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Title: Shorty McCabe on the Job
Author: Ford, Sewell, 1868-1946
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Shorty McCabe on the Job" ***

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SHORTY McCABE ON THE JOB

by

SEWELL FORD

Author of Shorty Mccabe, Side-Stepping with Shorty, Etc.

Illustrated by F. Vaux Wilson



[Illustration: "It might give us some clew," says I, "as to what him and
your paw had a run-in about."]



New York
Grosset & Dunlap
Publishers

Copyright, 1913, 1914, 1915, by
Sewell Ford
Copyright, 1915, by
Edward J. Clode
All rights reserved



CONTENTS

 CHAPTER                                                 PAGE

       I. Wishing a New One on Shorty                       1
      II. A Few Squirms by Bayard                          18
     III. Peeking in on Pedders                            32
      IV. Two Singles to Goober                            49
       V. The Case of a Female Party                       65
      VI. How Millie Shook the Jinx                        81
     VII. Reverse English on Sonny Boy                    100
    VIII. Gumming Gopher to the Map                       115
      IX. What Lindy Had up Her Sleeve                    131
       X. A Case of Nobody Home                           150
      XI. Under the Wire with Edwin                       165
     XII. A Fifty-Fifty Split with Hunk                   182
    XIII. A Follow Through by Eggy                        198
     XIV. Catching up with Gerald                         217
      XV. Shorty Hears from Pemaquid                      233
     XVI. Scratch One on Bulgaroo                         251
    XVII. Bayard Ducks His Past                           267
   XVIII. Trailing Dudley Through a Trance                285
     XIX. A Little While with Alvin                       304



ILLUSTRATIONS

"It might give us some clew," says I, "as to
    what him and your paw has a run-in about"     Frontispiece

                                                   FACING PAGE
"I wouldn't have anything happen to you
    for the world," says I                                   8

"Now see hea-uh, Mistuh Constable," says he,
    "I wouldn't go for to do anything like that"            60

"Say, I'm a bear for Paris"                                 97

"Now, friends," he calls, "everybody in on the chorus"     124

"What's the idea," says Mabel, "wishin' this
    Rube stuff on us?"                                     157

He sidles up to the desk and proceeds to make
    some throaty noises                                    199

Blamed if Dudley don't have the nerve to tow
    Veronica into the next room, stretchin' on
    tiptoe to talk in her ear                              298



SHORTY McCABE ON THE JOB

CHAPTER I

WISHING A NEW ONE ON SHORTY


Do things just happen, like peculiar changes in the weather, or is there
a general scheme on file somewhere? Is it a free-for-all we're mixed up
in--with our Harry Thaws and our Helen Kellers; our white slavers, our
white hopes, and our white plague campaigns; our trunk murders, and our
fire heroes? Or are we runnin' on schedule and headed somewhere?

I ain't givin' you the answer. I'm just slippin' you the proposition,
with the side remark that now and then, when the jumble seems worse than
ever, you can get a glimpse of what might be a clew, or might not.

Anyway, here I was, busy as a little bee, blockin' right hooks and body
jabs that was bein' shot at me by a husky young uptown minister who's a
headliner at his job, I understand, but who's developin' a good, useful
punch on the side. I was just landin' a cross wallop to the ribs, by way
of keepin' him from bein' too ambitious with his left, when out of the
tail of my eye I notices Swifty Joe edgin' in with a card in his paw.

"Time out!" says I, steppin' back and droppin' my guard. "Well, Swifty,
what's the scandal?"

"Gent waitin' to see you," says he.

"Let him wait, then," says I.

"Ah-r-r-r, but he's a reg'lar gent!" protests Swifty, fingerin' the
card.

"Even so, he'll keep five minutes more, won't he?" says I.

"But he--he's----" begins Swifty, strugglin' to connect that mighty
intellect of his with his tongue.

"Ah, read off the name," says I. "Is it Mayor Mitchel, Doc Wilson, or
who?"

