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The Unborn


By JAMES OPPENHEIM

Author of "The Great Fear," "Groping Children," etc.

With Illustrations by Howard Giles


THE little front dining-room on the second floor of the Norfolk Street tenement was in shadows. Supper was almost over. The mother and the two little boys and Ruth sat dusky and warm in the melting gray—the summer twilight. Knives and forks clattered; the boys spoke shrilly; the mother scolded them in a mix of English and Yiddish. Suddenly Ruth arose. She glided to the open window, laughed, and stepped through to the fire-escape. She clutched the rusty railing and looked down.

Beneath her Norfolk Street was a gray foaming torrent of faces and forms—eddies of fat women in shrill counsel—homeward racing pushcarts with their back-bent man-power—ancient men lounging at the doors of little shops—laughing cataracts of children—the evening tide of the spent toilers. Here and there a blue-white arc-light glared in the dying day; and one block downtown the Grand Street crossing glowed ruddy gold with the Western sun.

Ruth leaned, in the soft light, a slim, frail trembling girl of eighteen; her brown rough hair blew lightly over her rounded forehead; her eyes were a dim gray beneath their long lashes; her sensitive lips quivered open.

"David!" she called softly.

A young man, with an ugly strong face, in which the mouth seemed a slanting gash between high cheek-bones and under wide and heavy-broken nose, arose from the stoop-steps below and looked up. He was small and thin, but his eyes were ablaze and big and black.

"Ruth! Ruth!"

"I'm coming!" she called.

They said nothing further, but looked at each other. And suddenly, to him, she was an exquisite Juliet leaning over her balcony. Her gray eyes seemed large and luminous in spite of the shading lashes; they seemed like search-lights radiating and flashing out the fire of her spirit. Her little white hands, the suggestion of her feet at the edge of the fire-escape, the wisps of her blowing hair, the quivering parting of her lips, sent magic through the twilight. He sighed deeply.

And to her the ugly, strong face seemed the one hero-face in the world. Melting beneath her in that sea of faces, and yet upturned from the crowd and seeking her, it was the daring pioneer face, the man-face—the face to follow, to mother, to own. She, too, sighed deeply; and her heart seemed to whirl fire like a pin-wheel. Her cheeks reddened; she waved her handkerchief to him, and stepped back into the hot, dark room. She could feel her mother moving about, clearing off the table.

"Mother," she sighed.

The awkward, large woman paused, and the girl found her and locked her arms about her neck. The big, warm, human body was silent, but the girl spoke.

"Mother—you don't mind—you don't care if I don't help with the dishes—just to-night?"

"Ach, no, my dear one!" came the guttural Yiddish words, and she quoted her one line of Schiller, " 'Auch Ich war in Arcadia geborn' (I, too, was born in Arcady!) Run to your David!"

The big, old lips were kissed. Ruth laughed in a new, sweet, low tone strange to her mother, flung back the hall-door letting in a momentary splash of light, closed it softly, and tripped down the stairs. David was standing under the dim flame in the vestibule. She glided to him, and their hands met.

At that young touch the blood of both played a music through them, and they laughed low, and stepped down into the swirling man-jam of the pavement, and went wandering together. Now and then her lawn-draped elbow or the top of her arm brushed his sleeve. He saw fire, and they both laughed for exquisite happiness.

It seemed necessary to say something about it too: it was that moment when the flaming sun flakes off a planet in a sheer climax of fire; it was the lyrical time of life; the poet-time.

"You looked—on the balcony—" he whispered in a throbbing sort of secret way—"like—like Juliet—like all the women of the world——"

He coughed rackingly.

"Isn't it strange," she said in a swift flood,—"but I can't describe it. It's—it's this way. Before, I saw lots of people, and they were just people, and the streets were just streets—just—just—" she searched for a word, she cried, "surfaces! And there didn't seem to be men and women in the world—just people!" She laughed because her expression was so awkward and untrained; but the creative urge drove her. "And now—I'm a woman; and you're a man; and a man is the only thing in all the world that a woman must seek. And instead of being a person, Dave, you're—a sort of a world. Oh, I know, I know! I see beneath the surface—the surface is only the wall of a house and in the house something is living, warm and breathing and glorious. People are full of miracles and glory and wonder. It's——"

She stopped breathless; and he spoke, intoxicated:

"God, Ruth!"

