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- The Unclassed - 20/74 -


sovereign which he had received at the theatre, and he gave her it all. She stared, and did not understand.

"Are you coming with me?" she asked, feeling obliged to make a hideous attempt at professional coaxing in return for such generosity.

"Good God, no!" Waymark exclaimed. "Go home and take care of yourself."

She thanked him warmly, and turned away at once. As his eye followed her, he was aware that somebody else had drawn near to him from behind. This also was a girl, but of a different kind. She was well dressed, and of graceful, rounded form; a veil almost hid her face, but enough could be seen to prove that she had good looks.

"That a friend of yours?" she asked abruptly, and her voice was remarkably full, clear, and sweet.

Waymark answered with a negative, looking closely at her.

"Then why did you give her all that money?"

"How do you know what I gave her?"

"I was standing just behind here, and could see."

"Well?"

"Nothing; only I should think you are one out of a thousand. You saved me a sovereign, too; I've watched her begging of nearly a dozen people, and I couldn't have stood it much longer."

"You would have given her a sovereign?"

"I meant to, if she'd failed with you."

"Is she a friend of yours?"

"Never saw her before to-night."

"Then you must be one out of a thousand."

The girl laughed merrily.

"In that case," she said, "we ought to know each other, shouldn't we?"

"If we began by thinking so well of each other," returned Waymark, smiling, "we should not improbably suffer a grievous disappointment before long."

"Well, _you_ might. You have to take my generosity on trust, but I have proof of yours."

"You're an original sort of girl," said Waymark, throwing away the end of his cigar. "Do you talk to everybody in this way?"

"Pooh, of course not. I shouldn't be worth much if I couldn't suit my conversation to the man I want to make a fool of. Would you rather have me talk in the usual way? Shall I say--"

"I had rather not."

"Well, I knew that."

"And how?"

"Well, _you_ don't wear a veil, if I do."

"You can read faces?"

"A little, I flatter myself. Can you?"

"Give me a chance of trying."

She raised her veil, and he inspected her for some moments, then looked away.

"Excellently well, if God did all," he observed, with a smile.

"That's out of a play," she replied quickly. "I heard it a little time ago, but I forget the answer. I'd have given anything to be able to cap you! Then you'd have put me down for a clever woman, and I should have lived on the reputation henceforth and for ever. But it's all my own, indeed; I'm not afraid of crying."

"_Do_ you ever cry? I can't easily imagine it."

"Oh yes, sometimes," she answered, sighing, and at the same time lowering her veil again. "But you haven't read my face for me."

"It's a face I'm sorry to have seen."

"Why?" she asked, holding her hands clasped before her, the palms turned outwards.

"I shall think of it often after tonight, and imagine it with all its freshness gone, and marks of suffering and degradation upon it."

"Suffering, perhaps; degradation, no. Why should I be degraded?"

"You can't help yourself. The life you have chosen brings its inevitable consequences."

"Chosen!" she repeated, with an indignant face. "How do you know I had any choice in the matter? You have no right to speak contemptuously, like that."

"Perhaps not. Certainly not. I should have said--the life you are evidently leading."

"Well, I don't know that it makes so much difference. I suppose everybody has a choice at all events between life and death, and you mean that I ought to have killed myself rather than come to this. That's my own business, however, and--"

A man had just passed behind them, and, catching the sound of the girl's voice, had turned suddenly to look at her. She, at the same moment, looked towards him, and stopped all at once in her speech.

"Are you walking up Regent Street?" she asked Waymark, in quite a different voice. "Give me your arm, will you?"

Waymark complied, and they walked together in the direction she suggested.

"What is the matter with you?" he asked. "Why are you trembling?"

"Don't look round. It's that fellow behind us; I know he is following."

"Somebody you know?"

"Yes, and hate. Worse than that, I'm afraid of him. Will you keep with me till he's gone?"

"Of course I will. What harm can he do you though?"

"None that I know of. It's a strange stupid feeling I have. I can't bear the sight of him. Don't look round!"

"Has he been a--a friend of yours?"

"No, no; not in that way. But he follows me about. He'll drive me out of London, I know."

They had reached Piccadilly Circus.

"Look back now," she said, "and see if he's following still."

Waymark turned his head; the man was at a little distance behind. He stopped when be saw himself observed, and stood on the edge of the pavement, tapping his boot with his cane. He was a tall and rather burly fellow, well dressed, with a clean-shaven face.

"Let's make haste round the corner," the girl said, "and get into the restaurant. You must have some supper with me."

"I should be very happy, had I a penny in my pocket."

"See how easily good deeds are forgotten," returned the other, laughing in the old way. "Now comes my turn to give proof of generosity. Come and have some supper all the same."

"No; that's out of the question."

"Fiddlestick Surely you won't desert me when I ask your protection? Come along, and pay me back another time, if you like."

They walked round the corner, then the girl started and ran at her full speed. Waymark followed in the same way, somewhat oppressed by a sense of ridiculousness. They reached the shelter of the restaurant, and the girl led the way upstairs, laughing immoderately.

Supper was served to them, and honoured with due attention by both. Waymark had leisure to observe his companion's face in clearer light. It was beautiful, and, better still, full of character.

He presently bent forward to her, and spoke in a low voice.

"Isn't this the man who followed us just coming in now? Look, he has gone to the table on the right."

She looked round hastily, and shuddered, for she had met the man's eyes.

"Why did you tell me?" she exclaimed impatiently. "Now I can't finish my supper. Wait till he has given his order, and then we will go."

Waymark examined this mysterious persecutor. In truth, the countenance was no good one, and a woman might well dislike to have such eyes turned upon her. It was a strong face; coarse originally, and, in addition to the faults of nature, it now bore the plainest traces of hard living. As soon as he perceived Waymark and his companion, he fixed them with his eyes, and scarcely looked away as long as they remained in the room. The girl seemed shrinking under this gaze, though she sat almost with her back to him. She ceased


The Unclassed - 20/74

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