Table of Contents

+ Add to Library

Previous Next

Chapter 10

  • Ruby Kenny was the adopted child of an old Irish laborer and his wife who ha_aken her from a quarrelling couple when they had practically deserted her a_he age of four years. She was bright, good natured, not at all informed as t_he social organization of the world, just a simple little girl with a passio_or adventure and no saving insight which would indicate beforehand whithe_dventure might lead. She began life as a cash girl in a department store an_as spoiled of her virtue at fifteen. She was rather fortunate in that he_martness attracted the rather superior, capable, self-protecting type of man; and these were fortunate too, in that she was not utterly promiscuous, appetite with her waiting on strong liking, and in one or two cases rea_ffection, and culminating only after a period of dalliance which made her a_uch a victim of her moods as were her lovers. Her foster parents provided n_uidance of any intelligent character. They liked her, and since she wa_righter than they were, submitted to her rule, her explanations of conduct, her taste. She waved aside with a laughing rejoinder any slight objection_hey might make, and always protested that she did not care what the neighbor_hought.
  • The visits which Eugene paid, and the companionship which ensued, were of _iece with every other relationship of this character which he ever entere_nto. He worshiped beauty as beauty, and he never wholly missed finding _ertain quality of mind and heart for which he longed. He sought in women, besides beauty, good nature and sympathy; he shunned criticism and coldness, and was never apt to select for a sweetheart anyone who could outshine hi_ither in emotion or rapidity or distinction of ideas.
  • He liked, at this time, simple things, simple homes, simple surroundings, th_ommonplace atmosphere of simple life, for the more elegant and imposin_verawed him. The great mansions which he saw, the great trade structures, th_reat, significant personalities, seemed artificial and cold. He liked littl_eople—people who were not known, but who were sweet and kindly in thei_oods. If he could find female beauty with anything like that as a backgroun_e was happy and settled down near it, if he could, in comfort. His drawin_ear to Ruby was governed by this mood.
  • The Sunday Eugene called, it rained and the neighborhood in which she live_as exceedingly dreary. Looking around here and there one could see in th_pen spaces between the houses pools of water standing in the brown, dea_rass. He had crossed a great maze of black cindered car tracks, where engine_nd cars were in great masses, and speculated on the drawings such scene_ould make—big black engines throwing up clouds of smoke and steam in a grey, wet air; great mazes of parti-colored cars dank in the rain but lovely. A_ight the switch lights in these great masses of yards bloomed like flowers.
  • He loved the sheer yellows, reds, greens, blues, that burned like eyes. Her_as the stuff that touched him magnificently, and somehow he was glad tha_his raw flowering girl lived near something like this.
  • When he reached the door and rang the bell he was greeted by an old shak_rish-American who seemed to him rather low in the scale of intelligence—th_ind of a man who would make a good crossing guard, perhaps. He had on common, characterful clothes, the kind that from long wear have taken the natura_utlines of the body. In his fingers was a short pipe which he had bee_moking.
  • "Is Miss Kenny in?" Eugene inquired.
  • "Yus," said the man. "Come in. I'll git her." He poked back through a typica_orkingman's parlor to a rear room. Someone had seen to it that almos_verything in the room was red—the big silk-shaded lamp, the family album, th_arpet and the red flowered wall paper.
  • While he was waiting he opened the album and looked at what he supposed wer_er relatives—commonplace people, all—clerks, salesmen, store-keepers.
  • Presently Ruby came, and then his eye lighted, for there was about her _martness of youth—she was not more than nineteen—which captivated his fancy.
  • She had on a black cashmere dress with touches of red velvet at the neck an_lsewhere, and she wore a loose red tie, much as a boy might. She looked ga_nd cheerful and held out her hand.
  • "Did you have much trouble in getting here?" she asked.
  • He shook his head. "I know this country pretty well. I collect all throug_ere week days. I work for the Peoples' Furniture Company, you know."
  • "Oh, then it's all right," she said, enjoying his frankness. "I thought you'_ave a hard time finding it. It's a pretty bad day, isn't it?"
  • Eugene admitted that it was, but commented on the car tracks he had seen. "I_ could paint at all I'd like to paint those things. They're so big an_onderful."
  • He went to the window and gazed out at the neighborhood.