And indeed before them and around them and above them the world swam in a living presence of which they were part; the drive of millions of ages of the sexes flung them together; the deep meaning of the on-rushing star-process beat in their hearts; they found the immensity, the power, the glory of themselves and a world of other selves. It was the common million-experienced awakening; the Human Springtime. No wonder Ruth whispered, what every woman has whispered at the supreme moment:

"No one ever loved the way we love!"

They had come out of the stale, squalid, day-by-day world of faces, façades, forms, and stepped into a new world that ever deepened, enlarged—a world charged with glory; with faint and obscure beauties; with a sound of rising and falling melodies; with a swirling streamer of millions of suns passing heavenward. The barrel-organ at the corner, with its gaudy tunes, was as the singing of their hearts. They turned at Grand Street, keeping step to the thumpety-thump, and walked west in the last great glow of day. People before them waded through fire—a dancing, dusty gold swam about heads. It was the Wonder-World. Here they noticed the book-store man in his skull-cap sitting out to get the evening air; there strolled a little mother with a crying baby-burden; here laughed young couples like themselves; there a mother fed her child—everyone was in love.

"All day," whispered Ruth, close to his ear, "I could hardly typewrite—I could hardly see my notes. All I could see was you; all I heard was you. I'll be fired soon," she laughed, "if I don't stop loving you, Davy."

He coughed again, violently, and suddenly put a handkerchief to his mouth.

"Ruth," he muttered, "the people in the sweatshop think I'm loony. I stop work, and just sit still, and think of what we said last night and remember the last time you kissed me!" He coughed, violently. "And then—and then—I race my machine like mad, and feel dizzy and top-heavy——"

She laughed again, and lightly took his hand.

"When will you marry me, Davy?"

He tried not to cough, and blurted:

"When the ship comes in, Ruth." But it wound up in a racking noise.

She gripped his hand tightly—she felt like wrenching it off.

"David!" she cried, "I've been thinking!"

She laughed, and he looked at her fondly. Then suddenly came to him a sense of manhood—the feel of the man in the crowd who is sheltering a woman in the crowd. How close she pressed to him—away from all these other faces that big and little, dark and light, yet all living and breathing, bobbed about them. Her slender, warm fingers sought his—he was too happy to think. They seemed almost at the breaking point.

"Yes," she went on, "I've been thinking! Dave, we must put our heads together!" She laughed again, looking archly at him, and he grinned in reply, "But, really! You get seven a week; I get twelve; we can both go on working—it's nineteen dollars. And mother could sew a little and earn some more. And we could live with her, couldn't we? And you could go on with your night-school; I'd go, too. We could manage; let's dare big; risk everything!" she cried. " And even if we lose everything," she laughed, "there's us left, Davy!" She paused; she turned toward him, oblivious of all the world, and fingered his coat-lapels, twisting at a button, as she looked breathlessly up into his eyes. "David!" she cried, "we must get married—you're my husband, and I'm your wife!"

His heart suddenly seemed to become an empty space in his breast; his face darkened. Her words had brought him to himself. They were the dash of cold water in the drunkard's face. As he stood, irresolute, trembling, aghast with his secret—knowing that in a moment this pure face would be struggling, this girl stricken—the street darkened; the golden glow coldly withdrew; the last flush was nearly gone from the far, wire-crossed, chimneyed west; human beings were turning black before them.

The subtle change in the light and in his face sent a chill through her.

"Why—what's the matter?" she breathed. "David! Have we been too happy?"

His eyes showed a moment's agony; his lips struggled. Then he spoke whisperingly:

"Ruth—would waiting be so hard?"

She was frightened.

"Hard?" she cried. "It's impossible, David!"

He turned his face from her. A wave of terror swept through her. She spoke chokingly, running a hand down his shoulder.

"You're white and thin—you're sick! Oh!" Her mind raced back and forth for a clue; she was breathless. "You said you were dizzy. Dave, you tell me what's the matter!"

"Ruth," he groaned miserably, "what if I am a little sick—a cough—I——"

And then his frame heaved; he coughed rackingly; he tore himself from her; he reached for his handkerchief. It was too late. He spat—a red drop slapping the dusty pavement.

Ruth gave a low cry, and stood hushed and frozen, her eyes on that red death-warrant. And in that moment the lyric went out of life; she stood in her old squalid world—its realities of noise and filth and sickness and death. She was overpowered by the sudden horror of life. They had been walking on a thin paper-surface—the paper had torn, and they were falling through into the blackness, the smoke, the flames. And then she dimly heard David speaking.

