“Where do you live?”
“I have no bed. I am in a lawyer’s office. I can’t afford a boarding-house just now, and I sleep on the office floor.”
“How do you like that?” she asked.
“I don’t like it.”
“Then why do you stay there?”
“Where else would I sleep? I have only so much a week.”
“Would you like to stay here to-night?”
“Maybe. This is better than the office floor; at least I imagine it is.”
The curtains parted and there was a heavy step upon the floor. A man came in. He stopped and looked at the couple grimly. He was a big man whose cheeks had jowls and whose eyes were red. He had the air of a bully. He seemed perfectly at ease and conscious of his status, and the woman started, then looked up half anxiously and half defiantly. The man spoke first:
“What are you doing here?”
“I am talking with this gentleman at the table.”
“You mustn’t talk with these fellows. Get out of here!” he said, turning to Harlson.
Harlson was not really in a pleasant frame of mind; he had been too hungry. It was not the occasion on which a flabby bully should have thus addressed him. He did not answer the man, but turned to the woman.
“Is that your husband?” he asked.
“What is he, then?”
It was the intruder who answered, violently:
“She belongs to me, and you’d better get out of here.”
“I don’t belong to him! He has lived here, but I want to get away from him! Now,” turning recklessly to the man, “you may do what you please!”
The man paid little note to what the woman said. His attention was bestowed upon Harlson.
“Look here, young fellow! Get out of this, and get out quick! You’re in the way!”
Now, upon this young man Harlson, during this conversation, had come a certain increased ill humor. He was in no violent mood, as yet, but he was not, as has been said, one for a big flabby brute to thus annoy. He was quiet enough, though.
“I’ve come into a restaurant to get my supper.”
The man’s red face became redder still. “If you don’t get out, I’ll throw you out!”
Harlson stood up. “I’ll not go!” he said, and then the man rushed upon him.
It was only a clean, quick blow, but there was no check nor parry to mar its full effectiveness. The man plunged forward too confidently, the blow caught him fairly in the face, on the fullness of the cheek, just under the eye, and those bronzed knuckles cut in to the bone. It was a wicked blow, and its force was great enough to hurl the whole body back. The man whirled away under it, and he went toppling down, with his arms thrown up wildly. As he fell, he pitched still further back, in his effort to save himself, and his head struck the wainscoting as he reached the floor. Blood gushed from his cut cheek. It was a moment or two before he clambered slowly to his feet.