Nightshade, by Fannie Hurst

Gaslight Sonatas

Over the silent places of the world flies the vulture of madness, pausing to wheel above isolated farm-houses, where a wife, already dizzy with the pressure of rarefied silence, looks up, magnetized. Then across the flat stretches, his shadow under him moving across moor and the sand of desert, slowing at the perpetually eastern edge of a mirage, brushing his actual wings against the brick of city walls; the garret of a dreamer, brain-sick with reality. Flopping, until she comes to gaze, outside the window of one so alone in a crowd that her four hall-bedroom walls are closing in upon her. Lowering over a childless house on the edge of a village.

Were times when Mrs. Hanna Burkhardt, who lived on the edge of a village in one such childless house, could in her fancy hear the flutter of wings, too. There had once been a visit to a doctor in High Street because of those head-noises and the sudden terror of not being able to swallow. He had stethoscoped and prescribed her change of scene. Had followed two weeks with cousins fifty miles away near Lida, Ohio, and a day's stop-over in Cincinnati allowed by her railroad ticket. But six months after, in the circle of glow from a tablelamp that left the corners of the room in a chiaroscuro kind of gloom, there were again noises of wings rustling and of water lapping and the old stricture of the throat. Across the table, a Paisley cover between them, Mr. John Burkhardt, his short spade of beard already down over his shirt-front, arm hanging lax over his chair-side and newspaper fallen, sat forward in a hunched attitude of sleep, whistling noises coming occasionally through his breathing. A china clock, the centerpiece of the mantel, ticked spang into the silence, enhancing it.

Hands in lap, head back against the mat of her chair, Mrs. Burkhardt looked straight ahead of her into this silence—at a closed door hung with a newspaper rack, at a black-walnut horsehair divan, a great sea-shell on the carpet beside it. A nickelplated warrior gleamed from the top of a baseburner that showed pink through its mica doors. He stood out against the chocolate-ocher wallpaper and a framed Declaration of Independence, hanging left. A coal fell. Mr. Burkhardt sat up, shook himself of sleep.

"Little chilly," he said, and in carpet slippers and unbuttoned waistcoat moved over to the base-burner, his feet, to avoid sloughing, not leaving the floor. He was slightly stooped, the sateen back to his waistcoat hiking to the curve of him. But he swung up the scuttle with a swoop, rattling coal freely down into the red-jowled orifice.

"Ugh, don't!" she said. "I'm burnin' up."

He jerked back the scuttle, returning to his chair, and, picking up the fallen newspaper, drew down his spectacles from off his brow and fell immediately back into close, puckered scrutiny of the printed page.

"What time is it, Burkhardt? That old thing on the mantel's crazy."

He drew out a great silver watch.

"Seven-forty."

"O God!" she said. "I thought it was about ten."

The clock ticked in roundly again except when he rustled his paper in the turning. The fire was crackling now, too, in sharp explosions. Beyond the arc of lamp the room was deeper than ever in shadow. Finally John Burkhardt's head relaxed again to his shirt-front, the paper falling gently away to the floor. She regarded his lips puffing out as he breathed. Hands clasped, arms full length on the table, it was as if the flood of words pressing against the walls of her, to be shrieked rather than spoken, was flowing over to him. He jerked erect again, regarding her through blinks.

"Must 'a' dozed off," he said, reaching down for his newspaper.

She was winding her fingers now in and out among themselves.

"Burkhardt?"

"Eh?"

"What—does a person do that's smotherin'?"

"Eh?"

"I know. That's what I'm doing. Smotherin'!"

"A touch of the old trouble, Hanna?"

She sat erect, with her rather large white hands at the heavy base to her long throat. They rose and fell to her breathing. Like Heine, who said so potently, "I am a tragedy," so she, too, in the sulky light of her eyes and the pulled lips and the ripple of shivers over her, proclaimed it of herself.

"Seven-forty! God! what'll I do, Burkhardt? What'll I do?"

"Go lay down on the sofa a bit, Hanna. I'll cover you with a plaid. It's the head-noises again bothering you."

"Seven-forty! What'll I do? Seven-forty and nothing left but bed."

"I must 'a' dozed off, Hanna."

"Yes; you must 'a' dozed off," she laughed, her voice eaten into with the acid of her own scorn. "Yes; you must 'a' dozed off. The same way as you dozed off last night and last month and last year and the last eight years. The best years of my life—that's what you've dozed off, John Burkhardt. He 'must 'a' dozed off,'" she repeated, her lips quivering and lifting to reveal the white line of her large teeth. "Yes; I think you must 'a' dozed off!"

He was reading again in stolid profile.

She fell to tapping the broad toe of her shoe, her light, dilated eyes staring above his head. She was spare, and yet withal a roundness left to the cheek and forearm. Long-waisted and with a certain swing where it flowed down into straight hips, there was a bony, Olympian kind of bigness about her. Beneath the washed-out blue shirtwaist dress her chest was high, as if vocal. She was not without youth. Her head went up like a stag's to the passing of a band in the street, or a glance thrown after her, or the contemplation of her own freshly washed yellow hair in the sunlight. She wore a seven glove, but her nails had great depth and pinkness, and each a clear half-moon. They were dug down now into her palms.

"For God's sake, talk! Say something, or I'll go mad!"

He laid his paper across his knee, pushing up his glasses.

"Sing a little something, Hanna. You're right restless this evening."

"'Restless'!" she said, her face wry. "If I got to sit and listen to that white-faced clock ticking for many more evenings of this winter, you'll find yourself with a raving maniac on your hands. That's how restless I am!" He rustled his paper again. "Don't read!" she cried. "Don't you dare read!"

He sat staring ahead, in a heavy kind of silence, breathing outward and passing his hand across his brow.

Her breathing, too, was distinctly audible.

"Lay down a bit, Hanna. I'll cover you—"

"If they land me in the bug-house, they can write on your tombstone when you die, 'Hanna Long Burkhardt went stark raving mad crazy with hucking at home because I let her life get to be a machine from six-o'clock breakfast to eight-o'clock bed, and she went crazy from it.' If that's any satisfaction to you, they can write that on your tombstone."

He mopped his brow this time, clearing his throat.

"You knew when we married, Hanna, they called me 'Silent' Burkhardt. I never was a great one for talking unless there was something I wanted to say."

"I knew nothin' when I married you. Nothin' except that along a certain time every girl that can gets married. I knew nothin' except—except—"

"Except what?"

"Nothin'."

"I've never stood in your light, Hanna, of having a good time. Go ahead. I'm always glad when you go up-town with the neighbor women of a Saturday evening. I'd be glad if you'd have 'em in here now and then for a little sociability. Have 'em. Play the graphophone for 'em. Sing. You 'ain't done nothin' with your singin' since you give up choir."

