Page:Manhattan Transfer (John Dos Passos, 1925).djvu/411

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The Burthen of Nineveh


Ellen goes out to the street. The fireengines are arriving. Policemen are beating back the crowds. She wants to go away but she cant, she's waiting for something. At last she hears it tinkling down the street. As the fireengines go clanging away, the ambulance drives up. Attendants carry in the folded stretcher. Ellen can hardly breathe. She stands beside the ambulance behind a broad blue policeman. She tries to puzzle out why she is so moved; it is as if some part of her were going to be wrapped in bandages, carried away on a stretcher. Too soon it comes out, between the routine faces, the dark uniforms of the attendants.

"Was she terribly burned?" somehow she manages to ask under the policeman's arm.

"She wont die . . . but it's tough on a girl." Ellen elbows her way through the crowd and hurries towards Fifth Avenue. It's almost dark. Lights swim brightly in night clear blue like the deep sea.

Why should I be so excited? she keeps asking herself. Just somebody's bad luck, the sort of thing that happens every day. The moaning turmoil and the clanging of the fireengines wont seem to fade away inside her. She stands irresolutely on a corner while cars, faces, flicker clatteringly past her. A young man in a new straw hat is looking at her out of the corners of his eyes, trying to pick her up. She stares him blankly in the face. He has on a red, green, and blue striped necktie. She walks past him fast, crosses to the other side of the avenue, and turns uptown. Seven thirty. She's got to meet some one somewhere, she cant think where. There's a horrible tired blankness inside her. O dear what shall I do? she whimpers to herself. At the next corner she hails a taxi. "Go to the Algonquin please."

She remembers it all now, at eight o'clock she's going to have dinner with Judge Shammeyer and his wife. Ought to have gone home to dress. George'll be mad when he sees me come breezing in like this. Likes to show me off all dressed up like a Christmas tree, like an Effenbee walking talking doll, damn him.

She sits back in the corner of the taxi with her eyes