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"Yes. I just told him I didnít have anything. Gee, I couldnít go
home. I live way over in Hoboken."
Hurstwood only cleared his throat by way of acknowledgment.
"Theyíve got a place upstairs here, I understand. I donít know
what sort of a thing it is. Purty tough, I guess. He gave me a meal
ticket this noon. I know that wasnít much."
Hurstwood smiled grimly, and the boy laughed.
"It ainít no fun, is it?" he inquired, wishing vainly for a cheery
"Not much," answered Hurstwood.
"Iíd tackle him now," volunteered the youth. "He may go Ďway."
Hurstwood did so.
"Isnít there some place I can stay around here tonight?" he
inquired. "If I have to go back to New York, Iím afraid I wonít-"
"Thereíre some cots upstairs," interrupted the man, "if you want
one of them."
"Thatíll do," he assented.
He meant to ask for a meal ticket, but the seemingly proper
moment never came, and he decided to pay himself that night.
"Iíll ask him in the morning."
He ate in a cheap restaurant in the vicinity, and, being cold and
lonely, went straight off to seek the loft in question. The company
was not attempting to run cars after nightfall. It was so advised by
The room seemed to have been a lounging place for night
workers. There were some nine cots in the place, two or three
wooden chairs, a soap box, and a small, round-bellied stove, in
which a fire was blazing. Early as he was, another man was there
before him. The latter was sitting beside the stove warming his
Hurstwood approached and held out his own toward the fire. He
was sick of the bareness and privation of all things connected with
his venture, but was steeling himself to hold out. He fancied he
could for a while.
"Cold, isnít it?" said the early guest.
A long silence.
"Not much of a place to sleep in, is it?" said the man.
"Better than nothing," replied Hurstwood.
"I believe Iíll turn in," said the man.
Rising, he went to one of the cots and stretched himself, removing
only his shoes, and pulling the one blanket and dirty old comforter
over him in a sort of bundle. The sight disgusted Hurstwood, but
he did not dwell on it, choosing to gaze into the stove and think of
something else. Presently he decided to retire, and picked a cot,
also removing his shoes.
While he was doing so, the youth who had advised him to come
here entered, and, seeing Hurstwood, tried to be genial.
"Betterín nothiní," he observed, looking around.
Hurstwood did not take this to himself. He thought it to be an
expression of individual satisfaction, and so did not answer. The
youth imagined he was out of sorts, and set to whistling softly.
Seeing another man asleep, he quit that and lapsed into silence.
Hurstwood made the best of a bad lot by keeping on his clothes
and pushing away the dirty covering from his head, but at last he
dozed in sheer weariness. The covering became more and more
comfortable, its character was forgotten, and he pulled it about his
neck and slept.
In the morning he was aroused out of a pleasant dream by several
men stirring about in the cold, cheerless room. He had been back
in Chicago in fancy, in his own comfortable home. Jessica had
been arranging to go somewhere, and he had been talking with her
about it. This was so clear in his mind, that he was startled now by
the contrast of this room. He raised his head, and the cold, bitter
reality jarred him into wakefulness.