Here he turned his head so that his eyes leered at her. Mavis repressed an inclination to throw the teapot at his head. He went on:
“To-day, we made a mistake; we offended a rich and important customer. That would be a serious matter for you if I reported it, but, as I gather, you’re now a sensible little girl, you may make it worth my while to save you.”
Mavis bit her lip.
“What if you’re still a little fool? You will get the sack; and girls from ‘Dawes’’ always find it hard to get another job. You will wear yourself out trapesing about after a ‘shop,’ and by and by you will starve and rot and die.”
Mavis trembled with anger. The man went on talking. His words were no longer coherent, but the phrases “make you manageress”—“four pounds a week”—“share the expenses of a little flat together,” fell on her ear.
“Say no more,” Mavis was able to cry at last.
The next moment, Mavis felt the man’s arms about her, his hot, gasping breath on her cheek, his beard brushing against her mouth, in his efforts to kiss her. The attack took her by surprise. Directly she was able to recover herself, she clawed the fingers of her left hand into his face and forced his head away from her till she held it at arm’s length. Orgles’s head was now upon one side, so that one of his eyes was able to glare hungrily at her; his big nostrils were dilating with the violence of his passion. Mavis trembled with a fierce, resentful rage.
“Your answer: your answer: your answer?” gasped the man huskily.
“This: this: this!” cried Mavis, punctuating each word with a blow from her right hand upon Orgles’s face. “This: this: this! It’s men like you who drag poor girls down. It’s men like you who bring them to horrible things, which they’d never have dreamed of, if it hadn’t been for you. It’s men like you who make wickedness. You’re the worst man I ever met, and I’d rather die in the gutter than be fouled by the touch of a horrible old beast like you.”
Her anger blazed up into a final flame. This gave her strength to throw the old man from her; he crashed into the grate; she heard his head strike against the coal-box. Mavis cast one look upon the shapeless and bleeding heap of humanity and left the room.
Mavis was again workless, this time with a capital of fifteen shillings and sixpence halfpenny.
Immediately after her interview with Orgles, she had gone to her room to change into her out-of-door clothes.
She disregarded the many questions that several of the girls came upstairs to ask her. She packed up her things as a preliminary to leaving “Dawes’” for good. For many hours she paced the streets, heedless of where her steps led her, her heart seemingly breaking with rage and shame at the insults to which she had been subjected.