The Girl from God Knows Where

The love story of a proud lady of whom it was said: “She Old Country girl, too big and not quick in the talk"

NELLIE L. McCLUNG January 15 1931

The Girl from God Knows Where

The love story of a proud lady of whom it was said: “She Old Country girl, too big and not quick in the talk"

NELLIE L. McCLUNG January 15 1931

The Girl from God Knows Where

NELLIE L. McCLUNG

The love story of a proud lady of whom it was said: “She Old Country girl, too big and not quick in the talk"

THE blue and white kitchen, smelling spicily of nutmeg and essence of lemon from the recent making of applesauce, looked as unlike a battle-field as anything this world holds. Indeed its perfect squares of blue and white in the linoleum, reappearing in the cover of the table; the chaste row of blue cups meekly kneeling before their saucers on the paper-edged shelves; the shining stirring spoons, fish ladle, and forks hanging below, ready for action, but not suggesting it; the white gas stove glistening in its cleanliness with the glass door, wherein all the secrets of its heart were revealed; the ever-blooming Patience plant in the

window over the table with its modest pink flowers— all spoke of peace, contentment, brotherly love and all the virtues.

The house was full of sounds of revelry. Miss Mildred was having a party, and Mareska Balia, the Hungarian maid, must sit up to serve the guests; Mareska Balia, who now sat on the edge of her chair, huddled in misery, with a battle raging in her soul as old as the world, the most unequal battle in the world where all the breaks run one way.

. Mareska Balia was one of the odd pieces of human jetsam cast up by the tide of immigration “from God

But even the good bishop would not have begrudged Mareska her welcome when she arrived in Calgary that cold winter day, on a late train, delayed by a prairie blizzard, if he had seen her staggering across the windswept platform, more dead than alive, and later sitting in the women’s waiting room, dirty and dishevelled, her eyes reddened by unavailing tears; not a cent in her pocket, not a word of English on her tongue.

Mareska had not known that a five-day railway journey lay at the end of the sea voyage. When her brother Steve had sent the money for her passage he had suppressed the information that food would have to be provided for this period of time; and Mareska, having in mind her father’s threat that if she did not behave herself she would be sent back, said nothing to

anyone. Her fellow travellers, who ate noisily and happily three times a day from their tin boxes of salmon sandwiches and doughnuts, and drank the fragrant coffee made on the round red stove from their squat enamel cups, did not notice that the high-cheeked Hungarian girl was eating nothing. The band of her quilted petticoat grew looser; the roses faded from her cheeks, but the train sped on.

The Travellers’ Aid at Calgary, that cold day, picked out Mareska’s drawn face by that instinct which comes from a kind heart and long serving, and brought a cup of coffee from the lunchroom, and a bag of buns.

That was four years ago. And for three and a half of these the threads of life, though they were only coarse grey cotton threads, had run evenly into the loom of time, and made a pleasant pattern for Mareska Balia, late of Budapest. If a survey had been taken of the foreigners who came to our shores, Mareska would have been entered in the column marked ’‘successful,” for had she not delivered a family of good British stock from the necessity of manual labor? Not one member of the Becker family washed a dish, made a bed, or even put a record back in its place.

Very happily the days passed for Mareska too, and the wonders of a modern home continued to fascinate her—the lights flooding the room from a touch of a finger; the water that flowed from the wall, hot or cold, as she willed it; the incredible happiness of waking in a warm room even though wintry winds tore past her window.

Oh, if her mother had lived to come and see these marvellous things! . . . Mareska remembered, shuddering, the cold black mornings when at two o’clock she arose and dressed with numb fingers, and made her way, stumbling with sleepiness, to the goose pen, where she sat on the cushioned stone (warmed in the oven over night) and fed the geese, who greedily received the greasy corn. Thirty of them, sometimes, she stuffed before she was called in for coffee and bread in the big kitchen. She thought of the fiery stabs of pain that racked her knuckles as she plunged her rough hands into the pail of hot water.

But no matter; the geese had to be made ready for market. Mareska’s hands might swell and bum, and her back ache like fiery coals—no matter.

She brought back these memories to make her present happiness more keen. ‘‘Canada is a good place,” she often murmured to herself.

