They swung into Broadway and passed taxis and limousines filled with gay parties just out of the theaters. Young women in rich furs, wrapped from the cruelty of life by the caste system in which wealth had encased them, exchanged badinage with sleek, well-dressed men. A ripple of care-free laughter floated to him across the gulf that separated this girl from them. By the cluster lights of Broadway he could see how cruelly life had mauled her soft youth. The bloom of her was gone, all the brave pride and joy of girlhood. It would probably never wholly return.
He saw as in a vision the infinite procession of her hopeless sisters who had traveled the road from which he was rescuing her, saw them first as sweet and merry children bubbling with joy, and again, after the world had misused them for its pleasure, haggard and tawdry, with dragging steps trailing toward the oblivion that awaited them. He wondered if life must always be so terribly wasted, made a bruised and broken thing instead of the fine, brave adventure for which it was meant.
JOHNNIE MAKES A JOKE
As Kitty stepped from the cab she was trembling violently.
“Don’t you be frightened, li’l’ pardner. You’ve come home. There won’t anybody hurt you here.”
The soft drawl of Clay’s voice carried inexpressible comfort. So too did the pressure of his strong hand on her arm. She knew not only that he was a man to trust, but that so far as could be he would take her troubles on his broad shoulders. Tears brimmed over her soft eyes.
The Arizonan ran her up to his floor in the automatic elevator.
“I’ve got a friend from home stayin’ with me. He’s the best-hearted fellow you ever saw. You’ll sure like him,” he told her without stress as he fitted his key to the lock.
He felt her shrink beneath his coat, but it was too late to draw back now. In another moment Lindsay was introducing her casually to the embarrassed and astonished joint proprietor of the apartment.
The Runt was coatless and in his stockinged-feet. He had been playing a doleful ditty on a mouth-organ. Caught so unexpectedly, he blushed a beautiful brick red to his neck.
Johnnie ducked his head and scraped the carpet with his foot in an attempt at a bow. “Glad to meet up with you-all, Miss. Hope you’re feelin’ tol’able.”
Clay slipped the coat from her shoulders and saw that the girl was wet to the skin.
“Heat some water, Johnnie, and make a good stiff toddy. Miss Kitty has been out in the rain.”
He lit the gas-log and from his bedroom brought towels, a bathrobe, pajamas, a sweater, and woolen slippers. On a lounge before the fire he dumped the clothes he had gathered. He drew up the easiest armchair in the room.
“I’m goin’ to the kitchen to jack up Johnnie so he won’t lay down on his job,” he told her cheerily. “You take yore time and get into these dry clothes. We’ll not disturb you till you knock. After that we’ll feed you some chuck. You want to brag on Johnnie’s cookin’. He thinks he’s it when it comes to monkeyin’ ’round a stove.”