"It says J. B-a-y-a-r-d Ste--Steele," says Swifty.

"Eh?" says I, gawpin'. "Lemme see. Him! Say, Swifty, you go back and
tell J. Bayard that if he's got nerve enough to want to see me, it'll be
a case of wait. And if he's at all messy about it, I give you leave to
roll him downstairs. The front of some folks! Come on now, Dominie!
Cover up better with that right mitt: I'm goin' to push in a few on you
this time."

And if you never saw a Fifth avenue preacher well lathered up you should
have had a glimpse of this one at the end of the next round. He's game,
though; even thanks me for it puffy.

"You're welcome," says I. "Maybe I did steam 'em in a bit; but I expect
it was because I had my mind on that party out front. While you're
rubbin' down I'll step in and attend to his case. If I could only wish a
pair of eight-ounce gloves on him for a few minutes!"

So, without stoppin' to change, or even sheddin' the mitts, I walks into
the front office, to discover this elegant party in the stream-line
cutaway pacin' restless up and down the room. Yes, he sure is some
imposin' to look at, with his pearl gray spats, and the red necktie
blazin' brilliant under the close-clipped crop of Grand Duke whiskers. I
don't know what there is special about a set of frosted face shubb'ry
that sort of suggests bank presidents and so on, but somehow they do.
Them and the long, thin nose gives him a pluty, distinguished look, in
spite of the shifty eyes and the weak mouth lines. But I ain't in a mood
to be impressed.

"Well?" says I snappy.

I expect my appearin' in a cut-out jersey, with my shoulder muscles
still bunched, must have jarred him a little; for he lifts his eyebrows
doubtful and asks, "Er--Professor McCabe, is it?"

"Uh-huh," says I. "What'll it be?"

"My name," says he, "is Steele."

"I know," says I. "Snug fit too, I judge."

He flushes quick and stiffens. "Do you mean to infer, Sir, that----"

"You're on," says I. "The minute I heard your name I placed you for the
smooth party that tried to unload a lot of that phony Radio stock on
Mrs. Benny Sherwood. Wanted to euchre her out of the twenty thousand
life insurance she got when Benny took the booze count last winter, eh?
Well, it happens she's a friend of Mrs. McCabe, and it was through me
your little scheme was blocked. Now I guess we ought to be real well
acquainted."

But I might have known such crude stuff wouldn't get under the hide of a
polished article like J. Bayard. He only shrugs his shoulders and smiles
sarcastic.

"The pleasure seems to be all mine," says he. "But as you choose. Who am
I to contend with the defender of the widow and the orphan that between
issuing a stock and trading in it there is a slight difference? However
deeply I am distressed by your private opinion of me, I shall try
to----"

"Ah, ditch the sarcasm," says I, "and spring your game! What is it this
trip, a wire-tappin' scheme, or just plain green goods?"

"You flatter me," says J. Bayard. "No, my business of the moment is not
to appropriate any of the princely profits of your--er--honest toil,"
and he stops for another of them acetic-acid smiles.

"Yes," says I, "it is a batty way of gettin' money--workin' for it, eh?
But go on. Whatcher mean you lost your dog?"

"I--er--I beg pardon?" says he.

"Ah, get down to brass tacks!" says I. "You ain't payin' a society call,
I take it?"

He gets that. And what do you guess comes next? Well, he hands over a
note. It's from a lawyer's office, askin' him to call at two P.M. that
day to meet with me, as it reads, "and discuss a matter of mutual
interest and advantage." It's signed "R. K. Judson, Attorney."

"Well, couldn't you wait?" says I. "It's only eleven-thirty now, you
know."

"It is merely a question," says Steele, "of whether or not I shall go at
all."

"So you hunt me up to do a little private sleuthin' first, eh?" says I.

"It is only natural," says he. "I don't know this Mr.--er--Judson, or
what he wants of me."

