The room was dark as pitch; the rain pattered on the roof; the wind moaned softly under the eaves. A rat somewhere in the wall made a creaking noise. Rose hated to awaken in the middle of the night. She listened for her father’s breathing, and failing to hear it, knew he had not yet come home. Often she was left alone until dawn. She tried bravely to go to sleep again but found it impossible; she lay there listening, sensitive to every little sound. The silence was almost more dreadful than the stealthy unknown noises of the night. Vague shapes seemed to hover over her bed. Somehow to-night she dreaded them more. She was sixteen years old, yet there abided with her the terror of the child in the dark.
She cried out in her heart—why was she alone? It was so dark, so silent. Mother! Mother!... She would never—never say her prayers again!
The brazen-tongued mill clock clanged the hour of two, when shuffling uncertain footsteps sounded on the hollow stairs. Rose raised her head to listen. With slow, weary, dragging steps her father came in. Then she lay back on the pillow with a sigh of relief.
In the following week Rose learned that work was not to be had for the asking. Her love of pretty things and a desire to be independent of her father had occupied her mind to the exclusion of a consideration of what might be demanded of a girl seeking a position. She had no knowledge of stenography or bookkeeping; her handwriting was poor. Moreover, references from former employers were required and as she had never been employed, she was asked for recommendations from the principal of her school. These, of course, she could not supply. The stores of the better class had nothing to offer her except to put her name on the waiting-list.
Finally Rose secured a place in a second-rate establishment on Main Street. The work was hard; it necessitated long hours and continual standing on her feet. Rose was not rugged enough to accustom herself to the work all at once, and she was discharged. This disheartened her, but she kept on trying to find other employment.
One day in the shopping district, some one accosted her. She looked up to see a young man, slim, elegant, with a curl of his lips she remembered. He raised his hat.
“How do you do, Mr. Swann,” she answered.
“Rose, are you on the way home?”
“Let’s go down this side street,” he said, throwing away his cigarette. “I’ve been looking for you.”
They turned the corner. Rose felt strange to be walking alone with him, but she was not embarrassed. He had danced with her once. And she knew his friend Hardy Mackay.
“What’re you crying about?” he said.
“You have been then. What for?”
“Come, tell me.”
“I—I’ve been disappointed.”