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The Big-Town Round-Up by William MacLeod Raine

Whitford has kindly promised to play host in my place


Clay

turned to him inquiringly.

"A woman was looking out of that doorway at us," he said. "If she's not in deep water I'm a bad guesser. I thought for a moment she knew me or some one of us. She started to reach out her hands and then shrank back."

"Young or old?" asked the cattleman.

"Young--a girl."

"Which door?"

"The third."

"Excuse me." The host was off in an instant, almost on the run.

But the woman had gone, swallowed in the semi-darkness of a side street. Clay followed.

Beatrice turned to her father, eyebrows lifted. There was a moment's awkward silence.

"Mr. Lindsay will be back presently," Whitford said. "We'll get in and wait for him out of the way a little farther up the street."

When Clay rejoined them he was without his overcoat. He stood in the heavy rain beside the car, a figure of supple grace even in his evening clothes, and talked in a low voice with Beatrice's father. The mining man nodded agreement and Lindsay turned to the others.

"I'm called away," he explained aloud. "Mr. Whitford has kindly promised to play host in my place. I'm right sorry to leave, but it's urgent."

style="text-align: justify;">His grave smile asked Beatrice to be charitable in her findings. The eyes she gave him were coldly hostile. She, too, had caught a glimpse of the haggard face in the shadows and she hardened her will against him. The bottom of his heart went out as he turned away. He knew Beatrice did not and would not understand.

The girl was waiting where Clay had left her, crouched against a basement milliner's door under the shelter of the steps. She was wearing the overcoat he had flung around her. In its pallid despair her face was pitiable.

A waterproofed policeman glanced suspiciously at them as he sloshed along the sidewalk in the splashing rain.

"I--I've looked for you everywhere," moaned the girl. "It's been--awful."

"I know, but it's goin' to be all right now, Kitty," he comforted. "You're goin' home with me to-night. To-morrow we'll talk it all over."

He tucked an arm under hers and led her along the wet, shining street to a taxicab. She crouched in a corner of the cab, her body shaken with sobs.

The young man moved closer and put a strong arm around her shoulders. "Don't you worry, Kitty. Yore big brother is on the job now."

"I--I wanted to--to kill myself," she faltered. "I tried to--in the river--and--it was so black--I couldn't." The girl shivered with cold. She had been exposed to the night rain for hours without a coat.


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