The manner must have been defective. She looked through him and said with great firmness, "Nothing like that, old pippin." Again he was taken with a violent fit of shivering. He could not meet her eyes. He was turning away when she seized him by the wrist. Her grip was amazingly forceful. He doubted if he could break away even with his stoutest effort. He stood miserably staring at the ground. Suddenly the girl reached up to pat his shoulder. He shivered again and she continued to pat it. When his teeth had ceased to be castanets she spoke:
"Listen here, old Kid, you can't fool any one, so quit trying. Don't you s'pose I've seen 'em like you before? Say, boy, I was trouping while you played with marbles. You're up against it. Now, c'mon"-- with the arm at his shoulder she pulled him about to face her-"c'mon and be nice-tell mother all about it."
The late Clifford Armytage was momentarily menaced by a complete emotional overthrow. Another paroxysm of shivering perhaps averted this humiliation. The girl dropped his wrist, turned, stooped, and did something. He recalled the scene in the gambling hell, only this time she fronted away from the camera. When she faced him again he was not surprised to see bills in her hand. It could only have been the chill he suffered that kept him from blushing. She forced the bills into his numb fingers and he stared at them blankly. "I can't take these," he muttered.
"There, now, there, now! Be easy. Naturally I know you're all right or I wouldn't give up this way. You're just having a run of hard luck. The Lord knows, I've been helped out often enough in my time. Say, listen, I'll never forget when I went out as a kid with Her First False Step-they had lions in that show. It was a frost from the start. No salaries, no nothing. I got a big laugh one day when I was late at rehearsal. The manager says: 'You're fined two dollars, Miss Montague.' I says, 'All right, Mr. Gratz, but you'll have to wait till I can write home for the money.' Even Gratz had to laugh. Anyway, the show went bust and I never would 'a' got any place if two or three parties hadn't of helped me out here and there, just the same as I'm doing with you this minute. So don't be foolish."
"Well-you see-I don't--" He broke off from nervous weakness. In his mind was a jumble of incongruous sentences and he seemed unable to manage any of them.
The girl now sent a clean shot through his armour. "When'd you eat last?"
He looked at the ground again in painful embarrassment. Even in the chill air he was beginning to feel hot. "I don't remember," he said at last quite honestly.
"That's what I thought. You go eat. Go to Mother Haggin's, that cafeteria just outside the gate. She has better breakfast things than the place on the lot." Against his will the vision of a breakfast enthralled him, yet even under this exaltation an instinct of the wariest caution survived.