as strong within her as health itself--and that she did not want to die--and that at present she was helpless.

One evening the man she was with--a good-looking and unusually interesting young chap--suddenly said:

"What a heart action you have got! Let me listen to that again."

"Is it all wrong?" asked Susan, as he pressed his ear against her chest.

"You ask that as if you rather hoped it was."

"I do--and I don't."

"Well," said he, after listening for a third time, "you'll never die of heart trouble. I never heard a heart with such a grand action--like a big, powerful pump, built to last forever. You're never ill, are you?"

"Not thus far."

"And you'll have a hard time making yourself ill.

Health? Why, your health must be perfect. Let me see." And he proceeded to thump and press upon her chest with an expertness that proclaimed the student of medicine. He was all interest and enthusiasm, took a pencil and, spreading a sheet upon her chest over her heart, drew its outlines. "There!" he cried.

"What is it?" asked Susan. "I don't understand."

The young man drew a second and much smaller heart within the outline of hers. "This," he explained, "is about the size of an ordinary heart. You can see for yourself that yours is fully one-fourth bigger than the normal."

"What of it?" said Susan.

"Why, health and strength--and vitality--courage--hope--all one-fourth above the ordinary allowance. Yes, more than a fourth. I envy you. You ought to live long, stay young until you're very old--and get pretty much anything you please. You don't belong to this life. Some accident, I guess. Every once in a while I run across a case something like yours. You'll go back where you belong. This is a dip, not a drop."

"You sound like a fortune-teller." She was smiling mockingly. But in truth she had never in all her life heard words that thrilled her so, that heartened her so.

"I am. A scientific fortune-teller. And what that kind says comes true, barring accidents. As you're not ignorant and careless this life of yours isn't physiologically bad. On the contrary, you're out in the open air much of the time and get the splended exercise of walking--a much more healthful life, in the essential ways, than respectable women lead. They're always stuffing, and rumping it. They never move if they can help. No, nothing can stop you but death--unless you're far less intelligent than you look. Oh, yes--death and one other thing."

"Drink." And he looked shrewdly at her.

But drink she must. And each day, as soon as she dressed and was out in the street, she began to drink, and kept it up until she had driven off the depression and had got herself into the mood of recklessness in which she found a certain sardonic pleasure in outraging her own sensibilities. There is a stage in a drinking career when the man or the woman becomes depraved and ugly as soon as the liquor takes effect. But she was far from this advanced stage. Her disposition was, if anything, more sweet and generous when she was under the influence of liquor. The whiskey--she almost always drank whiskey--seemed to act directly and only upon the nerves that ached and throbbed when she was sober, the nerves that made the life she was leading seem loathsome beyond the power of habit to accustom. With these nerves stupefied, her natural gayety asserted itself, and a fondness for quiet and subtle mockery--her indulgence in it did not make her popular with vain men sufficiently acute to catch her meaning.

By observation and practice she was soon able to measure the exact amount of liquor that was necessary to produce the proper state of intoxication at the hour for going "on duty." That gayety of hers was of the surface only. Behind it her real self remained indifferent or somber or sardonic, according to her mood of the day. And she had the sense of being in the grasp of a hideous, fascinating nightmare, of being dragged through some dreadful probation from which she would presently emerge to ascend to the position she would have earned by her desperate fortitude. The past--unreal. The present--a waking dream. But the future--ah, the future!

He has not candidly explored far beneath the surface of things who does not know the strange allure, charm even, that many loathsome things possess. And drink is peculiarly fitted to bring out this perverse quality--drink that blurs all the conventionalities, even those built up into moral ideas by centuries and ages of unbroken custom. The human animal, for all its pretenses of inflexibility, is almost infinitely adaptable--that is why it has risen in several million years of evolution from about the humblest rank in the mammalian family to overlordship of the universe. Still, it is doubtful if, without drink to help her, a girl of Susan's intelligence and temperament would have been apt to endure. She would probably have chosen the alternative--death. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of girls, at least her equals in sensibility, are caught in the same calamity every year, tens of thousands, ever more and more as our civilization transforms under the pressure of industrialism, are caught in the similar calamities of soul-destroying toil. And only the few survive who have perfect health and abounding vitality. Susan's iron strength enabled her to live; but it was drink that enabled her to endure. Beyond question one of the greatest blessings that could now be conferred upon the race would be to cure it of the drink evil. But at the same time, if drink were taken away before the causes of drink were removed, there would be an appalling increase in suicide--in insanity, in the general total of human misery. For while drink retards the growth of intelligent effort to end the stupidities in the social system, does it not also help men and women to bear the consequences of those stupidities? Our crude and undeveloped new civilization, strapping men and women and children to the machines and squeezing all the energy out of them, all the capacity for vital life, casts them aside as soon as they are useless but long before they are dead. How unutterably wretched they would be without drink to give them illusions!

