The Name and the Game, by Fannie Hurst

Every Soul Hath Its Song

At Christmas-tide men and women with soiled lives breathe alcoholic sighs and dare to glance back into the dim corridors of their long agos.

Cronies, snug in an age of steam heat, turn their warm backs upon to-day, swap white-Christmas stories, and hanker with forefinger laid alongside of nose for the base-burners and cold backs of the good old days.

Not least upon the busy magnate's table is his shopping-list.

Evenings, six-dollar-a-week salesgirls sit in their five-dollar-a-week hall-bedrooms, with their aching feet in a tub of hot water and their aching fingers busy with baby-ribboned coat-hangers and silk needle-book tokens of Yuletide affection.

Even as it flowered in a manger the Christmas spirit, a perennial lily upon the sooty face of the world, blooms out of the slack heap of men's rife and strife.

In the hearts of children it is a pod filled with their first happiness.

Down from a sky the color of cold dish-water a cloak of swift snow fell upon the city, muffling its voice like a hand held against its mouth. Children who had never before beheld a white Christmas leaped with the joy of it. A sudden army of men with blue faces and no overcoats sprang full-grown and armed with shovels, from out the storm. City parks lay etched in sudden finery. Men coming up out of the cañon of Wall Street remembered that it was Christmas and felt for bauble money.

At early dusk and through the white dance of the white storm the city slid its four million packs off its four million backs and turned homeward. Pedestrians with the shopper's light in their eyes bent into the flurry and darted for surface cars and subways. Commuters, laden with bundles and with tickets between their teeth, rushed for early trains.

Women with bearing-down bundles and babies wedged through the crowd, fighting for trains and place. Boys in cadet uniforms and boarding-school girls, homeward bound, thrust forward their shining faces as if into the to-morrow. A tight tangle of business men passed single file through a trellised gateway and on down to a lower level. A messenger with a tipsy spray of holly stuck upright in his cap whacked with a folded newspaper at a fellow-messenger's swift legs and darted in and around the knees of the crowd. A prodigal hesitated, then bought a second-class ticket for home. Two nuns hurried softly on missions of Christmas.

The low thunder of a thousand feet: tired feet, eager feet; flat feet; shabby feet; young feet; callous feet; arched and archless feet. Voices that rose like wind to a gale. A child dragged by the arm and whimpering. A group of shawled strangers interchanging sharp jargon.

Within the marble mausoleum of a waiting-room, its benches lined with the kaleidoscopic faces of the traveling public, a train-announcer bellowed a paean of tracks and stations.

At the onyx-and-nickel-plated periodical stand men in passing snatched their evening paper from off the stack of the counter, flopping down their pennies as they ran. In the glow of a spray of red and white electric bulbs, in a bower of the instant's pretty-girl periodical covers, and herself the most vivid of them all, Miss Marjorie Clark caught a hastily flung copper coin on the fly, her laughter mounting with it.

"Whoops, la-la!"

"Good catch, kiddo."

"Oh, you Charley-boy, who was you pitching for last season?"

"The Reds, because that's your color."

"Say, if you're going to catch that four-eighteen you've got to break somebody's speed limit between here and track ten. Run along, Charley-boy, and Merry Christmas."

But Mr. Charles Scully swung to a halt, poured his armful of packages into a wire basket of six-city-postcard-views for ten cents, swung open his overcoat with a sprinkling of snow on its slick-napped velvet collar, lifted his small black mustache in a smile.

"Black-eyes, I'd miss three trains for you."

"There's not another until the four-forty."

"I should worry. Anyway, for all I know you've changed your mind and are coming out with me to-night, little one."

The quick blood ran up into her small face, dyeing it, and she withdrew from his nearing features.

"I have not! Gee! you're about as square as a doughnut, you are."

"Jumping Juniper, can't a fellow miss his train just to wish a little beauty like you a Merry Christmas? But on the level, I want to take you out home with me to-night; honest I do, little spitfire."

"Crank up there, Charley-boy; you got about thirty seconds to make that train in."

"Gets you sore every time I ask you out, don't it, black-eyes? Talk about your little tin saints!"

"Say, if you was any slicker you'd slide."

"You can't scare me with those black eyes."

"Can't I, my brave boy! Say, you'd want to quarantine the dictionary if you found smallpox in it, that's how hard you are to scare."

"Well, of all the lines of talk, if you 'ain't got the greatest. Cute is no name for you."

"And say, the place where you clerk must be a classy clothes-parlor,
Charley-boy."

"Right-o, little one. If you ever pass by the Brown Haberdashery, on
Twenty-third Street, drop in, and I'll buy you a lunch."

"Tra-la! Where did you get that checked suit? And I'll bet you flag the train out at Glendale, where you live, with that tie. Oh, you Checkers!"

"Some class to me, eh, kiddo?"

"Oh, I wouldn't say that."

