Life, struck sharp on death,
Makes awful lightning.
I had just come in from the street. I had a letter in my hand. It
was for my fellow-lodger, a young girl who taught in the High
School, and whom I had persuaded to share my room because of her
pretty face and quiet ways. She was not at home, and I flung the
letter down on the table, where it fell, address downwards. I
thought no more of it; my mind was too full, my heart too heavy with
my own trouble.
Going to the window, I leaned my cheek against the pane. Oh, the
deep sadness of a solitary woman's life! The sense of helplessness
that comes upon her when every effort made, every possibility
sounded, she realizes that the world has no place for her, and that
she must either stoop to ask the assistance of friends or starve! I
have no words for the misery I felt, for I am a proud woman,
and--But no lifting of the curtain that shrouds my past. It has fallen
for ever, and for you and me and the world I am simply Constance
Sterling, a young woman of twenty-five, without home, relatives, or
means of support, having in her pocket seventy-five cents of change,
and in her breast a heart like lead, so utterly had every hope
vanished in the day's rush of disappointments.
How long I stood with my face to the window I cannot say. With eyes
dully fixed upon the blank walls of the cottages opposite, I stood
oblivious to all about me till the fading sunlight--or was it some
stir in the room behind me?--recalled me to myself, and I turned to
find my pretty room-mate staring at me with a troubled look that for
a moment made me forget my own sorrows and anxieties.
"What is it?" I asked, going towards her with an irresistible
impulse of sympathy.
"I don't know," she murmured; "a sudden pain here," laying her hand
on her heart.
I advanced still nearer, but her face, which had been quite pale,
turned suddenly rosy; and, with a more natural expression, she took
me by the hand, and said:
"But you look more than ill, you look unhappy. Would you mind
telling me what worries you?"
The gentle tone, the earnest glance of modest yet sincere interest,
went to my heart. Clutching her hand convulsively, I burst into
"It is nothing," said I; "only my last resource has failed, and I
don't know where to get a meal for to-morrow. Not that this is any
thing in itself," I hastened to add, my natural pride reasserting
itself; "but the future! the future!--what am I to do with my
She did not answer at first. A gleam--I can scarcely call it a
glow--passed over her face, and her eyes took a far-away look that
made them very sweet. Then a little flush stole into her cheek, and,
pressing my hand, she said: