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PAGE 2

A Desertion
by [?]

“I’d ‘a’ come home earlier t’night, Dad, on’y that fly foreman, he kep’ me in th’ shop ’til half-past six. What a fool! He came t’ me, yeh know, an’ he ses, ‘Nell, I wanta give yeh some brotherly advice.’ Oh, I know him an’ his brotherly advice. ‘I wanta give yeh some brotherly advice. Yer too purty, Nell,’ he ses, ‘t’ be workin’ in this shop an’ paradin’ through the streets alone, without somebody t’ give yeh good brotherly advice, an’ I wanta warn yeh, Nell. I’m a bad man, but I ain’t as bad as some, an’ I wanta warn yeh.’ ‘Oh, g’long ’bout yer business,’ I ses. I know ‘im. He’s like all of ’em, on’y he’s a little slyer. I know ‘im. ‘You g’long ’bout yer business,’ I ses. Well, he ses after a while that he guessed some evenin’ he’d come up an’ see me. ‘Oh, yeh will,’ I ses, ‘yeh will? Well, you jest let my ol’ man ketch yeh comin’ foolin’ ’round our place. Yeh’ll wish yeh went t’ some other girl t’ give brotherly advice.’ ‘What th’ ‘ell do I care fer yer father?’ he ses. ‘What’s he t’ me?’ ‘If he throws yeh downstairs, yeh’ll care for ‘im,’ I ses. ‘Well,’ he ses, ‘I’ll come when ‘e ain’t in, b’ Gawd, I’ll come when ‘e ain’t in.’ ‘Oh, he’s allus in when it means takin’ care ‘o me,’ I ses. ‘Don’t yeh fergit it, either. When it comes t’ takin’ care o’ his dorter, he’s right on deck every single possible time.'”

After a time, she turned and addressed cheery words to the old man. “Hurry up th’ fire, Daddie! We’ll have supper pretty soon.”

But still her father was silent, and his form in its sullen posture was motionless.

At this, the girl seemed to see the need of the inauguration of a feminine war against a man out of temper. She approached him breathing soft, coaxing syllables.

“Daddie! Oh, Daddie! O–o–oh, Daddie!”

It was apparent from a subtle quality of valor in her tones that this manner of onslaught upon his moods had usually been successful, but to- night it had no quick effect. The words, coming from her lips, were like the refrain of an old ballad, but the man remained stolid.

“Daddie! My Daddie! Oh, Daddie, are yeh mad at me, really–truly mad at me!”

She touched him lightly upon the arm. Should he have turned then he would have seen the fresh, laughing face, with dew-sparkling eyes, close to his own.

“Oh, Daddie! My Daddie! Pretty Daddie!”

She stole her arm about his neck, and then slowly bended her face toward his. It was the action of a queen who knows that she reigns notwithstanding irritations, trials, tempests.

But suddenly, from this position, she leaped backward with the mad energy of a frightened colt. Her face was in this instant turned to a grey, featureless thing of horror. A yell, wild and hoarse as a brute- cry, burst from her. “Daddie!” She flung herself to a place near the door, where she remained, crouching, her eyes staring at the motionless figure, spattered by the quivering flashes from the fire. Her arms extended, and her frantic fingers at once besought and repelled. There was in them an expression of eagerness to caress and an expression of the most intense loathing. And the girl’s hair that had been a splendor, was in these moments changed to a disordered mass that hung and swayed in witchlike fashion.

Again, a terrible cry burst from her. It was more than the shriek of agony–it was directed, personal, addressed to him in the chair, the first word of a tragic conversation with the dead.

It seemed that when she had put her arm about its neck, she had jostled the corpse in such a way that now she and it were face to face. The attitude expressed an intention of arising from the table. The eyes, fixed upon hers, were filled with an unspeakable hatred.

* * * * *

The cries of the girl aroused thunders in the tenement. There was a loud slamming of doors, and presently there was a roar of feet upon the boards of the stairway. Voices rang out sharply.

“What is it?”

“What’s th’ matter?”

“He’s killin’ her!”

“Slug ‘im with anythin’ yeh kin lay hold of, Jack!”

But over all this came the shrill, shrewish tones of a woman. “Ah, th’ damned ol’ fool, he’s drivin’ ‘er inteh th’ street–that’s what he’s doin’. He’s drivin’ ‘er inteh th’ street.”