He leaned closer. His smile had an uplift like a crescent and a slight depression in his left cheek, too low for a dimple, twinkled when he smiled, like an adjacent star.

"Take it from me, Queenie, these glad rags are my stock in trade. In my line I got to sport them. At home I'm all to the overalls. If my boss was to see the old red wool smoking-jacket I wear around the house, he'd fire me for burlesquing the business."

"Well, of all the nerve! Let go my hand."

"Didn't know I had it, little one."

"And say, you give back that kodak picture you swiped off me yesterday.
I don't give my photographs out promiscuous."

"That little snap-shot of you? Nix, I will! I took that home and hung it in a mother-of-pearl frame right over the parlor table."

"Sure! And above the family Bible, huh? I had a fellow once tell me he was a bookmaker, and I was green enough then to beg him to take me out and let me see him make 'em. But I've learnt a thing or two about you and your kind since then, Charley-boy."

"You come out to-night and I'll show it to you myself."

"Haven't you got my number, yet, Cholly—haven't you?"

"What is it, little one, number scared-cat?"

She flung him a glance over the hump of one shoulder. Nineteen summers had breezed lightly over her, and her lips were cherry-like, but tilted slightly as if their fruit had been plucked from the tree of sophistication.

"You bet your life I'm scared."

"Why, out there in Glendale, little one, you won't meet your own shadow, if that's what's hurting you."

"You bet your life I won't."

"My old woman will fix you up all right."

"Oh no, she won't!"

"Aw, come on, kiddo. We're going to have a tree for the little brother, and the old woman will be rigged up like a mast in her spotted silk. Come on. Who'll be any the wiser?"

Laughter and mockery rose to the surface of her eyes, bubbled to her lips.

"Huh! What's that only-son stuff you gave me yesterday? All about how you had to land a job in the city and make good after your old man died, eh? How about your yesterday's line of talk?"

"I—"

"All about how mother's wandering boy found himself all plastered over with the mortgage and worked nights to get out from under. All about—Aw, say, what's the use? But I always say to you fellows, 'Boys, cultivate good memories; you need 'em.' Little brother! Ha, joke!"

"I—aw—I—Little brother's what we call my sister Till's little red-headed kid. Aw, what—what you want to put me in bad for, sister? I'm not so easy to trip up as you think I am."

"Little brother! And say, that's a bottle of malted milk there in your pocket that you're taking out to him, ain't it? Sure it is."

"This? Aw, this—Say, you haven't got those snappy black eyes of yours for nothing, have you? This bottle here in my pocket, aw, this—this is a—bottle of brandy for my old woman. First snow flurry and her left foot begins to drag like a rag with rheumatism."

Her laughter rose, and his confusion with it.

"Sure," she cried.

"Aw—aw, come on, Marjie."

"Well, of all the nerve! My name's private property, it is."

"It slipped. It said itself. But, gee! I like it. Marjie! Some little name."

"Well, of all the nerve!"

"Come on, black-eyes. You're off at five and we'll catch the five-eighteen. Who's going to be any the wiser? I got something out there I want to tell you."

"My hearing's all right in the city."

"It's something I want to whisper right where I can get next to that little ear of yours."

"You got a swell chance at that little ear of mine, nix."

"Stingy!"

"You bet your life I'm stingy."

"It's a white Christmas for sure out where I live. Come on out and let me show you a good time, little one."

"I wish you was half as white as this Christmas is. Honest, sometimes I says to myself, I says, ain't there just none of you white? Has a girl like me got to keep dodging all her life?"

"Come, sister, let's catch the five-eighteen."

"You better run along before you get me all rubbed the wrong way. At five-eighteen I'll be buying my own meal ticket, let me tell you that."

"Then buy your own meal ticket, if that's what's hurting you, little touchy, and come out on the eight-eighteen. It's only a thirty-minute run; and if you say the word I'll be at the station with bells on to meet you. Come on. I'll show you the Christmas Eve of your life. Be a sport, Marjie."

"Yes, I always say, inviting a girl to be a sport is a slick way of inviting her to Hades. I've seen where being a sport lands a girl, I have. I ain't game, maybe, but, thank God, I ain't. Thank God, I ain't, is what I always say to them."

"Well, of all the funny little propositions."

"Well, there's nothing funny about your proposition."

"You're one funny little girl, but, gee! I like you."

There was that in his glance and the white flash of his teeth and the pomaded air of geniality about him that sent a quick network of thrills darting through her; all her perceptions rose, and her color.

"Come on, little girl."

"Oh," she cried, clenching her small tan hand, and a tempest of fury flashing across her face, "you—you fresh fellows up-town here think just because you wear good clothes and can hold down a decent job, that you—you can put up any kind of a proposition to a girl like me. Oh—oh, just every one of you!"

"Well, of all the little spitfires."

