Puslapio vaizdai

what fresh mouths the unions make
from them! Y' understand me, in my
restaurant one thing on a time: you
cook or you think. If you wan' to
think, you'll think outside."
"All right, then; give me my wages!"

"'Do I pay you to think or to cook?'"

"Only three dollars a month," said the woman in answer to Sophie's inquiry.

The girl opened a grimy window that faced a blank wall.

"Oi weh! not a bit of air!"

"What do you need yet air for the winter?" cried Hannah Breineh. "When the cold comes, the less air that blows into your room, the warmer you can keep yourself. And when it gets hot in summer you can take your mattress up on the roof. Everybody sleeps on the roof in summer.' "But there's so little light,” said Sophie.

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"What more light do you yet need? A room is only for to sleep by night. When you come home from work, it's dark, anyway. Gottunui! it's so dark on my heart with trouble, what difference does it make a little darkness in the room?"

"But I have to work in my room all day. I must have it light."

"Nu, I'll let you keep the gas lighted all day long," Hannah Breineh promised.

"Three dollars a month," deliberated Sophie. The cheapness would give her a sense of freedom that would make up for the lack of light and air. She paid down her first month's rent.

Her house, securely hers. Yet with the flash of triumph came a stab of

she retorted, flaring up. "The czar is dead. In America cooks are also people." Sophie tore off her apron, and bitterness. All that was hers was so thrust it at the man.

To the cheapest part of the East Side she went in her search for a room. Through the back alleys and yards she sought for a place that promised to be within her means. And then a smeared square of cardboard held between the iron grating of a basement window caught her eye. "Room to let a bargain-cheap!"

wretched and so ugly! Had her eager spirit, eager to give, no claim to a bit of beauty, a shred of comfort?

Over the potato-barrel she flung a red shawl, once her mother's, and looked through her bag for something to cover an ugly break in the plaster. She could find nothing but the page torn from the college catalogue.

"It's not so sunny and airy here as in your college office," she said, tacking the photograph on the wall; "but maybe you'd be a realer man if once in your life you had to put up with a hole like this for a room."

Sophie spread her papers on the cot beside her. With tense fingers she wrote down the title of her story, then stopped, and stared wildly at the ceiling.

Where was the vision that had haunted her all these days? Where were the thoughts and feelings that surged like torrents through her soul? Merely the act of putting her pencil to paper, her thoughts became a blur, her feelings a dumb ache in her heart. Ach, why must she kill herself to say what can never be said in words? But how did Emerson and Shakspere seize hold of their vision? What was the source of their deathless power?

The rusty clock struck six.

"I ought to run out now for the stale bread, or it will be all sold out, and I will have to pay twice as much for the fresh," flashed through her mind.

"Oi weh!" she wailed, covering her eyes, "it's a stomach slave I am, not a writer. I forget my story, I forget everything, thinking only of saving a few pennies."

She dragged herself back to the page in front of her and resumed her task with renewed vigor.

“Sarah Lubin was sixteen years old when she came to America. She came to get an education, but she had to go to a factory for bread," she wrote laboriously, and then drew back to study her work. The sentences were wooden, dead, inanimate things. The words laughed up at her, mockingly.

Perhaps she was not a writer, after all. Writers never started stories in

this way. Her eyes wandered over to the bed, a hard, meager cot. "I must remember to fix the leg, or it will tip to-night," she mused.

"Here I am," she cried despairingly, "thinking of my comforts again! And I thought I'd want nothing; I'd live only to write." Her head sank to the rough edge of the potato-barrel. "Perhaps I was a fool to give up all for this writing."

"Too many writers and too few cooks": the dean's words closed like a noose around her anguished soul.

When she looked up, the kind face of the college president smiled down at her.

"Then what is it in me that 's tearing and gnawing and won't let me rest?" she pleaded. The calm faith of the eyes leveled steadily at her seemed to rebuke her despair. The sure faith of that lofty face lifted her out of herself. She was humble before such unwavering power. "Ach!" she prayed, "how can I be so sure like you? Help me!"

Sophie became a creature possessed. She lived for one idea, was driven by one resistless passion, to write. As the weeks and months passed and her savings began to dwindle, her cheeks grew paler and thinner, the shadows under her restless eyes were black hollows of fear.

There came a day more deadly than death, when she had to face failure. She took out the thinning wad from her stocking and counted out her remaining cash: one, two, three dollars, and some nickles and dimes. long before the final surrender? If she kept up her rigorous ration of dry bread and oatmeal, two or three weeks more at most. And then?


An end to dreams. And end to

ambition. Back to the cook-stove, back to the stifling smells of tzimmas, hash, and miltz.

No, she would never let herself sink back to the kitchen. But where could she run from the terror of starvation?

The bitterest barb of her agony was her inability to surrender. She was crushed, beaten, but she could not give up the battle. The unvoiced dream in her still clamored and ached and strained to find voice. A resistless something in her that transcended reason rose up in defiance of defeat.

§ 3

"A black year on the landlord!" screamed Hannah Breineh through the partition. "The rent he raised, so what does he need to worry yet if the gas freezes? Gottuniu! freeze should only the marrow from his bones!"

Sophie turned back to the little stove in an attempt to light the gas under the pan of oatmeal. The feeble flame flickered and with a faint protest went out. Hannah Breineh poked in her tousled head for sympathy.