"No more do I," says I. "And the notice I got didn't mention you at all;
so you have that much edge on me."

"And you are going?" says he.

"I'll take a chance, sure," says I. "Maybe I'll button my pockets a
little tighter, and tuck my watchfob out of sight; but no lawyer can
throw a scare into me just by askin' me to call. Besides, it says
'mutual interest and advantage,' don't it?"

"H-m-m-m!" says Mr. Steele, after gazin' at the note thoughtful. "So it
does. But lawyers have a way of----" Here he breaks off sudden and asks,
"You say you never heard of this Mr. Judson before?"

"That's where you fool yourself," says I. "I said I didn't know him; but
if it'll relieve your mind any, I've heard him mentioned. He used to
handle Pyramid Gordon's private affairs."

"Ah! Gordon!" says Steele, his shifty eyes narrowin'. "Yes, yes! Died
abroad a month or so ago, didn't he?"

"In Rome," says I. "The rheumatism got to his heart. He could see it
comin' to him before he left. Poor old Pyramid!"

"Indeed?" says Steele. "And was Gordon--er--a friend of yours, may I
ask?"

"One of my best," says I. "Know him, did you?"

Mr. Steele darts a quick glance at me. "Rather!" says he.

"Then there can't be so much myst'ry about this note, then," says I.
"Maybe he's willed us a trinket or so. Friend of yours too, I expect?"

J. Bayard almost grins at that. "I have no good reason to doubt," says
he, "that Pyramid Gordon hated me quite as thoroughly and actively as I
disliked him."

"He was good at that too," says I. "Had a little run-in with him, did
you?"

"One that lasted something like twenty years," says Steele.

"Oh!" says I. "Fluffs or finance?"

[Illustration: "I wouldn't have anything happen to you for the world,"
says I.]

"Purely a business matter," says he. "It began in Chicago, back in the
good old days when trade was unhampered by fool administrations. At the
time, if I may mention the fact, I had some little prominence as a pool
organizer. We were trying to corner July wheat,--getting along very
nicely too,--when your friend Gordon got in our way. He had managed to
secure control of a dinky grain-carrying railroad and a few elevators.
On the strength of that he demanded that we let him in. So we were
forced to take measures to--er--eliminate him."

"And Pyramid wouldn't be eliminated, eh?" says I.

J. Bayard shrugs his shoulders careless and spreads out his hands.
"Gordon luck!" says he. "Of course we were unprepared for such methods
as he employed against us. Up to that time no one had thought of
stealing an advance copy of the government crop report and using it to
break the market. However, it worked. Our corner went to smash. I was
cleaned out. You might have thought that would have satisfied most men;
but not Pyramid Gordon! Why, he even pushed things so far as to sell out
my office furniture, and bought the brass signs, with my name on them,
to hang in his own office, as a Sioux Indian displays a scalp, or a
Mindanao head hunter ornaments his gatepost with his enemy's skull. That
was the beginning; and while my opportunities for paying off the score
have been somewhat limited, I trust I have neglected none. And
now--well, I can't possibly see why the closing up of his affairs
should interest me at all. Can you?"

"Say, you don't think I'm doin' any volunteer frettin' on your account,
do you?" says I.

"I quite understand," says he. "But about seeing this lawyer--do you
advise me to go?"

He's squintin' at me foxy out of them shifty eyes of his, cagy and
suspicious, like we was playin' some kind of a game. You know the sort
of party J. Bayard is--if you don't, you're lucky. So what's the use
wastin' breath? I steps over and opens the front office door.

"Don't chance it," says I. "I wouldn't have anything happen to you for
the world. I'll tell Judson I've come alone, to talk for the dictograph
and stand on the trapdoor. And as you go down the stairs there better
walk close to the wall."

J. Bayard, still smilin', takes the hint. "Oh, I may turn up, after
all," says he as he leaves.

"Huh!" says I, indicatin' deep scorn.