"What do you think I am? What does every one of you, up and down town, think I am? Do I look like I was born yesterday? Well, I wasn't, or the day before or the day before that. Honest to God, if I was a nice-appearing fellow like you I'd be ashamed, I would. I'd go out in the garden and eat worms, I would."

He retreated before her scorn, but smiling. "I'll get you yet, you little vix," he said; "you pretty little black-eyed vix, you; I'll get you yet.'

"Like hell you will."

"If you change your mind, come out on the eight-eighteen, girlie. Two blocks to the left of the station; the corner house with a little weather-cock over the porch. Can't miss it. I'll be drapin' the tree in tin fringe and wishing you were there."

"Oh," she cried, her voice cracked spang across with a sob, "I—I just hate you!"

"No, you don't," he said, smiling and gathering his parcels.

"Do."

"Don't."

"Do."

"What's that on your wrist?"

"Where?"

"There. I thought you said you threw it away."

Her right hand flew to her left wrist as if a welt lay there. "This,
I—huh—I—I forgot I had it on. This—this little old bracelet you said
you found in the Subway. It—it's nothing but red celluloid, anyway.
I—I nearly did throw it away."

"You look just like a little gipsy, you do, with that red comb in that black hair of yours and that red bracelet on your little brown arm. I'll swear if I didn't miss my train by ten minutes the first time I seen you standing here at this counter with those big black eyes of yours shining out."

"You'll miss it again if you don't run away, Charley-boy."

"Dare you to come along! I'll wait for the five-eighteen."

"Don't hold your breath till I do."

"Dare you to come out on the eight-eighteen! Say the word, and I'll be at the station."

"I'll see myself crazy with the blues first."

"You might as well come, kiddo, because I'll get you yet."

"Try the soft-pedal stuff about the kid and the Christmas tree on the girl at the Glendale station. Maybe she hasn't cut her eye-teeth."

A flush swept his face like quick wind. "You're a bum sport, all righty."

"And you! Gee! if I was to tell you what I think you are! If I was!" She sank her teeth into her lower lip to keep it from trembling, but smiled. "But I wouldn't take the trouble, Charley-boy—honest, I wouldn't take the trouble."

"I'll get you yet, you little vix," he insisted, his white smile flashing, and retreating into the crowd.

"You—oh—oh, you!"

She stood looking after him, head backward and hip arched forward in the pose of Carmen's immortal defiance. But behind her flashing attitude her heart rose to her throat and a warm gush of blood to her face, betraying it.

When the illuminated hands of the illuminated tower clock swung to the wide angle of five o'clock, Miss Marjorie Clark and Miss Minnie Bundt, from the fancy-fruit stand opposite, cast off the brown cocoon of their workaday for the trim street finery which the American shopgirl, to the stupefaction of economists and theorists, can somehow evolve out of eight dollars a week.

In the locker-room they met, the placid sky-colored eyes of Miss Bundt meeting Miss Clark's in the wavy square of mirror.

"Snowing, ain't it?"

"Yep."

"Gee! that's a nifty little hat, Min! Where'd you get the pompon?"

"Five-and-Ten."

"If it 'ain't got the Avenue written all over it."

Silence.

"Want some my powder, Min? Pink."

"Nope."

"Want to—want to go to a movie to-night or—or bum around the stores?
It's Christmas Eve."

"Can't."

"Date?"

"Yep."

Silence.

A flush rose to Miss Clark's face, darkening it. She adjusted her dyed-fur tippet and a small imitation-fur cap at just the angle which doubled its face value. Something seemed to leap out from her eyes and then retreat behind a smile and a squint.

"Say, Min, if my voice hurt me like yours does, I'd rub salve on it," and went out, slamming the door behind her. But a tear lay on the edge of her down-curved lashes, threatening to ricochet down her smoothly powdered cheek. She winked it in again. The station swarm was close to her, jostling, kicking her ankles in passing, buffeting.

From out the swift tide a figure without an overcoat, and a cap vizor pulled well down over his eyes, locked her arm from the rear, so that she sprang about, releasing herself.

"For God's sake, Blink, cut the pussy-foot tread, will you? I've jabbed with a hat-pin for less than that."

"Merry Christmas, Marj."

"Yes, I'm merry as a crutch. What brought you around, Blink?"

"Can't a fellow drop around to pick you up?"

"Land that job?"

"Not a chance. What they want down there is a rough-neck, not a gentleman rubber-down. Say, take it from me; after a fellow has worked in the high-class Turkish baths, Third Avenue joints ain't up to his tone no more. I got to have class, kiddo. That's why I got such a lean toward you."

"Cut that."

"Come down to-night, Marj?"

"Where?"

"Harry's."

"Well, I guess not."

"Buy you a dinner."

"But you're flat as your hand."

He set up a jingling in his left pocket. "I am, am I?"

"Well, I'm not going."

