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19. IN ALCALA
In Alcala, as in most of New York's apartment houses, the schedule of prices is like a badly rolled cigarette--thick in the middle and thin at both ends. The rooms half-way up are expensive; some of them almost as expensive as if Fashion, instead of being gone for ever, were still lingering. The top rooms are cheap, the ground-floor rooms cheaper still.
Cheapest of all was the hall-bedroom. Its furniture was of the simplest. It consisted of a chair, another chair, a worn carpet, and a folding-bed. The folding-bed had an air of depression and baffled hopes. For years it had been trying to look like a bookcase in the daytime, and now it looked more like a folding-bed than ever. There was also a plain deal table, much stained with ink. At this, night after night, sometimes far into the morning, Rutherford Maxwell would sit and write stories. Now and then it happened that one would be a good story, and find a market.
Rutherford Maxwell was an Englishman, and the younger son of an Englishman; and his lot was the lot of the younger sons all the world over. He was by profession one of the numerous employees of the New Asiatic Bank, which has its branches all over the world. It is a sound, trustworthy institution, and steady-going relatives would assure Rutherford that he was lucky to have got a berth in it. Rutherford did not agree with them. However sound and trustworthy, it was not exactly romantic. Nor did it err on the side of over-lavishness to those who served it. Rutherford's salary was small. So were his prospects--if he remained in the bank. At a very early date he had registered a vow that he would not. And the road that led out of it for him was the uphill road of literature.
He was thankful for small mercies. Fate had not been over-kind up to the present, but at least she had dispatched him to New York, the centre of things, where he would have the chance to try, instead of to some spot off the map. Whether he won or lost, at any rate he was in the ring, and could fight. So every night he sat in Alcala, and wrote. Sometimes he would only try to write, and that was torture.
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