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Brickdust Row
by [?]

Blinker did not read her look accurately, but by some miracle he suddenly saw Coney aright.

He no longer saw a mass of vulgarians seeking gross joys. He now looked clearly upon a hundred thousand true idealists. Their offenses were wiped out. Counterfeit and false though the garish joys of these spangled temples were, he perceived that deep under the gilt surface they offered saving and apposite balm and satisfaction to the restless human heart. Here, at least, was the husk of Romance, the empty but shining casque of Chivalry, the breath-catching though safe-guarded dip and flight of Adventure, the magic carpet that transports you to the realms of fairyland, though its journey be trough but a few poor yards of space. He no longer saw a rabble, but his brothers seeking the ideal. There was no magic of poesy here or of art; but the glamour of their imagination turned yellow calico into cloth of gold and the megaphones into the silver trumpets of joy’s heralds.

Almost humbled, Blinker rolled up the shirt sleeves of his mind and joined the idealists.

“You are the lady doctor,” he said to Florence. “How shall we go about doing this jolly conglomeration of fairy tales, incorporated?”

“We will begin there,” said the Princess, pointing to a fun pagoda on the edge of the sea, “and we will take there all in, one by one.”

They caught the eight o’clock returning boat and sat, filled with pleasant fatigue, against the rail in the bow, listening to the Italians’ fiddle and harp. Blinker had thrown off all care. The North Woods seemed to him an uninhabitable wilderness. What a fuss he had made over signing his name–pooh! he could sign it a hundred times. And her name was as pretty as she was–“Florence,” he said it to himself a great many times.

As the boat was nearing its pier in the North River a two-funnelled, drab, foreign-looking sea-going steamer was dropping down toward the bay. The boat turned its nose in toward its slip. The steamer veered as if to seek midstream, and then yawed, seemed to increase its speed and struck the Coney boat on the side near the stern, cutting into it with a terrifying shock and crash.

While the six hundred passengers on the boat were mostly tumbling about the decks in a shrieking panic the captain was shouting at the steamer that it should not back off and leave the rent exposed for the water to enter. But the steamer tore its way out like a savage sawfish and cleaved its heartless way, full speed ahead.

The boat began to sink at its stern, but moved slowly toward the slip. The passengers were a frantic mob, unpleasant to behold.

Blinker held Florence tightly until the boat had righted itself. She made no sound or sign of fear. He stood on a camp stool, ripped off the slats above his head and pulled down a number of the life preservers. He began to buckle one around Florence. The rotten canvas split and the fraudulent granulated cork came pouring out in a stream. Florence caught a handful of it and laughed gleefully.

“It looks like breakfast food,” she said. “Take it off. They’re no good.”

She unbuckled it and threw it on the deck. She made Blinker sit down and sat by his side and put her hand in his. “What’ll you bet we don’t reach the pier all right?” she said and began to hum a song.

And now the captain moved among the passengers and compelled order. The boat would undoubtedly make her slip, he said, and ordered the women and children to the bow, where they could land first. The boat, very low in the water at the stern, tried gallantly to make his promise good.

“Florence,” said Blinker, as she held him close by an arm and hand, “I love you.”

“That’s what they all say,” she replied, lightly.

“I am not one of ‘they all,'” he persisted. “I never knew any one I could love before. I could pass my life with you and be happy every day. I am rich. I can make things all right for you.”

“That’s what they all say,” said the girl again, weaving the words into her little, reckless song.