"When you going to cut this comedy, Marj?"

"I'm not. I'm just beginning."

"Breaking into high society, eh? Fine chance."

"Yes, with the gang of you down there hanging on like the plague, I got a swell chance, nix."

"It's because we know you too well, Marj. Knew you when you had two black pigtails and used to carry a bucket into the family entrance of Harry's place, crying with madness every time your old man sent you. Gad! I can see you yet, sweetness, with your big black eyes blacker than ever, and steering home your old man from off a jamboree."

"God! sometimes I wake up in the night just like him and ma was still alive and me and her was sitting there listening to him creak up the stairs on his bad nights. I wake up, I can tell you, in a sweat—right in a sweat."

"I knew you in them days, kiddo, just like you knew me. That's why you can't pull nothing over on a fellow, kiddo, that's had as many pulls on your all-day suckers as I have. You're a little quitter, you are, and sometimes I think you're out for bigger game."

"It don't mean because a girl was born in the mud she's got to stick there, does it?"

"No, but she can't pretend she don't know one of the old mud-turtles when she sees one."

"Mud-turtle is the right name."

"The crowd has got your number, all right, kiddo; they know you're out after bigger game. You're a little turncoat, that's what they say about you."

"Turncoat! Who wouldn't turn a coat they was ashamed of? I guess you all don't remember how I used to say, even back in those years when I was taking tickets down at Lute's old Fourteenth Street Amusement Parlors, how when my little minute came I was going to breeze away from the gang down there?"

"I remember, all righty."

"How I was going to get me a job up-town here, where I could get in with a decent crowd of girls, and not be known for the kind down there that you and all of 'em knew I—I wasn't."

"Sure we knew."

"Yes, but what good does that do me? Can a dirty little yellow-haired snip over in the Fancy Fruits give me the once-over and a turn-down? She can. And why? Because I ain't certified. I come from a counterfeit crowd, and who's going to take the trouble to find my number and see if it's real?"

"Aw, now—"

"Didn't a broken-down old granny over in the Thirty-fourth Street house where I roomed give me notice last week, because Addie Lynch found me out one night and came to see me, lit up like a Christmas tree?"

"That's why I say, Marj, stick to the old ones who know you."

"Like May Pope used to say, a girl might as well have the game as the name."

"If I was a free man, Marj, I'd—"

"Where has the strait and narrow got me to, I'd like to know? Sometimes
I think it's nothing but a blind alley pushing me back."

"If I was a free man, Marj—"

"Let me meet a slick little up-stage fellow that doesn't have to look two ways before he walks the wrong beat in daylight; let me meet a fellow like that, and where does it get me?"

"I'm no saint, Marj, but there ain't a beat in town I'd have to look two ways on. Ask any cop—"

"Does the slick little up-stage fellow get my number? He does not. I'd like to see one of them ask that dirty little yellow-head over in the Fancy Fruits to go home with him. A little Nobody-Home like her, just because she was raised in an amen corner of the Bronx and has a six-foot master-mechanic brother to call for her every time she works fifteen minutes later, she can wear her hands crossed on her chest and a lily stuck in 'em and get away with it, too."

"You're right, kiddo; you got more sand than ten of such put together."

"I'm as good as her and better. I'm not so sure by a long shot that any of those baby faces would say no if they was ever invited to say yes. Watch out there, that cab, Blink. Gee! your nerves are as steady as gelatin."

They were veering through the crowds and out into the soft flurry of the storm. Flakes like pulled-out bits of cotton floated to their shoulders, resting there. Seventh Avenue, for the instant before the eye left the great Greek façade of the Pennsylvania Terminal, was like a dream of Athens seen through the dapple of white shadows. Immediately the eye veered, however, the great cosmopolis formed by street meeting avenue tore down the illusion. Another block and second-hand clothing shops nudged one another, their flapping wares for sale outside them like clothes-wash on a line, empty arms and legs gallivanting in the wind. A storm-car combed through the driven snow, scuttling it and clearing the tracks. Down another block the hot, spicy smell of a Mexican dish floated out between the swinging doors of an all-night bar. A man lurched out, laughing and crying.

Marjorie Clark's companion steered her past and turned toward her, his twitching features suddenly, and even through their looseness, softened.

"Poor kiddo!" he said. "Just send them to me for reference. I can do some tall vouching for you."

"The way I feel lately sometimes, honest, I think if I get to getting the indigoes much deeper, there's no telling where they'll land me. The game as well as the name ain't all poetry, let me tell you that."

Through the fall of mild snow he could see her face shining out darkly, and his bare, eager fingers moved toward her arm, and except when the spasmodic twitch locked his features, his face, too, was thrust forward, keen and close to hers.

"I've been telling you that for five years, girl."

"Now don't go getting me wrong, Blink."