Susan grew fond of cigarettes, fond of whiskey; to the rest she after a few weeks became numb--no new or strange phenomenon in a world where people with a cancer or other hideous running sore or some gross and frightful deformity of fat or excrescence are seen laughing, joining freely and comfortably in the company of the unafflicted. In her affliction Susan at least saw only those affected like herself--and that helped not a little, helped the whiskey to confuse and distort her outlook upon life.

The old Cartesian formula--"I think, therefore I am"--would come nearer to expressing a truth, were it reversed--"I am, therefore I think." Our characters are compressed, and our thoughts bent by our environment. And most of us are unconscious of our slavery because our environment remains unchanged from birth until death, and so seems the whole universe to us.

In spite of her life, in spite of all she did to disguise herself, there persisted in her face--even when she was dazed or giddied or stupefied with drink--the expression of the woman on the right side of the line. Whether it was something in her character, whether it was not rather due to superiority of breeding and intelligence, would be difficult to say. However, there was the different look that irritated many of the other girls, interfered with her business and made her feel a hypocrite. She heard so much about the paleness of her lips that she decided to end that comment by using paint--the durable kind Ida had recommended. When her lips flamed carmine, a strange and striking effect resulted. The sad sweet pensiveness of her eyes--the pallor of her clear skin--then, that splash of bright red, artificial, bold, defiant--the contrast of the combination seemed somehow to tell the story of her life her past no less than her present. And when her beauty began to come back--for, hard though her life was, it was a life of good food, of plenty of sleep, of much open air; so it put no such strain upon her as had the life of the factory and the tenement--when her beauty came back, the effect of that contrast of scarlet splash against the sad purity of pallid cheeks and violet-gray eyes became a mark of individuality, of distinction. It was not long before Susan would have as soon thought of issuing forth with her body uncovered as with her lips unrouged.

She turned away from men who sought her a second time. She was difficult to find, she went on "duty" only enough days each week to earn a low average of what was expected from the girls by their protectors. Yet she got many unexpected presents--and so had money to lend to the other girls, who soon learned how "easy" she was.

Maud, sometimes at her own prompting, sometimes prompted by Jim, who was prompted by Freddie--warned her every few days that she was skating on the thinnest of ice. But she went her way. Not until she accompanied a girl to an opium joint to discover whether dope had the merits claimed for it as a deadener of pain and a producer of happiness--not until then did Freddie come in person.

"I hear," said he and she wondered whether he had heard from Max or from loose-tongued Maud--"that you come into the hotel so drunk that men sometimes leave you right away again--go without paying you."

"I must drink," said Susan.

"You must stop drink," retorted he, amiable in his terrible way. "If you don't, I'll have you pinched and sent up. That'll bring you to your senses."

"I must drink," said Susan.

"Then I must have you pinched," said he with his mocking laugh. "Don't be a fool," he went on. "You can make money enough to soon buy the right sort of clothes so that I can afford to be seen with you. I'd like to take you out once in a while and give you a swell time. But what'd we look like together--with you in those cheap things out of bargain troughs? Not that you don't look well--for you do. But the rest of you isn't up to your feet and to the look in your face. The whole thing's got to be right before a lady can sit opposite me in Murray's or Rector's."

"All I ask is to be let alone," said Susan.

"That isn't playing square--and you've got to play square. What I want is to set you up in a nice parlor trade--chaps from the college and the swell clubs and hotels. But I can't do anything for you as long as you drink this way. You'll have to stay on the streets."

"That's where I want to stay."

"Well, there's something to be said for the streets," Freddie admitted. "If a woman don't intend to make sporting her life business, she don't want to get up among the swells of the profession, where she'd become known and find it hard to sidestep. Still, even in the street you ought to make a hundred, easy--and not go with any man that doesn't suit you."

"Any man that doesn't suit me," said Susan. And, after a pause, she said it again: "Any man that doesn't suit me."

The young man, with his shrewdness of the street-graduate and his sensitiveness of the Italian, gave her an understanding glance. "You look as if you couldn't decide whether to laugh or cry. I'd try to laugh if I was you."

She had laughed as he spoke.

Freddie nodded approval. "That sounded good to me. You're getting broken in. Don't take yourself so seriously. After all, what are you doing? Why, learning to live like a man."