HER happiest day was Monday, when the family washing must be done, and she, arising early, possessed the basement and proudly set the electric machine to work. Its gentle vibration in the quiet room, the steady whirring of its wheels, the rhythmic stroke of the copper boiler thrown so easily on its orbit went to her head like the notes of the band in the neta kert at home. And all this was hers. She could start and stop it. This great machine was her servant and did her bidding. Such gladness!

And then the sunny morning, with enough breeze to stir her lines, full of snowy clothes, on which the sunlight fell in dazzling waves. Later she would bring them in, mounded high on the kitchen table sweet with sunshine, and Mrs. Becker, who was not stingy with her praise, would rejoice with her. What a happiness to work so easily! Mareska, though her face was heavy and usually unsmiling, had her moments!

But all these thrills faded before the joy of school. Twice a week. A whole big room full of people; and many teachers, gorgeous people who know every English word Mrs. Becker had taken her the first evening and paid three dollars for her; and said good words too. ‘‘My Mareska,” she had said to the teacher.

Three, four years went by, and Mareska still held the pass in the Becker family and kept their untidiness from engulfing them, and they had recognized her good offices in various ways. Hal, the nineteen-year-old boy, by spinning a half dollar on the table when he asked her to press his suit or wash a silk shirt. Mildred, the daughter of the house, by bestowing a pair of silk stockings whose

darns could no longer be concealed by the underseam method. “Here, little Europe, take a present from a friend, and would you polish my golf sticks?” Mr. Becker, whose breakfast was the first to be prepared every morning, and whose poached eggs were never broken, or toast made one minute too early or late, sometimes laid a dollar bill beside his plate, without a word. In the bosom of his family James Becker was a presence more than a voice, but no one’s clothes on ironing day received quite such tender care from Mareska, and not a button was ever missing or a buttonhole allowed to break on any of his garments.

IT WAS in the beginning of the fifth year, when Mareska was twenty-four, that the serpent entered this blue and white Eden; noiselessly too, and in a most friendly fashion. Mrs. Becker had a friend who was subject to mental disturbances, euphoniously called by her inspirations. And one day it happened that in a blinding flash of sympathy for poor Mareska, so far from home and kindred, she conceived the idea of bringing to Mareska, for her comfort, another girl whom she had seen dusting the halls and polishing the brasses in the apartment house where she had her flat. Her course of reasoning was simple: Rosie spoke uncertain English, Mareska spoke uncertain English, therefore they would no doubt understand each other. Mrs. Becker’s friend prided herself on speed of action, and at once spoke to Rosie. Rosie liked the idea of meeting another girl. Another girl had possibilities. Rosie was a Czechoslovakian, and, being younger than Mareska, had more quickly adopted the ways of the new country. Silk stockings sheathed her slim ankles, high heels upheld her tapping feet, and a generous segment of her creamy white chest was plainly visible.

“You got to make them look at you,” Rosie had said in defense of her low-cut blouses.

Rosie could speak English “perfect.” Mareska was not able to judge anyone’s English, but Rosie assured her of this. And Rosie did not go to school, because with so many dances and picture shows she hadn’t much

time for school, and being very “kvick” she did not need to go really. Still, once in a while she favored this humble form of amusement, when nothing better offered.

Rosie worked in a rooming-house where there were many young men, several of whom had offered her honorable marriage, and one had threatened to shoot himself for love of her. All of which was told to Mareska in the first interview. Mareska’s eyes were popping with wonder, but Rosie’s manner betokened weariness with all such masculine vagaries. They were too mean, she said, and jealous, and easy get mad. If she went to show with one, another fella get mad, and a girl had to have some fun, goodness sake! Anyway she didn’t have to stay in this town. She had brother in States, very big man with ice cream parlor—swell, too, and he was always writing letters for come . . .

But she would take Mareska some night to a dance and get her a fella. School was no good to get fella, but dance the best. . Sure.

“All you need,” said Rosie, “is be friend of mine! No need for pay. Lots of times not enough girls, and old Nick who runs dance will let us in. Easy. Lots of fella’s there crazy about me—I give you one.”

