The gas-light that came with an effect of
difficulty through the dust-stained
windows on either side of the door gave strange hues to the
faces and forms of the three women who stood
gabbling in the hallway of the tenement.
They made rapid gestures, and in the background their enormous
shadows mingled in terrific effect.
"Aye, she ain't so good as he thinks
she is, I'll bet. He can watch over'er an' take care of 'er all
he pleases, but when she wants t' fool 'im, she'll
fool 'im. An' how does he know she ain't foolin' 'im now?"
"Oh, he thinks he's keepin' 'er from
goin' t' th' bad, he does. Oh yes. He
says she's too purty t' let run 'round alone. Too purty! Huh!
My Sadie --"
"Well, he keeps a clost watch on 'er,
you bet. On'y las' week she met myboy Tim on th' stairs, an' Tim
hadn't said two words to 'er b'fore th' ol'man begun t' holler,
'Dorter, dorter, come here; come here!'"
At this moment a young girl entered from
the street, and it was evident from
the injured expressions suddenly assumed by the three gossipers
that she had been the object of their
discussion. She passed them with a slight nod,
and they swung about in a row to stare after her.
On her way up the long flights the girl unfastened
her veil. One could then clearly see
the beauty of her eyes, but there was in them a certain
furtiveness that came near to marring the
effect. It was a peculiar fixture of
gaze, brought from the street, as of one who there saw a succession
of passing dangers, with menaces aligned
at every corner.
On the top floor she pushed open a door,
and then paused on the threshold,
confronting an interior that appeared black and flat like a
curtain. Perhaps some girlish ideas of hobgoblins
assailed her then, for she called,
in a little breathless voice, "Daddie!"
There was no reply. The fire in the cooking-stove
in the room crackled at spasmodic
intervals. One lid was misplaced, and the girl could now see that
this fact created a little flushed crescent
upon the ceiling. Also a series of
tiny windows in the stove caused patches of red upon the floor.
Otherwise the room was heavily draped
The girl called again, "Daddie!"
Yet there was no reply. "Oh, daddie!"
Presently she laughed, as one familiar with
the humors of an old man. "Oh,
I guess yer cussin'-mad about yer supper, dad," she said,
and she almost entered the room, but
suddenly faltered, overcome by a feminine instinct
to fly from this black interior, peopled with imagined dangers.
Again she called, "Daddie!" Her
voice had an accent of appeal. It was as if she
knew she was foolish, but yet felt obliged to insist upon being
reassured. "Oh, daddie!"
Of a sudden a cry of relief, a feminine announcement
that the stars still hung, burst from
her. For, according to some mystic process, the smouldering
coals of the fire went aflame with sudden
fierce brilliance, splashing parts of
the walls, the floor, the crude furniture, with a hue of blood-red.
And in this dramatic outburst of light
the girl saw her father seated at a table,
with his back turned toward her.
She entered the room then with an aggrieved
air, her logic evidently concluding
that somebody was to blame for her nervous fright. "Oh, yer
on'y sulkin' 'bout yer supper! I thought
mebbe ye'd gone somewheres."
Her father made no reply. She went over to
a shelf in the corner, and taking
a little lamp, she lit it, and put it where it would give her
light as she took off her hat and
jacket in front of a tiny mirror. Presently she began
to bustle among the cooking utensils that were crowded into the
sink, and as she worked she rattled talk at her father, apparently
disdaining his mood.
"I'd 'a' come earlier t' night, dad, on'y that fly foreman he kep' me in th' shop till half past six. What a fool! He came t' me, yeh know, an' he ses, 'Nell, I wanter give yeh some brotherly advice' -- oh, I know him an' his brotherly advice. 'Yeh too purty, Nell,' he ses, 't' be workin' in this shop an' paradin' through th' streets alone, without somebody t' give yeh good brotherly advice, an' I wanter warn yeh, Nell. I'm a bad man, but I ain't as bad as some, an' I wanter warn yeh!' 'Oh, g'long 'bout yer business,' I ses. I know 'im. He's like all of 'em, on'y he's a little slyer. I know 'im. 'You g'long 'bout yer business,' I ses. Well, he sed after a while that he guessed some evenin' he come up an' see me. 'Oh, yeh will!' I ses. 'Yeh will? Well, you jest let my ol' man ketch yeh comin' foolin' 'round our place. Yeh'll wish yeh went t' some other girl t' give brotherly advice.' 'What th'ell do I care fer yer father?' he ses. 'What's he t' me?' 'If he throws yeh down stairs yeh'll care for 'im,' I ses. 'Well,' he ses, 'I'll come when 'e ain't in.' 'Oh, he's allus in when it means takin' care o' me,' I ses. 'Don't yeh fergit it, either. When it comes t' takin' care o' his dorter, he's right on deck every single possible time.'" After a time she turned and addressed cheery words to the old man.
"Hurry up th' fire, daddie! We'll have
supper pretty soon."
But still her father was silent, and his
form in its sullen posture was motionless.
At this the girl seemed to see the need of
the inauguration of a feminine war
against a man out of temper. She approached him, breathing soft
"Daddie! Oh, daddie! O-o-oh, daddie!"
It was apparent from a subtle quality
of valor in her tones that this manner of onslaught upon his moods
had usually been successful, but to-night
it had no quick effect.
The words, coming from her lips, were like
the refrain of an old ballad, but
the man remained stolid.
"Daddie! My daddie! Oh, daddie, are yeh mad at me -- really, truly mad at me?" She touched him lightly upon the arm. Should he have turned then, he
would have seen the fresh laughing face,
with dew-sparkling eyes, close to his
"Oh, daddie! My daddie! Pretty daddie!"
She stole her arm about his neck, and
then slowly bended her face towards his. It was the action of
a queen who knows she reigns notwithstanding
irritations, trials, tempests.
But suddenly from this position she leaped
backward with the mad energy of a
frightened colt. Her face was in this instant turned to a gray,
featureless thing of horror. A yell, wild
and hoarse as a brute cry, burst from
her. "Daddie!" She flung herself to a place near the
door, where she remained crouching,
her eyes staring at the motionless figure, splattered by
the quivering flashes from the fire, her
arms extended, and her frantic fingers
at once besought and repelled. There was in them an expression
of eagerness to caress and an expression
of the most intense loathing. And the girl's
hair, that had been a splendor, was in these moments changed to
a disordered mass that hung and swayed
in witchlike fashion. Again a cry burst from
her. It was more than the shriek of agony; it was direct, personal,
addressed to him in the chair, the first
word of a tragic conversation with the
It seemed that when she had put her arm about
its neck she had jostled the body
in such a way that now she and it were face to face. The attitude
expressed an intention of rising from the
table. The eyes, fixed upon her, were
filled with an unspeakable hatred.
The cries of the girl aroused thunders in
the tenement. There was a loud slamming
of doors, and presently there was a roar of feet upon the boards
of the stairway. Voices rang out sharply.
"What is it?"
"What's th' matter?"
"He's killin' her."
"Slug 'im with anything yeh kin lay
hold of, Jack."
But over all this came the shrill, shrewish tones of a woman: "Ah, th' ol' fool, he's drivin' 'er inteh th' street -- that's what he's doin'. He's drivin' 'er inteh th' street."