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Past One At Rooney’s
by [?]

A girl, alone, entered Rooney’s, glanced around with leisurely swiftness, and sat opposite McManus at his table. Her eyes rested upon him for two seconds in the look with which woman reconnoitres all men whom she for the first time confronts. In that space of time she will decide upon one of two things–either to scream for the police, or that she may marry him later on.

Her brief inspection concluded, the girl laid on the table a worn red morocco shopping bag with the inevitable top-gallant sail of frayed lace handkerchief flying from a corner of it. After she had ordered a small beer from the immediate waiter she took from her bag a box of cigarettes and lighted one with slightly exaggerated ease of manner. Then she looked again in the eyes of Cork McManus and smiled.

Instantly the doom of each was sealed.

The unqualified desire of a man to buy clothes and build fires for a woman for a whole lifetime at first sight of her is not uncommon among that humble portion of humanity that does not care for Bradstreet or coats-of-arms or Shaw’s plays. Love at first sight has occurred a time or two in high life; but, as a rule, the extempore mania is to be found among unsophisticated cratures such as the dove, the blue-tailed dingbat, and the ten-dollar-a-week clerk. Poets, subscribers to all fiction magazines, and schatchens, take notice.

With the exchange of the mysterious magnetic current came to each of them the instant desire to lie, pretend, dazzle and deceive, which is the worst thing about the hypocritical disorder known as love.

“Have another beer?” suggested Cork. In his circle the phrase was considered to be a card, accompanied by a letter of introduction and references.

“No, thanks,” said the girl, raising her eyebrows and choosing her conventional words carefully. “I–merely dropped in for–a slight refreshment.” The cigarette between her fingers seemed to require explanation. “My aunt is a Russian lady,” she concluded, “and we often have a post perannual cigarette after dinner at home.”

“Cheese it!” said Cork, whom society airs oppressed. “Your fingers are as yellow as mine.”

“Say,” said the girl, blazing upon him with low-voiced indignation, “what do you think I am? Say, who do you think you are talking to? What?”

She was pretty to look at. Her eyes were big, brown, intrepid and bright. Uner her flat sailor hat, planted jauntily on one side, her crinkly, tawny hair parted and was drawn back. low and massy, in a thick, pendant knot behind. The roundness of girlhood still lingered in her chin and neck, but her cheeks and fingers were thinning slightly. She looked upon the world with defiance, suspicion, and sullen wonder. Her smart, short tan coat was soiled and expensive. Two inches below her black dress dropped the lowest flounce of a heliotrope silk underskirt.

“Beg your pardon,” said Cork, looking at her admiringly. “I didn’t mean anything. Sure, it’s no harm to smoke, Maudy.”

“Rooney’s,” said the girl, softened at once by his amends, “is the only place I know where a lady can smoke. Maybe it ain’t a nice habit, but aunty lets us at home. And my name ain’t Maudy, if you please; it’s Ruby Delamere.”

“That’s a swell handle,” said Cork approvingly. “Mine’s McManus –Cor–er–Eddie McManus.”

“Oh, you can’t help that,” laughed Ruby. “Don’t apologize.”

Cork looked seriously at the big clock on Rooney’s wall. The girl’s ubiquitous eyes took in the movement.

“I know it’s late,” she said, reaching for her bag; “but you know how you want a smoke when you want one. Ain’t Rooney’s all right? I never saw anything wrong here. This is twice I’ve been in. I work in a bookbindery on Third Avenue. A lot of us girls have been working overtime three nights a week. They won’t let you smoke there, of course. I just dropped in here on my way home for a puff. Ain’t it all right in here? If it ain’t, I won’t come any more.”