David Graham. Susan Lennox, Her Rise and Fall
(1917). Volume 2, p. 18
Leisurely as a truant she tramped back toward the city, pausing to observe anything that chanced to catch her eye. At the moment of her discovery of the difference between her and most girls there had begun a cleavage between her and the social system. And now she felt as if she were of one race and the rest of the world of another and hostile race. She did not realize it, but she had taken the first great step along the path that leads to distinction or destruction. For the world either obeys or tramples into dust those who, in whatever way, have a lot apart from the common. She was free from the bonds of convention -- free to soar or to sink. Her way toward the city lay along a slowly descending street that had been, not so very long before, a country road. Block after block there were grassy fields intersected by streets, as if city had attempted a conquest of country and had abandoned it. Again the vacant lots were disfigured with the ruins of a shanty or by dreary dump heaps. For long stretches the way was built up only on one side. The houses were for the most part tenement with small and unprosperous shops or saloons on the ground floor. Toward the foot of the hill, where the line of tenements was continuous on either side, she saw a sign "Restaurant" projecting over the sidewalk. When she reached it, she paused and looked in. A narrow window and a narrow open door gave a full view of the tiny room with its two rows of plain tables. Near the window was a small counter with a case containing cakes and pies and rolls. With back to the window sat a pretty tow-headed girl of about her own age, reading. Susan, close to the window, saw that the book was Owen Meredith's "Lucile," one of her own favorites. She could even read the words:
The ways they are many and wide, and seldom are two ways the same.
She entered. The girl glanced up, with eyes slowly changing from far-away dreaminess to present and practical -- pleasant blue eyes with lashes and brows of the same color as the thick, neatly done yellowish hair.
"Could I get a glass of milk and a roll?" asked Susan, a modest demand, indeed, on behalf of a growing girl's appetite twenty-four hours unsatisfied.
The blonde girl smiled, showing a clean mouth with excellent teeth.
"We sell the milk for five cents, the rolls three for a nickel."
"Then I'll take milk and three rolls," said Susan. "May I sit at a table? I'll not spoil it."
"Sure. Sit down. That's what the tables are for." And the girl closed the book, putting a chromo card in it to mark her place, and stirred about to serve the customer. Susan took the table nearest the door, took the seat facing the light. The girl set before her a plate, a knife and fork, a little form of butter, a tall glass of milk, and three small rolls in a large saucer.
"You're up and out early?" she said to Susan.
On one of those inexplicable impulses of frankness Susan replied: "I've been sleeping in the park."
The girl had made the remark merely to be polite and was turning away as Susan's reply penetrated to her inattentive mind she looked sharply at her, eyes opening wonderingly. "Did you get lost? Are you a stranger in town? Why didn't you ask someone to take you in?"
The girl reflected, realized. "That's so," said she. "I never thought of it before. . . . Yes, that is so! It must be dreadful not to have any place to go." She gazed at Susan with admiring eyes. "Weren't you afraid--up in the park?"
"No," replied Susan. "I hadn't anything anybody'd want to steal."
"But some man might have----" The girl left it to Susan's imagination to finish the sentence.
"I hadn't anything to steal," repeated Susan, with a kind of cynical melancholy remotely suggestive of Mabel Connemora.
The restaurant girl retired behind the counter to reflect, while Susan began upon her meager breakfast with the deliberation of one who must coax a little to go a great ways. Presently the girl said:
"Where are you going to sleep tonight?"
"Oh, that's a long ways off," replied the apt pupil of the happy-go-lucky houseboat show. "I'll find a place, I guess."
The girl looked thoughtfully toward the street. "I was wondering," she said after a while, "what I'd do if I was to find myself out in the street, with no money and nowhere to go. . . . Are you looking for something to do?"
"Do you know of anything?" asked Susan interested at once.
"Nothing worth while. There's a box factory down on the next square. But only a girl that lives at home can work there. Pa says the day's coming when women'll be like men--work at everything and get the same wages. But it isn't so now. A girl's got to get married."
Last revised: 16 September 2010