"Neighbor women! Old maids' choir! That's fine excitement for a girl not yet twenty-seven!"

"Come; let's go to a moving picture, Hanna. Go wrap yourself up warm."

"Movie! Oh no; no movie for me with you snorin' through the picture till I'm ashamed for the whole place. If I was the kind of girl had it in me to run around with other fellows, that's what I'd be drove to do, the deal you've given me. Movie! That's a fine enjoyment to try to foist off on a woman to make up for eight years of being so fed up on stillness that she's half-batty!"

"Maybe there's something showin' in the op'ry-house to-night."

"Oh, you got a record to be proud of, John Burkhardt: Not a foot in that opera-house since we're married. I wouldn't want to have your feelin's!"

His quietude was like a great, impregnable, invisible wall inclosing him.

"I'm not the man can change his ways, Hanna. I married at forty, too late for that."

"I notice you liked my pep, all righty, when I was workin' in the feed-yard office. I hadn't been in it ten days before you were hangin' on my laughs from morning till night."

"I do yet, Hanna—only you don't laugh no more. There's nothin' so fine in a woman as sunshine."

"Provided you don't have to furnish any of it."

"Because a man 'ain't got it in him to be light in his ways don't mean he don't enjoy it in others. Why, there just ain't nothin' to equal a happy woman in the house! Them first months, Hanna, showed me what I'd been missin'. It was just the way I figured it—somebody around like you, singin' and putterin'. It was that laugh in the office made me bring it here, where I could have it always by me."

"It's been knocked out of me, every bit of laugh I ever had in me; lemme tell you that."

"I can remember the first time I ever heard you, Hanna. You was standin" at the office window lookin' out in the yards at Jerry Sims unloadin' a shipment of oats; and little Old Cocker was standin' on top of one of the sacks barkin' his head off. I—"

"Yeh; I met Clara Sims on the street yesterday, back here for a visit, and she says to me, she says: 'Hanna Burkhardt, you mean to tell me you never done nothing with your voice! You oughta be ashamed. If I was your husband, I'd spend my last cent trainin' that contralto of yours. You oughtn't to let yourself go like this. Women don't do it no more.' That, from the tackiest girl that ever walked this town. I wished High Street had opened up and swallowed me."

"Now, Hanna, you mustn't—"

"In all these years never so much as a dance or a car-ride as far as
Middletown. Church! Church! Church! Till I could scream at the sight of
it. Not a year of my married life that 'ain't been a lodestone on my neck!
Eight of' 'em! Eight!"

"I'm not sayin' I'm not to blame, Hanna. A woman like you naturally likes life. I never wanted to hold you back. If I'm tired nights and dead on my feet from twelve hours on 'em, I never wanted you to change your ways."

"Yes; with a husband at home in bed, I'd be a fine one chasin' around this town alone, wouldn't I? That's the thanks a woman gets for bein' self-respectin'."

"I always kept hopin', Hanna, I could get you to take more to the home."

"The home—you mean the tomb!"

"Why, with the right attention, we got as fine an old place here as there is in this part of town, Hanna. If only you felt like giving it a few more touches that kinda would make a woman-place out of it! It 'ain't changed a whit from the way me and my old father run it together. A little touch here and there, Hanna, would help to keep you occupied and happier if—"

"I know. I know what's comin'."

"The pergola I had built. I used to think maybe you'd get to putter out there in the side-yard with it, trailin' vines; the china-paintin' outfit I had sent down from Cincinnati when I seen it advertised in the Up-State Gazette; a spaniel or two from Old Cocker's new litter, barkin' around; all them things, I used to think, would give our little place here a feelin' that would change both of us for the better. With a more home-like feelin' things might have been different between us, Hanna."

"Keepin" a menagerie of mangy spaniels ain't my idea of livin'."

"Aw, now, Hanna, what's the use puttin' it that way? Take, for instance, it's been a plan of mine to paint the house, with the shutters green and a band of green shingles runnin' up under the eaves. A little encouragement from you and we could perk the place up right smart. All these years it's kinda gone down—even more than when I was a bachelor in it. Sunk in, kinda, like them iron jardinières I had put in the front yard for you to keep evergreen in. It's them little things, Hanna. Then that—that old idea of mine to take a little one from the orphanage—a young 'un around the—"

"O Lord!"

"I ain't goin' to mention it if it aggravates you, but—but makin' a home out of this gray old place would help us both, Hanna. There's no denyin' that. It's what I hoped for when I brought you home a bride here. Just had it kinda planned. You putterin' around the place in some kind of a pink apron like you women can rig yourselves up in and—"

"There ain't a girl in Adalia has dropped out of things the way I have, I had a singin' voice that everybody in this town said—"

"There's the piano, Hanna, bought special for it."

"I got a contralto that—"

"There never was anything give me more pleasure than them first years you used it. I ain't much to express myself, but it was mighty fine, Hanna, to hear you."

"Yes, I know; you snored into my singin' with enjoyment, all right."

"It's the twelve hours on my feet that just seem to make me dead to the world, come evening."

"A girl that had the whole town wavin' flags at her when she sung 'The Holy City' at the nineteen hundred street-carnival! Kittie Scogin Bevins, one of the biggest singers in New York to-day, nothing but my chorus! Where's it got me these eight years? Nowheres! She had enough sense to cut loose from Ed Bevins, who was a lodestone, too, and beat it. She's singing now in New York for forty a week with a voice that wasn't strong enough to be more than chorus to mine."

"Kittie Scogin, Hanna, is a poor comparison for any woman to make with herself."

"It is, is it? Well, I don't see it thataway. When she stepped off the train last week, comin' back to visit her old mother, I wished the whole depot would open up and swallow me—that's what I wished. Me and her that used to be took for sisters. I'm eight months younger, and I look eight years older. When she stepped off that train in them white furs and a purple face-veil, I just wished to God the whole depot would open and swallow me. That girl had sense. O God! didn't she have sense!"

"They say her sense is what killed Ed Bevins of shame and heartbreak."

"Say, don't tell me! It was town talk the way he made her toady to his folks, even after he'd been cut off without a cent. Kittie told me herself the very sight of the old Bevins place over on Orchard Street gives her the creeps down her back. If not for old lady Scogin, 'way up in the seventies, she'd never put her foot back in this dump. That girl had sense."

"There's not a time she comes back here it don't have an upsettin' influence on you, Hanna."

"I know what's upsettin' me, all right. I know!"

He sighed heavily.

"I'm just the way I am, Hanna, and there's no teachin' an old dog new tricks. It's a fact I ain't much good after eight o'clock evenin's. It's a fact—a fact!"

