“She was pulling m’leg. That’s the whole amount of it,” he said, suddenly. “It’s a bloomin’ shame the way that girl does. Why, I’ve spent over two dollars in drinks to-night. And she goes off with that plug-ugly who looks as if he had been hit in the face with a coin-die. I call it rocky treatment for a fellah like me. Here, waiter, bring me a cock-tail and make it damned strong.”
Maggie made no reply. She was watching the doors. “It’s a mean piece of business,” complained the mere boy. He explained to her how amazing it was that anybody should treat him in such a manner. “But I’ll get square with her, you bet. She won’t get far ahead of yours truly, you know,” he added, winking. “I’ll tell her plainly that it was bloomin’ mean business. And she won’t come it over me with any of her ‘now-Freddie-dears.’ She thinks my name is Freddie, you know, but of course it ain’t. I always tell these people some name like that, because if they got onto your right name they might use it sometime. Understand? Oh, they don’t fool me much.”
Maggie was paying no attention, being intent upon the doors. The mere boy relapsed into a period of gloom, during which he exterminated a number of cock-tails with a determined air, as if replying defiantly to fate. He occasionally broke forth into sentences composed of invectives joined together in a long string.
The girl was still staring at the doors. After a time the mere boy began to see cobwebs just in front of his nose. He spurred himself into being agreeable and insisted upon her having a charlotte-russe and a glass of beer.
“They’s gone,” he remarked, “they’s gone.” He looked at her through the smoke wreaths. “Shay, lil’ girl, we mightish well make bes’ of it. You ain’t such bad-lookin’ girl, y’know. Not half bad. Can’t come up to Nell, though. No, can’t do it! Well, I should shay not! Nell fine-lookin’ girl! F—i—n—ine. You look damn bad longsider her, but by y’self ain’t so bad. Have to do anyhow. Nell gone. On’y you left. Not half bad, though.”
Maggie stood up.
“I’m going home,” she said.
The mere boy started.
“Eh? What? Home,” he cried,
struck with amazement.
“I beg pardon, did hear say home?”
“I’m going home,” she repeated.
“Great Gawd, what hava struck,” demanded the mere boy of himself, stupefied.
In a semi-comatose state he conducted her on board an up-town car, ostentatiously paid her fare, leered kindly at her through the rear window and fell off the steps.
A forlorn woman went along a lighted avenue. The street was filled with people desperately bound on missions. An endless crowd darted at the elevated station stairs and the horse cars were thronged with owners of bundles.
The pace of the forlorn woman was slow. She was apparently searching for some one. She loitered near the doors of saloons and watched men emerge from them. She scanned furtively the faces in the rushing stream of pedestrians. Hurrying men, bent on catching some boat or train, jostled her elbows, failing to notice her, their thoughts fixed on distant dinners.