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K   By: (1876-1958)

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By Mary Roberts Rinehart


The Street stretched away north and south in two lines of ancient houses that seemed to meet in the distance. The man found it infinitely inviting. It had the well worn look of an old coat, shabby but comfortable. The thought of coming there to live pleased him. Surely here would be peace long evenings in which to read, quiet nights in which to sleep and forget. It was an impression of home, really, that it gave. The man did not know that, or care particularly. He had been wandering about a long time not in years, for he was less than thirty. But it seemed a very long time.

At the little house no one had seemed to think about references. He could have given one or two, of a sort. He had gone to considerable trouble to get them; and now, not to have them asked for

There was a house across and a little way down the Street, with a card in the window that said: "Meals, twenty five cents." Evidently the midday meal was over; men who looked like clerks and small shopkeepers were hurrying away. The Nottingham curtains were pinned back, and just inside the window a throaty barytone was singing:

"Home is the hunter, home from the hill: And the sailor, home from sea."

Across the Street, the man smiled grimly Home!

For perhaps an hour Joe Drummond had been wandering up and down the Street. His straw hat was set on the back of his head, for the evening was warm; his slender shoulders, squared and resolute at eight, by nine had taken on a disconsolate droop. Under a street lamp he consulted his watch, but even without that he knew what the hour was. Prayer meeting at the corner church was over; boys of his own age were ranging themselves along the curb, waiting for the girl of the moment. When she came, a youth would appear miraculously beside her, and the world old pairing off would have taken place.

The Street emptied. The boy wiped the warm band of his hat and slapped it on his head again. She was always treating him like this keeping him hanging about, and then coming out, perfectly calm and certain that he would still be waiting. By George, he'd fool her, for once: he'd go away, and let her worry. She WOULD worry. She hated to hurt anyone. Ah!

Across the Street, under an old ailanthus tree, was the house he watched, a small brick, with shallow wooden steps and curious architecture of Middle West sixties a wooden cellar door beside the steps.

In some curious way it preserved an air of distinction among its more pretentious neighbors, much as a very old lady may now and then lend tone to a smart gathering. On either side of it, the taller houses had an appearance of protection rather than of patronage. It was a matter of self respect, perhaps. No windows on the Street were so spotlessly curtained, no doormat so accurately placed, no "yard" in the rear so tidy with morning glory vines over the whitewashed fence.

The June moon had risen, sending broken shafts of white light through the ailanthus to the house door. When the girl came at last, she stepped out into a world of soft lights and wavering shadows, fragrant with tree blossoms not yet overpowering, hushed of its daylight sounds of playing children and moving traffic.

The house had been warm. Her brown hair lay moist on her forehead, her thin white dress was turned in at the throat. She stood on the steps, the door closed behind her, and threw out her arms in a swift gesture to the cool air. The moonlight clothed her as with a garment. From across the Street the boy watched her with adoring, humble eyes. All his courage was for those hours when he was not with her.

"Hello, Joe."

"Hello, Sidney."

He crossed over, emerging out of the shadows into her enveloping radiance. His ardent young eyes worshiped her as he stood on the pavement.

"I'm late. I was taking out bastings for mother."

"Oh, that's all right."

Sidney sat down on the doorstep, and the boy dropped at her feet.

"I thought of going to prayer meeting, but mother was tired... Continue reading book >>

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