AN

ND so it came about that Mareska fell heir to some of the crumbs that fell from the rich woman’s table, and as “friend of Rosie” entered the realm of enchantment. The arrangement was quickly made. At the corner of Seventh Avenue and First Street West, the girls met, Mareska punctual to the minute but not impatient of her friend’s delay. Rosie arrived at last, hurriedly—and at once plunged into the matter of Mareska’s education.

“Look smart now,” she said. “Keep your feet together. Don’t sprawl like that. Never wipe your mouth with the hand back—that is very hunky. Look at me, and walk light, with little swing on the hand like you never know it is.”

They entered the Moonlight Dance Hall. They were met, as the door opened, by a gust of fetid air, heavy with fumes of beer, tobacco, musty perfume, and body smells, but to Mareska it was a scene of bewitchment, magical with romance. Tables around the walls, where men sat in shirt-sleeves, with brass rope sleeveholders, drinking coffee from huge white mugs. A few girls at tables, bare-armed and lightly clad—greatly amused, and shrill with high-pitched laughter.

“I’ll soon get fella for you,” said Rosie, the enchantress, who had thus opened to Mareska a new world. “I know everyone here. See! I get you dance quick . . . Here you, Mike!”

Mike sprang to attention.

“Show Mareska a good time,” said Rosie carelessly. “Picture it. She’s been here four years and has never had a dance already yet . Yes. Sure, I’ll dance with you after . . . Get on now . . . Yes.”

Mareska, taller than Mike, could have looked over his cropped head, but his round beady eyes fascinated her. So did the warmth of his hand on her back, and his clove-laden breath. And Mike felt the admiration in her face, and expanded in its glow, talking volubly in English about himself, his travels, his cleverness, his stand-in with the company.

“Twice to Vancouver—not a cent for pay—every year a treep! And lots of money for spend. Big boss say, ‘Best man we got, you Mike—stay with us and you be section boss some day.’ Seven years now I work for Ceepeearr and not a day loss but two,’’ he said.

Trying to listen to the music, not to step on his toes, and listen to what he said, resulted in Mareska failing in all three., but the wrapped look of wonder in her chinablue eyes flattered Mike’s vanity. Here was a girl who knew how to listen! And when the music stopped, Mike conducted her gallantly to a seat in one of the cubicles, and bought her a small bottle of ginger ale and a bottle of beer for himself.

Then he told her about his oil shares.

“Some day,” said Mike, “the Ceepeearr will lose me.

I*U have money plenty, and then, by gosh, no more

day’s work for me.” , . . ,

Mareska’s eyes registered admiration and Mike

explained.

“Some fellas too scare to take chance. Not me. I say win or lose, let’s go! So I go to bank, draw money, plank it down. I say, maybe I kiss her good-by, maybe not. Fifty cents a share. I buys two hundred dollars worth. Figure that out.”

“How much?” asked Mareska, thrilled to a whisper.

“Four hundred share I make him!” Mike was

swaggering now, and thoroughly happy. ‘‘Four hundred share in best well in Turner Valley. Go to one dollar, some say sell. J say, no. I wait—go to two dollar. I

hold_I say the stuff is there. Down a little now, but

I no worry—”

Another dance and Mareska learned that Mike always picked the best horse at the races; had won his money so easy it was a crime to take it, that s what it was.

Mareska did not know what a crime was, but she knew that her fella was one awful smart man, and when he told her the Ceepeearr would have to come quick with that big job if they wanted to keep him, she hoped that the great transcontinental would come quick for its own sake.

WHEN Mareska let herself in noiselessly that night at the back door, she hunted diligently through the garbage for a wishbone she had placed there after lunch, and with some difficulty recovered it. She rolled it carefully in waxed paper and slept with it under her pillow, and dreamed of Mike in his blue shirt, with his cloveladen breath. Something had happened in Mareska’s slowmoving brain typified by her change of attitude toward the wishbone, which yesterday had been a bit of garbage, but today was a charm, a talisman, a bringer of dreams.

The Hazi-Alldas her mother had given her on her birthday, which hung over her bed, comforted her now, for Mareska distrusted happiness. It was better not to be too happy.