She found this new point of view interesting--and true, too. Like a man--like all men, except possibly a few--not enough exceptions to change the rule. Like a man; getting herself hardened up to the point where she could take part in the cruel struggle on equal terms with the men. It wasn't their difference of body any more than it was their difference of dress that handicapped women; it was the idea behind skirt and sex--and she was getting rid of that. . . .

The theory was admirable; but it helped her not at all in practice. She continued to keep to the darkness, to wait in the deep doorways, so far as she could in her "business hours," and to repulse advances in the day time or in public places--and to drink. She did not go again to the opium joint, and she resisted the nightly offers of girls and their "gentlemen friends" to try cocaine in its various forms. "Dope," she saw, was the medicine of despair. And she was far from despair. Had she not youth? Had she not health and intelligence and good looks? Some day she would have finished her apprenticeship. Then--the career!

Freddie let her alone for nearly a month, though she was earning less than fifty dollars a week--which meant only thirty for him. He had never "collected" from her directly, but always through Jim; and she had now learned enough of the methods of the system of which she was one of the thousands of slaves to appreciate that she was treated by Jim with unique consideration. Not only by the surly and brutal Jim, but also by the police who oppressed in petty ways wherever they dared because they hated Freddie's system which took away from them a part of the graft they regarded as rightfully theirs.

Yes, rightfully theirs. And anyone disposed to be critical of police morality--or of Freddie Palmer morality--in this matter of graft would do well to pause and consider the source of his own income before he waxes too eloquent and too virtuous. Graft is one of those general words that mean everything and nothing. What is graft and what is honest income? Just where shall we draw the line between rightful exploitation of our fellow-beings through their necessities and their ignorance of their helplessness, and wrongful exploitation? Do attempts to draw that line resolve down to making virtuous whatever I may appropriate and vicious whatever is appropriated in ways other than mine? And if so are not the police and the Palmers entitled to their day in the moral court no less than the tariff-baron and market-cornerer, the herder and driver of wage slaves, the retail artists in cold storage filth, short weight and shoddy goods? However, "we must draw the line somewhere" or there will be no such thing as morality under our social system. So why not draw it at anything the other fellow does to make money. In adopting this simple rule, we not only preserve the moralities from destruction but also establish our own virtue and the other fellow's villainy. Truly, never is the human race so delightfully, so unconsciously, amusing as when it discusses right and wrong.

When she saw Freddie again, he was far from sober. He showed it by his way of beginning. Said he:

"I've got to hand you a line of rough talk, Queenie. I took on this jag for your especial benefit," said he. "I'm a fool about you and you take advantage of it. That's bad for both of us. . . . You're drinking as much as ever?"

"More," replied she. "It takes more and more."

"How can you expect to get on?" cried he, exasperated.

"As I told you, I couldn't make a cent if I didn't drink."

Freddie stared moodily at her, then at the floor--they were in her room. Finally he said:

"You get the best class of men. I put my swell friends on to where you go slipping by, up and down in the shadow--and it's all they can do to find you. The best class of men--men all the swell respectable girls in town are crazy to hook up with--those of 'em that ain't married already. If you're good enough for those chaps they ought to be good enough for you. Yet some of 'em complain to me that they get thrown down--and others kick because you were too full--and, damn it, you act so queer that you scare 'em away. What am I to do about it?"

She was silent.

"I want you to promise me you'll take a brace."

No answer.

"You won't promise?"

"No--because I don't intend to. I'm doing the best I can."

"You think I'm a good thing. You think I'll take anything off you, because I'm stuck on you--and appreciate that you ain't on the same level with the rest of these heifers. Well--I'll not let any woman con me. I never have. I never will. And I'll make you realize that you're not square with me. I'll let you get a taste of life as it is when a girl hasn't got a friend with a pull."

"As you please," said Susan indifferently. "I don't in the least care what happens to me."

"We'll see about that," cried he, enraged. "I'll give you a week to brace up in."

The look he shot at her by way of finish to his sentence was menacing enough. But she was not disturbed; these signs of anger tended to confirm her in her sense of security from him. For it was wholly unlike the Freddie Palmer the rest of the world knew, to act in this irresolute and stormy way. She knew that Palmer, in his fashion, cared for her--better still, liked her--liked to talk with her, liked to show--and to develop--the aspiring side of his interesting, unusual nature for her benefit.

A week passed, during which she did not see him. But she heard that he was losing on both the cards and the horses and was drinking wildly. A week--ten days--then----

One night, as she came out of a saloon a block or so down Seventh Avenue from Forty-second, a fly cop seized her by the arm.

"Come along," said he roughly. "You're drinking and soliciting. I've got to clear the streets of some of these tarts. It's got so decent people can't move without falling over 'em."

