Her instinct rejected all that. The sound of his voice, the general—atmosphere of him had been exactly right. And then, he’d left undone the things he ought not to have done. He hadn’t tried to take hold of her arm as they had splashed along through the lake to the curb. He hadn’t exhibited any tenderly chivalrous concern over how wet she was. And, to-day being to-day, she consigned ladylike considerations to the inventor of them, and gave instinct its head.
She laughed again as she answered his question. “The deception was that I pretended to do it from principle. The real reason why I wouldn’t pay another fare, is because I had only one more nickel.”
“Good lord!” said the man.
“And,” she went on, “that nickel will pay my fare home on the elevated. It’s only about half a mile to the station, but from there home it’s ten. So you see I’d rather walk this than that.”
“But that’s dreadful,” he cried. “Isn’t there ... Couldn’t you let me ...”
“Oh,” she said, “it isn’t so bad as that. It’s just one of the silly things that happen to you sometimes, you know. I didn’t have very much money when I started, it being Friday. And then I paid my subscription to The Maroon....” She didn’t laugh audibly, but without seeing her face, he knew she smiled, the quality of her voice enriching itself somehow.... “And I ate a bigger lunch than usual, and that brought me down to ten cents. I could have got more of course from anybody, but ten cents, except for that conductor, would have been enough.”
“You will make a complaint about that, won’t you?” he urged. “Even if it wasn’t on principle that you refused to pay another fare? And let me back you up in it. I’ve his number, you know.”
“You deserve that, I suppose,” she said, “because you did get off the car on principle. But—well, really, unless we could prove that I did pay my fare, by some other passenger, you know, they’d probably think the conductor did exactly right. Of course he took hold of me, but that was because I was going right by him. And then, think what I did to him!”
He grumbled that this was nonsense—the man had been guilty at least of excessive zeal—but he didn’t urge her, any further, to complain.
“There’s another car coming,” he now announced, peering around the end of the wall. “You will let me pay your fare on it, won’t you?”
She hesitated. The rain was thinning. “I would,” she said, “if I honestly wouldn’t rather walk. I’m wet through now, and it’ll be pleasanter to—walk a little of it off than to squeeze into that car. Thanks, really very, very much, though. Don’t you miss it.” She thrust out her hand. “Good-by!”
“I can’t pretend to think you need an escort to the elevated,” he said. “I saw what you did to the conductor. I haven’t the least doubt you could have thrown him off the car. But I’d—really like it very much if you would let me walk along with you.”