"And then there was Little Eva, whose real name was Edith. She was a demure looking little girl, who came in every afternoon at four o'clock for her breakfast."
Chicago. 1919. Al Capone had just arrived in town, apparently in a move until things had quietened down after he had killed two men in New York. The Chicago Bears would not arrive for another two years and race riots were sweeping the country, none deadlier than in Chicago when 38 people lost their lives, over 500 injured and more than a 1000 were left homeless.
At one end of the spectrum there were the businessmen and industrialists that made the town work by day as any other, while at the other there was the thugs, hoods, pickpockets and prostitutes that gave the town its darker, seamier side.
This was the real Chicago, the setting for Edgar Rice Burroughs’ novel, The Efficiency Expert.
This was the world Jimmy Torrance, late of Beatrice Nebraska, found himself in as he arrived in Chicago. After graduating at a school on the Eastern border, he had high expectations of landing a well-placed position that his inexperience of the real world told him. He would go on a voyage of discovery and find out the hard way what life was really like.
This was also the world of Little Eva, a prostitute whose background is little known but she knows this city and she knows what it takes for her to get through it. She smokes compulsively and drinks whisky like it was water. One could have construed that it was due to a combination of nerves and wanting to forget about the hours of the night before and the kind of people that she had to deal with on a day to day basis.
This was the world of the Lizard, a pickpocket whose background is also unknown but preys on his unsuspecting fellow man to get by.
The paths of all three would cross one another and for a time, life would improve for each, but Edgar Rice Burroughs did not always write fairy tales endings and for one of the three, life would be cut all too short.
It was the intervention of the Lizard that helped Jimmy Torrance acquire a job at Feinheimer’s Cabaret as a waiter at the basement establishment on Wells Street, and it was here that he first meets Little Eva. He knew what she did for a living but between them they never spoke of it. Jimmy talked and treated her as just another regular human being and together they find an equilibrium that shut the adverse side and become good friends. Edgar Rice Burroughs did not need to come straight out with the fact that Little Eva was a prostitute for he had other ways of telling his readers of her life that usually evolved around the twilight hours…
“She usually came to Jimmy's table when it was vacant, and at four o'clock she always ate alone. Later in the evening she would come in again with a male escort, who was never twice the same.”
“Jimmy saw Eva almost daily for many weeks. He saw her at her post-meridian breakfast--sober and subdued; he saw her later in the evening, in various stages of exhilaration, but at those times she did not come to his table and seldom if ever did he catch her eye.”
Later, when Jimmy was again down on his luck, it was Eva that came to his rescue and helped him to get a job at Compton’s International Machine Company as an efficiency expert – something he knew very little about but bravado saw him through. It was also Eva that paid for his new clothes before the interview because “it would make me awfully happy” as she put it over dinner one day. At first, he did not want to accept her charity and for the first and only time that gulf between the two almost emerged that threatened to destroy their relationship as her first instinct was because the money came from her profession. For the very briefest of moments she felt that Jimmy was treating her like most of her clientele. But that moment passed in an instant when he takes her hand into his and suddenly Eva feels that one thing which she had never felt with all the men she had been with.
After the successful interview, Jimmy confronted Eva over his letters of recommendation and how she had come by them. Eva reveals that she had once been a stenographer and with the help of a neighbour who works at a printing company, she was able to write the letters. What befell Eva to leave her job as a stenographer and take to the night life of Chicago is never told. There could be a multitude of possible reasons for her to fall on hard times but Burroughs did not explore that area as the novel is mainly of Jimmy Torrance. However, when Jimmy suggests to Eva that she takes up the job again, she explains that she had no motivation as no one up until that moment, ever cared what she did with her life. A short time later Compton asks Jimmy if he knows of a stenographer and he immediately thinks of Little Eva. The favour she did for Jimmy is returned and she once gains employment in polite society.
What this incident does prove is that it was not a downturn in the global economy that caused Eva to lose her original job in the first place as the position is one readily available. Income of course could be a major factor and her wage may not have been enough for her to live on. It is often one of desperation that makes a girl turn to using her body to make ends meet. The working hours between the two jobs are not favourable and Eva probably found she could make more money at night than by day and her decline in society is complete.
Not for the first time does Jimmy make an enemy when he joined the International Machine Company and unbeknown to him at the time, Little Eva came into possession of a letter that will ultimately save his bacon.
When Jimmy is struck down by influenza, a major killer still less than a century ago, Little Eva attempts to visit him every evening of his sickness and is only thwarted because of his contagious condition but her efforts do not go unnoticed by hospital staff. The nurse can see her love that has grown for Jimmy even if he could not see it for himself. During his trial for the murder of Compton, he saw Eva looking tired and concerned for his fate. It was only later after is acquittal that he learnt it was her belief in his innocence that she imparted to Harriet Holden’s father and attorney to act on his behalf.
The stress of the trial may well have been a factor in Eva’s low resistance and she succumbed to the deadly virus that then developed into pneumonia.
At death’s door, she asks Jimmy to kiss her on the lips before she died, sealing the love that she felt for him, the kindness in which he had treated her, and had given her the chance to live a decent life once again.
Eva died as the heroine of this story. She was not the central character but she was instrumental in so many aspects. In another story by Burroughs, Eva would have been the girl who would marry Jimmy Torrance. She was the one that everyone who came to know her and came to think that only good things would come of her. She was after all, a good little girl.
A Prince And A Pauper
REVIEW BY R.E. PRINDLE
A high-class brothel which operated in Chicago, Illinois
from February 1900 until October 1911
The Everleigh Club at 2131–2133 South Dearborn Street, Chicago
Hallway to entrance at 2133 South Dearborn.
The Japanese Throne Room and Grand Ballroom at the Everleigh Club
Biography of Madams
The Everleigh Sisters Part 1
About the famous Madams the Everleigh Sisters,
biography and history of their Chicago bordello and its specialties.
Minna Everleigh and Ada Everleigh
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