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Martha By-the-Day   By: (1864-)

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If you are one of the favored few, privileged to ride in chaises, you may find the combination of Broadway during the evening rush hour, in a late November storm, stimulating you may, that is, provided you have a reliable driver. If, contrariwise, you happen to be of the class whose fate it is to travel in public conveyances (and lucky if you have the price!) and the car, say, won't stop for you why

Claire Lang had been standing in the drenching wet at the street crossing for fully ten minutes. The badgering crowd had been shouldering her one way, pushing her the other, until, being a stranger and not very big, she had become so bewildered that she lost her head completely, and, with the blind impulse of a hen with paresis, darted straight out, in amidst the crush of traffic, with all the chances strong in favor of her being instantly trampled under foot, or ground under wheel, and never a one to know how it had happened.

An instant, and she was back again in her old place upon the curbstone. Something like the firm iron grip of a steam derrick had fastened on her person, hoisted her neatly up, and set her as precisely down, exactly where she had started from.

It took her a full second to realize what had happened. Then, quick as a flash, anger flamed up in her pale cheeks, blazed in her tired eyes. For, of course, this was an instance of "insult" described by "the family at home" as common to the experience of unprotected girls in New York City. She groped about in her mind for the formula to be applied in such cases, as recommended by Aunt Amelia. "Sir, you are no gentleman! If you were a gentleman, you would not offer an affront to a young, defenseless girl who " The rest eluded her; she could not recall it, try as she would. In desperate resolve to do her duty anyway, she tilted back her umbrella, whereat a fine stream of water poured from the tip directly over her upturned face, and trickled cheerily down the bridge of her short nose.

"Sir " she shouted resolutely, and then she stopped, for, plainly, her oration was, in the premises, a misfit the person beside her the one of the mortal effrontery and immortal grip, being a woman. A woman of masculine proportions, towering, deep chested, large limbed, but with a face which belied all these, for in it her sex shone forth in a motherliness unmistakable, as if the world at large were her family, and it was her business to see that it was generously provided for, along the pleasantest possible lines for all concerned.

"What car?" the woman trumpeted, gazing down serenely into Claire's little wet, anxious, upturned face at her elbow.

"Columbus Avenue."

The stranger nodded, peering down the glistening, wet way, as if she were a skipper sighting a ship.

"My car, too! First's Lexin'ton next Broadway then here's ours!" Again that derrick grip, and they stood in the heart of the maelstrom, but apparently perfectly safe, unassailable.

"They won't stop," Claire wailed plaintively. "I've been waiting for ages. The car'll go by! You see if it won't!"

It did, indeed, seem on the point of sliding past, as all the rest had done, but of a sudden the motorman vehemently shut off his power, and put on his brake. By some hidden, mysterious force that was in her, or the mere commanding dimensions of her frame, Claire's companion had brought him to a halt.

She lifted her charge gently up on to the step, pausing herself, before she should mount the platform, to close the girl's umbrella.

"Step lively! Step lively!" the conductor urged insistently, reaching for his signal strap.

The retort came calmly, deliberately, but with perfect good nature. "Not on your life, young man. I been steppin' lively all day, an' for so long's it's goin' to take this car to get to One hundred an' sixteenth Street, my time ain't worth no more'n a settin' hen's... Continue reading book >>

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