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Chapter 13

  • In two weeks Angela came back, ready to plight her faith; and Eugene wa_aiting, eager to receive it. He had planned to meet her under the smoky trai_hed of the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul depot, to escort her to Kinsley'_or dinner, to bring her some flowers, to give her a ring he had secured i_nticipation, a ring which had cost him seventy-five dollars and consume_uite all his savings; but she was too regardful of the drama of the situatio_o meet him anywhere but in the parlor of her aunt's house, where she coul_ook as she wished. She wrote that she must come down early and when h_rrived at eight of a Saturday evening she was dressed in the dress tha_eemed most romantic to her, the one she had worn when she first met him a_lexandria. She half suspected that he would bring flowers and so wore none, and when he came with pink roses, she added those to her corsage. She was _icture of rosy youth and trimness and not unlike the character by whose nam_e had christened her—the fair Elaine of Arthur's court. Her yellow hair wa_one in a great mass that hung sensuously about her neck; her cheeks were ros_ith the elation of the hour; her lips moist; her eyes bright. She fairl_parkled her welcome as he entered.
  • At the sight of her Eugene was beside himself. He was always at the breakin_oint over any romantic situation. The beauty of the idea—the beauty of lov_s love; the delight of youth filled his mind as a song might, made him tense, feverish, enthusiastic.
  • "You're here at last, Angela!" he said, trying to keep hold of her hands.
  • "What word?"
  • "Oh, you musn't ask so soon," she replied. "I want to talk to you first. I'l_lay you something."
  • "No," he said, following her as she backed toward the piano. "I want to know.
  • I must. I can't wait."
  • "I haven't made up my mind," she pleaded evasively. "I want to think. You ha_etter let me play."
  • "Oh, no," he urged.
  • "Yes, let me play."
  • She ignored him and swept into the composition, but all the while she wa_onscious of him hovering over her—a force. At the close, when she had bee_ade even more emotionally responsive by the suggestion of the music, h_lipped his arms about her as he had once before, but she struggled awa_gain, slipping to a corner and standing at bay. He liked her flushed face, her shaken hair, the roses awry at her waist.
  • "You must tell me now," he said, standing before her. "Will you have me?"
  • She dropped her head down as though doubting, and fearing familiarities; h_lipped to one knee to see her eyes. Then, looking up, he caught her about th_aist. "Will you?" he asked.
  • She looked at his soft hair, dark and thick, his smooth pale brow, his blac_yes and even chin. She wanted to yield dramatically and this was dramati_nough. She put her hands to his head, bent over and looked into his eyes; he_air fell forward about her face. "Will you be good to me?" she asked, yearning into his eyes.
  • "Yes, yes," he declared. "You know that. Oh, I love you so."
  • She put his head far back and laid her lips to his. There was fire, agony i_t. She held him so and then he stood up heaping kisses upon her cheeks, he_ips, her eyes, her neck.
  • "Good God!" he exclaimed, "how wonderful you are!"
  • The expression shocked her.
  • "You mustn't," she said.
  • "I can't help it. You are so beautiful!"
  • She forgave him for the compliment.
  • There were burning moments after this, moments in which they clung to eac_ther desperately, moments in which he took her in his arms, moments in whic_e whispered his dreams of the future. He took the ring he had bought and pu_t on her finger. He was going to be a great artist, she was going to be a_rtist's bride; he was going to paint her lovely face, her hair, her form. I_e wanted love scenes he would paint these which they were now livin_ogether. They talked until one in the morning and then she begged him to go, but he would not. At two he left, only to come early the next morning to tak_er to church.
  • There ensued for Eugene a rather astonishing imaginative and emotional perio_n which he grew in perception of things literary and artistic and in dream_f what marriage with Angela would mean to him. There was a peculiar awarenes_bout Eugene at this time, which was leading him into an understanding o_hings. The extraordinary demands of some phases of dogma in the matter o_eligion; the depths of human perversity in the matter of morality; the fac_hat there were worlds within worlds of our social organism; that reall_asically and actually there was no fixed and definite understanding o_nything by anybody. From Mathews he learned of philosophies—Kant, Hegel, Schopenhauer—faint inklings of what they believed. From association with How_e heard of current authors who expressed new moods, Pierre Loti, Thoma_ardy, Maeterlinck, Tolstoi. Eugene was no person to read—he was too eager t_ive,—but he gained much by conversation and he liked to talk. He began t_hink he could do almost anything if he tried—write poems, write plays, writ_tories, paint, illustrate, etc. He used to conceive of himself as a general, an orator, a politician—thinking how wonderful he would be if he could se_imself definitely to any one thing. Sometimes he would recite passages fro_reat speeches he had composed in his imagination as he walked. The savin_race in his whole make-up was that he really loved to work and he would wor_t the things he could do. He would not shirk his assignments or dodge hi_uties.
  • After his evening class Eugene would sometimes go out to Ruby's house, gettin_here by eleven and being admitted by an arrangement with her that the fron_oor be left open so that he could enter quietly. More than once he found he_leeping in her little room off the front room, arrayed in a red silk dressin_own and curled up like a little black-haired child. She knew he liked her ar_nstincts and she strove to gratify them, affecting the peculiar and th_xceptional. She would place a candle under a red shade on a small table b_er bed and pretend to have been reading, the book being usually tossed to on_ide on the coverlet where he would see it lying when he came. He would ente_ilently, gathering her up in his arms as she dozed, kissing her lips to wake_er, carrying her in his arms into the front room to caress her and whispe_is passion. There was no cessation of this devotion to Ruby the while he wa_eclaring his love for Angela, and he really did not see that the tw_nterfered greatly. He loved Angela, he thought. He liked Ruby, thought sh_as sweet. He felt sorry for her at times because she was such a little thing, so unthinking. Who was going to marry her eventually? What was going to becom_f her?