Tears came so soon after much laughing. Maybe God took notice of even poor people. Her mother had thought so, and in that thought had worked, and hoped, and died . . . “Miélot hivnal en Segitlek” the motto said. “Before they call,

I will answer them.” Mareska wished she knew more about God. Her mother had been so busy, and so tired . . . Maybe it would be good to say it over many times . . . Her mother often said words like these.

They were good words, like prayers. While she was dressing she said them over and over.

She hoped it was true.

That winter she saw Mike only three times, for he had been moved to a small town thirty miles from the city, but absence could not dim the vision her faithful heart cherished of him. The memory of every word he had said glowed in her heart and gladdened her days, though he had said no word of love. Each month she faithfully banked twenty-five dollars of her earnings, with glorious dreams of green plush chairs and parlor curtains she would one day buy, and in her spare moments she cross-stitched grapes and birds on towels, in red and blue, adding them to the gear she had brought with her from the Old Country.

Not once did she resent Mike’s silence. She could wait. Mareska came of a race of women who expect little from their men, and give all.

From Rosie, who was still her adored friend, she heard about him. Rosie was a waitress now at Nick’s place, The Moonlight Dance Hall, and wore a round apron edged with lace. Very niggardly Rosie gave the scanty bits of information regarding Mike, receiving in return personal service from Mareska such as darning of stockings, washing of hair, repairing dresses, shining of shoes. Mareska was proud to perform these small chores for one who had done so much for her.

Mike s oil stocks have gone down instead of up, and he is very mad at self for not selling,” Rosie said, and

then confided in Mareska that oil stocks were no good unless you knew some one to give tip. Like her boy friend who drove taxi, and often drove big oil men, and heard them tell tips. When to buy and when to sell, that was tip. When her boy friend had tips, she would give Mareska one. And Mareska marvelled again at her own good luck in having a friend like Rosie, and was proud to oblige Rosie, then and there, with a loan of ten dollars.

“A girl sure has to dress here,” said Rosie, “It ain’t like with you! No one sees you, and you can get by with ginghams. But gee, we have to be stylish here. Everyone comes to Nick’s, and a girl with looks has a chance.” Rosie was patting an overworked powder puff on her well-shaped nose. “Nick says, ‘Be snappy, Rosie—especially in the evening at the dances—not too many clothes but good ones,’ he says. ‘Don’t be easy,’ he says, ‘and don’t be stiff.’ I’ve got a big date on tonight that may mean something. Gee, I wish I could get you in. I could if you were a little smaller and quicker in the talk.”

Mareska shook her head.

“No, I guess you could hardly make it,” her friend said with brutal honesty. “You’re not quick enough.

I knock ’em over! A big fat fellow calls out last night before them all, ‘What are you buyin’ in oils, Rosie?' I says, ‘Sardines.’ Gee, you should have heard the roar! Laff everybody.”

This was the night, mellowed by the money loan, that Rosie decided to tell her friend the bit of news she had been suppressing, and which she was aching to tell, though she had promised Mike she wouldn’t.

TWO days before—though Rosie had -*• not told her of this interview—Mike had been at Nick's plate, and told Rosie his troubles. The Ceepeearr done him dirt! To a hick joint they had sent him. Forty miles from the city. No one to cook his meals; a barn to sleep in. And with oil stocks busted, he couldn’t step out.

Leaning over the cash register, behind which Rosie sat, he told her of his hard luck, but Rosie had for him no word of sympathy.

“Snap out of it,” she advised as she made change for a patron. “I’ve troubles of my own.” “But, Rosie dear, I want you would marry me now.” Mike’s voice was pleading as he drew nearer. “They’re goin’ to make me section boss and build me a house right away. And we can cook for the gang and make money quick. There’s six of them. Eight dollar a week, just for grub. Good business, Rosie, if we take it."

Rosie twisted her face saucily. “How do you mean ‘we’? You mean I’ll feed the gang? You’re cuckoo, Mike! Do I look like it?”

She arranged her hair before the tiny mirror in the cash register, and hummed an air.

“I only know one girl fool enough to work for nothing, and maybe even she won’t do it. You might try Mareska. She’s soft on you. But if she knows about wife and all, and she good girl, church girl, maybe no go.” Mike’s face darkened and he cursed John Marka’s long tongue.