"If I was what the law calls a free man, Marj, you know what kind of a proposition I would have put up to you five years ago when I had my health and my looks and—"

"If you want to make me sore, just tune up on that old song. You ain't man enough to even get your own little kid out of the clutches of a mother that's pulling her down to Hades with her. Take it from me, if there wasn't something in me that's just sorry for you, I wouldn't walk these here blocks with you. Sometimes when I look at you right hard, Blink, honest, it looks to me like the coke's got you, Blink."

"Now, Marjie—"

"You wouldn't tell me if it had. But you got the twitches, all righty."

"It's me nerves, Marj; me nerves and you."

"Bah! you got about as much backbone as a jellyfish. Blaming things on a girl."

"You took the backbone out of me, I tell you."

"Oh no, I didn't; it's been missing since your first birthday."

"Eating out my heart and vitals for you and your confounded highfalutin amen notions."

"Before you ever clapped eyes on me you was more famous for your arm muscle than your backbone. I guess I don't remember how your own mother told me the very day before she died how she tried on her old knees to keep you out of a marriage with that woman. All that happened way back in the days when you had your muscles and was head rubber-down at Herschey's. You knew her kind when you did it, and now why ain't you man enough to blame yourself for what you are instead of blaming the girl? Gee!"

"I didn't mean it, Marj. It slipped. S'help me, I didn't. Sometimes I just don't know what I'm saying, Marj; that's how my mind kinda gets sometimes. All fuzzed over like."

"What's the odds what you say, Blink? You're just not man-size, I guess."

She was a bleak little figure bowing into the wind, her tippet flapping back over one shoulder.

"I ain't, ain't I? I 'ain't gone through a living hell sitting on the water-wagon for you, have I?"

"Try to keep from twitching that way, Blink. You give me the horrors."

"I 'ain't cut out playing stakes, have I? Gad! I can live from Sunday to
Sunday on a pick-up from a little gamble here and a little gamble there.
But when you hollered, I didn't cut it and begin to work up muscle to
get back on the job again, did I? I didn't, did I?"

"You can't pump that into me, Blink."

His voice narrowed to a nasal quality. "I didn't send her and the kid a whole Christmas box like you wanted me to, did I? I didn't stick a brand-new fiver in the black-silk-dress pattern, knowing all the while she'd have it drunk up before she opened the creases out. I didn't, did I?"

They were approaching the intersection of a wide and white-lighted cross-town street. The snowfall had lightened. Marjorie Clark let her gaze rest for the moment upon her companion, and her voice seemed suddenly to nestle deep in her throat.

"Gee! Blink, if I thought any of the—the uplift stuff I've tried to pump into you had seeped in. Gee! if I could think that, Blink!"

Tears lay close to the surface of her words, and his lean face was thrust farther forward in affirmation.

"It has, Marj. All I got to do is to think of you and those big black eyes of yours shining, and I could lead a water-wagon parade."

"It's the habits, Blink, you got to watch most. For a minute to-night you looked like coke and—and it scared me. Don't let the coke get you, Blink. For God's sake, don't!"

"I sent her a fiver, Marj, and a black silk, and a doll with real hair for the kid. Y'oughtta seen, Marj, real hair on it."

"That was fine, Blink. Fine!"

"Where you going? Aw, come, Marj. For the love of Mike, you're not going."

"Yes, yes. I got to go. This is Twenty-second Street, my corner. That's where I room; that fourth house to the right. That dark one. I got to go."

"Where?"

"Where do you s'pose? Home."

"What's doin' there?"

"N-nothing."

"Whatta you going to do Christmas Eve? Sit in your two-by-four and twiddle your thumbs?"

Immediate sobs rose in her throat. "Lord!" she said, "I dun'no'! I dun'no'!"

He set up the jangling again. "It's Christmas Eve, Marj."

"That's right, rub it in," and looked away from him.

"Come, Marj, don't leave me high and dry like this. Come, I'll blow you to a little supper, kiddo. I got a couple of meal tickets coming to me down at Harry's on some ivories I threw last night."

"Dice! And after the line of talk you just tried to make me swallow. Did
I believe it? I did not!"

"No stakes, Marj. Just for a couple of meal tickets we tossed. Come, girl, you 'ain't been down to Harry's for months; you won't get your halo mussed from one time. It's Christmas Eve, Marj."

"I heard you the first time."

"If I got to go it alone to-night, Marj, it'll be the wettest Christmas I ever spent, it will. I'll pickle this Christmas Eve like it was never pickled before, I will."

"Aren't you no man at all, threatening like that? Just no man at all?"

"I tell you if I got to go it alone to-night, I won't be. I'm crazy enough to tear things wide open."

"A line of talk like that will send me home quicker than anything, if you want to know it." She turned her face away and toward the dark aisle of the side street.

"I didn't mean it, Marj."

"I hate whining."

