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.