Before he left, acting on Rosie’s hint, Mike purchased a card, and sent it as a feeler. A card would make no trouble either way. Rosie selected the Valentine card for its sentimental value.

“But you know, Rosie,” he said to her as he wrote the card, “I want you. I don’t like Mareska very good. She’s good worker and all, but she’s too quiet for me.

Continued on naoe 39

“You better just forget Mike,” she said mysteriously. “He ain’t for you. I liked Mike too, pretty good, but he ain’t for either of us. He gotta wife and three kids in Old Country.”

There was such a long silence that Rosie looked up in alarm. Mareska sat still. The stocking had fallen from her hand. Her face was a round white disc, from which all color and expression had gone.

“You knew?” said Mareska at last. “You knew all the time? You not tell me?”

“Honest, no,” Rosie lied cheerfully. “I get fooled, too. I like Mike awful good, too. I just heard. I didn’t know.”

Mareska’s pale face flooded with color. At least she had not lost Rosie. Rosie was a good girl and her friend.

“Another fella told me one night, when Mike was here. And I just went at Mike, and he said, yes. He showed me picture of kids. I got it here.”

Rosie brought up a cheap little picture with three children huddled together in it, frightened looking little things, the eldest about six.

“Two years ago this picture. Bigger now ... So you see Mareska, I’m your friend . . . Mike is not so much. Lots better fellas, with car too.”

Mareska took the picture, and looked at the three little faces. The little girl’s face gazed into hers appealingly.

Rosie talked on, monotonously.

“He ain’t so much that Mike, anyway, what with three kids and all. Just forget him, Mareska. I get you John Marka, maybe ... He work in Turner Valley and get big money.”

Mareska’s wounded soul had gone into the silence, and not a word did she utter. She finished the mending, and went away, her face a blank. Even Rosie, astute judge of human emotions, couldn’t decide whether she was hurt or just dumb.

When Mareska reached the Becker home she found a postcard in the mail from Mike; a Valentine card, though the season for Valentines had passed two months before. Two shiny red hearts pierced by a silver arrow !

Continued from page 5

I like lively girl, more like what you are.”

Mike followed the card with a visit. He called at the back door of the Becker house, and made his proposition in the first five minutes. Would she come? There was no talk of love. It was a cold proposal. Would she come and live with him?

Mareska spoke of his wife and children, but Mike dismissed them casually. His wife no good, he said.

“Dance, all the time spend money, no work at all.”

“But the children?” Mareska urged.

“Sure, children all right,” he admitted. “Maybe bring out children, you and me. Lots of money for train and boat.”

Mareska thinking of the white-faced little girl, wavered, and Mike, seeing he had a strong ally in his abandoned offspring. grew eloquent.

“Mary very bad to children,” he said adroitly. “Beat little girl every day. I cannot bear to see I want to have

three children come. Mary no care, she no like anyway.”

“I think about,” said Mareska at last.

Two weeks later she phoned to Mike, telling him to come and see Mrs. Becker, her lady. Mrs. Becker would know what

to do. Maybe there was some way. Mrs. Becker maybe could help to get paper.

Mike protested. An interview with Mareska’s lady was no good, he began to explain noisily, but Mareska, knowing long telephone talks cost money, hung up the receiver, leaving Mike standing at the other end. Mareska was not going to waste money in talk.

Luckily Mrs. Becker was in when Mike came a week later. She was on her way to the garage with the key of the car in her hand.

Mareska haltingly explained the deadlock. Mrs. Becker addressed Mike, who, very clean and dressed in his best, sat at the end of the table, taking a polite if not a keen interest in the matter under discussion.

“You have a wife in the Old Country?”

“Yes, please,” Mike answered with a pleasant bow.

“And three children?”

“Yes, please.”

Mareska watched her mistress in agony, for some ray of hope.

“Please, Miss Becker, Mike’s wife no good, very bad to children, beat all the time. Mike very worry. He say I come cook for men, we make much money, send

for children. Wife no care. I like children very much. Make nice dress, and send to school.”

