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Out of each week's earnings Chandler set aside $1. At the end of each
ten weeks with the extra capital thus accumulated, he purchased one
gentleman's evening from the bargain counter of stingy old Father Time.
He arrayed himself in the regalia of millionaires and presidents; he
took himself to the quarter where life is brightest and showiest, and
there dined with taste and luxury. With ten dollars a man may, for a
few hours, play the wealthy idler to perfection. The sum is ample for a
well-considered meal, a bottle bearing a respectable label, commensurate
tips, a smoke, cab fare and the ordinary etceteras.

This one delectable evening culled from each dull seventy was to
Chandler a source of renascent bliss. To the society bud comes but one
début; it stands alone sweet in her memory when her hair has whitened;
but to Chandler each ten weeks brought a joy as keen, as thrilling, as
new as the first had been. To sit among _bon vivants_ under palms in
the swirl of concealed music, to look upon the _habitués_ of such a
paradise and to be looked upon by them - what is a girl's first dance
and short-sleeved tulle compared with this?

Up Broadway Chandler moved with the vespertine dress parade. For this
evening he was an exhibit as well as a gazer. For the next sixty-nine
evenings he would be dining in cheviot and worsted at dubious _table
d'hôtes_, at whirlwind lunch counters, on sandwiches and beer in his
hall-bedroom. He was willing to do that, for he was a true son of the
great city of razzle-dazzle, and to him one evening in the limelight
made up for many dark ones.

Chandler protracted his walk until the Forties began to intersect the
great and glittering primrose way, for the evening was yet young, and
when one is of the _beau monde_ only one day in seventy, one loves
to protract the pleasure. Eyes bright, sinister, curious, admiring,
provocative, alluring were bent upon him, for his garb and air
proclaimed him a devotee to the hour of solace and pleasure.

At a certain corner he came to a standstill, proposing to himself the
question of turning back toward the showy and fashionable restaurant in
which he usually dined on the evenings of his especial luxury. Just then
a girl scuddled lightly around the corner, slipped on a patch of icy
snow and fell plump upon the sidewalk.

Chandler assisted her to her feet with instant and solicitous courtesy.
The girl hobbled to the wall of the building, leaned against it, and
thanked him demurely.

"I think my ankle is strained," she said. "It twisted when I fell."

"Does it pain you much?" inquired Chandler.

"Only when I rest my weight upon it. I think I will be able to walk in
a minute or two."

"If I can be of any further service," suggested the young man, "I will
call a cab, or - "

"Thank you," said the girl, softly but heartily. "I am sure you need not
trouble yourself any further. It was so awkward of me. And my shoe heels
are horridly common-sense; I can't blame them at all."

Chandler looked at the girl and found her swiftly drawing his interest.
She was pretty in a refined way; and her eye was both merry and kind.
She was inexpensively clothed in a plain black dress that suggested a
sort of uniform such as shop girls wear. Her glossy dark-brown hair
showed its coils beneath a cheap hat of black straw whose only ornament
was a velvet ribbon and bow. She could have posed as a model for the
self-respecting working girl of the best type.

A sudden idea came into the head of the young architect. He would ask
this girl to dine with him. Here was the element that his splendid but
solitary periodic feasts had lacked. His brief season of elegant luxury
would be doubly enjoyable if he could add to it a lady's society. This
girl was a lady, he was sure - her manner and speech settled that. And in
spite of her extremely plain attire he felt that he would be pleased to
sit at table with her.

These thoughts passed swiftly through his mind, and he decided to
ask her. It was a breach of etiquette, of course, but oftentimes
wage-earning girls waived formalities in matters of this kind. They were
generally shrewd judges of men; and thought better of their own judgment
than they did of useless conventions. His ten dollars, discreetly
expended, would enable the two to dine very well indeed. The dinner
would no doubt be a wonderful experience thrown into the dull routine of
the girl's life; and her lively appreciation of it would add to his own
triumph and pleasure.

"I think," he said to her, with frank gravity, "that your foot needs a
longer rest than you suppose. Now, I am going to suggest a way in which
you can give it that and at the same time do me a favour. I was on my
way to dine all by my lonely self when you came tumbling around the
corner. You come with me and we'll have a cozy dinner and a pleasant
talk together, and by that time your game ankle will carry you home very
nicely, I am sure."

