Find this Story

Print, a form you can hold

Wireless download to your Amazon Kindle

Look for a summary or analysis of this Story.

Enjoy this? Share it!

A Desertion
by [?]

The yellow gaslight that came with an effect of difficulty through the dust-stained windows on either side of the door gave strange hues to the faces and forms of the three women who stood gabbling in the hallway of the tenement. They made rapid gestures, and in the background their enormous shadows mingled in terrific conflict.

“Aye, she ain’t so good as he thinks she is, I’ll bet. He can watch over ‘er an’ take care of ‘er all he pleases, but when she wants t’ fool ‘im, she’ll fool ‘im. An’ how does he know she ain’t foolin’ im’ now?”

“Oh, he thinks he’s keepin’ ‘er from goin’ t’ th’ bad, he does. Oh, yes. He ses she’s too purty t’ let run round alone. Too purty! Huh! My Sadie–“

“Well, he keeps a clost watch on ‘er, you bet. On’y las’ week, she met my boy Tim on th’ stairs, an’ Tim hadn’t said two words to ‘er b’fore th’ ol’ man begin to holler. ‘Dorter, dorter, come here, come here!'”

At this moment a young girl entered from the street, and it was evident from the injured expression suddenly assumed by the three gossipers that she had been the object of their discussion. She passed them with a slight nod, and they swung about into a row to stare after her.

On her way up the long flights the girl unfastened her veil. One could then clearly see the beauty of her eyes, but there was in them a certain furtiveness that came near to marring the effects. It was a peculiar fixture of gaze, brought from the street, as of one who there saw a succession of passing dangers with menaces aligned at every corner.

On the top floor, she pushed open a door and then paused on the threshold, confronting an interior that appeared black and flat like a curtain. Perhaps some girlish idea of hobgoblins assailed her then, for she called in a little breathless voice, “Daddie!”

There was no reply. The fire in the cooking-stove in the room crackled at spasmodic intervals. One lid was misplaced, and the girl could now see that this fact created a little flushed crescent upon the ceiling. Also, a series of tiny windows in the stove caused patches of red upon the floor. Otherwise, the room was heavily draped with shadows.

The girl called again, “Daddie!”

Yet there was no reply.

“Oh, Daddie!”

Presently she laughed as one familiar with the humors of an old man. “Oh, I guess yer cussin’ mad about yer supper, Dad,” she said, and she almost entered the room, but suddenly faltered, overcome by a feminine instinct to fly from this black interior, peopled with imagined dangers.

Again she called, “Daddie!” Her voice had an accent of appeal. It was as if she knew she was foolish but yet felt obliged to insist upon being reassured. “Oh, Daddie!”

Of a sudden a cry of relief, a feminine announcement that the stars still hung, burst from her. For, according to some mystic process, the smoldering coals of the fire went aflame with sudden, fierce brilliance, splashing parts of the walls, the floor, the crude furniture, with a hue of blood-red. And in the light of this dramatic outburst of light, the girl saw her father seated at a table with his back turned toward her.

She entered the room, then, with an aggrieved air, her logic evidently concluding that somebody was to blame for her nervous fright. “Oh, yer on’y sulkin’ ’bout yer supper. I thought mebbe ye’d gone somewheres.”

Her father made no reply. She went over to a shelf in the corner, and, taking a little lamp, she lit it and put it where it would give her light as she took off her hat and jacket in front of the tiny mirror. Presently she began to bustle among the cooking utensils that were crowded into the sink, and as she worked she rattled talk at her father, apparently disdaining his mood.