Her “Yes” was almost inaudible.
So Joe put on his coat, and slapped over his head a queer gray slouch hat, and called over Marty.
“I won’t be back to-night, Marty!” he said.
Then at the door he gave one last glance at his life-work, the orderly presses, the harnessed men, and left it all as if it must surely be there when he returned. He was proud at that moment to be Joe Blaine, with his name in red letters on the glass door, and under his name “Power Printer.” His wife would be able to hold her head high.
The frail elevator took them clanking, bumping, slipping, down, down past eight floors, to the street level. The elevator boy, puffing at his cigarette, remarked, amiably:
“Gee! it’s a windy day. It’s gittin’ on to winter, all right.... Good-night, Mr. Blaine!”
“Good-night, Tom,” said Joe.
THE EAST EIGHTY-FIRST STREET FIRE
They emerged in all the magic wildness of an autumn night and walked east on Eighty-first Street. The loft building was near the corner of Second Avenue. They passed under the elevated structure, cutting through a hurrying throng of people.
“Take my arm,” cried Joe.
She took it, trembling. They made an odd couple passing along between the squalid red-brick tenements, now in shadow, now in the glow of some little shop window, now under a sparkling lamp. At Avenue A they went south to Seventy-ninth Street, and again turned east, passing a row of bright model tenements, emerging at last at the strange riverside.
Down to the very edge of the unpaved waste they walked, or rather floated, so strange and uplifted and glorious they felt, blown and carried bodily with the exultant west wind, and they only stopped when they reached the wooden margin, where an old scow, half laden with brick, was moored fast with ropes. This scow heaved up and down with the motion of the rolling waters; the tight ropes grated; the water swashed melodiously.
The man and woman seemed alone there, a black little lump in the vast spaces, for behind them the city receded beyond empty little hill-sides and there was nothing some distance north and south.
“Look,” said Joe, “look at the tide!”
It was running north, a wide expanse of rolling waters from their feet to Blackwells Island in the east, all hurling swiftly like a billowing floor of gray. Here and there whitecaps spouted. On Blackwells Island loomed the gray hospitals and workhouses, and at intervals on the shore sparkled a friendly light.
“But see the bridge,” exclaimed Myra.
She pointed far south, where across the last of the day ran a slightly arched string of lights, binding shore with shore. On the New York side, and nearer, rose the high chimneys of mills, and from these a purplish smoke swirled thickly, melting into the gray weather.