“For a rest.”
“And you go to-morrow?”
“I go to-morrow.”
“Without forgiving me?” He leaned very near.
There was a palpitating silence, a silence that searched their souls, and sharply then Myra cried out:
“Oh, Joe! Joe! This is killing me!”
“Myra!” he cried.
He drew her close, very close, stroking her cheek, and the tears ran over his fingers.
“Oh, don’t you see,” he went on, brokenly, “I can’t ask you to come with me? And yet I must go?”
“I don’t know,” she sobbed. “I must go away and rest ... and think ... and try to understand....”
“And may I write to you?...”
“Yes,” she murmured.
“And I am forgiven?”
“Forgive me!” she sobbed.
They could say no more, but sat in the wild darkness, clasping each other as if they could not let one another go.... How could they send each other forth to go in loneliness and homelessness to the ends of the earth? The hours passed as they talked brokenly together, words of remorse, of love, of forgiveness.
And then finally they arose—it was very late—and Myra whispered, clinging to him:
“We must say good-by here!”
“Good-by!” he cried ... and they kissed.
“Joe,” she exclaimed, “take care of yourself! Do just that for me!”
“I will,” he said huskily, “but you must do the same for me. Promise.”
“Oh, Joe!” she cried out, “what is life doing with us?”
And they went back, confused and strange, through
the lighted streets.
They stood before her house.
“Till you come back!” he whispered.
She flashed about then, a look of a new wonder in her eyes.
“If only I thought you were right in your work!” she cried.
“You will! You will, Myra! And in that hope, we will go on!”
She was gone; the door shut him out of her life. And all alone, strong, bitter, staring ahead, Joe stepped off to begin the new life ... to plunge into the battle.
* * * * *
PART II—THE TEST
It was in that red gash of crosstown brick—West Tenth Street—that the new life began. The neighborhood was quaint and poor, a part of that old Greenwich Village which at one time was a center of quiet and chaste respectability, with its winding streets, its old-fashioned low brick houses, its trees, its general air of detachment and hushed life. Now it was a scene of slovenliness and dust, of miserable lives huddled thickly in inadequate houses, of cheap roomers and boarders, of squalid poverty—a mix of many nations well-sprinkled with saloons.
But the house was quite charming—three stories, red brick, with a stoop of some ten steps, and long French windows on the first floor. Behind those French windows was a four-room flat; beneath them, in the basement, a room with iron-grated windows. Into that flat Joe and his mother moved.