The Genius

The Genius by Theodore Dreiser Read Free Book Online

Book: The Genius by Theodore Dreiser Read Free Book Online
Authors: Theodore Dreiser
Tags: Fiction
drays of beer, trucks of coal, brick, stone, sand—a spectacle of
new, raw, necessary life!
    As Eugene began to draw near it he caught for the first time the
sense and significance of a great city. What were these newspaper
shadows he had been dealing with in his reading compared to this
vivid, articulate, eager thing? Here was the substance of a new
world, substantial, fascinating, different. The handsome suburban
station at South Chicago, the first of its kind he had ever seen,
took his eye, as the train rolled cityward. He had never before
seen a crowd of foreigners—working men—and here were Lithuanians,
Poles, Czechs, waiting for a local train. He had never seen a
really large factory plant, and here was one, and another, and
another—steel works, potteries, soap-factories, foundries, all
gaunt and hard in the Sunday evening air. There seemed to be, for
all it was Sunday, something youthful, energetic and alive about
the streets. He noted the streetcars waiting; at one place a small
river was crossed on a draw,—dirty, gloomy, but crowded with boats
and lined with great warehouses, grain elevators, coal pockets—that
architecture of necessity and utility. His imagination was fired by
this for here was something that could be done brilliantly in
black—a spot of red or green for ship and bridge lights. There were
some men on the magazines who did things like this, only not so
    The train threaded its way through long lines of cars coming
finally into an immense train shed where arc lights were
spluttering—a score under a great curved steel and glass roof,
where people were hurrying to and fro. Engines were hissing; bells
clanging raucously. He had no relatives, no soul to turn to, but
somehow he did not feel lonely. This picture of life, this newness,
fascinated him. He stepped down and started leisurely to the gate,
wondering which way he should go. He came to a corner where a lamp
post already lit blazoned the name Madison. He looked out on this
street and saw, as far as the eye could reach, two lines of stores,
jingling horse cars, people walking. What a sight, he thought, and
turned west. For three miles he walked, musing, and then as it was
dark, and he had arranged for no bed, he wondered where he should
eat and sleep. A fat man sitting outside a livery stable door in a
tilted, cane-seated chair offered a possibility of information.
    "Do you know where I can get a room around here?" asked
    The lounger looked him over. He was the proprietor of the
    "There's an old lady living over there at seven-thirty-two," he
said, "who has a room, I think. She might take you in." He liked
Eugene's looks.
    Eugene crossed over and rang a downstairs bell. The door was
opened shortly by a tall, kindly woman, of a rather matriarchal
turn. Her hair was gray.
    "Yes?" she inquired.
    "The gentleman at the livery stable over there said I might get
a room here. I'm looking for one."
    She smiled pleasantly. This boy looked his strangeness, his
wide-eyed interest, his freshness from the country. "Come in," she
said. "I have a room. You can look at it."
    It was a front room—a little bed-room off the one main living
room, clean, simple, convenient. "This looks all right," he
    She smiled.
    "You can have it for two dollars a week," she proffered.
    "That's all right," he said, putting down his grip. "I'll take
    "Have you had supper?" she asked.
    "No, but I'm going out soon. I want to see the streets. I'll
find some place."
    "I'll give you something," she said.
    Eugene thanked her, and she smiled. This was what Chicago did to
the country. It took the boys.
    He opened the closed shutters of his window and knelt before it,
leaning on the sill. He looked out idly, for it was all so
wonderful. Bright lights were burning in store windows. These
people hurrying—how their feet sounded—clap, clap, clap. And away
east and away west it was all like this. It was all like this
everywhere, a great big,

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