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Gaslight Sonatas   By: (1889-1968)

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First Page:

[Illustration: They walked, thus guided by an obsequious waiter, through a light confetti of tossed greetings.]

GASLIGHT SONATAS

BY

FANNIE HURST

1918

[Dedication: To my mother and my father]

CONTENTS

I. BITTER SWEET

II. SIEVE OF FULFILMENT

III. ICE WATER, PL !

IV. HERS NOT TO REASON WHY

V. GOLDEN FLEECE

VI. NIGHTSHADE

VII. GET READY THE WREATHS

GASLIGHT SONATAS

I

BITTER SWEET

Much of the tragical lore of the infant mortality, the malnutrition, and the five in a room morality of the city's poor is written in statistics, and the statistical path to the heart is more figurative than literal.

It is difficult to write stylistically a per annum report of 1,327 curvatures of the spine, whereas the poor specific little vertebra of Mamie O'Grady, daughter to Lou, your laundress, whose alcoholic husband once invaded your very own basement and attempted to strangle her in the coal bin, can instantly create an apron bazaar in the church vestry rooms.

That is why it is possible to drink your morning coffee without nausea for it, over the head lines of forty thousand casualties at Ypres, but to push back abruptly at a three line notice of little Tony's, your corner bootblack's, fatal dive before a street car.

Gertie Slayback was statistically down as a woman wage earner; a typhoid case among the thousands of the Borough of Manhattan for 1901; and her twice a day share in the Subway fares collected in the present year of our Lord.

She was a very atomic one of the city's four millions. But after all, what are the kings and peasants, poets and draymen, but great, greater, or greatest, less, lesser, or least atoms of us? If not of the least, Gertie Slayback was of the very lesser. When she unlocked the front door to her rooming house of evenings, there was no one to expect her, except on Tuesdays, which evening it so happened her week was up. And when she left of mornings with her breakfast crumblessly cleared up and the box of biscuit and condensed milk can tucked unsuspectedly behind her camisole in the top drawer there was no one to regret her.

There are some of us who call this freedom. Again there are those for whom one spark of home fire burning would light the world.

Gertie Slayback was one of these. Half a life time of opening her door upon this or that desert aisle of hall bedroom had not taught her heart how not to sink or the feel of daily rising in one such room to seem less like a damp bathing suit, donned at dawn.

The only picture or call it atavism if you will which adorned Miss Slayback's dun colored walls was a passe partout snowscape, night closing in, and pink cottage windows peering out from under eaves. She could visualize that interior as if she had only to turn the frame for the smell of wood fire and the snap of pine logs and for the scene of two high back chairs and the wooden crib between.

What a fragile, gracile thing is the mind that can leap thus from nine bargain basement hours of hairpins and darning balls to the downy business of lining a crib in Never Never Land and warming No Man's slippers before the fire of imagination.

There was that picture so acidly etched into Miss Slayback's brain that she had only to close her eyes in the slit like sanctity of her room and in the brief moment of courting sleep feel the pink penumbra of her vision begin to glow.

Of late years, or, more specifically, for two years and eight months, another picture had invaded, even superseded the old. A stamp photograph likeness of Mr. James P. Batch in the corner of Miss Slayback's mirror, and thereafter No Man's slippers became number eight and a half C, and the hearth a gilded radiator in a dining living room somewhere between the Fourteenth Street Subway and the land of the Bronx.

How Miss Slayback, by habit not gregarious, met Mr. Batch is of no consequence, except to those snug ones of us to whom an introduction is the only means to such an end.

At a six o'clock that invaded even Union Square with heliotrope dusk, Mr... Continue reading book >>




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