The girl looked quickly up into Chandler's clear, pleasant countenance.
Her eyes twinkled once very brightly, and then she smiled ingenuously.

"But we don't know each other - it wouldn't be right, would it?" she
said, doubtfully.

"There is nothing wrong about it," said the young man, candidly. "I'll
introduce myself - permit me - Mr. Towers Chandler. After our dinner,
which I will try to make as pleasant as possible, I will bid you
good-evening, or attend you safely to your door, whichever you prefer."

"But, dear me!" said the girl, with a glance at Chandler's faultless
attire. "In this old dress and hat!"

"Never mind that," said Chandler, cheerfully. "I'm sure you look more
charming in them than any one we shall see in the most elaborate dinner
toilette."

"My ankle does hurt yet," admitted the girl, attempting a limping step.
"I think I will accept your invitation, Mr. Chandler. You may call
me - Miss Marian."

"Come then, Miss Marian," said the young architect, gaily, but with
perfect courtesy; "you will not have far to walk. There is a very
respectable and good restaurant in the next block. You will have to lean
on my arm - so - and walk slowly. It is lonely dining all by one's self.
I'm just a little bit glad that you slipped on the ice."

When the two were established at a well-appointed table, with a
promising waiter hovering in attendance, Chandler began to experience
the real joy that his regular outing always brought to him.

The restaurant was not so showy or pretentious as the one further down
Broadway, which he always preferred, but it was nearly so. The tables
were well filled with prosperous-looking diners, there was a good
orchestra, playing softly enough to make conversation a possible
pleasure, and the cuisine and service were beyond criticism. His
companion, even in her cheap hat and dress, held herself with an air
that added distinction to the natural beauty of her face and figure.
And it is certain that she looked at Chandler, with his animated but
self-possessed manner and his kindling and frank blue eyes, with
something not far from admiration in her own charming face.

Then it was that the Madness of Manhattan, the frenzy of Fuss and
Feathers, the Bacillus of Brag, the Provincial Plague of Pose seized
upon Towers Chandler. He was on Broadway, surrounded by pomp and style,
and there were eyes to look at him. On the stage of that comedy he had
assumed to play the one-night part of a butterfly of fashion and an
idler of means and taste. He was dressed for the part, and all his good
angels had not the power to prevent him from acting it.

So he began to prate to Miss Marian of clubs, of teas, of golf and
riding and kennels and cotillions and tours abroad and threw out
hints of a yacht lying at Larchmont. He could see that she was vastly
impressed by this vague talk, so he endorsed his pose by random
insinuations concerning great wealth, and mentioned familiarly a few
names that are handled reverently by the proletariat. It was Chandler's
short little day, and he was wringing from it the best that could be
had, as he saw it. And yet once or twice he saw the pure gold of this
girl shine through the mist that his egotism had raised between him and
all objects.

"This way of living that you speak of," she said, "sounds so futile and
purposeless. Haven't you any work to do in the world that might interest
you more?"

"My dear Miss Marian," he exclaimed - "work! Think of dressing every
day for dinner, of making half a dozen calls in an afternoon - with a
policeman at every corner ready to jump into your auto and take you to
the station, if you get up any greater speed than a donkey cart's gait.
We do-nothings are the hardest workers in the land."

The dinner was concluded, the waiter generously fed, and the two walked
out to the corner where they had met. Miss Marian walked very well now;
her limp was scarcely noticeable.

"Thank you for a nice time," she said, frankly. "I must run home now. I
liked the dinner very much, Mr. Chandler."

He shook hands with her, smiling cordially, and said something about a
game of bridge at his club. He watched her for a moment, walking rather
rapidly eastward, and then he found a cab to drive him slowly homeward.

In his chilly bedroom Chandler laid away his evening clothes for a
sixty-nine days' rest. He went about it thoughtfully.

"That was a stunning girl," he said to himself. "She's all right, too,
I'd be sworn, even if she does have to work. Perhaps if I'd told her
the truth instead of all that razzle-dazzle we might - but, confound it!
I had to play up to my clothes."

Thus spoke the brave who was born and reared in the wigwams of the tribe
of the Manhattans.

The girl, after leaving her entertainer, sped swiftly cross-town until
she arrived at a handsome and sedate mansion two squares to the east,
facing on that avenue which is the highway of Mammon and the auxiliary
gods. Here she entered hurriedly and ascended to a room where a handsome
young lady in an elaborate house dress was looking anxiously out the
window.

