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38 CHAPTER VIII. The character and home of the Dancing Girl— A delightful evening, for three—I almost fall in love, if jealousy is any sign. inez—she never went by any other name, except in legal documents, when the term, ‘a Spanish dancing girl,’ was added; Inez belonged to that class of professional people, including a majority of those whose parents earn their living, by serving the public, and depending on the latter’s favor, who are prematurely developed. These unfortunates have the experience of men and women while yet in early youth. Under feverish stimulants, they come forward, like hot-house plants, and sometimes their growth is unwholesome, and as fragile. With Inez, however, there was the saving fact of a strong vein of native common sense. She afterward told me, when we became more intimate, that the first man she really loved, (and she loved in the morning of her life,) taught her the most profitable lesson she had ever learned. He 39 was treacherous; she was devoted and confiding. And that treachery it was that with the scorching mark of a hot iron, burnt on her heart, the precept Caution, the great need that is so long coming to young souls, and that, when it comes, puts an end forever to the freshest joys, and the thoughtless abandon, of their lives. And yet it is so useful in this wicked world; and we cannot get along without it. And so, as the dose must be taken, the sooner the wry face is past, and the qualms gone, the better. “Oh,” said the frank-hearted girl, “I have not traveled alone through so many lands; I have not gained my bread, among shows, and coarse people—making journeys, and taking up with any kind of accommodation—subject to all sorts of proposals, and all variations of applause, indifference , and scorn: I have not gone through these, and much more, for nothing. “You have candidly asked me my own opinion of myself. I will be as candid with you. I know that I am not good. But I feel also that I never have been, and am not, abandoned enough to be unworthy the sympathy of those who are good. I am conscious of having committed no spiteful meanness; I wound or deceive no one who trusts in me. I have never wronged a human being—I have not thought myself better than the degraded and lost ones—but rather pity and relieve them.” She stopped abruptly, and looked at us with her sharp black eyes. 40 “But am I not making myself ridiculous?” she added. On the contrary, I felt a real admiration for this independent and, in some respects, unfortunate girl; and the evident truth which impelled her to talk of her character in that way, impressed my feelings strongly. But—whether jealousy or not, something put the thought in my head at this moment—could this woman love such a fop as Smytthe? She might have got along with Smytthe, because that is a manly acceptance of one’s destiny , and a plump defiance of the world. But in Smytthe, was a sort of sneaking and cowardly evasion—a consciousness of something wrong, and a timid desire to dust people ’s eyes about it. I answered nothing to the question of Inez, and Smytthe gave his eternal “Ah—O—um—um—m—O, no indeed.” We had coffee, and some biscuits. It was delightful coffee , made by Inez herself, in, as she told us, the Spanish fashion. A stout, rosy, Irish woman—of all people in the world, Mrs. Nancy Fox, wife of Barney Fox, and mother of seven little Foxes—served us these refreshments. Or rather she appeared to serve us, but Inez was in such good spirits and so nimble and graceful, that she really did everything. Barney and Nancy and the little children, lived in a rear building on the same premises, and the services of the tidy industrious Irish woman, were quite invaluable to Inez, 41 who had formed an attachment to her, and requited her liberally. Barney followed the honorable business of hodcarrying , and at a pinch, even took a place under government , as a street-sweeper. Barney was up to snuff, too, as will be shown by and by. And now, when I look back upon it, there have been stupider evenings passed, than the one which was talked and sipped away by us in that comfortable little parlor...


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