“Not yet,” said Jimmy, “but I’m willing to help you along. What’ll it be?” Then to Rodney: “This is Mr. Alexander McEwen, the leading liar among our local press agents.” He added quickly: “You didn’t come around this afternoon, so I suppose there’s nothing stirring. How’s business over at the Globe?”
“Immense,” said Alec. “Sold out three times last week.”
“Do you hear anything,” Jimmy asked, “about the road company, what they’re doing?”
“Rotten,” said Alec. “But that don’t worry Goldsmith and Block. They sold out their road rights to Block’s brother-in-law.”
“By the way,” said Jimmy, “who’s the girl in the sextette that’s quit?”
“Doris Dane?” said little Alec. “Say no more. So you were on that lay, too, you old fox!” his smile widened as he looked round at Rodney, and his voice turned to a crow. “Trust this solemn old bird not to miss a bet. She was some lady, all right! Why,” he went on to Jimmy, “she has some sort of a row with her lover; big brute that used to lie in wait for her in the alley. You ought to hear the ponies go on about it. So she gets scared and goes to Goldsmith and gets herself sent out with the Number Two. And Goldsmith—believe me—crazy! He had his eye on it, too.”
Jimmy finished his drink with a jerk. “Come along,” he said to Rodney. “I don’t like this place. Let’s get out.”
Rodney has never managed to forget little Alec McEwen. For weeks after that bar-room encounter he was haunted by the vision of the small bright prying eyes, the fatuously cynical smile, and by the sound of the high crowing voice. Little Alec became monstrous to him; impersonal, a symbol of the way the world looked at Rose, and he dreamed sometimes, half-waking dreams, of choking the life out of him. Not out of little Alec personally. He, obviously, wasn’t worth it; but out of all the weakly venomous slander that he typified.
He managed a nod that seemed unconcerned enough, in response to Jimmy’s suggestion, and followed him out to the sidewalk. The sort of florid rococo chivalry that would have “vindicated his wife’s honor” by knocking little Alec down was an inconceivable thing to him. But the thing cut deep. He felt bemired. He wouldn’t have minded that, of course, except that the miry way he’d trodden since he’d first gone to the stage door for Rose was the way she’s taken ahead of him. He must overtake her and bring her back!
“I’m a thousand times obliged,” he said in an even enough tone to Jimmy. “I’ll find her at Dubuque, then, to-morrow.”
“That’s Wednesday,” said Jimmy. “They may be playing a matinee, you know. She’ll be there, right enough.”
Then, to make the separation they both wanted come a little easier, he invented an errand over on State Street and nodded Rodney farewell. For the next half-hour he cursed himself with vicious heartfelt fluency for a fool. Mightn’t he have known what little Alec McEwen would say?