They sat then in a further silence that engulfed them like fog. A shift of wind blew a gust of dry snow against the window-pane with a little sleety noise. And as another evidence of rising wind, a jerk of it came down the flue, rattling the fender of a disused grate.

"We'd better keep the water in the kitchen runnin' to-night. The pipes'll freeze."

Tick-tock. Tick. Tock. She had not moved, still sitting staring above the top of his head. He slid out his watch, yawning.

"Well, if you think it's too raw for the movin' pictures, Hanna, I guess I'll be movin' up to bed. I got to be down to meet a five-o'clock shipment of fifty bales to-morrow. I'll be movin' along unless there's anything you want?"

"No—nothing."

"If—if you ain't sleepy awhile yet, Hanna, why not run over to Widow
Dinninger's to pass the time of evenin'? I'll keep the door on the latch."

She sprang up, snatching a heavy black shawl, throwing it over her and clutching it closed at the throat.

"Where you goin', Hanna?"

"Walkin'," she said, slamming the door after her.

In Adalia, chiefly remarkable for the Indestructo Safe Works and a river which annually overflows its banks, with casualties, the houses sit well back from tree-bordered streets, most of them frame, shingle-roofed veterans that have lived through the cycle-like years of the bearing, the marrying, the burying of two, even three, generations of the same surname.

A three-year-old, fifteen-mile traction connects the court-house with the Indestructo Safe Works. High Street, its entire length, is paved. During a previous mayoralty the town offered to the Lida Tool Works a handsome bonus to construct branch foundries along its river-banks, and, except for the annual flood conditions, would have succeeded.

In spring Adalia is like a dear old lady's garden of marigold and bleeding-heart. Flushes of sweetpeas ripple along its picket fences and off toward the backyards are long grape-arbors, in autumn their great fruit-clusters ripening to purple frost. Come winter there is almost an instant shriveling to naked stalk, and the trellis-work behind vines comes through. Even the houses seem immediately to darken of last spring's paint, and, with windows closed, the shades are drawn. Oftener than not Adalia spends its evening snugly behind these drawn shades in great scoured kitchens or dining-rooms, the house-fronts dark.

When Mrs. Burkhardt stepped out into an evening left thus to its stilly depth, shades drawn against it, a light dust of snow, just fallen, was scurrying up-street before the wind, like something phantom with its skirts blowing forward. Little drifts of it, dry as powder, had blown up against the porch. She sidestepped them, hurrying down a wind-swept brick walk and out a picket gate that did not swing entirely after. Behind her, the house with its wimple of shingle roof and unlighted front windows seemed to recede somewhere darkly. She stood an undecided moment, her face into the wind. Half down the block an arc-light swayed and gave out a moving circle of light. Finally she turned her back and went off down a side-street, past a lighted corner grocer, crossed a street to avoid the black mouth of an alley, then off at another right angle. The houses here were smaller, shoulder to shoulder and directly on the sidewalk.

Before one of these, for no particular reason distinguishable from the others, Mrs. Burkhardt stepped up two shallow steps and turned a key in the center of the door, which set up a buzz on its reverse side. Her hand, where it clutched the shawl at her throat, was reddening and roughening, the knuckles pushing up high and white. Waiting, she turned her back to the wind, her body hunched up against it.

There was a moving about within, the scrape of a match, and finally the door opening slightly, a figure peering out.

"It's me, Mrs. Scogin—Hanna Burkhardt!"

The door swung back then, revealing a just-lighted parlor, opening, without introduction of hall, from the sidewalk.

"Well, if it ain't Hanna Burkhardt! What you doin' out this kind of a night? Come in. Kittie's dryin' her hair in the kitchen. Used to be she could sit on it, and it's ruint from the scorchin' curlin'-iron. I'll call her. Sit down, Hanna. How's Burkhardt? I'll call her. Oh, Kittie! Kit-tie, Hanna Burkhardt's here to see you."

In the wide flare of the swinging lamp, revealing Mrs. Scogin's parlor of chromo, china plaque, and crayon enlargement, sofa, whatnot, and wax bouquet embalmed under glass, Mrs. Burkhardt stood for a moment, blowing into her cupped hands, unwinding herself of shawl, something Niobian in her gesture.

"Yoo-hoo—it's only me, Kit! Shall I come out?"

"Naw—just a minute; I'll be in."

Mrs. Scogin seated herself on the edge of the sofa, well forward, after the manner of those who relax but ill to the give of upholstery. She was like a study of what might have been the grandmother of one of Rembrandt's studies of a grandmother. There were lines crawling over her face too manifold for even the etcher's stroke, and over her little shriveling hands that were too bird-like for warmth. There is actually something avian comes with the years. In the frontal bone pushing itself forward, the cheeks receding, and the eyes still bright. There was yet that trenchant quality in Mrs. Scogin, in the voice and gaze of her.

"Sit down, Hanna."

"Don't care if I do."

"You can lean back against that chair-bow."

"Hate to muss it."

"How's Burkhardt?"

"All right."

"He's been made deacon—not?"

"Yeh."

"If mine had lived, he'd the makin' of a pillar. Once label a man with hard drinkin', and it's hard to get justice for him. There never was a man had more the makin' of a pillar than mine, dead now these sixteen years and molderin' in his grave for justice."

"Yes, Mrs. Scogin."

"You can lean back against that bow."

"Thanks."

"So Burkhardt's been made deacon."

"Three years already—you was at the church."

"A deacon. Mine went to his grave too soon."

"They said down at market to-day, Mrs. Scogin, that Addie Fitton knocked herself against the woodbin and has water on the knee."

"Let the town once label a man with drinkin', and it's hard to get justice for him."

"It took Martha and Eda and Gessler's hired girl to hold her in bed with the pain."

"Yes, yes," said Mrs. Scogin, sucking in her words and her eyes seeming to strain through the present; "once label a man with drinkin'."

Kittie Scogin Bevins entered then through a rain of bead portières. Insistently blond, her loosed-out hair newly dry and flowing down over a very spotted and very baby-blue kimono, there was something soft-fleshed about her, a not unappealing saddle of freckles across her nose, the eyes too light but set in with a certain feline arch to them.

"Hello, Han!"

"Hello, Kittie!"

"Snowing?"

"No."

"Been washing my hair to show it a good time. One month in this dump and they'd have to hire a hearse to roll me back to Forty-second Street in."

"This ain't nothing. Wait till we begin to get snowed in!"

"I know. Say, you c'n tell me nothing about this tank I dunno already. I was buried twenty-two years in it. Move over, ma."

She fitted herself into the lower curl of the couch, crossing her hands at the back of her head, drawing up her feet so that, for lack of space, her knees rose to a hump.

