‘Who was that?’ said the former suspiciously. ’I half believe it was Jeck Bartley. If Jeck is up to any of his larks, I’ll make him remember it. You wait here a minute!’
He walked at a sharp pace towards the suspected quarter. Scarcely had he gone half a dozen yards, when there came running from the other end of the Passage a girl whom Pennyloaf at once recognised. It was Clem Peckover; with some friend’s assistance she had evidently tracked the couple and was now springing out of ambush. She rushed upon Pennyloaf, who for very alarm could not flee, and attacked her with clenched fists. A scream of terror and pain caused Bob to turn and run back. Pennyloaf could not even ward off the blows that descended upon her head; she was pinned against the wall, her hat was torn away, her hair began to fly in disorder. But Bob effected a speedy rescue. He gripped Clem’s muscular arms, and forced them behind her back as if he meant to dismember her. Even then it was with no slight effort that he restrained the girl’s fury.
’You run off ‘ome!’ he shouted to Pennyloaf. ’If she tries this on again, I’ll murder her!’
Pennyloaf’s hysterical cries and the frantic invectives of her assailant made the Passage ring. Again Bob roared to the former to be off, and was at length obeyed. When Pennyloaf was out of sight he released Clem. Her twisted arms caused her such pain that she threw herself against the wall, mingling maledictions with groans. Bob burst into scornful laughter.
Clem went home vowing vengeance. In the nether world this trifling dissension might have been expected to bear its crop of violent language and straightway pass into oblivion; but Miss Peckover’s malevolence was of no common stamp, and the scene of to-night originated a feud which in the end concerned many more people than those immediately interested.
Through the day and through the evening Clara Hewett had her place behind Mrs. Tubbs’s bar. For daylight wear, the dress which had formerly been her best was deemed sufficient; it was simple, but not badly made, and became her figure. Her evening attire was provided by Mrs. Tubbs, who recouped herself by withholding the promised wages for a certain number of weeks. When Clara had surveyed this garment in the bar mirror, she turned away contemptuously; the material was cheap, the mode vulgar. It must be borne with for the present, like other indignities which she found to be in. separable from her position. As soon as her employer’s claim was satisfied, and the weekly five shillings began to be paid, Clara remembered the promise she had volunteered to her father. But John was once more at work; for the present there really seemed no need to give him any of her money, and she herself, on the other hand, lacked so many things. This dress plainly would not be suitable for the better kind of engagement she had in view; it behoved her first of all to have one made in accordance with her own taste. A mantle, too, a silk umbrella, gloves—It would be unjust to herself to share her scanty earnings with those at home.