"Don't go, girl. Don't. Don't give me the horrors and leave me alone to-night, Marj."

She moved slowly into the gloom of the cross-town street. Solemn rows of blank-faced houses flanked it. Wind slewed as through a canon, whistling in high pitch.

"Gee!"

"Fine little joy lane for your Christmas Eve, eh? Don't go, Marj. Have a heart and be a sport. Let me blow you to a supper down at Harry's for old times' sake. Didn't you promise my old woman to keep an eye on me? Didn't you? For old times' sake, Marj. It's Christmas."

She stood shivering and gazing down into the black throat of the street.

"It'll be a merry evening in that two-by-four of yours, won't it? Look at it down there. Cheerful, ain't it?"

Tears formed in a glaze over her eyes.

"Be a sport, Marj."

"All right—Blink!"

* * * * *

At the family entrance to Harry's place, and just around the corner from the main entrance of knee-high swinging doors and a broadside of frosted plate-glass front, a bead of gas burned sullenly through a red globe, winking, so to speak, at all who would enter there under cover of its murk.

Women with faces the fatty white of jade, and lips that might have kissed blood, slipped from the dark tide of the side street into the entrance. Furtive couples rose out of the night: the men, lean as laths, collars turned up and caps drawn down; girls, some with red lights and some with no lights in their eyes, and most of them with too red lips of too few curves, and all of them with chalk-colored powder laid on over the golden pollen of youth.

Within Harry's place, Christmas found little enough berth except that above the great soaped-over mirror at the far end of the room a holly wreath dangled from the tarnished gilt frame and against the clouded-over glass a forefinger had etched a careless Merry Christmas.

At tables set so close that waiters side-stepped between them, the habitués of Harry's place dined—wined, too, but mostly out of uncovered steins or two-inch stemless glasses. And here and there at smaller tables a solitary figure with a seer's light in his eyes sipped his greenish milk!

An electric piano, its shallow tones undigested by the crowded room, played in response to whomsoever slipped a coin into its maw. Kicked-up sawdust lay in the air like flakes.

From her table near the door Miss Marjorie Clark pushed from her a litter of half-tasted dishes and sent her dark glance out over the room. A few pairs of too sinuous dancers circled a small clearing around the electric piano. Waiters with fans of foam-drifting steins clutched between fingers jostled them in passing. At a small table adjoining, a girl slept in her arms. Two more entered, elbow in elbow, and directly a youth in a wide-striped wool sweater muffled high to his teeth, and features that in spite of himself would twitch and twitch again.

"Hi, Blink," he said in passing.

"Hi."

Reader, your heart lifted up and glowing with Yuletide and good-will toward men, turn not in warranted nausea from the reek of Harry's place. Mere plants can love the light and turn to it, but have not the beautiful mercy to share their loveliness with foul places. The human heart is a finer work. It can, if it will, turn its white light upon darkness, so that out of it even a single seed may take heart and grow. A fastidious olfactory nerve has no right to dominion over the quality of mercy. The heart should keep its thousand doors all open, each heart-string a latch-string, and each latch-string out.

Marjorie Clark met her companion's eyes above the rim of his stein. "Looks more like hell on a busy day down here than like Christmas Eve, don't it?"

He was warmed, and the tight skin had softened as dried fruit expands in water. "Ah-h-h, but I feel better, kiddo."

"That's three steins you've had, Blink. And there's no telling what you filled up on those three times you went out."

"It's Christmas Eve, kiddo. What kind of a good time do you want for your money? A Christmas tree trimmed in tin angels?"

"Do I? You just bet your life I do."

"Then let me get it for you, sugar-plum. You just stick to me to-night and you can have any little thing your heart desires. Here, waiter." And he jingled again in the depths of his pocket.

"If you want to lose my company double quick, just you order another stein. Just look at you seeing double already."

"I'm all right, baby; never felt better in my life."

"You caught me when I was down and blue, didn't you, and pumped me full of a lot of Sunday-school talk, that's what you did. And I was fool enough to get soft and come down here with you, I was! But I felt it in my bones you was lying. I knew I was right about the coke. I seen you throw a high sign to that twitching guy in the striped sweater. I knew I was right. God, I—I just knew."

He leaned for her hand. "Little bittsie, black-eyed baby, you got me wrong."

"Ugh-h! Quit! Let go!"

He straightened, regarding her solemnly and controlling the slight swaying of his figure. "I'm a gentleman."

Her laugh was more of a cough. "There ain't no such animal."

"There ain't? I seen you trying to rope one to-day, all righty. I seen you."

"You what?"

"Sure I did. The slick guy in checks."

"You—"

"Sure I seen you. I was loafing around the station a whole hour before you seen me to-day, baby doll. I seen the whole show. Grabbed the slick little Checkers right out of the line, didn't you? Bowled him over with those black eyes of yours. Went for him right like he was a stick of candy and you was licking it, eh? Pretty slick to take in a big eyeful like that, wasn't I? Some little Checkers, he was."

