“I have felt all those things,” he said quietly.
“What did you do?” she demanded. “No, perhaps you had luck. Perhaps it’s not fair to ask you that. It wouldn’t apply. What should you do if you were me, if you had the chance to get out of it all the way that she has?”
“I am not a woman,” he reminded her simply. “If I answer you as an outsider, a passer-by—mind, though, one who thinks about men and women—I should say try one of her lesser sins, one of the sins that leaves you clean. Steal, for instance.”
“And go to prison!” she protested angrily. “How much better off would you be there, I wonder, and what about when you came out? Pooh! Pay your bill and let’s get out of this.”
He obeyed, and they made their way into the crowded street. He paused for a moment on the pavement. The pleasure swirl was creeping a little into his veins.
“Would you like to go to a theatre?” he asked.
She shook her head.
“You do as you like. I’m going home. You needn’t bother about coming with me, either.”
“Don’t be foolish,” he protested. “I only mentioned a theatre for your sake. Come along.”
They walked down Broadway and turned into their own street. They entered the tenement building together and stepped into the lift. She held out her hand a little abruptly.
“Good night!” he answered. “You get out first, don’t you? I’ll polish that stuff up to-night, the first part of it, so that you can get on with the typing.”
Some half-developed fear which had been troubling her during the walk home, seemed to have passed. Her face cleared.
“Don’t think I am ungrateful,” she begged, as the lift stopped. “I haven’t had a good time like this for many months. Thank you, Mr. Ware, and good night!”
She stepped through the iron gates on to her own floor, and Philip swung up to his rooms. Somehow, he entered almost light-heartedly. The roar of the city below was no longer provocative. He felt as though he had stretched out a hand towards it, as though he were in the way of becoming one of its children.
A few nights later Philip awoke suddenly to find himself in a cold sweat, face to face with all the horrors of an excited imagination. Once more he felt his hand greedy for the soft flesh of the man he hated, tearing its way through the stiff collar, felt the demoniacal strength shooting down his arm, the fever at his finger tips. He saw the terrified face of his victim, a strong man but impotent in his grasp; heard the splash of the turgid waters; saw himself, his lust for vengeance unsatisfied, peering downwards through the dim and murky gloom. It was not only a physical nightmare which seized him. His brain, too, was his accuser. He saw with a hideous clarity that even the excuse of motive was denied him.