Page:Manhattan Transfer (John Dos Passos, 1925).djvu/198

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186

Manhattan Transfer

Ellen had just hung a chintz curtain in the window to hide with its blotchy pattern of red and purple flowers the vista of desert backyards and brick flanks of downtown houses. In the middle of the bare room was a boxcouch cumbered with teacups, a copper chafingdish and percolator; the yellow hardwood floor was littered with snippings of chintz and curtainpins; books, dresses, bedlinen cascaded from a trunk in the corner; from a new mop in the fireplace exuded a smell of cedar oil. Ellen was leaning against the wall in a daffodilcolored kimono looking happily about the big shoebox-shaped room when the buzzer startled her. She pushed a rope of hair up off her forehead and pressed the button that worked the latch. There was a little knock on the door. A woman was standing in the dark of the hall.

"Why Cassie I couldn't make out who you were. Come in. . . . What's the matter?"

"You are sure I'm not intwuding?"

"Of course not." Ellen leaned to give her a little pecking kiss. Cassandra Wilkins was very pale and there was a nervous quiver about her eyelids. "You can give me some advice. I'm just getting my curtains up. . . . Look do you think that purple goes all right with the gray wall? It looks kind of funny to me."

"I think it's beautiful. What a beautiful woom. How happy you're going to be here."

"Put that chafingdish down on the floor and sit down. I'll make some tea. There's a kind of bathroom kitchenette in the alcove there."

"You're sure it wouldn't be too much twouble?"

"Of course not. . . . But Cassie what's the matter?"

"Oh everything. . . . I came down to tell you but I cant. I cant ever tell anybody."

"I'm so excited about this apartment. Imagine Cassie it's the first place of my own I ever had in my life. Daddy wants me to live with him in Passaic, but I just felt I couldn't."

"And what does Mr. Oglethorpe . . .? Oh but that's