"It's nothing, dear, nothing!"

Her lips parted; something clutched and tried to strangle her throat; her heart pumped wildly. She looked up on his agonized face—poor helpless boy!—and at once he was her child, she his mother. She must take him to her—clasp him, soothe him, comfort him! There was that left. And then she was aware of the crowded cruel streets about them; they stood in public; the world roared on all sides. She could not even clasp his hand to her heart.

"Oh," she whispered, "let's kill ourselves!"

"Ruth!"

"Life"—this young girl cried tragically—"is a lie! It's horrible! Why should we have to suffer so? What good is in it?"

He coughed; she clutched his hand frantically.

"And you did nothing! " she cried. "You worked and sweated and studied—you made me happy—and all the time, in agony , in torture! David! My David! Now you'll die—you'll leave me—just when we were going to dare everything; just when everything was a miracle! But," she added fiercely, "I'll die too! Come, we'll go get married and kill ourselves!"

He stood awkwardly and lost—then he put a hand on her elbow.

"Ruth—we'll go to Dr. Rast. Maybe it's not so bad after all!"

She began to sob dryly, and suffered herself to be led away by the arm. Blindly they walked south—through crowd and noise and across the Playground Park with its shouting merry rush of children.

Then, in the darkness of East Broadway, and under the first far sprinkle of stars, they paused before the white-glowing windows of the Doctor's office. In silence they entered the musty hall and pushed the electric button. In the moment of waiting they heard light laughter within. The sound stung them; it seemed to violate the sanctity of their grief.

"Ruth," whispered David, "he's coming: don't look as if you were crying!"

Suddenly the door was flung back, and in the white Welsbach glow, stood big, dark Dr. Rast in his shirt-sleeves. He blinked into the hall's darkness.

"Come in!" he said cheerily, and as they stepped forward into the light, he gave a hand to each. "Oh, you!" he laughed, "do you think I'm the Rabbi?"

Neither spoke, though the human warmth of his voice coming upon their tragic souls was a touch of sanity; life again was suddenly commonplace and busy and cheerful. They were subtly cheered.

"Nell!" he cried, "here's the latest in couples!"

They stepped after him awkwardly into the little, hot office—its little scene of desk, revolving chair, and instrument case, its antiseptic smell. Nell, her face red with recent merriment, approached Ruth with hand extended.

"Well!" she cried, "it's good to see you, Ruth!"

Ruth ceased to be a tragic Juliet; she smiled a little sadly, and she and David stood in embarrassed silence.

"Nun ja," cried Dr. Rast heartily, "what's the matter? As bad as that?" He looked at them both.

Ruth spoke vehemently.

"I want you to see David!"

David grinned sheepishly, and the Doctor put a hand on his shoulder.

"Oh, come, come," cried Dr. Rast, "there's plenty of time for business. I'll see enough of David. David's rather important, I know, but not as useful as my new toy here! Nell, unfold!"

Nell laughed, and took a rubber cover from a compact little dynamo that stood on the desk. From its side ran a corded wire to a nest of batteries on the floor. David and Ruth, strangely lulled by all this household cheer gathered close to the desk.

"This!" cried Dr. Rast gleefully as an eager boy, "will cure anything and everything. I don't need to practice after this. I just attach a wiggle-gig and apply it to the patient. Watch!"

He opened a drawer and drew out a long tube and attachment.

"Isn't he a kid!" laughed Nell, delightedly.

"This," cried the Doctor, making the attachment and turning on the current, "is the detective!"

As the dynamo whizzed, a tiny electric light twinkled out at the top of the steel-tipped tube. David chuckled and Ruth faintly smiled. The Doctor's face was red with mirth and pride.

"And this," the Doctor made a second attachment, "is for such pleasant things as burning a hole through a live nose."

Two tiny wires glowed white hot.

"And this," the laughing Doctor attached a big silver knob, "is for massaging. Here, Ruth—it will make a superwoman of you!"

He calmly bumped and thumped it up and down her spine. She could not help but squirm and lightly laugh.

"And this," he cried——

His wife interposed.

"Don't you let him do any more, Ruth!" she laughed, "or he'll kill you! Morris!" She put a hand on his arm.

"Such a wife!" he groaned. "Little tyrant!"

Nell laughed.

"Ruth, be glad you're not a Doctor's wife. He tries everything out on me first. I had a headache the other day, and he came rushing in, crying, 'I've got just the thing for you,' and out he whips this new toy of his and really—he nearly killed me. He tried every attachment on me, just to see what would happen!"

"Nell!" he groaned, "how can you?"

Suddenly David coughed violently, and Ruth rushed to him in wild alarm, clutching his hand.

"What's the matter?" cried Nell.

The Doctor glanced up at them sharply. He understood in a flash.

"I guess, Nell," he said quietly, "that you and Ruth had better wait outside. I want to see David.

Nell's lips parted; her face paled. She seized Ruth's arm and led her out, closing the door behind her.

David, as he sat in the patient's chair, had a sickly smile. In the silence the Doctor drew close to him, in his own chair, opened the shirt and thumped on the meager flat chest. Neither said a word, but the Doctor's face was softened with pity, and David was grinning.

It seemed a long time before the Doctor buttoned up the shirt and sat back, his face taking the white light and looking pale and tired.

"How long," the Doctor asked quietly, "has this been going on, David?"

"Three months," David whispered.

"And you did nothing? Three suicide-months! David, you've been killing yourself! I thought you had more sense than that."

David bowed his head in his hands and there was a thick, terrible sob. He had known, and yet the words seemed to crumple up his flesh.

"It's so, then!" he groaned. "Who'll tell Ruth?"

The Doctor's face was a study in compassion; but he leaned close and spoke harshly.

"Fight, David, fight! Grit your teeth and face the music! It's your own doing—sweat-shop, night-school, bad air. Now, pay up—pay your debt!"

"It's Ruth," the young man sobbed. He was utterly crushed.

"Yes!" the voice was harsher than before. "It's Ruth— it's for Ruth! You'll fight— you'll be a man about this. Boytime is over! Get up—stand up—come, sweep Ruth off her feet with courage and daring and fight."

The Doctor rose. David staggered to his feet and started blindly for the door. But there was a quick movement, and suddenly the big Doctor gathered the frail shattered body in his arms; the boy's head went down on the linen shirt, and the big man spoke as softly, as tenderly as a woman:

"Boy, I could gather you up and carry you off to some quiet green place—there's nothing left of you but spirit. There! there! Now—the fight, David!"

He left David leaning against the desk, and opened the door into the dim little waiting-room. Ruth, who was sitting next to Nell on the sofa, arose breathlessly.

"Ruth," the Doctor said softly, "come in."

He reached out a hand and she took it blindly.

"Ruth," the Doctor hurried on, "you and I must take care of David. We must send him off to the country; we must let him get well; "we'll send him somewhere up in Sullivan County; we'll make up a purse for him—it won't be much—only five a week. And we'll keep him there till he's well again."

She spoke in a wild rush:

"Will he never get well?"

He hesitated, and then whispered:

"Ruth, who knows? It's up to him; it's up to you. It means fight, quiet, a sane life, good food, good air. It means years, too. It's gone far—too far. You and I are—interested in David: we'll send him off to life; and then—we'll be patient, and we'll be brave. Eh, Ruth?"

She looked at her broken man.

"He could never stand it," she breathed.

The Doctor looked at him sharply. The Doctor laughed softly, pressing her hand.

"We humans can stand more than you dream, Ruth. It takes a lot to kill us."

She spoke almost inaudibly, her head in her hand——

"And I'll never even see him——"

The Doctor suddenly turned, and took David by the arm and Ruth by the arm:

"Come," he said tenderly, "we're a bit in a whirl to-night. Go out and talk things over—quietly, sanely, like a man and a woman. And come to-morrow. Then we'll make plans. Only," he added strongly, "promise me this: you won't do anything until you've seen me first. Promise me."

They nodded their heads; David picked up his straw hat; the Doctor opened the door; the doomed children walked out.

"Remember!" the Doctor cried after them, in a ringing voice, "the fight—the fight!"

They stepped into the noisy street; unconsciously they walked west. And then suddenly a spirit of angry revolt swept through Ruth. She spoke wildly:

"How much money have you—with you?"

He searched his pocket.

"About thirty cents," he said bitterly.

"Let's go on a wild spree!" she cried fiercely, "Let's blow it all in!"

He laughed harshly.

"Might as well," he said. Thirty cents was a sum to be brooded on by these two children of the poor.

"We'll take a trolley-ride!" she burst out, harshly laughing, "and get a soda!"