"What's new in Deadtown, Han?"

"'New'! This dump don't know we got a new war. They think it's the old
Civil one left over."

"Burkhardt's been made a deacon, Kittie."

"O Lord! ma, forget it!" Mrs. Scogin Bevins threw out her hands to Mrs. Burkhardt in a wide gesture, indicating her mother with a forefinger, then with it tapping her own brow. "Crazy as a loon! Bats!"

"If your father had—"

"Ma, for Gossakes—"

"You talk to Kittie, Hanna. My girls won't none of 'em listen to me no more. I tell 'em they're fightin' over my body before it's dead for this house and the one on Ludlow Street. It's precious little for 'em to be fightin' for before I'm dead, but if not for it, I'd never be gettin' these visits from a one of 'em."

"Ma!"

"I keep tellin' her, Kittie, to stay home. New York ain't no place for a divorced woman to set herself right with the Lord."

"Ma, if you don't quit raving and clear on up to bed, I'll pack myself out to-night yet, and then you'll have a few things to set right with the Lord. Go on up, now."

"I—"

"Go on—you hear?"

Mrs. Scogin went then, tiredly and quite bent forward, toward a flight of stairs that rose directly from the parlor, opened a door leading up into them, the frozen breath of unheated regions coming down.

"Quick—close that door, ma!"

"Come to see a body, Hanna, when she ain't here. She won't stay at home, like a God-fearin' woman ought to."

"Light the gas-heater up there, if you expect me to come to bed. I'm used to steam-heated flats, not barns."

"She's a sassy girl, Hanna. Your John a deacon and hers lies molderin' in his grave, a sui—"

Mrs. Scogin Bevins flung herself up, then, a wave of red riding up her face.

"If you don't go up—if you—don't! Go—now! Honest, you're gettin' so luny you need a keeper. Go—you hear?"

The door shut slowly, inclosing the old figure. She relaxed to the couch, trying to laugh.

"Luny!" she said. "Bats! Nobody home!"

"I like your hair like that, Kittie. It looks swell."

"It's easy. I'll fix it for you some time. It's the vampire swirl. All the girls are wearing it."

"Remember the night, Kit, we was singin' duets for the Second Street Presbyterian out at Grody's Grove and we got to hair-pullin' over whose curls was the longest?"

"Yeh. I had on a blue dress with white polka-dots."

"That was fifteen years ago. Remember Joe Claiborne promised us a real stage-job, and we opened a lemonade-stand on our front gate to pay his commission in advance?"

They laughed back into the years.

"O Lord! them was days! Seems to me like fifty years ago."

"Not to me, Kittie. You've done things with your life since then. I 'ain't."

"You know what I've always told you about yourself, Hanna. If ever there was a fool girl, that was Hanna Long. Lord! if I'm where I am on my voice, where would you be?"

"I was a fool."

"I could have told you that the night you came running over to tell me."

"There was no future in this town for me, Kit. Stenoggin' around from one office to another. He was the only real provider ever came my way."

"I always say if John Burkhardt had shown you the color of real money! But what's a man to-day on just a fair living? Not worth burying yourself in a dump like this for. No, sirree. When I married Ed, anyways I thought I smelled big money. I couldn't see ahead that his father'd carry out his bluff and cut him off. But what did you have to smell—a feed-yard in a hole of a town! What's the difference whether you live in ten rooms like yours or in four like this as long as you're buried alive? A girl can always do that well for herself after she's took big chances. You could be Lord knows where now if you'd 'a' took my advice four years ago and lit out when I did."

"I know it, Kit. God knows I've eat out my heart with knowin' it!
Only—only it was so hard—a man givin' me no more grounds than he does.
What court would listen to his stillness for grounds? I 'ain't got
grounds."

"Say, you could 'a' left that to me. My little lawyer's got a factory where he manufactures them. He could 'a' found a case of incompatibility between the original turtle-doves."

"God! His stillness, Kittie—like—"

"John Burkhardt would give me the razzle-dazzle jimjams overnight, he would. That face reminds me of my favorite funeral."

"I told him to-night, Kittie, he's killin' me with his deadness. I ran out of the house from it. It's killin' me."

"Why, you poor simp, standing for it!"

"That's what I come over for, Kit. I can't stand no more. If I don't talk to some one, I'll bust. There's no one in this town I can open up to. Him so sober—and deacon. They don't know what it is to sit night after night dyin' from his stillness. Whole meals, Kit, when he don't open his mouth except, 'Hand me this; hand me that'—and his beard movin' up and down so when he chews. Because a man don't hit you and gives you spending-money enough for the little things don't mean he can't abuse you with—with just gettin' on your nerves so terrible. I'm feelin' myself slip—crazy—ever since I got back from Cincinnati and seen what's goin' on in the big towns and me buried here; I been feelin' myself slip—slip, Kittie."

"Cincinnati! Good Lord! if you call that life! Any Monday morning on
Forty-second Street makes Cincinnati look like New-Year's Eve. If you call
Cincinnati life!"

"He's small, Kittie. He's a small potato of a man in his way of livin'. He can live and die without doin' anything except the same things over and over again, year out and year in."

"I know. I know. Ed was off the same pattern. It's the Adalia brand. Lord! Hanna Long, if you could see some of the fellows I got this minute paying attentions to me in New York, you'd lose your mind. Spenders! Them New York guys make big and spend big, and they're willing to part with the spondoolaks. That's the life!"

"I—You look it, Kit. I never seen a girl get back her looks and keep 'em like you. I says to him to-night, I says, 'When I look at myself in the glass, I wanna die.'"

"You're all there yet, Hanna. Your voice over here the other night was something immense. Big enough to cut into any restaurant crowd, and that's what counts in cabaret. I don't tell anybody how to run his life, but if I had your looks and your contralto, I'd turn 'em into money, I would. There's forty dollars a week in you this minute."

Mrs. Burkhardt's head went up. Her mouth had fallen open, her eyes brightening as they widened.

"Kit—when you goin' back?"

"To-morrow a week, honey—if I live through it."

"Could—you help me—your little lawyer—your—"

"Remember, I ain't advising—"

"Could you, Kit, and to—to get a start?"

"They say it of me there ain't a string in the Bijou Cafe that I can't pull my way."

"Could you, Kit? Would you?"

"I don't tell nobody how to run his life, Hanna. It's mighty hard to advise the other fellow about his own business. I don't want it said in this town, that's down on me, anyways, that Kit Scogin put ideas in Hanna Long's head."