Mike volunteered additional data.

“My mothei write letter. She say Mary no good.”

"Do you send money to Mary?”

“Please no, not now, not sincè my manrna’s letter.”

“Who keeps the children?”

“Mary’s fadder, farmer man. Children work little hit. Mary too. Before I sen’ money. Not now, since my mamma’s letter” —virtuously.

Mrs. Becker gave her ultimatum.

“Well, you have om wife, you can’t have another. And remember, Mike, you cannot come here again. Mareska will have to forget you. You must come here no more!”

Mike shrugged his shoulders. He could have told her it was not his idea to come even this time.

Mareska spoke again, desperately.

“Maybe Mike could get papermake it all right. Maybe Mrs. Becker write letter saying Mike’s wife no good—make it all right for Mike marry me.”

Mrs. Becker was in a hurry to be on her way.

“No, Mareska, I am sorry, but there’s only one thing to do. Let Mike go now and forget him. Too bad, Mareska, but he is a married man. He should save his money to bring out his wife. He certainly cannot marry you. Say good-by to him now, and get on with your work.”

Mrs. Becker went out to her committee meeting, feeling she had settled the question.

“I’ll bring Mareska a new dress,” she thought “Poor girl, I am sorry it has happened.”

Mike lingered after Mrs. Becker had gone.

“She’s too smart,” he said bitterly. “Knows everything.” Then he grew sorry for himself, and wanted Mareska to pity him too. He was the victim of tragic circumstances.

“I’ll never see my children maybe— nice little things—they will have to stay in Old Country. Oil stocks all busted, and I can’t do nothing.”

MRS. BECKER discussed the matter with her husband that night. “Strange, isn’t it, that Mareska, good girl that she is, did not see that the thing was impossible? Well, I am glad she asked me. She knows now that there is no chance.”

“Are you sure?” Mr. Becker asked after a pause.

“She sees it, of course,” said Mrs. Becker.

"Why, of course? You gave her no new angle on it. She knew Mike had a wife, and a man can’t have two. That’s the general rule, the original motion. But sometimes motions are amended. The amendment is, I believe, put before the motion.”

“You don’t mean to say . . . ?”

“I do,” said Becker. “Human nature being what it is, my bet is that she will go! The girl is lonely, and she craves a home. Nature has her own ways.”

For a month Mareska thought about it; but there seemed to be no way. Mike had sent another card, a horseshoe of tinsel studded with glass beads. Mareska sat miserably in the clean kitchen and watched the hands of the clock make their journey round its clean face. She had to wait until eleven o’clock to make the coffee for Miss Mildred’s guest3, and in this period ol waiting, idle-handed, the struggle raged up and down the aisles of her soul. Would she go to Mike and make a snatch at ha{ piness? Rose had said to her, “You can ne\er marry Canadian, they would not take Old Country girl.” And surely it was right to get the three children away from the mother who cared nothing for them. There was no one now she could ask. Mrs. Becker had spoken. Mareska knew it was net advice she wanted. She wanted confirmation;

someone to tell her to go to Mike, to accept the conditions and hope for happiness, to please herself. That’s what everyone did in the Becker family. Miss Mildred stayed out late, spent more money than she should. Hal took the car without leave. All for self, everyone, and they all had good times.

Gales of laughter eddied through the house; Miss Mildred’s guests raced up and down stairs; doors hanged; the phonograph blared. But nobody cared for her; only for her work. She might live here until she was old hut she would never belong. Mareska wanted someone of her own, someone who needed her. Mike needed her. He said he would watch the train on Thursday nights from the window of his little shack. Coffee pot would be on the stove . . .

Then, every week, money would go in bank for boat and train, and soon children would come, and start to school, and bring hack lessons in shiny black notebooks. And they would teach her English words, nice big words like “horizon” and “plentiful,” and time would come when all children make party at school and take their mammas. And her little girl would speak nice piece, with red wool dress, white lace collar and black tie. And little girl would say to teacher, “Meet my mamma.”