"Woe is me! Woe on the poor what ain't yet sick enough for the hospital!"

As the chill of the gathering dusk intensified, Sophie seemed to see herself carried out on a stretcher to the hospital, numb, frozen.

"God from the world! better a quick death than this slow freezing!" With the perpetual gnawing of hunger sapping her strength, Sophie had not the courage to face another night of torment. Drawing her shabby shawl more tightly around her, she hurried out. "Where now?" she asked as a wave of stinging snow blinded her. Hannah Breineh's words came back to her: "the hospital!" Why not? Surely

they could n't refuse to shelter her just over night in a storm like this.

But when she reached the Beth Israel her heart sank. She looked in timidly at the warm, beckoning lights.

"Ach! how can I have the gall to ask them to take me in? They'll think I'm only a beggar from the street."

She paced the driveway of the building, back and forth and up and down, in envy of the sick who enjoyed the luxury of warmth.

"To the earth with my healthy body!" she cursed. "Why can't I only break a bone or something?"

With a sudden courage of despair she mounted the steps to the superintendent's office; but one glance of the man's well-fed face robbed her of her


She sank down on the bench of the waiting applicants, glancing stealthily at the others, feeling all the guilt of a condemned criminal.

When her turn came, the blood in her ears pounded from terror and humiliation. She could not lift her eyes from the floor to face this feelingless judge of the sick and the suffering.

"I'm so killed with the cold," she stammered, twisting the fringes of her shawl. "If I could only warm myself up in a bed for the night-"

The man looked at her suspiciously. "If we fill up our place with people like you, we'll have no room left for the sick. We have a flu epidemic."

"So much you 're doing for the flu people, why can't you help me before I get it?" She spoke with that suppressed energy which was the key-note of her whole personality.

"Have you a fever?" he asked, his professional eye arrested by the unnatural flush on her face.

"Fever?" she mumbled. "A person has got to be already dead in his coffin before you'd lift a finger to help." She sped from the office into the dreary reception-hall.

On her way out her eye was caught by the black-faced type on the cover of a magazine that lay on the centertable.


A Five-Hundred-Dollar Prize for the Best Love-Story of a Working-Girl

As she read the magical words, the color rushed to her cheeks. Forgot ten was the humiliation of the superintendent's refusal to take her in, forgotten were the cold, the hunger. Her whole being leaped at the words:

Write your own love-story, but if you have never lived love, let it be your dream of love.

"Your dream of love." The words were as wine in her blood. Was there ever a girl who hungered and dreamed of love as she? It was as though in the depths of her poverty and want the fates had challenged her to give substance to her dreams. She stumbled out of the huge building, her feet in the snow, her mind in the clouds.

"God from the world! the gas is burning again!" cried Hannah Breineh as she groped her way back into her cellar-room. "The children are dancing over the fire like for a holiday. All day they had nothing to

warm in their bellies, and the coffee tastes like wine from heaven."

"Wine from heaven!" repeated the girl. "What wine but love from heaven?" and she clutched the magazine more tightly to her shrunken chest.

In the flicker of the gas-jet the photograph on the wall greeted her like a living thing. With the feel of the steady gaze upon her, she re-read the message that was to her an invitation and a challenge; and as she read, the dingy little room became alive with light. The understanding eyes seemed to pour vision into her soul. What was the purpose of all the harsh expe


"The cheapest part of the East Side"

riences that had been hers till now but to make her see just this, that love, and love only, was the one vital force of life? What was the purpose of all the privation and want she had endured but to make her see more poig

"Where did you get all this?'"

nantly this ethereal essence of love? The walls of her little room dissolved. The longing for love that lay dumb within her all her years took shape in human form. More real than life, closer than the beat within her heart, was this radiant, all-consuming vision that possessed her.

She groped for pencil and paper and wrote, unaware that she was writing. It was as though a hand stronger than her own was laid upon hers. Her power seemed to come from some vast, fathomless source. The starved passions of all the starved ages poured through her in rhythmic torrent of words-words that flashed and leaped with the resistless fire of youth burning through generations of suppression.

Not until daylight filtered through the grating of her window did the writing cease, nor was she aware of any fatigue. An ethereal lightness, a

sense of having escaped from the trammels of her body, lifted her as on wings. Her radiant face met the responsive glow of understanding that shone down on her from the wall. "It's your light shining through me," she exulted. "It's

your kind eyes looking into mine that made my dumbness speak.'

For the moment the contest was forgotten. She was seized by an irresistible impulse to take her outpourings to the man who had inspired her. "Let him only see what music he made of me." Gathering tightly to her heart the scribbled sheets of paper, she hurried to the university.

A whole hour she waited at his office door. As she saw him coming, she could wait no longer, but ran toward him.

"Read it only," she said, thrusting the manuscript at the bewildered man. "I'll be back in an hour."

"What exotic creature was this, with her scattered pages of scrawling script and eager eyes?" President Irvine wondered. He concluded she was one of the immigrant group before which he had lectured.

$ 4

She returned, to find the manuscript still in his hand.

"Tell me," he asked with an enthusiasm new to him, "where did you get all this?" "From the hunger in me. I was born to beat out the meaning of things out of my own heart."

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