"You didn't, Kit. They been there. Once I answered an ad. to join a county fair. I even sent money to a vaudeville agent in Cincinnati. I—"

"Nothing doing in vaudeville for our kind of talent. It's cabaret where the money and easy hours is these days. Just a plain little solo act—contralto is what you can put over. A couple of 'Where Is My Wandering Boy To-night' sob-solos is all you need. I'll let you meet Billy Howe of the Bijou. Billy's a great one for running in a chaser act or two."

"I—How much would it cost, Kittie, to—to—"

"Hundred and fifty done it for me, wardrobe and all."

"Kittie, I—Would you—"

"Sure I would! Only, remember, I ain't responsible. I don't tell anybody how to run his life. That's something everybody's got to decide for herself."

"I—have—decided, Kittie."

At something after that stilly one-o'clock hour when all the sleeping noises of lath and wainscoting creak out, John Burkhardt lifted his head to the moving light of a lamp held like a torch over him, even the ridge of his body completely submerged beneath the great feather billow of an oceanic walnut bedstead.

"Yes, Hanna?"

"Wake up!"

"I been awake—"

She set the lamp down on the brown-marble top of a wash-stand, pushed back her hair with both hands, and sat down on the bed-edge, heavily breathing from a run through deserted night's streets.

"I gotta talk to you, Burkhardt—now—to-night."

"Now's no time, Hanna. Come to bed."

"Things can't go on like this, John."

He lay back slowly.

"Maybe you're right, Hanna. I been layin' up here and thinkin' the same myself. What's to be done?"

"I've got to the end of my rope."

"With so much that God has given us, Hanna—health and prosperity—it's a sin before Him that unhappiness should take root in this home."

"If you're smart, you won't try to feed me up on gospel to-night!"

"I'm willin' to meet you, Hanna, on any proposition you say. How'd it be to move down to Schaefer's boardin'-house for the winter, where it'll be a little recreation for you evenings, or say we take a trip down to Cincinnati for a week. I—"

"Oh no," she said, looking away from him and her throat throbbing. "Oh no, you don't! Them things might have meant something to me once, but you've come too late with 'em. For eight years I been eatin' out my heart with 'em. Now you couldn't pay me to live at Schaefer's. I had to beg too long for it. Cincinnati! Why, its New-Year's Eve is about as lively as a real town's Monday morning. Oh no, you don't! Oh no!"

"Come on to bed, Hanna. You'll catch cold. Your breath's freezin'."

"I'm goin'—away, for good—that's where—I'm goin'!"

Her words threatened to come out on a sob, but she stayed it, the back of her hand to her mouth.

Her gaze was riveted, and would not move, from a little curtain above the wash-stand, a guard against splashing crudely embroidered in a little hand-in-hand boy and girl.

"You—you're sayin' a good many hasty things to-night, Hanna."

"Maybe."

He plucked at a gray-wool knot in the coverlet.

"Mighty hasty things."

She turned, then, plunging her hands into the great suds of feather bed, the whole thrust of her body toward him.

"'Hasty'! Is eight years hasty? Is eight years of buried-alive hasty? I'm goin', John Burkhardt; this time I'm goin' sure—sure as my name is Hanna Long."

"Goin' where, Hanna?"

"Goin' where each day ain't like a clod of mud on my coffin. Goin' where there's a chance for a woman like me to get a look-in on life before she's as skinny a hex at twenty-seven as old lady Scog—as—like this town's full of. I'm goin' to make my own livin' in my own way, and I'd like to see anybody try to stop me."

"I ain't tryin', Hanna."

She drew back in a flash of something like surprise.

"You're willin', then?"

"No, Hanna, not willin'."

"You can't keep me from it. Incompatibility is grounds!"

The fires of her rebellion, doused for the moment, broke out again, flaming in her cheeks.

He raised himself to his elbow, regarding her there in her flush, the white line of her throat whiter because of it. She was strangely, not inconsiderably taller.

"Why, Hanna, what you been doin' to yourself?"

Her hand flew to a new and elaborately piled coiffure, a half-fringe of curling-iron, little fluffed out tendrils escaping down her neck.

"In—incompatibility is grounds."

"It's mighty becomin', Hanna. Mighty becomin'."

"It's grounds, all right!"

"'Grounds'? Grounds for what, Hanna?"

She looked away, her throat distending as she swallowed.

"Divorce."

There was a pause, then so long that she had a sense of falling through its space.

"Look at me, Hanna!"

She swung her gaze reluctantly to his. He was sitting erect now, a kind of pallor setting in behind the black beard.

"Leggo!" she said, loosening his tightening hand from her wrists. "Leggo; you hurt!"

"I—take it when a woman uses that word in her own home, she means it."

"This one does."

"You're a deacon's wife. Things—like this are—are pretty serious with people in our walk of life. We—'ain't learned in our communities yet not to take the marriage law as of God's own makin'. I'm a respected citizen here."

"So was Ed Bevins. It never hurt his hide."

"But it left her with a black name in the town."

"Who cares? She don't."

"It's no good to oppose a woman, Hanna, when she's made up her mind; but
I'm willin' to meet you half-way on this thing. Suppose we try it again.
I got some plans for perkin' things up a bit between us. Say we join the
Buckeye Bowling Club, and—"

"No! No! No! That gang of church-pillars! I can't stand it, I tell you; you mustn't try to keep me! You mustn't! I'm a rat in a trap here. Gimme a few dollars. Hundred and fifty is all I ask. Not even alimony. Lemme apply. Gimme grounds. It's done every day. Lemme go. What's done can't be undone. I'm not blamin' you. You're what you are and I'm what I am. I'm not blamin' anybody. You're what you are, and God Almighty can't change you. Lemme go, John; for God's sake, lemme go!"

"Yes," he said, finally, not taking his eyes from her and the chin hardening so that it shot out and up. "Yes, Hanna; you're right. You got to go."

* * * * *

The skeleton of the Elevated Railway structure straddling almost its entire length, Sixth Avenue, sullen as a clayey stream, flows in gloom and crash. Here, in this underworld created by man's superstructure, Mrs. Einstein, Slightly Used Gowns, nudges Mike's Eating-Place from the left, and on the right Stover's Vaudeville Agency for Lilliputians divides office-space and rent with the Vibro Health Belt Company. It is a kind of murky drain, which, flowing between, catches the refuse from Fifth Avenue and the leavings from Broadway. To Sixth Avenue drift men who, for the first time in a Miss-spending life, are feeling the prick of a fraying collar. Even Fifth Avenue is constantly feeding it. A couturier's model gone hippy; a specialty-shop gone bankrupt; a cashier's books gone over. Its shops are second-hand, and not a few of its denizens are down on police records as sleight-of-hand. At night women too weary to be furtive turn in at its family entrances. It is the cauldron of the city's eye of newt, toe of frog, wool of bat, and tongue of dog. It is the home of the most daring all-night eating-places, the smallest store, the largest store, the greatest revolving stage, the dreariest night court, and the drabest night birds in the world.