It was then that Mildred came into the kitchen to ask Mareska to cut up some more bread for sandwiches, for another segment of the gang had arrived in a fresh outburst of hilarity. Mareska’s clouded face, misunderstood by Mildred, drew a sharp rebuke. Mildred, for whom the doors of pleasure opened easily, had all the impatience, the intolerance of youth. Mareska couldn’t sulk with her and get away with it.

“You’re not often asked to sit up, and it won’t hurt you. I do lots of things for you, so cheer up. You’re darned lucky to have a job, and if you don’t like it, get out. We can soon have another. There’s dozens of girls. So don’t stay to please us.”

Mareska stared at her stupidly. Then black rage and rebellion flamed in her face. In that moment she could have crushed Mildred’s peevish face between her strong hands. Mildred had everything, though she had never done an hour’s work. Mareska had heard men talk about the idle rich, down at the Labor Temple, with bitter hatred. Now she understood. All for self they were; and so bad and mean. She, Mareska, could go on working till she was old and wrinkled, and it would be always the samemake party for someone else; wash dishes for someone else; press clothes for someone else; clean other woman’s house. No one cared . . Yes! Some one did. Mike did. He had said, “I need you, Mareska, and I’ll he good to you.”

She would go! She would take Miss Mildred’s bad words as a sign.

THE next day, Thursday, she hurried through her work, and got out as soon as the luncheon dishes were washed, in time to visit the bank. She drew all her savings, three hundred and sixty-three dollars and eleven cents, and placed it in her old-country purse Then she went to a bargain basement and purchased a blue velvet dress with a rhinestone buckle, an end of white lace, a wreath of white daisies with yellow centres. In making these purchases she had done a little oldcountry haggling which resulted in substantial savings; not that she begrudged herself anything on this great occasion, but because there were other things to think of besides finery. The little girl in the picture with the sorry eyes would need toys and pretty dresses to make her glad again.

A pair of high-heeled shoes, very tight, with ankle straps, long toed, and bright tan in color; tan silk stockings, lustrous and so smooth that her work-roughened hand caught in their siHcv mesh, completed her pu» hases; and with her

trtasures in a flat white box she made her way to the station, where she knew she could dress in one of the women’s rooms. The train went at seven. She would dress herself and put on her coat and wait. She would not eat. Mike had said the coffee pot would be on the stove . .

She had had her bath that morning early, using good honest laundry soap, and had dressed herself from the skin out in the linen clothes, every stitch of which was handmade. Her hair was braided neatly and held behind with a garnet barret. She had two strings of pearls from the fifteen-cent store, and a drop earring, red and shiny, for each ear. She washed her face, powdered it carefully, and put a dab of rouge well up on her cheekbones as she had seen Rosie do it, used a whole bottle of perfume cn the back of her neck, and then came to that exquisite moment of rapture when the velvet dress was about to go on. She took the dress from its wrappings tenderly, and looked about her.

Her arms were in the sleeves now and she was struggling to pull the skirt in place, with gentle, reverent hands. Fortunately it was a large size and ample for her. Breathless and tense with excitement, she came out to the mirror and saw herself, a glorious creature, radiant and transformed. It couldn’t be wrong, this thing she was going to do, or she would not feel so happy . . . The silver lace on the velvet dress was torn a little, and much tarnished; the corsage bouquet war faded and crushed— no matter. The white lace was draped around her forehead and held in place by a capable safety-pin; the daisies were placed and anchored in the same way.

There were two other women in the dressing room now, but Mareska did not mind. She was as good as they were now, whoever they were. Mareska Balia knew that all the roads and side roads of life had been leading to this hour, and she saw herself a woman, beautiful, transfigured, a loved woman, a bride, adorned for the bridegroom The other

women fell back, hushed, as they saw the girl’s face in the mirror.

She put on her coat, which was long enough to cover the blue dress; and the ends of the veil, and her old-country handkerchief, her tej kendo, covered the flowers on her head. She had two hours to wait and she went out to the waiting room. Two glorious hours, replete with intoxicating thoughts. The tight shoes with the straps biting into her ankles gave her a fierce joy. It was good to suffer. Mike would see how nice a foot she had, not small like Rosie’s, but good in the shape. Mike would be hearing the train like he said, and hoping she would come, and the coffee pot would be on the stove. In the dark he could not see so good, but he would listen for steps and spring

up and open the door and she

would step in and let her coat fall to the floor, and take off the tej kendo and Mike would see . . .

