“Where did you get your hair?”
“Do try and talk sense,” she pleaded, not insensible to the man’s ardent admiration.
Then, with something like a sigh, she left the warmth and comfort of the restaurant for the bleakness of the street, on which a thick fog had descended.
This enveloped the man and the woman. As they stood on the pavement, it seemed to cut them off from the rest of the world.
“Will you let me drive you home?”
“No, thank you.”
“Then you must let me walk with you.”
“There’s no necessity.”
“I insist. London, at this time of night, isn’t the place for a plain little girl like Mavis.”
“Now you’re talking sense.”
“I wish I thought it,” he remarked bitterly.
He paid the cabman and piloted Mavis through the fog to the other side of Regent Street; they then made for Piccadilly.
“Am I going right?” he asked.
“At present,” she replied, to ask, after a moment or two, “Why are you so extravagant?”
“That supper and keeping that cab waiting! It must have run into pounds.”
“Eh! What if it did?”
“It’s wicked. Just think of the good you could have done with it.”
“Good? Who to?” he asked blankly.
“You’ve only to look about you. Don’t you know of all the misery there is in the world?”
“To tell you the truth, I’ve never thought very much about it.”
“Then you ought to.”
“You think so?”
“Then I’ll have to.”
They were now in Piccadilly. The pavement on which they walked was crowded with women of all ages; some walked in pairs, others, singly. Whatever their age and appearance, all these women had two qualities in common—artificial complexions and bold, inviting eyes. It was the nightly market of the women of the town. This mart has much in common with any other market existing for the buying or selling of staple commodities. Amongst this assembly of women of all ages and conditions (many of whom were married), there were regular frequenters, who had been there almost from time immemorial; occasional dabblers; chance hucksterers: most were there compelled by the supreme necessity of earning a living; others displayed their wares in order to provide luxuries; whilst a few were present merely for the fun of an infrequent bargain. As at other marts, there were those who represented the interests of sellers, and extracted a commission for their pains on all sales effected by their principals. Also, most of the chaffering was negotiated over drink, to obtain which adjournment was made to the handiest bar.
This exchange was as subject to economic laws as ruthlessly as are all other markets. There were fat times, when money was plentiful; lean nights, when buyers were scarce or sellers suffered from over-supply. To complete the resemblance, this mart was sensibly affected by world events, political happenings, the robustness or weakness of other markets of industry.