"Oh, you madcap!" exclaimed the elder girl, when the other entered.
"When will you quit frightening us this way? It is two hours since you
ran out in that rag of an old dress and Marie's hat. Mamma has been so
alarmed. She sent Louis in the auto to try to find you. You are a bad,
thoughtless Puss."

The elder girl touched a button, and a maid came in a moment.

"Marie, tell mamma that Miss Marian has returned."

"Don't scold, sister. I only ran down to Mme. Theo's to tell her to use
mauve insertion instead of pink. My costume and Marie's hat were just
what I needed. Every one thought I was a shopgirl, I am sure."

"Dinner is over, dear; you stayed so late."

"I know. I slipped on the sidewalk and turned my ankle. I could not
walk, so I hobbled into a restaurant and sat there until I was better.
That is why I was so long."

The two girls sat in the window seat, looking out at the lights and the
stream of hurrying vehicles in the avenue. The younger one cuddled down
with her head in her sister's lap.

"We will have to marry some day," she said dreamily - "both of us. We
have so much money that we will not be allowed to disappoint the public.
Do you want me to tell you the kind of a man I could love, Sis?"

"Go on, you scatterbrain," smiled the other.

"I could love a man with dark and kind blue eyes, who is gentle and
respectful to poor girls, who is handsome and good and does not try to
flirt. But I could love him only if he had an ambition, an object, some
work to do in the world. I would not care how poor he was if I could
help him build his way up. But, sister dear, the kind of man we always
meet - the man who lives an idle life between society and his clubs - I
could not love a man like that, even if his eyes were blue and he were
ever so kind to poor girls whom he met in the street."





BY COURIER


It was neither the season nor the hour when the Park had frequenters;
and it is likely that the young lady, who was seated on one of the
benches at the side of the walk, had merely obeyed a sudden impulse to
sit for a while and enjoy a foretaste of coming Spring.

She rested there, pensive and still. A certain melancholy that touched
her countenance must have been of recent birth, for it had not yet
altered the fine and youthful contours of her cheek, nor subdued the
arch though resolute curve of her lips.

A tall young man came striding through the park along the path near
which she sat. Behind him tagged a boy carrying a suit-case. At sight of
the young lady, the man's face changed to red and back to pale again. He
watched her countenance as he drew nearer, with hope and anxiety mingled
on his own. He passed within a few yards of her, but he saw no evidence
that she was aware of his presence or existence.

Some fifty yards further on he suddenly stopped and sat on a bench
at one side. The boy dropped the suit-case and stared at him with
wondering, shrewd eyes. The young man took out his handkerchief and
wiped his brow. It was a good handkerchief, a good brow, and the young
man was good to look at. He said to the boy:

"I want you to take a message to that young lady on that bench. Tell her
I am on my way to the station, to leave for San Francisco, where I shall
join that Alaska moose-hunting expedition. Tell her that, since she has
commanded me neither to speak nor to write to her, I take this means of
making one last appeal to her sense of justice, for the sake of what has
been. Tell her that to condemn and discard one who has not deserved such
treatment, without giving him her reasons or a chance to explain is
contrary to her nature as I believe it to be. Tell her that I have thus,
to a certain degree, disobeyed her injunctions, in the hope that she may
yet be inclined to see justice done. Go, and tell her that."

The young man dropped a half-dollar into the boy's hand. The boy looked
at him for a moment with bright, canny eyes out of a dirty, intelligent
face, and then set off at a run. He approached the lady on the bench a
little doubtfully, but unembarrassed. He touched the brim of the old
plaid bicycle cap perched on the back of his head. The lady looked at
him coolly, without prejudice or favour.

"Lady," he said, "dat gent on de oder bench sent yer a song and dance by
me. If yer don't know de guy, and he's tryin' to do de Johnny act, say
de word, and I'll call a cop in t'ree minutes. If yer does know him, and
he's on de square, w'y I'll spiel yer de bunch of hot air he sent yer."

The young lady betrayed a faint interest.

"A song and dance!" she said, in a deliberate sweet voice that seemed
to clothe her words in a diaphanous garment of impalpable irony. "A new
idea - in the troubadour line, I suppose. I - used to know the gentleman
who sent you, so I think it will hardly be necessary to call the police.
You may execute your song and dance, but do not sing too loudly. It is
a little early yet for open-air vaudeville, and we might attract
attention."