Susan had not lived in the tenement districts where the ignorance and the helplessness and the lack of a voice that can make itself heard among the ruling classes make the sway of the police absolute and therefore tyrannical--she had not lived there without getting something of that dread and horror of the police which to people of the upper classes seems childish or evidence of secret criminal hankerings. And this nervousness had latterly been increased to terror by what she had learned from her fellow-outcasts--the hideous tales of oppression, of robbery, of bodily and moral degradation. But all this terror had been purely fanciful, as any emotion not of experience proves to be when experience evokes the reality. At that touch, at the sound of those rough words--at that reality of the terror she had imagined from the days when she went to work at Matson's and to live with the Brashears, she straightway lost consciousness. When her senses returned she was in a cell, lying on a wooden bench.

There must have been some sort of wild struggle; for her clothes were muddy, her hat was crushed into shapelessness, her veil was so torn that she had difficulty in arranging it to act as any sort of concealment. Though she had no mirror at which to discover the consolation, she need have had no fear of being recognized, so distorted were all her features by the frightful paroxysms of grief that swept and ravaged her body that night. She fainted again when they led her out to put her in the wagon.

She fainted a third time when she heard her name--"Queenie Brown"--bellowed out by the court officer. They shook her into consciousness, led her to the court-room. She was conscious of a stifling heat, of a curious crowd staring at her with eyes which seemed to bore red hot holes into her flesh. As she stood before the judge, with head limp upon her bosom, she heard in her ear a rough voice bawling, "You're discharged. The judge says don't come here again." And she was pushed through an iron gate. She walked unsteadily up the aisle, between two masses of those burning-eyed human monsters. She felt the cold outside air like a vast drench of icy water flung upon her. If it had been raining, she might have gone toward the river. But than{sic} that day New York had never been more radiantly the City of the Sun. How she got home she never knew, but late in the afternoon she realized that she was in her own room.

Hour after hour she lay upon the bed, body and mind inert. Helpless--no escape--no courage to live--yet no wish to die. How much longer would it last? Surely the waking from this dream must come soon.

About noon the next day Freddie came. "I let you off easy," said he, sitting on the bed upon which she was lying dressed as when she came in the day before. "Have you been drinking again?"

"No," she muttered.

"Well--don't. Next time, a week on the Island. . . . Did you hear?"

"Yes."

"Don't turn me against you. I'd hate to have to make an awful example of you."

"I must drink," she repeated in the same stolid way.

He abruptly but without shock lifted her to a sitting position. His arm held her body up; her head was thrown back and her face was looking calmly at him. She realized that he had been drinking--drinking hard. Her eyes met his terrible eyes without flinching. He kissed her full upon the lips. With her open palm she struck him across the cheek, bringing the red fierily to its smooth fair surface. The devil leaped into his eyes, the devil of cruelty and lust. He smiled softly and wickedly. "I see you've forgotten the lesson I gave you three months ago. You've got to be taught to be afraid all over again."

"I am not afraid," said she. "I was not afraid. You can't make me afraid."

"We'll see," murmured he. And his fingers began to caress her round smooth throat.

"If you ever strike me again," she said quietly, "I'll kill you."

His eyes flinched for an instant--long enough to let her know his innermost secret. "I want you--I want you--damn you," he said, between his clinched teeth. "You're the first one I couldn't get. There's something in you I can't get!"

"That's me," she replied.

"You hate me, don't you?"

"No."

"Then you love me?"

"No. I care nothing about you."

He let her drop back to the bed, went to the window, stood looking out moodily. After a while he said without turning:

"My mother kept a book shop--on the lower East Side. She brought me up at home. At home!" And he laughed sardonically. "She hated me because I looked like my father."

Silence, then he spoke again:

"You've never been to my flat. I've got a swell place. I want to cut out this part of the game. I can get along without it. You're going to move in with me, and stop this street business. I make good money. You can have everything you want."

"I prefer to keep on as I am."

"What's the difference? Aren't you mine whenever I want you?"

"I prefer to be free."

"Free! Why, you're not free. Can't I send you to the Island any time I feel like it--just as I can the other girls?"

"Yes--you can do that. But I'm free, all the same."

"No more than the other girls."

"Yes."

"What do you mean?"

"Unless you understand, I couldn't make you see it," she said. She was sitting on the edge of the bed, doing up her hair, which had partly fallen down. "I think you do understand."

"What in the hell do you want, anyhow?" he demanded.

"If I knew--do you suppose I'd be here?"

He watched her with baffled, longing eyes. "What is it," he muttered, "that's so damn peculiar about you?"