War has laid its talons and scratched slightly beneath the surface of Sixth Avenue. Hufnagel's Delicatessen, the briny hoar of twenty years upon it, went suddenly into decline and the hands of a receiver. Recruiting stations have flung out imperious banners. Keeley's Chop-House—Open All Night—reluctantly swings its too hospitable doors to the one-o'clock-closing mandate.

To the New-Yorker whose nights must be filled with music, preferably jazz, to pass Keeley's and find it dark is much as if Bacchus, emulating the newest historical rogue, had donned cassock and hood. Even that half of the evening east of the cork-popping land of the midnight son has waned at Keeley's. No longer a road-house on the incandescent road to dawn, there is something hangdog about its very waiters, moving through the easy maze of half-filled tables; an orchestra, sheepish of its accomplishment, can lift even a muted melody above the light babel of light diners. There is a cabaret, too, bravely bidding for the something that is gone.

At twelve o'clock, five of near-Broadway's best breed, in woolly anklets and wristlets and a great shaking of curls, execute the poodle-prance to half the encores of other days. May Deland, whose ripple of hip and droop of eyelid are too subtle for censorship, walks through her hula-hula dance, much of her abandon abandoned. A pair of apaches whirl for one hundred and twenty consecutive seconds to a great bang of cymbals and seventy-five dollars a week. At shortly before one Miss Hanna de Long, who renders ballads at one-hour intervals, rose from her table and companion in the obscure rear of the room, to finish the evening and her cycle with "Darling, Keep the Grate-Fire Burning," sung in a contralto calculated to file into no matter what din of midnight dining.

In something pink, silk, and conservatively V, she was a careful management's last bland ingredient to an evening that might leave too Cayenne a sting to the tongue.

At still something before one she had finished, and, without encore, returned to her table.

"Gawd!" she said, and leaned her head on her hand. "I better get me a job hollerin' down a well!"

Her companion drained his stemless glass with a sharp jerking back of the
head. His was the short, stocky kind of assurance which seemed to say,
"Greater securities hath no man than mine, which are gilt-edged."
Obviously, Mr. Lew Kaminer clipped his coupons.

"Not so bad," he said. "The song ain't dead; the crowd is."

"Say, they can't hurt my feelin's. I been a chaser-act ever since I hit the town."

"Well, if I can sit and listen to a song in long skirts twelve runnin' weeks, three or four nights every one of 'em, take it from me, there's a whistle in it somewhere."

"Just the same," she said, pushing away her glass, "my future in this business is behind me."

He regarded her, slumped slightly in his chair, celluloid toothpick dangling. There was something square about his face, abetted by a parted-in-the-middle toupee of great craftsmanship, which revealed itself only in the jointure over the ears of its slightly lighter hair with the brown of his own. There was a monogram of silk on his shirt-sleeve, of gold on his bill-folder, and of diamonds on the black band across the slight rotundity of his waistcoat.

"Never you mind, I'm for you, girl," he said.

There was an undeniable taking-off of years in Miss de Long. Even the very texture of her seemed younger and the skin massaged to a new creaminess, the high coiffure blonder, the eyes quicker to dart.

"Lay off, candy kid," she said. "You're going to sugar."

"Have another fizz," he said, clicking his fingers for a waiter.

"Anything to please the bold, bad man," she said.

"You're a great un," he said. "Fellow never knows how to take you from one minute to the next."

"You mean a girl never knows how to take you."

"Say," he said, "any time anybody puts anything over on you!"

"And you?"

"There you are!" he cried, eying her fizz. "Drink it down; it's good for what ails you."

"Gawd!" she said. "I wish I knew what it was is ailin' me!"

"Drink 'er down!"

"You think because you had me goin' on these things last night that to-night little sister ain't goin' to watch her step. Well, watch her watch her step," Nevertheless, she drank rather thirstily half the contents of the glass. "I knew what I was doin' every minute of the time last night, all righty. I was just showin' us a good time."

"Sure!"

"It's all right for us girls to take what we want, but the management don't want nothing rough around—not in war-time."

"Right idea!"

"There's nothing rough about me, Lew. None of you fellows can't say that about me. I believe in a girl havin' a good time, but I believe in her always keepin' her self-respect. I always say it never hurt no girl to keep her self-respect."

"Right!"

"When a girl friend of mine loses that, I'm done with her. That don't get a girl nowheres. That's why I keep to myself as much as I can and don't mix in with the girls on the bill with me, if—"

"What's become of the big blond-looker used to run around with you when you was over at the Bijou?"

"Me and Kit ain't friends no more."

"She was some looker."

"The minute I find out a girl ain't what a self-respectin' girl ought to be then that lets me out. There's nothin' would keep me friends with her. If ever I was surprised in a human, Lew, it was in Kittie Scogin. She got me my first job here in New York. I give her credit for it, but she done it because she didn't have the right kind of a pull with Billy Howe. She done a lot of favors for me in her way, but the minute I find out a girl ain't self-respectin' I'm done with that girl every time."

"That baby had some pair of shoulders!"

"I ain't the girl to run a friend down, anyway, when she comes from my home town; but I could tell tales—Gawd! I could tell tales!" There was new loquacity and a flush to Miss de Long. She sipped again, this time almost to the depth of the glass. "The way to find out about a person, Lew, is to room with 'em in the same boardin'-house. Beware of the baby stare is all I can tell you. Beware of that."

"That's what you got," he said, leaning across to top her hand with his, "two big baby stares."

"Well, Lew Kaminer," she said, "you'd kid your own shadow. Callin' me a baby-stare. Of all things! Lew Kaminer!" She looked away to smile.

"Drink it all down, baby-stare," he said, lifting the glass to her lips. They were well concealed and back away from the thinning patter of the crowd, so that, as he neared her, he let his face almost graze—indeed touch, hers.

She made a great pretense of choking.

"O-oh! burns!"

"Drink it down-like a major."

She bubbled into the glass, her eyes laughing at him above its rim.

"Aw gone!"

He clicked again with his fingers.

"Once more, Charlie!" he said, shoving their pair of glasses to the table-edge.

"You ain't the only money-bag around the place!" she cried, flopping down on the table-cloth a bulky wad tied in one corner of her handkerchief.

"Well, whatta you know about that? Pay-day?"

"Yeh-while it lasts. I hear there ain't goin' to be no more cabarets or
Camembert cheese till after the war."

"What you going to do with it—buy us a round of fizz?"

She bit open the knot, a folded bill dropping to the table, uncurling.

