At times men at other tables regarded the girl furtively. Pete, aware of it, nodded at her and grinned. He felt proud.
“Mag, yer a bloomin’ good-looker,” he remarked, studying her face through the haze. The men made Maggie fear, but she blushed at Pete’s words as it became apparent to her that she was the apple of his eye.
Grey-headed men, wonderfully pathetic in their dissipation, stared at her through clouds. Smooth-cheeked boys, some of them with faces of stone and mouths of sin, not nearly so pathetic as the grey heads, tried to find the girl’s eyes in the smoke wreaths. Maggie considered she was not what they thought her. She confined her glances to Pete and the stage.
The orchestra played negro melodies and a versatile drummer pounded, whacked, clattered and scratched on a dozen machines to make noise.
Those glances of the men, shot at Maggie from under half-closed lids, made her tremble. She thought them all to be worse men than Pete.
“Come, let’s go,” she said.
As they went out Maggie perceived two women seated at a table with some men. They were painted and their cheeks had lost their roundness. As she passed them the girl, with a shrinking movement, drew back her skirts.
Jimmie did not return home for a number of days after the fight with Pete in the saloon. When he did, he approached with extreme caution.
He found his mother raving. Maggie had not returned home. The parent continually wondered how her daughter could come to such a pass. She had never considered Maggie as a pearl dropped unstained into Rum Alley from Heaven, but she could not conceive how it was possible for her daughter to fall so low as to bring disgrace upon her family. She was terrific in denunciation of the girl’s wickedness.
The fact that the neighbors talked of it, maddened her. When women came in, and in the course of their conversation casually asked, “Where’s Maggie dese days?” the mother shook her fuzzy head at them and appalled them with curses. Cunning hints inviting confidence she rebuffed with violence.
“An’ wid all deh bringin’ up she had, how could she?” moaningly she asked of her son. “Wid all deh talkin’ wid her I did an’ deh t’ings I tol’ her to remember? When a girl is bringed up deh way I bringed up Maggie, how kin she go teh deh devil?”
Jimmie was transfixed by these questions. He could not conceive how under the circumstances his mother’s daughter and his sister could have been so wicked.
His mother took a drink from a squdgy bottle that sat on the table. She continued her lament.
“She had a bad heart, dat girl did, Jimmie. She was wicked teh deh heart an’ we never knowed it.”
Jimmie nodded, admitting the fact.
“We lived in deh same house wid her an’ I brought her up an’ we never knowed how bad she was.”