"Come and have a bite with pa and me, Polly?"
"Not to-night. Nor can pa. That's why I've come for him. Mrs. Purdie wants him most particularly."
"Oh!" He whistled through his teeth. "Not much use my waiting, then?"
"Not much, Mr. Trotter."
"That being the case, Polly, I'll wish you good night, a piping hot supper, and pleasant dreams to you."
'Tm much obliged, Mr. Trotter," she replied with the old-fashioned gravity that made her seem so chiïdish, and then there was another blast of icy air, and the Demon King had gone.
Alfred Varley, Dame of the pantomime, made his appearance five minutes later. He was a short red-faced man with swarthy-brown eyes and a pessimistic outlook on life. It was not from her father that Paulina had inherited her delicate slightness, her personal fastidiousness or her soft voice.
"What's all this, Polly? What's she want of me tonight?"
"I don't know, pa. How should I know? She never tells me anything. But she wants you most particularly."
"Damn her, then. I've a mind not to go."
But this was bluster, and Paulina knew it. He said no more, but followed her out into the street. At first they were silent, as was of ten the case; the fog made them cough and the deadly cold pierced their bodies, biting, like fangs of ice. They passed gin-palaces aflare with lights and in one a woman sang a sailor's song in a husky voice that sounded rather comforting, crooning from amid so much gimcrack gaiety, and Alfred Varley cast longing glances inside these dens, but dared not tarry. He was conscious of resentment, and turned to Paulina.
"You're not half costing your poor pa money this winter, are you, Polly, my dear?"