And then a new element asserted itself in the life of McGregor. One of the
hundreds of disintegrating forces that attack strong natures, striving to scatter
their force in the back currents of life, attacked him. His big body began to feel
with enervating persistency the call of sex.
In the house in Wycliff Place McGregor passed as a mystery. By keeping silence
he won a reputation for wisdom. The clerks in the hall bedrooms thought him a
scientist. The woman from Cairo thought him a theological student. Down the hall
a pretty girl with large black eyes who worked in a department store down town
dreamed of him at night. When in the evening he banged the door to his room
and strode down the hallway going to the night school she sat in a chair by the
open door of her room. As he passed she raised her eyes and looked at him
boldly. When he returned she was again by the door and again she looked boldly
In his room, after the meetings with the black-eyed girl McGregor found difficulty
in keeping his mind on the reading. He felt as he had felt with the pale girl on the
hillside beyond Coal Creek. With her as with the pale girl he felt the need of
defending himself. He began to make it a practice to hurry along past her door.
The girl in the hall bedroom thought constantly of McGregor. When he had gone
to night school another young man of the house who wore a Panama hat came
from the floor above and, putting his hands on the door frames of her room,
stood looking at her and talking. In his lips he held a cigarette, which when he
talked hung limply from the corner of his mouth.
This young man and the black-eyed girl kept up a continuous stream of
comments on the doings of red-haired McGregor. Begun by the young man, who
hated him because of his silence, the subject was kept alive by the girl who
wanted to talk of McGregor.
On Saturday nights the young man and the girl sometimes went together to the
theatre. One night in the summer when they had returned to the front of the
house the girl stopped. "Let's see what the big red-head is doing," she said.
Going around the block they stole in the darkness down an alleyway and stood in
the little dirty court looking up at McGregor who, with his feet in the window and a
lamp burning at his shoulder, sat in his room reading.
When they returned to the front of the house the black-eyed girl kissed the young
man, closing her eyes and thinking of McGregor. In her room later she lay abed
dreaming. She imagined herself assaulted by the young man who had crept into