To be looked at with undisguised suspicion—to have a door slammed in her face as the negative answer to a civil question, left her at first bewildered, and then enveloped in a blaze of indignation. It was perhaps lucky for her that this happened at the very beginning of her pilgrimage. Because, with that fire once alight within her, Rose could go through anything. The horrible fawning, leering landlady whom she had encountered later, might have turned her sick, but for that fine steady glow. The hatchet-faced one she had finally arrived at, made no protestations of her own respectability, and she seemed, though rather reluctantly, willing to assume that of her prospective lodger. She was puzzled about something, Rose could see; disposed to be very watchful and at no pains to conceal this attitude.
Well, she’d probably learned that she had to watch, poor thing! And, for that matter, Rose would probably have to do some watching on her own account. And, if the fact was there, why bother to keep up a contradictory fiction. So Rose asked for a receipt.
The matter of the trunk was easily disposed of. Rose had a check for it. It was at the Polk Street Station. There was a cigar and news stand two blocks down, the landlady said, where an expressman had his headquarters. There was a blue sign out in front: “Schulz Express”; Rose couldn’t miss it.
The landlady went away to write out a receipt. Rose closed the door after her and locked it.
It was a purely symbolistic act. She wasn’t going to change her clothes or anything, and she didn’t particularly want to keep anybody out. But, in a sense in which it had never quite been true before, this was her room, a room where any one lacking her specific invitation to enter, would be an intruder—a condition that had not obtained either in her mother’s house or in Rodney’s.
She smiled widely over the absurdity of indulging in a pleasurable feeling of possession in a squalid little cubby-hole like this. The wall-paper was stained and faded, the paint on the soft-wood floor worn through in streaks; there was an iron bed—a double bed, painted light blue and lashed with string where one of its joints showed a disposition to pull out. The mattress on the bed was lumpy. There was a dingy-looking oak bureau with a rather small but pretty good plate-glass mirror on it; a marble topped, black walnut wash-stand; a pitcher of the plainest and cheapest white ware standing in a bowl on top of it, and a highly ornate, hand-painted slop-jar—the sole survivor, evidently, of a much prized set—under the lee of it. The steep gable of the roof cut away most of one side of the room, though there would be space for Rose’s trunk to stand under it, and across the corner, at a curiously distressing angle, hung an inadequate curtain that had five or six clothes hooks behind it.