“What about?” He was persistent, and Rose felt that he must be used to having his own way.
“It was about a job I didn’t get,” replied Rose, trying to laugh.
“So you’re looking for a job. Heard you’d been fired by old Hill. Gail told me. I had her out last night in my new car.”
“I could go back to school. Miss Hill sent for me.... Was Bessy with you and Gail?”
“No. Gail and I were alone. We had a dandy time.... Rose, will you meet me some night and take a ride? It’ll be fine and cool.”
“Thank you, Mr. Swann. It’s very kind of you to ask me.”
“Well, will you go?” he queried, impatiently.
“No,” she replied, simply.
“I don’t want to.”
“Well, that’s plain enough,” he said, changing his tone. “Say, Rose, you’re in Clark’s store, aren’t you?”
“I was. But I lost the place.”
“I couldn’t stand on my feet all day. I fainted. Then he fired me.”
“So you’re hunting for another job?” inquired Swann, thoughtfully.
“Sorry. It’s too bad a sweet kid like you has to work. You’re not strong, Rose.... Well, I’ll turn off at this corner. You won’t meet me to-night?”
Swann pulled a gold case from his pocket, and extracting a cigarette, tilted it in his lips as he struck a match. His face wore a careless smile Rose did not like. He was amiable, but he seemed so sure, so satisfied, almost as if he believed she would change her mind.
“Rose, you’re turning me down cold, then?”
“Take it any way you like, Mr. Swann,” she replied. “Good day.”
Rose forgot him almost the instant her back was turned. He had only annoyed her. And she had her stepfather to face, with news of her discharge from the store. Her fears were verified; he treated her brutally. Next day Rose went to work in a laundry.
And then, very soon it seemed, her school days, the merry times with the boys, and Bessy—all were far back in the past. She did not meet any one who knew her, nor hear from any one. They had forgotten her. At night, after coming home from the laundry and doing the housework, she was so tired that she was glad to crawl into bed.
But one night a boy brought her a note. It was from Dick Swann. He asked her to go to Mendleson’s Hall to see the moving-pictures. She could meet him uptown at the entrance. Rose told the boy to tell Swann she would not come.
This invitation made her thoughtful. If Swann had been ashamed to be seen with her he would not have invited her to go there. Mendleson’s was a nice place; all the nice people of Middleville went there. Rose found herself thinking of the lights, the music, the well-dressed crowd, and then the pictures. She loved moving-pictures, especially those with swift horses and cowboys and a girl who could ride. All at once a wave of the old thrilling excitement rushed over her. Almost she regretted having sent back a refusal. But she would not go with Swann. And it was not because she knew what kind of a young man he was—what he wanted. Rose refused from dislike, not scruples.