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Brickdust Row
by [?]

“Don’t say that again,” said Blinker in a tone that made her look at him in frank surprise.

“Why shouldn’t I say it?” she asked calmly. “They all do.”

“Who are ‘they’?” he asked, jealous for the first time in his existence.

“Why, the fellows I know.”

“Do you know so many?”

“Oh, well, I’m not a wall flower,” she answered with modest complacency.

“Where do you see these–these men? At your home?”

“Of course not. I meet them just as I did you. Sometimes on the boat, sometimes in the park, sometimes on the street. I’m a pretty good judge of a man. I can tell in a minute if a fellow is one who is likely to get fresh.”

“What do you mean by ‘fresh?'”

“Why, try to kiss you–me, I mean.”

“Do any of them try that?” asked Blinker, clenching his teeth.

“Sure. All men do. You know that.”

“Do you allow them?”

“Some. Not many. They won’t take you out anywhere unless you do.”

She turned her head and looked searchingly at Blinker. Her eyes were as innocent as a child’s. There was a puzzled look in them, as though she did not understand him.

“What’s wrong about my meeting fellows?” she asked, wonderingly.

“Everything,” he answered, almost savagely. “Why don’t you entertain your company in the house where you live? Is it necessary to pick up Tom, Dick and Harry on the streets?”

She kept her absolutely ingenuous eyes upon his. “If you could see the place where I live you wouldn’t ask that. I live in Brickdust Row. They call it that because there’s red dust from the bricks crumbling over everything. I’ve lived there for more than four years. There’s no place to receive company. You can’t have anybody come to your room. What else is there to do? A girl has got to meet the men, hasn’t she?”

“Yes,” he said, hoarsely. “A girl has got to meet a–has got to meet the men.”

“The first time one spoke to me on the street,” she continued, “I ran home and cried all night. But you get used to it. I meet a good many nice fellows at church. I go on rainy days and stand in the vestibule until one comes up with an umbrella. I wish there was a parlor, so I could ask you to call, Mr. Blinker–are you really sure it isn’t ‘Smith,’ now?”

The boat landed safely. Blinker had a confused impression of walking with the girl through quiet crosstown streets until she stopped at a corner and held out her hand.

“I live just one more block over,” she said. “Thank you for a very pleasant afternoon.”

Blinker muttered something and plunged northward till he found a cab. A big, gray church loomed slowly at his right. Blinker shook his fist at it through the window.

“I gave you a thousand dollars last, week,” he cried under his breath, “and she meets them in your very doors. There is something wrong; there is something wrong.”

At eleven the next day Blinker signed his name thirty times with a new pen provided by Lawyer Oldport.

“Now let me go to the woods,” he said surlily.

“You are not looking well,” said Lawyer Oldport. “The trip will do you good. But listen, if you will, to that little matter of business of which I spoke to you yesterday, and also five years ago. There are some buildings, fifteen in number, of which there are new five- year leases to be signed. Your father contemplated a change in the lease provisions, but never made it. He intended that the parlors of these houses should not be sub-let, but that the tenants should be allowed to use them for reception rooms. These houses are in the shopping district, and are mainly tenanted by young working girls. As it is they are forced to seek companionship outside. This row of red brick–“

Blinker interrupted him with a loud, discordant laugh.

“Brickdust Row for an even hundred,” he cried. “And I own it. Have I guessed right?”

“The tenants have some such name for it,” said Lawyer Oldport.

Blinker arose and jammed his
hat down to his eyes.

“Do what you please with it,” he said harshly. “Remodel it, burn it, raze it to the ground. But, man, it’s too late I tell you. It’s too late. It’s too late. It’s too late.”