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Every evening she came out of the dark and stepped into the bright light of the street like a frightened child far from home. I knew that she had never been at the end of the alley before eight o'clock, and yet there were evenings when I ran there two hours early and waited until she came. During all those months I had known her, she had been late only two or three times, and then it was only ten or fifteen minutes past eight when she came.
Rachel had never told me where she lived, and she would never let me walk home with her. Where the alley began was the door through which she came at eight, and the door which closed behind her at ten. When I had asked her to let me walk with her, she always said that her father did not allow her to be with boys and that if he saw us together he would either beat her pitilessly or make her leave home.
Rachel had told me that almost every time I saw her, as if she wanted me to understand some sort of danger that lay in the darkness of the alley. I knew there was no physical danger, because around the corner was our house and I knew the district as anyone else. And besides during the day I usually walked through the alley to our back gate on my way home, because it was the shortest way when I was late for supper. But after dark the alley was Rachel's, and I had never gone home that way at night as I feared to see her or hear of her. I had promised her from the beginning that I would never follow her to find out where she lived, and that I would never try to discover her real name.
I knew Rachel and her family were poor, because she had been wearing the same dress for nearly a year. It was a worn but clean dress of blue cotton, and I knew she washed it every day. Each evening when I saw her, I was worried because I knew that the cloth would not last for long. I wanted to offer to buy her a dress with the few dollars I had in my bank, but I was afraid even to suggest such a thing to her. I was sure that it would mean the end of my seeing her.
After Erskine Caldwell