Red leaped to her face. "Cut that!"

"Gad! what you mad about, kiddo? Gentleman friend, eh?"

"You just cut that talk, and double quick, too."

"After bigger game, eh, kiddo?"

"Fine chance."

"Not good enough down here, eh?"

"No, if you want to know it. No."

"He liked you, kiddo."

"Yes, he liked me. He liked me, all righty, like they all do. God! if I'd ever run across a fellow that was on the level with me, I'd get the hysterics right in his face, I would. Right in his face!"

"I'm on the level, Marj, only—"

"You try to begin that, now."

"I am, and you know it."

"You're about as straight as a horseshoe."

"I may backslide now and then, sweetness, but—"

"There's no backsliding for you any more, Blink. After that Gregory raid business you slid back as far in my mind as a fellow can slide."

He drained his glass, and this time caught his sway a bit too late.
"Forget that, kiddo."

"I can't. It was that showed me plainer than all that went before how I was wasting my time working over you."

"'Ain't I got something on you, too, peaches? But you don't hear me throwing it up to you, do you? 'Ain't I got Checkers on you?"

"You—"

"But I ain't blaming you. Come, Marj, let's swap our real names."

"What?"

"Sure, I ain't blaming you. Only be on the level, girl—be on the level. If it's big fry you're after, and we don't measure up down here, say so."

"You—I think you're crazy, Blink."

"I know life, kiddo. I've used up thirty years of my lease on it getting wise to it. Come now, is it Checkers, queenie? What's your game?"

She leaned forward, looking him evenly between the eyes, but her lips seared as if from his hot insult. "You take that back."

"What you green around the gills for, kiddo? Didn't you say yourself that the name and the game come together in the same package? I ain't arguing it with you."

"You take it back, I said."

He laughed and flecked his fingers for a waiter, flinging out his legs at full length alongside the table. "You're a clever little girl, Marj, and I've got to hand it to you. Another stein there, waiter, and one for the girl; she needs it."

"I'll spill it right out if it comes."

"Lord! what you so sheety-looking for? White with temper and green at the gills, eh? Gad! I like you that way. I like you for your temper, and if you want to know it, I like you for every blamed thing about you."

"You—quit! Let go! Let go, I say! Ug-gh!" Her lips, with the greenish auro about them, would only move stiffly, and she pushed back from the table only half articulate. "Let me pass—please."

"Where you going, peaches?" He reached for her hand. "You mad, Marj? I didn't mean to get you sore."

"N-no, Blink."

"You beauty, you."

"'Sh-h-h!"

"Gad! but I like you. Sit down, Marj, I got a new proposition to put to you. I can talk big money, girl."

"Don't—Blink."

"Sit down, girl. Harry don't stand for no stage stuff in here no more."

"I—"

"I got a new proposition, girl. One that'll make Checkers look like thirty cents. A white proposition, too, Marj. A baby could listen to it."

"Yes, yes, Blink, but not now. When you get lit up you—you oughtn't begin to dream about those millionaire propositions, Blink. Try and keep your wits."

"A baby could listen to this here proposition, Marj. And big money, too,
Marj. It's diamonds for you."

Somehow with her lips she smiled down at him, and did not tug for the release of her hand. Dallied for the instant instead.

"You're lit up, Blink."

"Some big guns in Wall Street, Marj, are after me, Marj, with a million-dollar proposition. I—"

"Yes, yes, but wait a minute, Blink. I'll be back." She even lay a pat on his shoulder and slid past him lightly. "In a minute, Blink."

"Hurry," he said, his smile broken by a swift twitch of feature, and raising his fresh stein.

Once out of his vision, she veered sharply and in a bath of fear darted toward the small hallway, with its red bead of gaslight burning on and flickering against the two panels of colored glass in the dingy brown door.

Outside, the flakes had ceased and the sinister-looking side street lay in a white hush, a single line of scraggly footsteps crunched into the snow of the sidewalk. A clock from a sky-scraping tower rang out eight, its echoes singing like anvils in the sharp, thin air. On the cross-town street the shops were full of light and activity, crowds wedging in and out. Marjorie Clark pulled at her strength and ran.

At the Twenty-second Street corner she paused for the merest moment for breath and for a quick glance into the dark lane of the diverging street. The double row of stone houses, blank-faced and shouldering one another like paper dolls cut from a folded newspaper, stood back indistinctly against the night, most of the high stoops cushioned in untrod snow, the fourth of them from the right, lean-looking and undistinguished, except that the ash-can at its curb was a glorified urn of snow.

As she stood there the ache in Marjorie Clark's throat threatened to become articulate. She took up her swift pace again, but onward.