"Awe," said the boy, with a shrug down the length of him, "yer know what
I mean, lady. 'Tain't a turn, it's wind. He told me to tell yer he's got
his collars and cuffs in dat grip for a scoot clean out to 'Frisco. Den
he's goin' to shoot snow-birds in de Klondike. He says yer told him not
to send 'round no more pink notes nor come hangin' over de garden gate,
and he takes dis means of puttin' yer wise. He says yer refereed him out
like a has-been, and never give him no chance to kick at de decision. He
says yer swiped him, and never said why."

The slightly awakened interest in the young lady's eyes did not abate.
Perhaps it was caused by either the originality or the audacity of the
snow-bird hunter, in thus circumventing her express commands against the
ordinary modes of communication. She fixed her eye on a statue standing
disconsolate in the dishevelled park, and spoke into the transmitter:

"Tell the gentleman that I need not repeat to him a description of my
ideals. He knows what they have been and what they still are. So far
as they touch on this case, absolute loyalty and truth are the ones
paramount. Tell him that I have studied my own heart as well as one can,
and I know its weakness as well as I do its needs. That is why I decline
to hear his pleas, whatever they may be. I did not condemn him through
hearsay or doubtful evidence, and that is why I made no charge. But,
since he persists in hearing what he already well knows, you may convey
the matter.

"Tell him that I entered the conservatory that evening from the rear,
to cut a rose for my mother. Tell him I saw him and Miss Ashburton
beneath the pink oleander. The tableau was pretty, but the pose and
juxtaposition were too eloquent and evident to require explanation. I
left the conservatory, and, at the same time, the rose and my ideal.
You may carry that song and dance to your impresario."

"I'm shy on one word, lady. Jux - jux - put me wise on dat, will yer?"

"Juxtaposition - or you may call it propinquity - or, if you like, being
rather too near for one maintaining the position of an ideal."

The gravel spun from beneath the boy's feet. He stood by the other
bench. The man's eyes interrogated him, hungrily. The boy's were shining
with the impersonal zeal of the translator.

"De lady says dat she's on to de fact dat gals is dead easy when a
feller comes spielin' ghost stories and tryin' to make up, and dat's
why she won't listen to no soft-soap. She says she caught yer dead to
rights, huggin' a bunch o' calico in de hot-house. She side-stepped in
to pull some posies and yer was squeezin' de oder gal to beat de band.
She says it looked cute, all right all right, but it made her sick. She
says yer better git busy, and make a sneak for de train."

The young man gave a low whistle and his eyes flashed with a sudden
thought. His hand flew to the inside pocket of his coat, and drew out a
handful of letters. Selecting one, he handed it to the boy, following it
with a silver dollar from his vest-pocket.

"Give that letter to the lady," he said, "and ask her to read it. Tell
her that it should explain the situation. Tell her that, if she had
mingled a little trust with her conception of the ideal, much heartache
might have been avoided. Tell her that the loyalty she prizes so much
has never wavered. Tell her I am waiting for an answer."

The messenger stood before the lady.

"De gent says he's had de ski-bunk put on him widout no cause. He says
he's no bum guy; and, lady, yer read dat letter, and I'll bet yer he's
a white sport, all right."

The young lady unfolded the letter; somewhat doubtfully, and read it.


DEAR DR. ARNOLD: I want to thank you for your most kind and
opportune aid to my daughter last Friday evening, when she was
overcome by an attack of her old heart-trouble in the conservatory
at Mrs. Waldron's reception. Had you not been near to catch her as
she fell and to render proper attention, we might have lost her. I
would be glad if you would call and undertake the treatment of her
case.
Gratefully yours,
ROBERT ASHBURTON.


The young lady refolded the letter, and handed it to the boy.

"De gent wants an answer," said the messenger. "Wot's de word?"

The lady's eyes suddenly flashed on him, bright, smiling and wet.

"Tell that guy on the other bench," she said, with a happy, tremulous
laugh, "that his girl wants him."





