She followed Pete’s eyes with hers, anticipating with smiles gracious looks from him.
A woman of brilliance and audacity, accompanied by a mere boy, came into the place and took seats near them.
At once Pete sprang to his feet, his face beaming with glad surprise.
“By Gawd, there’s Nellie,” he cried.
He went over to the table and held out an eager hand to the woman.
“Why, hello, Pete, me boy, how are you,” said she, giving him her fingers.
Maggie took instant note of the woman. She perceived that her black dress fitted her to perfection. Her linen collar and cuffs were spotless. Tan gloves were stretched over her well-shaped hands. A hat of a prevailing fashion perched jauntily upon her dark hair. She wore no jewelry and was painted with no apparent paint. She looked clear-eyed through the stares of the men.
“Sit down, and call your lady-friend over,” she said cordially to Pete. At his beckoning Maggie came and sat between Pete and the mere boy.
“I thought yeh were gone away fer good,” began Pete, at once. “When did yeh git back? How did dat Buff’lo bus’ness turn out?”
The woman shrugged her shoulders. “Well, he didn’t have as many stamps as he tried to make out, so I shook him, that’s all.”
“Well, I’m glad teh see yehs back in deh city,” said Pete, with awkward gallantry.
He and the woman entered into a long conversation, exchanging reminiscences of days together. Maggie sat still, unable to formulate an intelligent sentence upon the conversation and painfully aware of it.
She saw Pete’s eyes sparkle as he gazed upon the handsome stranger. He listened smilingly to all she said. The woman was familiar with all his affairs, asked him about mutual friends, and knew the amount of his salary.
She paid no attention to Maggie, looking toward her once or twice and apparently seeing the wall beyond.
The mere boy was sulky. In the beginning he had welcomed with acclamations the additions.
“Let’s all have a drink! What’ll you take, Nell? And you, Miss what’s-your-name. Have a drink, Mr. -----, you, I mean.”
He had shown a sprightly desire to do the talking for the company and tell all about his family. In a loud voice he declaimed on various topics. He assumed a patronizing air toward Pete. As Maggie was silent, he paid no attention to her. He made a great show of lavishing wealth upon the woman of brilliance and audacity.
“Do keep still, Freddie! You gibber like an ape, dear,” said the woman to him. She turned away and devoted her attention to Pete.
“We’ll have many a good time together again, eh?”
“Sure, Mike,” said Pete, enthusiastic at once.
“Say,” whispered she, leaning forward, “let’s go over to Billie’s and have a heluva time.”
“Well, it’s dis way! See?” said Pete. “I got dis lady frien’ here.”