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In a remote corner of the room an upturned orange box served as
sort of stand. The front was covered and festooned with a curtain,
dexterously made of a bright skirt, hung over the sides, and
draped from a knot at the top. The knot was drawn from the waist
band of the skirt, and tied with the original string into a
grotesque rosette. All over the box top were such articles as a
girl might deem necessary in making a civilized toilette, except
at the knot--where the table cover irradiated its fullness into
really graceful folds, falling over the orange box-here, on
account of the knob, no article was placed, and the rosette stood
defiant over the whole surrounding.
The girl placed the candle on a spot made clear for that small
round, tin stand, and then glancing anxiously at the door, stole
over to make sure that the bolt was shot, hurried back and
proceeded to untie the knot of string responsible for the drapery
over the orange box. By the glare of the candle's flame her
fingers could be seen stained with oil, and grim, as they expertly
worked at the tied-up skirt, and finally succeeded in pulling
apart the ragged folds. Quickly she slipped one small hand beneath
the calico, and, obtaining her quest, drew back to examine it.
One, two, three green bills. Her savings and her fortune. Lights
and shadows crossing the youthful face betrayed the hopes, and
fears mingling with, such emotions as the girl lived through in
this crowded hour, but no sooner had she slipped the small roll of
bills into the flaring neck of her thin blouse, than a shaking at
the door caused her to kick the telescope bag under the bed,
hastily readjust the cover of the orange box, blow out the
capering candle flame, and then open the door. A woman young in
face but old in posture scuffled in. She wore a shawl on her head,
although the season was warm April, and the plentiful quantities
of material swathed in her attire proclaimed her foreign.
"Oh, Dagmar. I am tired," she sighed. "I thought you would come
down to fix supper for papa. You do not change your skirt? No?"
"I was going to, so I locked the door," replied the girl Dagmar.
"But I, too, was tired."
"Yes, it is so. Well, the mill is not so bad. It has a new window
near my bench, and I breathe better. But, daughter, we must go
down. Keep the door locked as you dress. Those new peoples may not
tell which is the right room." With a glance at the fair daughter,
so unlike herself in coloring, the working mother dragged herself
out again, and soon could be heard cliptrapping down the dark
stairs that led to the kitchens on the first floor of the mill
workers, community lodgings.
Dagmar breathed deeply and clasped her hands tightly as her
mother's tired foottread fell to an echo. Love filled the blue
eyes and an affectionate smile wreathed the red lips.
"Poor mother!" she sighed aloud. "I hate to--"
Then again came that look of determination, and when Dagmar
slipped down the stairs she carried the telescope and her
crochetted hand bag. Her velvet tarn sat jauntily on those
wonderful yellow curls, and her modern cape flew gracefully out,
just showing the least fold of her best chiffon blouse. Dagmar
wore strickly American clothes, selected in rather good taste, and
they attracted much attention in the streets of Flosston.
Once clear of the long brown building, through which spots of
light now struck the night, out of those desperate rows and rows
of machine-made windows, Dagmar made her way straight to the
corner, then turned straight again to another long narrow street,
her very steps corresponding to that painful directness of line
and plan, common to towns made by mill-owners for their employees.
Even the stars, now pricking their way through the blue, seemed to
throw down straight lines of light on Flosston; nothing varied the
mechanical exactness, and monotonous squares and angles of
streets, buildings, and high board fences.
One more sharp turn brought the girl within sight of a square,
squatty railroad station, and as she sped toward it she caught
sight of the figure of another girl, outlined in the shadows. This
figure was taller and larger in form than herself, and as Dagmar
whistled softly, the girl ahead stopped.
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