"Lord!" she said, contemplating and flipping it with her finger-tip. "Where
I come from that twenty-dollar bill every week would keep me like a queen.
Here it ain't even chicken feed."

"You know where there's more chicken feed waitin' when you get hard up, sister. You're slower to gobble than most. You know what I told you last night, kiddo—you need lessons."

"What makes me sore, Lew, is there ain't an act on this bill shows under seventy-five. It goes to show the higher skirts the higher the salary in this business."

"You oughta be singin' in grand op'ra."

"Yeh—sure! The diamond horseshoe is waitin' for the chance to land me one swift kick. It only took me twelve weeks and one meal a day to land this after Kittie seen to it that they let me out over at the Bijou. Say, I know where I get off in this town, Lew. If there's one thing I know, it's where I get off. I ain't a squab with a pair of high-priced ankles. I'm down on the agencies' books as a chaser-act, and I'm down with myself for that. If there's one thing I ain't got left, it's illusions. Get me? Illusions."

She hitched sidewise in her chair, dipped her forefinger into her fresh glass, snapped it at him so that he blinked under the tiny spray.

"That for you!" she said, giggling. She was now repeatedly catching herself up from a too constant impulse to repeat that giggle.

"You little devil!" he said, reaching back for his handkerchief.

She dipped again, this time deeper, and aimed straighter.

"Quit!" he said, catching her wrist and bending over it. "Quit it, or I'll bite!"

"Ow! Ouch!"

Her mouth still resolute not to loosen, she jerked back from him. There was only the high flush which she could not control, and the gaze, heavy lidded, was not so sure as it might have been. She was quietly, rather pleasantly, dizzy.

"I wish—" she said. "I—wi-ish—"

"What do you wi-ish?"

"Oh, I—I dunno what I wish!"

"If you ain't a card!"

He had lighted a cigar, and, leaning toward her, blew out a fragrant puff to her.

"M-m-m!" she said; "it's a Cleopatra."

"Nop."

"A El Dorado."

"Guess again."

"A what, then?"

"It's a Habana Queen. Habana because it reminds me of Hanna."

"Aw—you!"

At this crowning puerility Mr. Kaminer paused suddenly, as if he had detected in his laughter a bray.

"Is Habana in the war, Lew?"

"Darned if I know exactly."

"Ain't this war just terrible, Lew?"

"Don't let it worry you, girl. If it puts you out of business, remember, it's boosted my stocks fifty per cent. You know what I told you about chicken feed."

She buried her nose in her handkerchief, turning her head. Her eyes had begun to crinkle.

"It—it's just awful! All them sweet boys!"

"Now, cryin' ain't goin' to help. You 'ain't got no one marchin' off."

"That's just it. I 'ain't got no one. Everything is something awful, ain't it?" Her sympathies and her risibilities would bubble to the surface to confuse her. "Awful!"

He scraped one forefinger against the other.

"Cry-baby! Cry-baby, stick your little finger in your little eye!"

She regarded him wryly, her eyes crinkled now quite to slits.

"You can laugh!"

"Look at the cry-baby!"

"I get so darn blue."

"Now—now—"

"Honest to Gawd, Lew, I get so darn blue I could die."

"You're a nice girl, and I'd like to see anybody try to get fresh with you!"

"Do you—honest, Lew—like me?"

"There's something about you, girl, gets me every time. Cat-eyes!
Kitty-eyes!"

"Sometimes I get so blue—get to thinkin' of home and the way it all happened. You know the way a person will. Home and the—divorce and the way it all happened with—him—and how I come here and—where it's got me, and—and I just say to myself, 'What's the use?' You know, Lew, the way a person will. Back there, anyways, I had a home. There's something in just havin' a home, lemme tell you. Bein' a somebody in your own home."

"You're a somebody any place they put you."

"You never seen the like the way it all happened, Lew. So quick! The day I took the train was like I was walkin' for good out of a dream. Not so much as a post-card from there since—"

"Uh—uh—now—cry-baby!"

"I—ain't exactly sorry, Lew; only God knows, more'n once in those twelve weeks out of work I was for goin' back and patchin' it up with him. I ain't exactly sorry, Lew, but—but there's only one thing on God's earth that keeps me from being sorry."

"What?"

"You."

He flecked his cigar, hitching his arm up along the chair-back, laughed, reddened slightly.

"That's the way to talk! These last two nights you been lightin' up with a man so he can get within ten feet of you. Now you're shoutin'!"

She drained her glass, blew her nose, and wiped her eyes.

She was sitting loosely forward now, her hand out on his.

"You're the only thing on God's earth that's kept me from—sneakin" back there—honest. Lew, I'd have gone back long ago and eat dirt to make it up with him—if not for you. I—ain't built like Kittie Scogin and those girls. I got to be self-respectin' with the fellows or nothing. They think more of you in the end—that's my theory."

"Sure!"

"A girl's fly or—she just naturally ain't that way. That's where all my misunderstanding began with Kittie—when she wanted me to move over in them rooms on Forty-ninth Street with her—a girl's that way or she just ain't that way!"

"Sure!"

"Lew—will you—are you—you ain't kiddin' me all these weeks? Taxicabbin' me all night in the Park and—drinkin' around this way all the time together. You 'ain't been kiddin' me, Lew?"

He shot up his cigar to an oblique.

"Now you're shoutin'!" he repeated. "It took three months to get you down off your high horse, but now we're talkin' the same language."

"Lew!"

"It ain't every girl I take up with; just let that sink in. I like 'em frisky, but I like 'em cautious. That's where you made a hit with me. Little of both. Them that nibble too easy ain't worth the catch."

She reached out the other hand, covering his with her both.

"You're—talkin' weddin'-bells, Lew?"

He regarded her, the ash of his cigar falling and scattering down his waistcoat.

"What bells?"

"Weddin', Lew." Her voice was as thin as a reed.

"O Lord!" he said, pushing back slightly from the table. "Have another fizz, girl, and by that time we'll be ready for a trip in my underground balloon. Waiter!"

She drew down his arm, quickly restraining it. She was not so sure now of controlling the muscles of her mouth.

"Lew!"

"Now—now—"

"Please, Lew! It's what kept me alive. Thinkin' you meant that. Please,
Lew! You ain't goin' to turn out like all the rest in this town? You—the
first fellow I ever went as far as—last night with. I'll stand by you,
Lew, through thick and thin. You stand by me. You make it right with me,
Lew, and—"

He cast a quick glance about, grasped at the sides of the table, and leaned toward her, sotto.

"For God's sake, hush! Are you crazy?"

"No," she said, letting the tears roll down over the too frank gyrations of her face—"no, I ain't crazy. I only want you to do the right thing by me, Lew. I'm—blue. I'm crazy afraid of the bigness of this town. There ain't a week I don't expect my notice here. It's got me. If you been stringin' me along like the rest of 'em, and I can't see nothing ahead of me but the struggle for a new job—and the tryin' to buck up against what a decent girl has got to—"

"Why, you're crazy with the heat, girl! I thought you and me was talking the same language. I want to do the right thing by you. Sure I do! Anything in reason is yours for the askin'. That's what I been comin' to."

"Then, Lew, I want you to do by me like you'd want your sister done by."

"I tell you you're crazy. You been hitting up too many fizzes lately."

"I—"

"You ain't fool enough to think I'm what you'd call a free man? I don't bring my family matters down here to air 'em over with you girls. You're darn lucky that I like you well enough to—well, that I like you as much as I do. Come, now; tell you what I'm goin' to do for you: You name your idea of what you want in the way of—"

"O God! Why don't I die? I ain't fit for nothing else!"

He cast a glance around their deserted edge of the room. A waiter, painstakingly oblivious, stood two tables back.

"Wouldn't I be better off out of it? Why don't I die?"

He was trembling down with a suppression of rage and concern for the rising gale in her voice.

"You can't make a scene in public with me and get away with it. If that's your game, it won't land you anywhere. Stop it! Stop it now and talk sense, or I'll get up. By God! if you get noisy, I'll get up and leave you here with the whole place givin' you the laugh. You can't throw a scare in me."

But Miss de Long's voice and tears had burst the dam of control. There was an outburst that rose and broke on a wave of hysteria.

"Lemme die—that's all I ask! What's there in it for me? What has there ever been? Don't do it, Lew! Don't—don't!"

It was then Mr. Kaminer pushed back his chair, flopped down his napkin, and rose, breathing heavily enough, but his face set in an exaggerated kind of quietude as he moved through the maze of tables, exchanged a check for his hat, and walked out.

For a stunned five minutes her tears, as it were, seared, she sat after him.

The waiter had withdrawn to the extreme left of the deserted edge of the room, talking behind his hand to two colleagues in servility, their faces listening and breaking into smiles.

Finally Miss de Long rose, moving through the zigzag paths of empty tables toward a deserted dressing-room. In there she slid into black-velvet slippers and a dark-blue walking-skirt, pulled on over the pink silk, tucking it up around the waist so that it did not sag from beneath the hem, squirmed into a black-velvet jacket with a false dicky made to emulate a blouse-front, and a blue-velvet hat hung with a curtain-like purple face-veil.

As she went out the side, Keeley's was closing its front doors.

Outside, not even to be gainsaid by Sixth Avenue, the night was like a moist flower held to the face. A spring shower, hardly fallen, was already drying on the sidewalks, and from the patch of Bryant Park across the maze of car-tracks there stole the immemorial scent of rain-water and black earth, a just-set-out crescent of hyacinths giving off their light steam of fragrance. How insidious is an old scent! It can creep into the heart like an ache. Who has not loved beside thyme or at the sweetness of dusk? Dear, silenced laughs can come back on a whiff from a florist's shop. Oh, there is a nostalgia lurks in old scents!

Even to Hanna de Long, hurrying eastward on Forty-second Street, huggingly against the shadow of darkened shop-windows, there was a new sting of tears at the smell of earth, daring, in the lull of a city night, to steal out.

There are always these dark figures that scuttle thus through the first hours of the morning.

Whither?

Twice remarks were flung after her from passing figures in slouch-hats—furtive remarks through closed lips.

At five minutes past one she was at the ticket-office grating of a train-terminal that was more ornate than a rajah's dream.

"Adalia—please. Huh? Ohio. Next train."

"Seven-seven. Track nine. Round trip?"

"N-no."

"Eighteen-fifty."

She again bit open the corner knot of her handkerchief.

* * * * *

When Hanna de Long, freshly train-washed of train dust, walked down Third Street away from the station, old man Rentzenauer, for forty-odd springs coaxing over the same garden, was spraying a hose over a side-yard of petunias, shirt-sleeved, his waistcoat hanging open, and in the purpling light his old head merging back against a story-and-a-half house the color of gray weather and half a century of service.

At sight of him who had shambled so taken-for-granted through all of her girlhood, such a trembling seized hold of Hanna de Long that she turned off down Amboy Street, making another wide detour to avoid a group on the Koerner porch, finally approaching Second Street from the somewhat straggly end of it farthest from the station.

She was trembling so that occasionally she stopped against a vertigo that went with it, wiped up under the curtain of purple veil at the beads of perspiration which would spring out along her upper lip. She was quite washed of rouge, except just a swift finger-stroke of it over the cheek-bones.

She had taken out the dicky, too, and for some reason filled in there with a flounce of pink net ripped off from the little ruffles that had flowed out from her sleeves. She was without baggage.

At Ludlow Street she could suddenly see the house, the trees meeting before it in a lace of green, the two iron jardinières empty. They had been painted, and were drying now of a clay-brown coat.

When she finally went up the brick walk, she thought once that she could not reach the bell with the strength left to pull it. She did, though, pressing with her two hands to her left side as she waited. The house was in the process of painting, too, still wet under a first wash of gray. The pergola, also.

The door swung back, and then a figure emerged full from a background of familiarly dim hallway and curve of banister. She was stout enough to be panting slightly, and above the pink-and-white-checked apron her face was ruddy, forty, and ever so inclined to smile.

"Yes?"

"Is—is—"

Out from the hallway shot a cocker spaniel, loose-eared, yapping.

"Queenie, Queenie—come back. She won't bite—Queenie—bad girl!—come back from that nasturtium-bed—bad girl!—all washed and combed so pretty for a romp with her favver when him come home so tired. Queenie!"

She caught her by a rear leg as she leaped back, wild to rollick, tucking her under one arm, administering three diminutive punishments on the shaggy ears.

"Bad! Bad!"

"Is Mr.—Burkhardt—home?"

"Aw, now, he ain't! I sent him down by Gredel's nurseries on his way home to-night, for some tulip-bulbs for my iron jardinières. He ought to be back any minute if he 'ain't stopped to brag with old man Gredel that our arbutus beats his." Then, smiling and rubbing with the back of her free hand at a flour-streak across her cheek: "If—if it's the lady from the orphan asylum come to see about the—the little kid we want—is there anything I can do for you? I'm his wife. Won't you come in?"

"Oh no!" said Miss de Long, now already down two of the steps. "I—I—Oh no, no!—thank you! Oh no—no!—thank you!"

She walked swiftly, the purple veil blown back and her face seeming to look out of it whitely, so whitely that she became terrible.

Night was at hand, and Adalia was drawing down its front shades.