They walked in bitter silence to the glittering, golden, spangled Bowery, and boarded a Third Avenue open car. They sat on one of the rear seats, at the inner end, under the great glow of the electrics, and a big summer crowd of men and women and children jammed about them. All were out for a breath of air, for a moment's release, for a glimpse of the Vision. Nested in this warm human mass—this breathing humanity—they had a wild ride through the sparkling streets, a wild ride of rushing breeze, of Earth flying under them. They had taken on wings and were cutting through space, escaping from themselves and their doom. They said nothing. But this car, as to many others, was to them their Capulet-Garden, their place of night-meeting. They put their arms about each other; Ruth laid her head on David's shoulder; and for a moment a sad glory was theirs again.

They rode on to the end of the line, and then all the way back again. The confusion of lights in the streets, the flashing of faces, the thumping of the wheels, the swaying of the car, lulled them, and wrapped them close in one another. It was a ride they never forgot—silent and heart-sick and sacred—she in his arms—he, feeling that precious head, the hair blowing against his cheeks, his being filled with unutterable yearning.

When they alighted at Grand Street, they felt quieted; but their hearts ached too much for speech. The first gust of their coming loneliness, their bitter struggle, their crippled life, swept over them. They entered the hot brilliance of an ice-cream saloon. The mirror gave back twenty white faces at the bar, and there was the foam and sparkle of the soda, the splash of the fountain, the glitter of myriad electrics, the warm, human smell. They walked to the rear and sat at a little cherry-colored side-table under the hot blowing of a big revolving fan. Their soda—ice-cream and syrup foaming up over the brim—was set before them. They ate of the delicious treat in glories of the poor. Here in a glass of soda, they had a moment with the stars—a moment of freshness and forgetfulness and strength and joy—a moment of laughter and love.

David looked at Ruth's pale face; he saw the luminous gray eyes behind the glasses. She looked back and noted the grim, ugly face—the man-face. A feeling of infinite tenderness swept through her. Then suddenly he raised his fist and spoke with terrible bitterness. All the terror and helplessness of poverty were in his words:

"To-night—I could kill people! Why should we have to suffer so? What have we done? Yes," he said chokingly, "I have worked hard, I have studied hard—I have been ground up, broken—smashed," he leaned close and shook his fist, "because I am poor! And then I—I—must suffer for it! Who made me poor? And you—Ruth—what have you to be thankful for? For your struggles, your long days of work, for your father's death? By George!" he was at white heat, "why should we give each other up? That's all we have. We belong to each other! Just when there's something good in this world, something pure and good and true—there's a smash-up. I won't go: I won't leave you!"

Ruth leaned close, her face strongly set.

"David," she spoke deeply, "I'm going to marry you, I don't care! I'm going off with you. I've cared for my family long enough—I'm going to care for you. I'm going to marry you, David."

He reached under the table and gripped her hand until it ached; his eyes blazed.

"You mean that, Ruth?"

"Yes," she cried fiercely, "we must. I love you with my heart and brain and blood and soul!"

Blood rushed to his cheeks.

"Good! You and I—we'll dare everything! We'll do it to-morrow!"

She leaned nearer, intense and quivering.

"To-night!"

They looked at each other again; they paled; their eyes burned; they were breathless with the wonder and glory of their marriage. The millions of ages were flinging them together, they could not resist any longer. He belonged to her; she to him—he was of her, she of him. They were one organism; God Himself was welding them together.

Breathless they arose and left that place—their glasses half-full, their money on the table—left it, and went east on Grand Street. A big silver moon had risen over the house tops, and up against its eerie glamour trailed skeins of silvered smoke; the unglittering side-streets were swimming in a silver light; the world was again transformed and weird.

But they did not touch each other. Now that the time had come, they felt uncanny—they stood apart—they seemed each to be going out to some midnight crime. And yet they seemed driven on.

Then, to the girl's mind, groped the practical doubts that always hinder women. She could hardly speak for the breathlessness of their daring.

"Who—who—" she began—"who marries people?"

"The Rabbi!" he cried impetuously.

Something within her shrank.

"No! no!" she whispered, "I couldn't—it must be a stranger."

He racked his brains and could not think. But on they went in the silence. The night was late: they could do as they pleased.

At each step, however, Ruth became more and more agitated. Finally she broke out:

"David, what about our promise to Dr. Rast?"

David spoke sharply:

"It's none of his business!"

"But we promised!" she cried, a sense of relief, of safety, filling her. "We must tell him! Come!"

"It's crazy——"

"Come!"