It was the question every shrewd observant person who saw her put to himself in one way or another; and there was excellent reason why this should have been.

Life has a certain set of molds--lawyer, financier, gambler, preacher, fashionable woman, prostitute, domestic woman, laborer, clerk, and so on through a not extensive list of familiar types with which we all soon become acquainted. And to one or another of these patterns life fits each of us as we grow up. Not one in ten thousand glances into human faces is arrested because it has lit upon a personality that cannot be immediately located, measured, accounted for. The reason for this sterility of variety which soon makes the world rather monotonous to the seeing eye is that few of us are born with any considerable amount of personality, and what little we have is speedily suppressed by a system of training which is throughout based upon an abhorrence of originality. We obey the law of nature--and nature so abhors variety that, whenever a variation from a type happens, she tries to kill it, and, that failing, reproduces it a myriad times to make it a type. When an original man or woman appears and all the strenuous effort to suppress him or her fails, straightway spring up a thousand imitators and copiers, and the individuality is lost in the school, the fashion, the craze. We have not the courage to be ourselves, even where there is anything in us that might be developed into something distinctive enough to win us the rank of real identity. Individuality--distinction--where it does exist, almost never shows until experience brings it out--just as up to a certain stage the embryo of any animal is like that of every other animal, though there is latent in it the most positive assertion of race and sex, of family, type, and so on.

Susan had from childhood possessed certain qualities of physical beauty, of spiritedness, of facility in mind and body--the not uncommon characteristic of the child that is the flower of passionate love. But now there was beginning to show in her a radical difference from the rest of the crowd pouring through the streets of the city. It made the quicker observers in the passing throng turn the head for a second and wondering glance. Most of them assumed they had been stirred by her superiority of face and figure. But striking faces and figures of the various comely types are frequent in the streets of New York and of several other American cities. The truth was that they were interested by her expression--an elusive expression telling of a soul that was being moved to its depths by experience which usually finds and molds mere passive material. This expression was as evident in her mouth as in her eyes, in her profile as in her full face. And as she sat there on the edge of the bed twisting up her thick dark hair, it was this expression that disconcerted Freddie Palmer, for the first time in all his contemptuous dealings with the female sex. In his eyes was a ferocious desire to seize her and again try to conquer and to possess.

She had become almost unconscious of his presence. He startled her by suddenly crying, "Oh, you go to hell!" and flinging from the room, crashing the door shut behind him.

Maud had grown tired of the haberdasher's clerk and his presumptions upon her frank fondness which he wholly misunderstood. She had dropped him for a rough looking waiter-singer in a basement drinking place. He was beating her and taking all the money she had for herself, and was spending it on another woman, much older than Maud and homely--and Maud knew, and complained of him bitterly to everyone but himself. She was no longer hanging round Susan persistently, having been discouraged by the failure of her attempts at intimacy with a girl who spent nearly all her spare time at reading or at plays and concerts. Maud was now chumming with a woman who preyed upon the patrons of a big Broadway hotel--she picked them up near the entrance, robbed them, and when they asked the hotel detectives to help them get back their stolen money, the detectives, who divided with her, frightened them off by saying she was a mulatto and would compel them to make a public appearance against her in open court. This woman, older and harder than most of the girls, though of quiet and refined appearance and manner, was rapidly dragging Maud down. Also, Maud's looks were going because she ate irregularly all kinds of trash, and late every night ate herself full to bursting and drank herself drunk to stupefaction.

Susan's first horror of the men she met--men of all classes--was rapidly modified into an inconsistent, therefore characteristically human, mingling of horror and tolerance. Nobody, nothing, was either good or bad, but all veered like weathercocks in the shifting wind. She decided that people were steadily good only where their lot happened to be cast in a place in which the good wind held steadily, and that those who were usually bad simply had the misfortune to have to live where the prevailing winds were bad.

For instance, there was the handsome, well educated, well mannered young prize-fighter, Ned Ballou, who was Estelle's "friend." Ballou, big and gentle and as incapable of bad humor as of constancy or of honesty about money matters, fought under the name of Joe Geary and was known as Upper Cut Joe because usually, in the third round, never later than the fifth, he gave the knockout to his opponent by a cruelly swift and savage uppercut. He had educated himself marvelously well. But he had been brought up among thieves and had by some curious freak never learned to know what a moral sense was, which is one--and a not unattractive--step deeper down than those who know what a moral sense is but never use it. At supper in Gaffney's he related to Susan and Estelle how he had won his greatest victory--the victory of Terry the Cyclone, that had lifted him up into the class of secure money-makers. He told how he always tried to "rattle" his opponent by talking to him, by pouring out in an undertone a stream of gibes, jeers, insults. The afternoon of the fight Terry's first-born had died, but the money for the funeral expenses and to save the wife from the horrors and dangers of the free wards had to be earned. Joe Geary knew that he must win this fight or drop into the working or the criminal class. Terry was a "hard one"; so circumstances compelled, those desperate measures which great men, from financiers and generals down to prize-fighters, do not shrink from else they would not be great, but small.