THE FURNISHED ROOM


Restless, shifting, fugacious as time itself is a certain vast bulk
of the population of the red brick district of the lower West Side.
Homeless, they have a hundred homes. They flit from furnished room to
furnished room, transients forever - transients in abode, transients in
heart and mind. They sing "Home, Sweet Home" in ragtime; they carry
their _lares et penates_ in a bandbox; their vine is entwined about a
picture hat; a rubber plant is their fig tree.

Hence the houses of this district, having had a thousand dwellers,
should have a thousand tales to tell, mostly dull ones, no doubt; but it
would be strange if there could not be found a ghost or two in the wake
of all these vagrant guests.

One evening after dark a young man prowled among these crumbling red
mansions, ringing their bells. At the twelfth he rested his lean
hand-baggage upon the step and wiped the dust from his hatband and
forehead. The bell sounded faint and far away in some remote, hollow
depths.

To the door of this, the twelfth house whose bell he had rung, came a
housekeeper who made him think of an unwholesome, surfeited worm that
had eaten its nut to a hollow shell and now sought to fill the vacancy
with edible lodgers.

He asked if there was a room to let.

"Come in," said the housekeeper. Her voice came from her throat; her
throat seemed lined with fur. "I have the third floor back, vacant since
a week back. Should you wish to look at it?"

The young man followed her up the stairs. A faint light from no
particular source mitigated the shadows of the halls. They trod
noiselessly upon a stair carpet that its own loom would have forsworn.
It seemed to have become vegetable; to have degenerated in that rank,
sunless air to lush lichen or spreading moss that grew in patches to the
staircase and was viscid under the foot like organic matter. At each
turn of the stairs were vacant niches in the wall. Perhaps plants had
once been set within them. If so they had died in that foul and tainted
air. It may be that statues of the saints had stood there, but it was
not difficult to conceive that imps and devils had dragged them forth in
the darkness and down to the unholy depths of some furnished pit below.

"This is the room," said the housekeeper, from her furry throat. "It's a
nice room. It ain't often vacant. I had some most elegant people in it
last summer - no trouble at all, and paid in advance to the minute. The
water's at the end of the hall. Sprowls and Mooney kept it three months.
They done a vaudeville sketch. Miss B'retta Sprowls - you may have heard
of her - Oh, that was just the stage names - right there over the dresser
is where the marriage certificate hung, framed. The gas is here, and you
see there is plenty of closet room. It's a room everybody likes. It
never stays idle long."

"Do you have many theatrical people rooming here?" asked the young man.

"They comes and goes. A good proportion of my lodgers is connected with
the theatres. Yes, sir, this is the theatrical district. Actor people
never stays long anywhere. I get my share. Yes, they comes and they
goes."

He engaged the room, paying for a week in advance. He was tired, he
said, and would take possession at once. He counted out the money. The
room had been made ready, she said, even to towels and water. As the
housekeeper moved away he put, for the thousandth time, the question
that he carried at the end of his tongue.

"A young girl - Miss Vashner - Miss Eloise Vashner - do you remember such a
one among your lodgers? She would be singing on the stage, most likely.
A fair girl, of medium height and slender, with reddish, gold hair and a
dark mole near her left eyebrow."

"No, I don't remember the name. Them stage people has names they change
as often as their rooms. They comes and they goes. No, I don't call that
one to mind."

No. Always no. Five months of ceaseless interrogation and the inevitable
negative. So much time spent by day in questioning managers, agents,
schools and choruses; by night among the audiences of theatres from
all-star casts down to music halls so low that he dreaded to find what
he most hoped for. He who had loved her best had tried to find her. He
was sure that since her disappearance from home this great, water-girt
city held her somewhere, but it was like a monstrous quicksand, shifting
its particles constantly, with no foundation, its upper granules of
to-day buried to-morrow in ooze and slime.

The furnished room received its latest guest with a first glow of
pseudo-hospitality, a hectic, haggard, perfunctory welcome like the
specious smile of a demirep. The sophistical comfort came in reflected
gleams from the decayed furniture, the ragged brocade upholstery of
a couch and two chairs, a foot-wide cheap pier glass between the two
windows, from one or two gilt picture frames and a brass bedstead in a
corner.

The guest reclined, inert, upon a chair, while the room, confused in
speech as though it were an apartment in Babel, tried to discourse to
him of its divers tenantry.

A polychromatic rug like some brilliant-flowered rectangular, tropical
islet lay surrounded by a billowy sea of soiled matting. Upon the


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