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Brickdust Row
by [?]

She was looking at him, too, and not severely. A puff of wind threatened Blinker’s straw hat. He caught it warily and settled it again. The movement gave the effect of a bow. The girl nodded and smiled, and in another instant he was seated at her side. She was dressed all in white, she was paler than Blinker imagined milkmaids and girls of humble stations to be, but she was as tidy as a cherry blossom, and her steady, supremely frank gray eyes looked out from the intrepid depths of an unshadowed and untroubled soul.

“How dare you raise your hat to me?” she asked, with a smile- redeemed severity.

“I didn’t,” Blinker said, but he quickly covered the mistake by extending it to “I didn’t know how to keep from it after I saw you.”

“I do not allow gentlemen to sit by me to whom I have not been introduced,” she said, with a sudden haughtiness that deceived him. He rose reluctantly, but her clear, teasing laugh brought him down to his chair again.

“I guess you weren’t going far,” she declared, with beauty’s magnificent self-confidence.

“Are you going to Coney Island?” asked Blinker.

“Me?” She turned upon him wide-open eyes full of bantering surprise. “Why, what a question! Can’t you see that I’m riding a bicycle in the park?”

Her drollery took the form of impertinence.

“And I am laying brick on a tall factory chimney,” said Blinker. “Mayn’t we see Coney together? I’m all alone and I’ve never been there before.” “It depends,” said the girl, “on how nicely you behave. I’ll consider your application until we get there.”

Blinker took pains to provide against the rejection of his application. He strove to please. To adopt the metaphor of his nonsensical phrase, he laid brick upon brick on the tall chimney of his devoirs until, at length, the structure was stable and complete. The manners of the best society come around finally to simplicity; and as the girl’s way was that naturally, they were on a mutual plane of communication from the beginning.

He learned that she was twenty, and her name was Florence; that she trimmed hats in a millinery shop; that she lived in a furnished room with her best chum Elia, who was cashier in a shoe store; and that a glass of milk from the bottle on the window-sill and an egg that boils itself while you twist up your hair makes a breakfast good enough for any one. Florence laughed when she heard “Blinker.”

“Well,” she said. “It certainly slows that you have imagination. It gives the ‘Smiths’ a chance for a little rest, anyhow.”

They landed at Coney, and were dashed on the crest of a great human wave of mad pleasure-seekers into the walks and avenues of Fairyland gone into vaudeville.

With a curious eye, a critical mind and a fairly withheld judgment Blinker considered the temples, pagodas and kiosks of popularized delights. Hoi polloi trampled, hustled and crowded him. Basket parties bumped him; sticky children tumbled, howling, under his feet, candying his clothes. Insolent youths strolling among the booths with hard-won canes under one arm and easily won girls on the other, blew defiant smoke from cheap cigars into his face. The publicity gentlemen with megaphones, each before his own stupendous attraction, roared like Niagara in his ears. Music of all kinds that could be tortured from brass, reed, hide or string, fought in the air to grain space for its vibrations against its competitors. But what held Blinker in awful fascination was the mob, the multitude, the proletariat shrieking, struggling, hurrying, panting, hurling itself in incontinent frenzy, with unabashed abandon, into the ridiculous sham palaces of trumpery and tinsel pleasures, The vulgarity of it, its brutal overriding of all the tenets of repression and taste that were held by his caste, repelled him strongly.

In the midst of his disgust he turned and looked down at Florence by his side. She was ready with her quick smile and upturned, happy eyes, as bright and clear as the water in trout pools. The eyes were saying that they had the right to be shining and happy, for was their owne
r not with her (for the present) Man, her Gentleman Friend and holder of the keys to the enchanted city of fun?