As soon as he was facing Terry in the ring--Joe so he related with pride in his cleverness--began to "guy"--"Well, you Irish fake--so the kid's dead--eh? Who was its pa, say?--the dirty little bastard--or does the wife know which one it was----" and so on. And Terry, insane with grief and fury, fought wild--and Joe became a champion.

As she listened Susan grew cold with horror and with hate. Estelle said:

"Tell the rest of it, Joe."

"Oh, that was nothing," replied he.

When he strolled away to talk with some friends Estelle told "the rest" that was "nothing." The championship secure, Joe had paid all Terry's bills, had supported Terry and his wife for a year, had relapsed into old habits and "pulled off a job" of safe-cracking because, the prize-fighting happening to pay poorly, he would have had a default on the payments for a month or so. He was caught, did a year on the Island before his "pull" could get him out. And all the time he was in the "pen" he so arranged it with his friends that the invalid Terry and his invalid wife did not suffer. And all this he had done not because he had a sense of owing Terry, but because he was of the "set" in which it is the custom to help anybody who happens to need it, and aid begun becomes an obligation to "see it through."

It was an extreme case of the moral chaos about her--the chaos she had begun to discover when she caught her aunt and Ruth conspiring to take Sam away from her.

What a world! If only these shifting, usually evil winds of circumstance could be made to blow good!

A few evenings after the arrest Maud came for Susan, persuaded her to go out. They dined at about the only good restaurant where unescorted women were served after nightfall. Afterward they went "on duty." It was fine overhead and the air was cold and bracing--one of those marvelous New York winter nights which have the tonic of both sea and mountains and an exhilaration, in addition, from the intense bright-burning life of the mighty city. For more than a week there had been a steady downpour of snow, sleet and finally rain. Thus, the women of the streets had been doing almost no business. There was not much money in sitting in drinking halls and the back rooms of saloons and picking up occasional men; the best trade was the men who would not venture to show themselves in such frankly disreputable places, but picked out women in the crowded streets and followed them to quiet dark places to make the arrangements--men stimulated by good dinners, or, later on, in the evening, those who left parties of elegant respectability after theater or opera. On this first night of business weather in nearly two weeks the streets were crowded with women and girls. They were desperately hard up and they made open dashes for every man they could get at. All classes were made equally bold--the shop and factory and office and theater girls with wages too small for what they regarded as a decent living; the women with young children to support and educate; the protected professional regulars; the miserable creatures who had to get along as best they could without protection, and were prey to every blackmailing officer of an anti-vice society and to every policeman and fly-cop not above levying upon women who were "too low to be allowed to live, anyhow." Out from all kinds of shelters swarmed the women who were demonstrating how prostitution flourishes and tends to spread to every class of society whenever education develops tastes beyond the earning power of their possessors. And with clothes and food to buy, rent to pay, dependents to support, these women, so many days hampered in the one way that was open to them to get money, made the most piteous appeals to the men. Not tearful appeals, not appeals to sympathy or even to charity, but to passion. They sought in every way to excite. They exhibited their carefully gotten-up legs; they made indecent gestures; they said the vilest things; they offered the vilest inducements; they lowered their prices down and down. And such men as did not order them off with disdain, listened with laughter, made jokes at which the wretched creatures laughed as gayly as if they were not mad with anxiety and were not hating these men who were holding on to that which they must have to live.

"Too many out tonight," said Maud as they walked their beat--Forty-second between Broadway and Eighth Avenue. "I knew it would be this way. Let's go in here and get warm."

They went into the back room of a saloon where perhaps half a dozen women were already seated, some of them gray with the cold against which their thin showy garments were no protection. Susan and Maud sat at a table in a corner; Maud broke her rule and drank whiskey with Susan. After they had taken perhaps half a dozen drinks, Maud grew really confidential. She always, even in her soberest moments, seemed to be telling everything she knew; but Susan had learned that there were in her many deep secrets, some of which not even liquor could unlock.

"I'm going to tell you something," she now said to Susan. "You must promise not to give me away."

"Don't tell me," replied Susan. She was used to being flattered--or victimized, according to the point of view--with confidences. She assumed Maud was about to confess some secret about her own self, as she had the almost universal habit of never thinking of anyone else. "Don't tell me," said she. "I'm tired of being used to air awful secrets. It makes me feel like a tenement wash line."