She touched his arm; it was like an electric shock. It broke the spell. Like two naughty children they turned south through deserted side-streets and walked silently—two throbbing atoms of man and woman—in the magic of the moon—the swimming living atmosphere—the black shadows against houses—he beauty of the moon's glamour on squalid things.

Over the open Playground they walked—under the vast skies, the moon, the dim stars. Then they turned into East Broadway. A light still burned in the office. They wanted to turn back and run away. They stood a moment, hesitating.

"Come!" said David, "Come on! Let's do something!"

They stepped into the hall and rang the bell. At once the door opened; it was the big Doctor again, in his shirt-sleeves.

"Back?" he exclaimed, "Well—I was waiting for you. Just a moment—we'll walk together."

They waited in silence. He came out in hat and coat, and they stepped into the empty moonlight. Then they began slowly to pace down the block, the Doctor between the boy and the girl.

"Well," the Doctor began softly, "what is it?"

They were stricken dumb. It seemed wrong to speak of their purpose.

The Doctor spoke more softly:

"You want to get married."

"Yes," murmured David.

They walked a few steps in silence; then the Doctor spoke again—kind, yet firm.

"David—Ruth—you can't"

There was a moment's silence again. Then Ruth spoke in a strange, unnatural voice:

"Why not?"

The Doctor hesitated—and answered low:

"You ought to know that!"

Ruth spoke again:

"We must."

"Must? Why?"

There was silence again, and again the unnatural voice:

"We can't help it—we love each other."

The Doctor hesitated again; then he spoke in a colorless whisper:

"That's lust—not love!"

The two at his side—he felt—were almost stumbling along. At last Ruth spoke again—she tried to speak naturally but it came in a wild blurt——

"We love each other—I'm not afraid—not afraid of consumption—what do I care? He needs a nurse—I'll go with him—we'll risk it! Why shouldn't I?"

In the silence that followed Ruth wished she had not come back to Doctor Rast. But the big Doctor was struggling with his words. The truth was hard to tell. At last he murmured——"

"It's not you I'm thinking of, Ruth."

"Is it my mother?" she asked defiantly.

"No!"

"Who then?"

The Doctor struggled fiercely. But he was their Doctor; he had the right to tell them. It came mildly, calmly—just a fact.

"I'm thinking," he said, "of the children that might be your children!"

Ruth gasped; the three stood still; they did not look at each other. The blinding terrible truth flashed through the minds of the boy and girl. The mystery of marriage—the strange bringing into this world of new souls—the strange creative-power that was theirs—overwhelmed them with a kind of terror. Then they heard the Doctor mildly continuing:

"Consumptives cannot have children; you can't marry; the power that drives you to-night will drive the harder if you do marry. You must not even kiss each other. You must bravely release each other—bravely carry life through fire to a great finish! It's hard—but you must! You can't toy with God—you know!"

They suddenly realized; they had almost started to play with the unseen Power—ignorant of its eternal fatalness—its strength that rolls planets and creates worlds. Awed and hushed and guilty. they stood looking down on the silvery pavement.

Then suddenly, shocking them both, the Doctor gripped their arms. They started. And he spoke as if he could not speak—as if his heart was in agony——

"David—Ruth—children! Why don't you socialize your love? Turn it away from self— turn it on others—you, David, on the lonesome brother of yours—you, Ruth, on the old mother whose man is not in Sullivan County—but dead. Why not?"

In the silence he pressed their hands and walked away. They turned; they saw his big shoulders bobbing down the moonlit street; they saw him disappear in his doorway. Then like two guilty children they swiftly, silently crept north to Grand and over to Norfolk, and to the entrance of the tenement.

Ruth paused to look at his stricken face.

"I'm almost afraid of you—and myself," she whispered. "Good night!"

He held out his hand; she shook her head.

"David—go home. Sleep well."

He drew back his hand; turned blindly and staggered away. She stood and watched until he was gone—the big head, the frail body gliding into the moonlight.

Then suddenly she rushed up 1he narrow steps; the front door was flung open. She could feel the big body of her mother standing in the thick, hot blackness. She reached out arms and was gathered in against that warm, living body.

"Ach!" cried the mother, "I worry so, my dear one."

"Mother!" Ruth sobbed wildly, "Mother!"

And Ruth remembered, "I, too, was born in Arcady." And Ruth remembered that her mother's Man was dead. And Ruth remembered that her mother had given birth to her. She was filled with awe and love: she knew the human life. The girl was a woman.


This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1924.


The author died in 1932, so this work is also in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 80 years or less. This work may also be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.