  • Because of this very attitude he fascinated the girl who was soon ready to d_nything for him. She dreamed dreams of how nice it would be if they coul_ive in just a little flat together—all alone. She would give up her ar_osing and just keep house for him. He talked to her of this—imagining i_ight possibly come to pass—realizing quite fully that it probably wouldn't.
  • He wanted Angela for his wife, but if he had money he thought Ruby and h_ight keep a separate place—somehow. What Angela would think of this did no_rouble him—only that she should not know. He never breathed anything t_ither of the other, but there were times when he wondered what they woul_hink each of the other if they knew. Money, money, that was the grea_eterrent. For lack of money he could not marry anybody at present—neithe_ngela nor Ruby nor anyone else. His first duty, he thought, was so to plac_imself financially that he could talk seriously to any girl. That was wha_ngela expected of him, he knew. That was what he would have to have if h_anted Ruby.
  • There came a time when the situation began to grow irksome. He had reached th_oint where he began to understand how limited his life was. Mathews and Howe, who drew more money, were able to live better than he. They went out t_idnight suppers, theatre parties, and expeditions to the tenderloin section (not yet known by that name). They had time to browse about the sections o_he city which had peculiar charms for them as Bohemians after dark—the levee, as a certain section of the Chicago River was called; Gambler's Row in Sout_lark Street; the Whitechapel Club, as a certain organization of newspaper me_as called, and other places frequented by the literati and the more talente_f the newspaper makers. Eugene, first because of a temperament which wa_ntrospective and reflective, and second because of his æsthetic taste, whic_as offended by much that he thought was tawdry and cheap about these places, and third by what he considered his lack of means, took practically no part i_hese diversions. While he worked in his class he heard of thes_hings—usually the next day—and they were amplified and made more showy an_nteresting by the narrative powers of the participants. Eugene hated coarse, vulgar women and ribald conduct, but he felt that he was not even permitted t_ee them at close range had he wanted to. It took money to carouse and he di_ot have it.
  • Perhaps, because of his youth and a certain air of unsophistication an_mpracticability which went with him, his employers were not inclined t_onsider money matters in connection with him. They seemed to think he woul_ork for little and would not mind. He was allowed to drift here six month_ithout a sign of increase, though he really deserved more than any one o_hose who worked with him during the same period. He was not the one to pus_is claims personally but he grew restless and slightly embittered under th_train and ached to be free, though his work was as effective as ever.
  • It was this indifference on their part which fixed his determination to leav_hicago, although Angela, his art career, his natural restlessness and growin_udgment of what he might possibly become were deeper incentives. Angel_aunted him as a dream of future peace. If he could marry her and settle dow_e would be happy. He felt now, having fairly satiated himself in th_irection of Ruby, that he might leave her. She really would not care so ver_uch. Her sentiments were not deep enough. Still, he knew she would care, an_hen he began going less regularly to her home, really becoming indifferent t_hat she did in the artists' world, he began also to feel ashamed of himself, for he knew that it was a cruel thing to do. He saw by her manner when h_bsented himself that she was hurt and that she knew he was growing cold.
  • "Are you coming out Sunday night?" she asked him once, wistfully.
  • "I can't," he apologized; "I have to work."
  • "Yes, I know how you have to work. But go on. I don't mind, I know."
  • "Oh, Ruby, how you talk. I can't always be here."
  • "I know what it is, Eugene," she replied. "You don't care any more. Oh, well, don't mind me."
  • "Now, sweet, don't talk like that," he would say, but after he was gone sh_ould stand by her window and look out upon the shabby neighborhood and sig_adly. He was more to her than anyone she had met yet, but she was not th_ind that cried.
  • "He is going to leave me," was her one thought. "He is going to leave me."
  • Goldfarb had watched Eugene a long time, was interested in him, realized tha_e had talent. He was leaving shortly to take a better Sunday-Editorshi_imself on a larger paper, and he thought Eugene was wasting his time an_ught to be told so.
  • "I think you ought to try to get on one of the bigger papers here, Witla," h_aid to him one Saturday afternoon when things were closing up. "You'll neve_mount to anything on this paper. It isn't big enough. You ought to get on on_f the big ones. Why don't you try the _Tribune_ —or else go to New York? _hink you ought to do magazine work."
  • Eugene drank it all in. "I've been thinking of that," he said. "I think I'l_o to New York. I'll be better off there."
  • "I would either do one or the other. If you stay too long in a place like thi_t's apt to do you harm."
  • Eugene went back to his desk with the thought of change ringing in his ears.
  • He would go. He would save up his money until he had one hundred and fifty o_wo hundred dollars and then try his luck in the East. He would leave Ruby an_ngela, the latter only temporarily, the former for good very likely, thoug_e only vaguely confessed this to himself. He would make some money and the_e would come back and marry his dream from Blackwood. Already his imaginativ_ind ran forward to a poetic wedding in a little country church, with Angel_tanding beside him in white. Then he would bring her back with him to Ne_ork—he, Eugene Witla, already famous in the East. Already the lure of the bi_astern city was in his mind, its palaces, its wealth, its fame. It was th_reat world he knew, this side of Paris and London. He would go to it now, shortly. What would he be there? How great? How soon?
  • So he dreamed.