"This is about you," said Maud. "If it's ever found out that I put you wise, Jim'll have me killed. Yes--killed."

Susan, reckless by this time, laughed. "Oh, trash!" she said.

"No trash at all," insisted Maud. "When you know this town through and through you'll know that murder's something that can be arranged as easy as buying a drink. What risk is there in making one of us `disappear'? None in the world. I always feel that Jim'll have me killed some day--unless I go crazy sometime and kill him. He's stuck on me--or, at least, he's jealous of me--and if he ever found out I had a lover--somebody--anybody that didn't pay--why, it'd be all up with me. Little Maud would go on the grill."

She ordered and slowly drank another whiskey before she recalled what she had set out to confide. By way of a fresh start she said, "What do you think of Freddie?"

"I don't know," replied Susan. And it was the truth. Her instinctive belief in a modified kind of fatalism made her judgments of people--even of those who caused her to suffer--singularly free from personal bitterness. Freddie, a mere instrument of destiny, had his good side, his human side, she knew. At his worst he was no worse than the others, And aside from his queer magnetism, there was a certain force in him that compelled her admiration; at least he was not one of the petty instruments of destiny. He had in him the same quality she felt gestating within herself. "I don't know what to think," she repeated.

Maud had been reflecting while Susan was casting about, as she had many a time before, for her real opinion of her master who was in turn the slave of Finnegan, who was in his turn the slave of somebody higher up, she didn't exactly know who--or why--or the why of any of it--or the why of the grotesque savage purposeless doings of destiny in general. Maud now burst out:

"I don't care. I'm going to put you wise if I die for it."

"Don't," said Susan. "I don't want to know."

"But I've got to tell you. Do you know what Freddie's going to do?"

Susan smiled disdainfully. "I don't care. You mustn't tell me--when you've been drinking this way "

"Finnegan's police judge is a man named Bennett. As soon as Bennett comes back to Jefferson Market Police Court, Freddie's going to have you sent up for three months."

Susan's glass was on the way to her lips. She set it down again. The drunken old wreck of an entertainer at the piano in the corner was bellowing out his favorite song--"I Am the King of the Vikings." Susan began to hum the air.

"It's gospel," cried Maud, thinking Susan did not believe her. "He's a queer one, is Freddie. They're all afraid of him. You'd think he was a coward, the way he bullies women and that. But somehow he ain't--not a bit. He'll be a big man in the organization some day, they all say. He never lets up till he gets square. And he thinks you're not square--after all he's done for you."

"Perhaps not--as he looks at it," said Susan.

"And Jim says he's crazy in love with you, and that he wants to put you where other men can't see you and where maybe he can get over caring about you. That's the real reason. He's a queer devil. But then all men are though none quite like Freddie."

"So I'm to go to the Island for three months," said Susan reflectively.

"You don't seem to care. It's plain you never was there. . . . And you've got to go. There's no way out of it--unless you skip to another city. And if you did you never could come back here. Freddie'd see that you got yours as soon as you landed."

Susan sat looking at her glass. Maud watched her in astonishment. "You're as queer as Freddie," said she at length. "I never feel as if I was acquainted with you--not really. I never had a lady friend like that before. You don't seem to be a bit excited about what Freddie's going to do. Are you in love with him?"

Susan lifted strange, smiling eyes to Maud's curious gaze. "I--in love--with a man," she said slowly. And then she laughed.

"Don't laugh that way," cried Maud. "It gives me the creeps. What are you going to do?"

"What can I do?"

"Nothing."

"Then if there's nothing to do, I'll no nothing."

"Go to the Island for three months?"

Susan shrugged her shoulders. "I haven't gone yet." She rose. "It's too stuffy and smelly in here," said she. "Let's move out."

"No. I'll wait. I promised to meet a gentleman friend here.

You'll not tell that I tipped you off?"

"You'd not have told me if you hadn't known I wouldn't."

"That's so. But--why don't you make it up with Freddie?"

"I couldn't do that."

"He's dead in love. I'm sure you could."

Again Susan's eyes became strange. "I'm sure I couldn't. Good night." She got as far as the door, came back. "Thank you for telling me."

"Oh, that's all right," murmured the girl. She was embarrassed by Susan's manner. She was frightened by Susan's eyes. "You ain't going to----" There she halted.

"What?"

"To jump off? Kill yourself?"

"Hardly," said Susan. "I've got a lot to do before I die."

