Corley closed one eye expressively as an answer.
"Is she game for that?" asked Lenehan dubiously. "You can never know women."
"She's all right," said Corley. "I know the way to get around her, man. She's a bit gone on me."
"You're what I call a gay Lothario," said Lenehan. "And the proper kind of a Lothario, too!"
A shade of mockery relieved the servility of his manner. To save himself he had the habit of leaving his flattery open to the interpretation of raillery. But Corley had not a subtle mind.
"There's nothing to touch a good slavey," he affirmed. "Take my tip for it."
"By one who has tried them all," said Lenehan.
"First I used to go with girls, you know," said Corley, unbosoming; "girls off the South Circular. I used to take them out, man, on the tram somewhere and pay the tram or take them to a band or a play at the theatre or buy them chocolate and sweets or something that way. I used to spend money on them right enough," he added, in a convincing tone, as if he was conscious of being disbelieved.
But Lenehan could well believe it; he nodded gravely.
"I know that game," he said, "and it's a mug's game."
"And damn the thing I ever got out of it," said Corley.
"Ditto here," said Lenehan.
"Only off of one of them," said Corley.
He moistened his upper lip by running his tongue along it. The recollection brightened his eyes. He too gazed at the pale disc of the moon, now nearly veiled, and seemed to meditate.
She was . . . a bit of all right," he said regretfully.
He was silent again. Then he added:
"She's on the turf now. I saw her driving down Earl Street one night with two fellows with her on a car."
"I suppose that's your doing," said Lenehan.
"There was others at her before me," said Corley philosophically.
This time Lenehan was inclined to disbelieve. He shook his head to and fro and smiled.
"You know you can't kid me, Corley," he said.
"Honest to God!" said Corley. "Didn't she tell me herself?"
Lenehan made a tragic gesture.
"Base betrayer!" he said.
As they passed along the railings of Trinity College, Lenehan skipped out into the road and peered up at the clock.
"Twenty after," he said.
"Time enough," said Corley. "She'll be there all right. I always let her wait a bit."
Lenehan laughed quietly.
'Ecod! Corley, you know how to take them," he said.
"I'm up to all their little tricks," Corley confessed.
"But tell me," said Lenehan again, "are you sure you can bring it off all right? You know it's a ticklish job. They're damn close on that point. Eh? . . . What?"
His bright, small eyes searched his companion's face for reassurance. Corley swung his head to and fro as if to toss aside an insistent insect, and his brows gathered.
"I'll pull it off," he said. "Leave it to me, can't you?"
Lenehan said no more. He did not wish to ruffle his friend's temper, to be sent to the devil and told that his advice was not wanted. A little tact was necessary. But Corley's brow was soon smooth again. His thoughts were running another way.
"She's a fine decent tart," he said, with appreciation; "that's what she is."
They walked along Nassau Street and then turned into Kildare Street. Not far from the porch of the club a harpist stood in the roadway, playing to a little ring of listeners. He plucked at the wires heedlessly, glancing quickly from time to time at the face of each new-comer and from time to time, wearily also, at the sky. His harp, too, heedless that her coverings had fallen about her knees, seemed weary alike of the eyes of strangers and of her master's hands. One hand played in the bass the melody of Silent, O Moyle, while the other hand careered in the treble after each group of notes. The notes of the air sounded deep and full.
The two young men walked up the street without speaking, the mournful music following them. When they reached Stephen's Green they crossed the road. Here the noise of trams, the lights and the crowd released them from their silence.
"There she is!" said Corley.
At the corner of Hume Street a young woman was standing. She wore a blue dress and a white sailor hat. She stood on the curbstone, swinging a sunshade in one hand. Lenehan grew lively.
"Let's have a look at her, Corley," he said.
Corley glanced sideways at his friend and an unpleasant grin appeared on his face.
"Are you trying to get inside me?" he asked.
"Damn it!" said Lenehan boldly, "I don't want an introduction. All I want is to have a look at her. I'm not going to eat her."
"O . . . A look at her?" said Corley, more amiably. "Well . . . I'll tell you what. I'll go over and talk to her and you can pass by."
"Right!" said Lenehan.
Corley had already thrown one leg over the chains when Lenehan called out:
"And after? Where will we meet?"
"Half ten," answered Corley, bringing over his other leg.
"Corner of Merrion Street. We'll be coming back."
"Work it all right now," said Lenehan in farewell.
Corley did not answer. He sauntered across the road swaying his head from side to side. His bulk, his easy pace, and the solid sound of his boots had something of the conqueror in them. He approached the young woman and, without saluting, began at once to converse with her. She swung her umbrella more quickly and executed half turns on her heels. Once or twice when he spoke to her at close quarters she laughed and bent her head.
Lenehan observed them for a few minutes. Then he walked rapidly along beside the chains at some distance and crossed the road obliquely. As he approached Hume Street corner he found the air heavily scented and his eyes made a swift anxious scrutiny of the young woman's appearance. She had her Sunday finery on. Her blue serge skirt was held at the waist by a belt of black leather. The great silver buckle of her belt seemed to depress the centre of her body, catching the light stuff of her white blouse like a clip. She wore a short black jacket with mother-of-pearl buttons and a ragged black boa. The ends of her tulle collarette had been carefully disordered and a big bunch of red flowers was pinned in her bosom stems upwards. Lenehan's eyes noted approvingly her stout short muscular body. rank rude health glowed in her face, on her fat red cheeks and in her unabashed blue eyes. Her features were blunt. She had broad nostrils, a straggling mouth which lay open in a contented leer, and two projecting front teeth. As he passed Lenehan took off his cap and, after about ten seconds, Corley returned a salute to the air. This he did by raising his hand vaguely and pensively changing the angle of position of his hat.