Ten minutes later, within the great heated mausoleum of the Pennsylvania Terminal, she bought a ticket for Glendale. On track ten the eight-eighteen had already made its first jerk outward as she made her dash for it.

In the spick swaddling clothes of new-laid snow, its roadways and garden beds, macadamized streets and runty lanes all of one identity, Glendale lay in a miniature valley beneath the railroad elevation; meandered down a slight hillside and out toward the open country.

Immediately removed from the steep flight of stairs leading down from the gabled station, small houses with roofs that wore the snow like coolies' hoods appeared in uncertain ranks forming uncertain streets. Lights gleamed in frequent windows, throwing squares of gold-colored light in the snow.

Here and there where shades were drawn the grotesque shadow of a fir-tree stood against the window; silhouettes moved past. Picket fences marched crookedly along. At each intersection of streets a white arc-light dangled, hissing and spreading its radiance to the very stoops of adjoining houses.

Two blocks from the left of the station Marjorie Clark paused in the white shower of one of these arc-lights. The wind had hauled around to the north and its raw breath galloped across the open country, stinging her.

Across the street, diagonal, a low house of too many angles, the snow banked in a high drift across its north flank, stood well back in shadow, except that on the peak of its small veranda, and clearly defined by the arc-light, a weather-vane spun to the gale.

Marjorie Clark ducked her head to the onslaught of wind and crossed the street, kicking up a fine flurry of snow before her. A convoy of trees stood in military precision down the quiet avenue, their bare branches embracing her in immediate shadows. The gate creaked when she drew it backward, scraping outward and upon the sidewalk a hill of loose snow. Before that small house a garden lay tucked beneath its blanket, a scrawny line of hedge fluted with snow inclosing it and a few stalks that would presently flower. The hood of the dark veranda, surmounted with its high ruche of snow, seemed to incline, invitational.

Yet when Marjorie Clark pulled out the old-fashioned bell-handle her face sickened as she stood and she was down the steps again, the tightness squeezing her throat, her gloved hands fumbling the gate latch, and her knee flung against it, pressing it outward.

In the moment of her most frenzied attitude a golden patch of light from an opened door streamed out and over her. In its radiance a woman's wide-bosomed, wide-hipped silhouette, hand bent in a vizor over her eyes, leaned forward, and, rushing past her and down the plushy steps, the bareheaded figure of Mr. Charley Scully, a red and antiquated red wool indoor jacket flying to the wind, and a forelock of his shiny hair lifted.

"Marjie!"

She backed against the gate.

"Marj! Marjie?"

"I—No, no—I—I—"

"Why, little one! Marjie! Marjie!"

"I—No—no—"

But her inertia was of no moment, and very presently, Charles Scully's strong right arm propelling her, she was in the warm, bright-lighted hallway, its door closing her in and the wide-bosomed, wide-hipped figure in spotted silk fumbling the throat fastenings of her jacket, and the stooped form of Charley Scully dragging off her thin rubber shoes.

"Whew! they're soaking wet, ma. Get her a pair of Till's slippers or something."

"Don't jerk the child like that, son. Pull 'em off easy."

Through glazed eyes Marjorie Clark, balancing herself first on one foot, then the other, the spotted silk arm half sustaining her, could glimpse the scene of an adjoining room: a fir-tree standing against a drawn window-blind half hung in tinsel fringe, and abandoned in the very act of being draped; a woman and a child stooping at its base. Above a carved black-walnut table and from a mother-of-pearl frame, a small amateur photograph of Marjorie Clark smiled out at herself.

The figure in spotted silk dragged off the wet jacket and hurried with it toward the rear of the hallway, her left foot dragging slightly.

"Just a second, dearie-child, until I find dry things for you. Son, stop fussing around the lamb until she gets rested."

But on the first instant of the two of them standing alone there in the little hallway, Charley Scully turned swiftly to Marjorie Clark, catching up her small hand. His eyes carried the iridescence of bronze.

"Marjie," he said, "to—why, to think you'd come! Why—why, little
Marjie!"

"I—oh, Charley-boy, I—"

"What, little one? What?"

"I—I dun'no'."

"What is it, hon? Ain't you as glad as I am?"

"I dun'no', only I—I—I'm scared, Charley—scared, I guess."

"Why, you just never was so safe, Marjie, as now—you just never was!"

She could not meet the eloquence of his eyes, but his smile was so near that the tightness at her throat seemed suddenly to thaw.

"Charley-boy," she said.

But at the sound of returning footsteps she sprang backward, clasping her hands behind her. A copper-haired woman with a copper-haired child in the curve of her arm moved through the lighted front room and toward them. Her smile was upturned, with a dimple low in one cheek, like a star in the cradle of a crescent moon. Charley Scully turned his vivid face toward her.

"Till," he cried, "she come, anyway. Looka, she's come!"

"Yes, I—I've come," said Marjorie Clark. There was a layer of hysteria in her voice.