She went directly home. Palmer was lying on the bed, a cigarette between his lips, a newspaper under his feet to prevent his boots from spoiling the spread--one of the many small indications of the prudence, thrift and calculation that underlay the almost insane recklessness of his surface character, and that would save him from living as the fool lives and dying as the fool dies.

"I thought you wouldn't slop round in these streets long," said he, as she paused upon the threshold. "So I waited."

She went to the bureau, unlocked the top drawer, took the ten-dollar bill she had under some undershirts there, put it in her right stocking where there were already a five and a two. She locked the drawer, tossed the key into an open box of hairpins. She moved toward the door.

"Where are you going?" asked he, still staring at the ceiling.

"Out. I've made almost nothing this week."

"Sit down. I want to talk to you."

She hesitated, seated herself on a chair near the bed.

He frowned at her. "You've been drinking?"

"Yes."

"I've been drinking myself, but I've got a nose like a hunting dog. What do you do it for?"

"What's the use of explaining? You'd not understand."

"Perhaps I would. I'm one-fourth Italian--and they understand everything. . . . You're fond of reading, aren't you?"

"It passes the time."

"While I was waiting for you I glanced at your new books--Emerson--Dickens--Zola." He was looking toward the row of paper backs that filled almost the whole length of the mantel. "I must read them. I always like your books. You spend nearly as much time reading as I do--and you don't need it, for you've got a good education. What do you read for? To amuse yourself?"

"No."

"To get away from yourself?"

"No."

"Then why?" persisted he.

"To find out about myself."

He thought a moment, turned his face toward her. "You are clever!" he said admiringly. "What's your game?"

"My game?"

"What are you aiming for? You've got too much sense not to be aiming for something."

She looked at him; the expression that marked her as a person peculiar and apart was glowing in her eyes like a bed of red-hot coals covered with ashes.

"What?" he repeated.

"To get strong," replied she. "Women are born weak and bred weaker. I've got to get over being a woman. For there isn't any place in this world for a woman except under the shelter of some man. And I don't want that." The underlying strength of her features abruptly came into view. "And I won't have it," she added.

He laughed. "But the men'll never let you be anything but a woman."

"We'll see," said she, smiling. The strong look had vanished into the soft contour of her beautiful youth.

"Personally, I like you better when you've been drinking," he went on. "You're sad when you're sober. As you drink you liven up."

"When I get over being sad if I'm sober, when I learn to take things as they come, just like a man--a strong man, then I'll be----" She stopped.

"Be what?"

"Ready."

"Ready for what?"

"How do I know?"

He swung himself to a sitting position. "Meanwhile, you're coming to live with me. I've been fighting against it, but I give up. I need you. You're the one I've been looking for. Pack your traps. I'll call a cab and we'll go over to my flat. Then we'll go to Rector's and celebrate."

She shook her head. "I'm sorry, but I can't."

"Why not?"

"I told you. There's something in me that won't let me."

He rose, walked to her very deliberately. He took one of her hands from her lap, drew her to her feet, put his hands strongly on her shoulders. "You belong to me," he said, his lips smiling charmingly, but the devil in the gleam of his eyes and in the glistening of his beautiful, cruel teeth. "Pack up."

"You know that I won't."

He slowly crushed her in his arms, slowly pressed his lips upon hers. A low scream issued from her lips and she seized him by the throat with both hands, one hand over the other, and thrust him backward. He reeled, fell upon his back on the bed; she fell with him, clung to him--like a bull dog--not as if she would not, but as if she could not, let go. He clutched at her fingers; failing to dislodge them, he tried to thrust his thumbs into her eyes. But she seized his right thumb between her teeth and bit into it until they almost met. And at the same time her knees ground into his abdomen. He choked, gurgled, grew dark red, then gray, then a faint blackish blue, lay limp under her. But she did not relax until the blue of his face had deepened to black and his eyes began to bulge from their sockets. At those signs that he was beyond doubt unconscious, she cautiously relaxed her fingers. She unclenched her teeth; his arm, which had been held up by the thumb she was biting, dropped heavily. She stood over him, her eyes blazing insanely at him. She snatched out her hatpin, flung his coat and waistcoat from over his chest, felt for his heart. With the murderous eight inches of that slender steel poniard poised for the drive, she began to sob, flung the weapon away, took his face between her hands and kissed him.

"You fiend! You fiend!" she sobbed.

She changed to her plainest dress. Leaving the blood-stained blouse on the bed beside him where she had flung it down after tearing it off, she turned out the light, darted down stairs and into the street. At Times Square she took the Subway for the Bowery. To change one's world, one need not travel far in New York; the ocean is not so wide as is the gap between the Tenderloin and the lower East Side.