The White Moll
Night In The Underworld
It was like some shadowy pantomime: The dark mouth of an alleyway thrown into murky
relief by the rays of a distant street lamp...the swift, forward leap of a skulking figure...a
girl's form swaying and struggling in the man's embrace. Then, a pantomime no longer,
there came a half threatening, half triumphant oath; and then the girl's voice, quiet,
strangely contained, almost imperious:
"Now, give me back that purse, please. Instantly!" The man, already retreating into the
alleyway, paused to fling back a jeering laugh.
"Say, youse've got yer nerve, ain't youse!"
The girl turned her head so that the rays of the street lamp, faint as they were, fell full
upon her, disclosing a sweet, oval face, out of which the dark eyes gazed steadily at the
And suddenly the man leaned forward, staring for an instant, and then his hand went
awkwardly to touch his cap.
"De White Moll!" he mumbled deferentially. He pulled the peak of his cap down over his
eyes in a sort of shame-faced way, as though to avoid recognition, and, stepping nearer,
returned the purse.
"'Scuse me, miss," he said uneasily. "I didn't know it was youse - honest to Gawd, I
didn't! 'Scuse me, miss. Good-night!"
For a moment the girl stood there motionless, looking down the alleyway after the
retreating figure. From somewhere in the distance came the rumble of an elevated train. It
drowned out the pound of the man's speeding footsteps; it died away itself - and now
there was no other sound. A pucker, strangely wistful, curiously perturbed, came and
furrowed her forehead into little wrinkles, and then she turned and walked slowly on
along the deserted street.
The White Moll! She shook her head a little. The attack had not unnerved her. Why
should it? It was simply that the man had not recognized her at first in the darkness. The
White Moll here at night in one of the loneliest, as well as one of the most vicious and
abandoned, quarters of New York, was as safe and inviolate as - as - She shook her head
again. Her mind did not instantly suggest a comparison that seemed wholly adequate. The
pucker deepened, but the sensitive, delicately chiseled lips parted now in a smile. Well,
she was safer here than anywhere else in the world, that was all.
It was the first time that anything like this had happened, and, for the very reason that it
was unprecedented, it seemed to stir her memory now, and awaken a dormant train of
thought. The White Moll! She remembered the first time she had ever been called by that
name. It took her back almost three years, and since that time, here in this sordid realm of