Mareska, unaccustomed to the cries and activities of the big station and intent on her own happy dreams, did not know that anything unusual was stirring the stream of humanity that flowed through the big doors. Nor did she heed the excited conversation that eddied around her.

Outside and inside the newsboys called “Extra, Extra,” and there were knots of people all talking at once, handshaking and shouting. Two old men hugged each other, telegraph boys were calling, cars honking; but Mareska, insulated in her happy thoughts, heard nothing.

Suddenly through the silken texture of her dream a sound broke, a voice strident above the clamor around her. Instinctively she shrank closer to the pillar.

“I am a reech man, do you hear?” someone was proclaiming thickly. “It’s my well that has popped. I got four

hundred shares. Bo’t him cheap; fifty cents. I hung on. Every one said ‘Sell.’ j It’s mine, I tell you, and I’m reech. I’m lucky! I keep now until it go five hundred a share. For fifty cents I get five hundred dollars! Oil running all over the derrick. Biggest well in the world, and it’s my well.” Mike, splashed with mud and very drunk, almost touched her.

He swaggered past, almost shouting his great news. He was beside himself with joy.

“I hear the news. Hungarian man friend of mine, tool-dresser, call me on the phone. I come in on train. I say to Ceepeearr, T no work for you, I no work any more. Dam’ the Ceepeearrkeep the job, I’m reech.’ Rosie, listen, I’m reech !”

Then it was that Mareska noticed his companion. Rosie hung affectionately on his arm. She was flushed and dishevelled, too, and shrill with joy.

“Oh, Mike, you are smart,” she was saying. "Ain’t it grand that it’s your well that blew in?”

“Rosie, you’ll marry me now. Gosh I feel good, I ain’t drunk, I’m just glad! You’ll marry me now, sure Rosie. You said you wanted a reech man, and here I am. It’s you I always wanted —you know that. Ain’t I said so?”

Rosie snuggled closer.

“I like you pretty good, Mike, like I always said. But I thought you wanted Mareska.”

Mike laughed boisterously and hugged

“Her—that hunk of cheese. She’s no wife for reech man. She cook the grub. Sure—but Rosie, you and I—we buy car—eat on White Lunch, go to the show every day. We’re reech now, big money, and more cornin’.”

Mareska tied her Hungarian handkerchief more tightly over her head, hiding every trace of veil or flowers, and stood up and faced them. Not a trace of the blue dress showed. She stood up and faced them gallantly. Some old sporting strain sang in her blood.

“Hello, Mike! Hello, Rosie!” she called, without a tremor in her voice.

They fell back in surprise. Mike passed the back of his hand over his mouth, as if to obliterate his words.

“What are you doing here?” he asked in Hungarian. His English had deserted him. He noticed the rouge and powder on her face and vaguely resented it.

“Mit csiiials itt?" he asked blustering.

No one could say Mareska’s face lacked character now. Her eyes gleamed. Every muscle was tense. She was almost beautiful. She laughed at his question.

“Oh! I have been away for a very nice trip,” she said. “Such a very happy time . but I’ve come back now and must go home in big hurry. So glad I see you, Mike. And Rosie, too, my two best friends. And very good news of the well, Mike. That is grand for all of us. I am glad, too. Good-by, Mike. And Rosie!”

Rosie’s mouth had fallen open. She forgot to close it as she watched Mareska, who walked quickly away from them, her yellow shoes tapping the tiled floor.

Out in the street Mareska’s tortured feet turned toward the only home she knew. Her key was in her purse; she had forgotten to leave it. She went quietly up the two flights of stairs to her room, and looked about at its ordered tidiness, for she had set it sternly in order before she left. The note so burdensome in the writing was on the pincushion. No one had seen it. So there need be no explanations. She threw herself on her bed, disregarding the blue dress with its silver lace and corsage bouquet. The tight straps of her slippers were narrow clefts now in the swollen flesh of her ankles.

Above her bed, on the wall, the light from the street lamp on the corner fell on the Hazi-Alldas.

She had forgotten to pack it.