  • Ruby watched him with interest. His movements were pleasing to her. She fel_t home in his company—as though she were going to like him very much. It wa_o easy to talk to him. There were the classes, her studio work, his ow_areer, this neighborhood, to give her a feeling of congeniality with him.
  • "Are there many big studios in Chicago?" he asked when they finally got aroun_o that phase of her work. He was curious to know what the art life of th_ity was.
  • "No, not so very many—not, at least, of the good ones. There are a lot o_ellows who think they can paint."
  • "Who are the big ones?" he asked.
  • "Well, I only know by what I hear artists say. Mr. Rose is pretty good. Bya_ones is pretty fine on _genre_ subjects, so they say. Walter Low is a goo_ortrait painter, and so is Manson Steele. And let's see—there's Arthu_iggs—he does landscapes only; I've never been in his studio; and Finley Wood, he's another portrait man; and Wilson Brooks, he does figures—Oh! I don'_now, there are quite a number."
  • Eugene listened entranced. This patter of art matters was more in the way o_efinite information about personalities than he had heard during all the tim_e had been in the city. The girl knew these things. She was in the movement.
  • He wondered what her relationship to these various people was?
  • He got up after a time and looked out of the window again. She came also.
  • "It's not very nice around here," she explained, "but papa and mamma like t_ive here. It's near papa's work."
  • "Was that your father I met at the door?"
  • "They're not my real parents," she explained. "I'm an adopted child. They'r_ust like real parents to me, though, I certainly owe them a lot."
  • "You can't have been posing in art very long," said Eugene thoughtfully, thinking of her age.
  • "No; I only began about a year ago."
  • She told how she had been a clerk in The Fair and how she and another girl ha_ot the idea from seeing articles in the Sunday papers. There was once _icture in the Tribune of a model posing in the nude before the local lif_lass. This had taken her eye and she had consulted with the other girl as t_hether they had not better try posing, too. Her friend, like herself, wa_till posing. She was coming to the dinner.
  • Eugene listened entranced. It reminded him of how he was caught by the pictur_f Goose Island in the Chicago River, of the little tumble-down huts an_pturned hulls of boats used for homes. He told her of that and of how h_ame, and it touched her fancy. She thought he was sentimental but nice—an_hen he was big, too, and she was so much smaller.
  • "You play?" he asked, "don't you?"
  • "Oh, just a little. But we haven't got a piano. I learned what I know b_ractising at the different studios."
  • "Do you dance?" asked Eugene.
  • "Yes, indeed," she replied.
  • "I wish I did," he commented ruefully.
  • "Why don't you? It's easy. You could learn in no time. I could teach you in _esson."
  • "I wish you would," he said persuasively.
  • "It isn't hard," she went on, moving away from him. "I can show you the steps.
  • They always begin with the waltz."
  • She lifted her skirts and exposed her little feet. She explained what to d_nd how to do it. He tried it alone, but failed; so she got him to put his ar_round her and placed her hand in his. "Now, follow me," she said.
  • It was so delightful to find her in his arms! And she was apparently in n_urry to conclude the lesson, for she worked with him quite patiently, explaining the steps, stopping and correcting him, laughing at her mistake_nd his. "You're getting it, though," she said, after they had turned around _ew times.
  • They had looked into each other's eyes a number of times and she gave hi_rank smiles in return for his. He thought of the time when she stood by hi_n the studio, looking over his shoulder. Surely, surely this gap o_ormalities might be bridged over at once if he tried if he had the courage.
  • He pulled her a little closer and when they stopped he did not let go.
  • "You're mighty sweet to me," he said with an effort.
  • "No, I'm just good natured," she laughed, not endeavoring to break away.
  • He became emotionally tense, as always.
  • She rather liked what seemed the superiority of his mood. It was different, stronger than was customary in the men she knew.
  • "Do you like me?" he asked, looking at her.
  • She studied his face and hair and eyes.
  • "I don't know," she returned calmly.
  • "Are you sure you don't?"
  • There was another pause in which she looked almost mockingly at him and then, sobering, away at the hall door.
  • "Yes, I think I do," she said.
  • He picked her up in his arms. "You're as cute as a doll," he said and carrie_er to the red settee. She spent the rest of the rainy afternoon resting i_is arms and enjoying his kisses. He was a new and peculiar kind of boy.