Virginia did not answer, and the other girls were beginning to feel sober as the carriage turned into a street leading to the Rectangle. As they neared the district they grew more and more nervous. The sights and smells and sounds which had become familiar to Virginia struck the senses of these refined, delicate society girls as something horrible. As they entered farther into the district, the Rectangle seemed to stare as with one great, bleary, beer-soaked countenance at this fine carriage with its load of fashionably dressed young women. “Slumming” had never been a fad with Raymond society, and this was perhaps the first time that the two had come together in this way. The girls felt that instead of seeing the Rectangle they were being made the objects of curiosity. They were frightened and disgusted.
“Let’s go back. I’ve seen enough,” said the girl who was sitting with Virginia.
They were at that moment just opposite a notorious saloon and gambling house. The street was narrow and the sidewalk crowded. Suddenly, out of the door of this saloon a young woman reeled. She was singing in a broken, drunken sob that seemed to indicate that she partly realized her awful condition, “Just as I am, without one plea”—and as the carriage rolled past she leered at it, raising her face so that Virginia saw it very close to her own. It was the face of the girl who had kneeled sobbing, that night with Virginia kneeling beside her and praying for her.
“Stop!” cried Virginia, motioning to the driver who was looking around. The carriage stopped, and in a moment she was out and had gone up to the girl and taken her by the arm. “Loreen!” she said, and that was all. The girl looked into her face, and her own changed into a look of utter horror. The girls in the carriage were smitten into helpless astonishment. The saloon-keeper had come to the door of the saloon and was standing there looking on with his hands on his hips. And the Rectangle from its windows, its saloon steps, its filthy sidewalk, gutter and roadway, paused, and with undisguised wonder stared at the two girls. Over the scene the warm sun of spring poured its mellow light. A faint breath of music from the band-stand in the park floated into the Rectangle. The concert had begun, and the fashion and wealth of Raymond were displaying themselves up town on the boulevard.
When Virginia left the carriage and went up to Loreen she had no definite idea as to what she would do or what the result of her action would be. She simply saw a soul that had tasted of the joy of a better life slipping back again into its old hell of shame and death. And before she had touched the drunken girl’s arm she had asked only one question, “What would Jesus do?” That question was becoming with her, as with many others, a habit of life.
She looked around now as she stood close by Loreen, and the whole scene was cruelly vivid to her. She thought first of the girls in the carriage.