THE EVENING AND THE MORNING WERE THE FIRST DAY
With her umbrella over her shoulder, Rose set sail northward again through the rain, absurdly cheered; first by the fact that the opening skirmish had distinctly, though intangibly, gone her way; secondly by the small bit of luck that North End Hall would be, judging by its number on North Clark Street, not more than a block or two from her three-dollar room.
The sight of the entrance to it gave her a pang of misgiving. A pair of white painted doors opened from the street level upon the foot of a broadish stair which took you up rather suddenly; there was space enough between the foot of the stair and the doors for a ticket-window, but it was too small to be called a lobby; an arc lamp hung there though, and two more—all three were extinct—hung just outside. What gave the place its air of vulgarity, a suggestion of being the starting and finishing point for lewd, drink sodden revels, she couldn’t determine. It did suggest this plainly. But, in the light of what Jimmy Wallace had told her, she didn’t think it likely there’d be any reveling to speak of at rehearsal.
At the head of the stairway, tilted back in a kitchen chair beneath a single gas-jet whose light he was trying to make suffice for the perusal of a green newspaper, sat a man, under orders no doubt, to keep intruders away.
Rose cast about as she climbed for the sort of phrase that would convince him she wasn’t an intruder. She would ask him, but in the manner of one who seeks a formal assurance merely, if this was where they were rehearsing The Girl Up-stairs. Three steps from the top, she changed her tactics, as a result of a glance at his unshaven face. The thing to do was to go by as if he weren’t there at all—as if, for such as she, watchmen didn’t exist. The rhythmic pounding of feet and the frayed chords from a worn-out piano, convinced her she was in the right place.
Her stratagem succeeded, but not without giving her a bad moment. The man glanced up and, though she felt he didn’t return to his paper again, he made no attempt to stop her. But right before her was another pair of big white doors, closed with an effect of permanence—locked, she suspected. A narrower door to the left stood open, but over it was painted the disconcerting legend “Bar,” flanked on either side, to make the matter explicit even to the unlearned, by pictorial representations of glasses of foaming beer. She hadn’t time to deliberate over her choice. The watchman’s eyes were boring into her back. If she chose wrong, or if she visibly hesitated, she knew she’d hear a voice say, “Here! Where you going!”