Before she could finish, Batty loomed up beside them. He was plainly drunk. “I lost my key,” he said; “and I’ve been waiting—”
“Good night, Miss Lily,” Maurice said,—“If he’s nasty to her, I’ll go back,” he thought. He was only halfway down the block when he heard a little piping scream—“O-o-o-w! O-o-o-w!” He turned, and saw her trying to pull her hand away from Batty’s twisting grip: he was at her side in a moment: “Here! Drop it!” he said, sharply—and landed an extremely neat blow on the drunken man’s jaw. Batty, rubbing his cheek, and staring at this very unexpected assailant in profound and giggling astonishment, slouched into the house.
“He ’most twisted my hand off!” Lily said; “oh, ain’t he the beast?” She cringed and shook her bruised wrist, then gave Maurice an admiring look. “My soul and body! you lit into him good!” she said; “what am I going to do? I’m afraid to go in.”
“If I had a house of my own,” Maurice said, “I’d take you home, and my wife would look after you. But we are boarding.... Haven’t you some friend you could go to for to-night? ... To-morrow my wife will come and see you,” he declared.
“Oh, gracious me, no!” In the midst of her anger she couldn’t help laughing. ("He’s a reg’lar baby!” she thought.) “No; your wife’s a busy society lady, I’m sure. Don’t bother about me. I’ll just wait round till he goes to sleep.” She dabbed at her eyes with a little wet ball of a handkerchief.
“Here, take mine,” he said. And with this larger and dryer piece of linen, she did manage to make her face more presentable.
“When he’s asleep, I’ll slip in,” she said.
“Well, let’s go and sit down somewhere,” Maurice suggested. She agreed, and there was some haphazard wandering about in the darkness, then a weary sitting on a bench in the park, marking time till Batty would surely be asleep.
“You sure handed one out to him,” Lily said.
Maurice chuckled at the role of knight-errant which she seemed to discern in him, but he talked earnestly of her future, and once or twice, soothed by his voice, she dozed—but he didn’t know it. Indeed, he told himself afterward that her silences showed how his words were sinking in! “It only goes to prove,” he thought, when at midnight he left her at her own door, “that the flower is in all of them! If you only go about it right, you can bring their purity to the surface! She felt all I said. Eleanor will be awfully interested in her.”
He was quite sure about Eleanor; he had entirely forgiven her; he wanted to wake her up, and sit on the edge of her bed, and tell her of his evening, and what a glorious thing it would be to lift one lovely young soul from the gutter.