This arrangement about meeting one another had been suggested by Kate Rourke, who knew a good deal about theatres, and who also knew how dangerous it would be for so many girls to be seen at the station together; but dressed quietly, and just dropping in by couples, nobody would remark them.
An incident, even more ridiculous, but illustrative of the atmosphere in which Rourke dwelt, occurred at Highbridge one frosty October Sunday morning, where because of seepage from a hill which threatened to undermine some tracks, Rourke was ordered to hurry and build a drain a thing which, because the order came on Saturday afternoon, required Sunday labor, a most unusual thing in his case.
Kathleen herself was in the midst of the light, and the other girls clustered round the edge. "Isn't it scrumptious?" said Kate Rourke. "Oh, is that you, Susy Hopkins? You are late." "Yes, I know I am. It's a wonder I could come at all," said Susy. "Ruth Craven hasn't come yet," said another voice. "Yes, here she is," cried a third, and Ruth came and stood at the edge of the patch of light.
Considerable effort was made on the part of the latter to learn just what the trouble was, after which the big foreman interposed with: "What's the trouble here? Come, now! What's all this row, Rourke? Ye wouldn't fight here, would ye? Have him arristed, er go to his home ye say ye know him but don't be fightin' here.
Oh Ruth, don't fail me!" "I won't; but I hate that rule." "And, girls, I think we must part now," said Kate Rourke. "It is getting late, and it would never do for our secret meetings to be discovered." "Whatever happens, we must stick together," said Kathleen. "Well, good-night; we meet again this day week."
Whether anything serious would really have happened I was never permitted to learn, for now, in addition to myself and the Italians, all of them excited and ready to defend their lord and master, some passengers from the nearby station and the street above as well as a foreman of a section gang helping at this same task, a great hulking brute of a man who looked quite able to handle both Rourke and his opponent at one and the same time, came forward and joined in this excited circle.
His spurred heels dug into the soft pine of the pole with little ripe, tearing sounds. He walked up to Stasia and stood squarely in front of her, six feet of brawn and brazen nerve. One ruddy cheek he presented to her astonished gaze. "Hello, sweetheart," he said. And waited. The Rourke girl hesitated just a second.
It was a moot point whether Lady Pat Rourke merited condemnation or pity. She possessed that type of blonde beauty which seems to be a lodestone for mankind in general.
"Be off, or I'll bate the life out of every mother's son of ye, an' my name's Pat Rourke," said a tall Irish boy who came up that moment, laying about him right and left among the little brutes, who scampered in every direction, not without a few wholesome bruises as witnesses to Pat's bravery.
This same Matt was a funny little Italian, soft of voice and gentle of manner, whom Rourke liked very much, but with whom he loved to quarrel. He would go down in any hole where the latter was working, and almost invariably shortly after you would hear the most amazing uproar issuing therefrom, shouts of: "Put it here, I say! Put it here! Down with it! Here! Here!