But the Virgin was inconsolable. “O Gawd! Wen I think on wot is, an’ was . . . an’ no fault of mine. No fault of mine, I tell you!” she shrieked with quick fierceness. “’Ow was I born, I ask? Wot was my old man? A drunk, a chronic. An’ my old woman? Talk of Whitechapel! ’Oo guv a cent for me, or ’ow I was dragged up? ’Oo cared a rap, I say? ’Oo cared a rap?”
A sudden revulsion came over Corliss. “Hold your tongue!” he ordered.
The Virgin raised her head, her loosened hair streaming about her like a Fury’s. “Wot is she?” she sneered. “Sweet’eart?”
Corliss whirled upon her savagely, face white and voice shaking with passion.
The Virgin cowered down and instinctively threw up her hands to protect her face. “Don’t ’it me, sir!” she whined. “Don’t ’it me!”
He was frightened at himself, and waited till he could gather control. “Now,” he said, calmly, “get into your things and go. All of you. Clear out. Vamose.”
“You’re no man, you ain’t,” the Virgin snarled, discovering that physical assault was not imminent.
But Corliss herded her particularly to the door, and gave no heed.
“A-turning ladies out!” she sniffed, with a stumble over the threshold;
“No offence,” Jake Cornell muttered, pacifically; “no offence.”
“Good-night. Sorry,” Corliss said to Blanche, with the shadow of a forgiving smile, as she passed out.
“You’re a toff! That’s wot you are, a bloomin’ toff!” the Virgin howled back as he shut the door.
He looked blankly at Del Bishop and surveyed the sodden confusion on the table. Then he walked over and threw himself down on his bunk. Bishop leaned an elbow on the table and pulled at his wheezy pipe. The lamp smoked, flickered, and went out; but still he remained, filling his pipe again and again and striking endless matches.
“Del! Are you awake?” Corliss called at last.
“I was a cur to turn them out into the snow. I am ashamed.”
“Sure,” was the affirmation.
A long silence followed. Del knocked the ashes out and raised up.
“’Sleep?” he called.
There was no reply, and he walked to the bunk softly and pulled the blankets over the engineer.
“Yes; what does it all mean?” Corliss stretched lazily, and cocked up his feet on the table. He was not especially interested, but Colonel Trethaway persisted in talking seriously.
“That’s it! The very thing—the old and ever young demand which man slaps into the face of the universe.” The colonel searched among the scraps in his note-book. “See,” holding up a soiled slip of typed paper, “I copied this out years ago. Listen. ’What a monstrous spectre is this man, this disease of the agglutinated dust, lifting alternate feet or lying