The people of Chicago go home from their work at evening--drifting they go in
droves, hurrying along. It is a startling thing to look closely at them. The people
have bad mouths. Their mouths are slack and the jaws do not hang right. The
mouths are like the shoes they wear. The shoes have become run down at the
corners from too much pounding on the hard pavements and the mouths have
become crooked from too much weariness of soul.
Something is wrong with modern American life and we Americans do not want to
look at it. We much prefer to call ourselves a great people and let it go at that.
It is evening and the people of Chicago go home from work. Clatter, clatter,
clatter, go the heels on the hard pavements, jaws wag, the wind blows and dirt
drifts and sifts through the masses of the people. Every one has dirty ears. The
stench in the street cars is horrible. The antiquated bridges over the rivers are
packed with people. The suburban trains going away south and west are cheaply
constructed and dangerous. A people calling itself great and living in a city also
called great go to their houses a mere disorderly mass of humans cheaply
equipped. Everything is cheap. When the people get home to their houses they
sit on cheap chairs before cheap tables and eat cheap food. They have given
their lives for cheap things. The poorest peasant of one of the old countries is
surrounded by more beauty. His very equipment for living has more solidity.
The modern man is satisfied with what is cheap and unlovely because he
expects to rise in the world. He has given his life to that dreary dream and he is
teaching his children to follow the same dream. McGregor was touched by it.
Being confused by the matter of sex he had listened to the advice of the barber
and meant to settle things in the cheap way. One evening a month after the talk
in the park he hurried along Lake Street on the West Side with that end in view. It
was near eight o'clock and growing dark and McGregor should have been at the
night school. Instead he walked along the street looking at the ill- kept frame
houses. A fever burned in his blood. An impulse, for the moment stronger than
the impulse that kept him at work over books night after night there in the big
disorderly city and as yet stronger than any new impulse toward a vigorous
compelling march through life, had hold of him. His eyes stared into the windows.
He hurried along filled with a lust that stultified his brain and will. A woman sitting
at the window of a little frame house smiled and beckoned to him.
McGregor walked along the path leading to the little frame house. The path ran
through a squalid yard. It was a foul place like the court under his window behind
the house in Wycliff Place. Here also discoloured papers worried by the wind ran
about in crazy circles. McGregor's heart pounded and his mouth felt dry and
unpleasant. He wondered what he should say and how he should say it when he