But if I'd been curious before about this invite to the law office, I
was more so now. So shortly after two I was on hand. And I find Mr.
Steele has beat me to it by a minute or so. He's camped in the waitin'
room, lookin' as imposin' and elegant as ever.

"Well, you ain't been sandbagged or jabbed with a poison needle yet, I
see," says I.

He glances around uneasy. "Mr. Judson is coming," says he. "They said he
was--here he is!"

Nothin' terrifyin' about Judson, either. He's a slim-built, youngish
lookin' party, with an easy, quiet way of talkin', a friendly, confidin'
smile; but about the keenest, steadiest pair of brown eyes I ever had
turned loose on me. He shakes us cordial by the hand, thanks us for
bein' prompt, and tows us into his private office.

"I have the papers all ready," says he.

"That's nice," says I. "And maybe sometime or other you can tell us what
it's all about?"

"At once," says he. "You are named as co-executors with me for the
estate of the late Curtis B. Gordon."

At which J. Bayard gasps. "I?" says he. "An executor for Pyramid
Gordon?"

Judson nods. "I understand," says he, "that you were--ah--not on
friendly terms with Mr. Gordon. But he was a somewhat unusual man, you
know. In this instance, for example, he has selected Professor McCabe,
whom he designates as one of his most trusted friends, and yourself,
whom he designates as his--ah--oldest enemy. No offense, I hope?"

"Quite accurate, so far as I am concerned," says Steele.

"Very well," says the lawyer. "Then I may read the terms of his will
that he wishes us to carry out."

And, believe me, even knowin' some of the odd streaks of Pyramid Gordon
the way I did, this last and final sample had me bug-eyed before Judson
got through! It starts off straight enough, with instructions to deal
out five thousand here and ten there, to various parties,--his old
office manager, his man Minturn, that niece of his out in Denver, and so
on. But when it come to his scheme for disposin' of the bulk of his
pile--well, just lemme sketch it for you!

Course, I can't give it to you the way Pyramid had it put down; but here
was the gen'ral plan: Knowin' he had to take the count, he'd been
chewin' things over. He wa'n't squealin', or tryin' to square himself
either here or beyond. He'd lived his own life in his own way, and he
was standin' pat on his record. He knew he'd put over some raw deals;
but the same had been handed to him. Maybe he'd hit back at times
harder'n he'd been hit. If he had, he wa'n't sorry. He'd only played the
game accordin' to the rules he knew.

Still, now that it was most over, he had in mind a few cases where he'd
always meant to sort of even things up if he could. There was certain
parties he'd thrown the hooks into kind of deep maybe, durin' the heat
of the scrap; and afterwards, from time to time, he'd thought he might
have a chance to do 'em a good turn,--help 'em back to their feet again,
or something like that. But somehow, with bein' so busy, and kind of out
of practice at that sort of thing, he'd never got around to any of 'em.
So now he was handin' over the job to us, all in a lump.

"And I have here," goes on Mr. Judson, exhibitin' a paper, "a list of
names and addresses. They are the persons, Mr. Steele, on whose behalf
you are requested, with the advice and help of Professor McCabe, to
perform some kind and generous act. My part will be merely to handle the
funds." And he smiles confidin' at J. Bayard.

Mr. Steele has been listenin' close, his ears cocked, and them shifty
eyes of his takin' in every move; but at this last he snorts. "Do you
mean to say," says he, "that I am asked to--er--to play the good fairy
to persons who have been wronged by Pyramid Gordon?"

"Precisely," says the lawyer. "They number something over twenty, I
believe; but the fund provided is quite ample--nearly three millions, if
we are able to realize on all the securities."

"But this is absurd," says J. Bayard, "asking me to distribute gifts and
so on to a lot of strangers with whom I have nothing in common, except,
perhaps, a common enemy! A fine time I'd have, wouldn't I, explaining
that----"

"Pardon me," breaks in Judson, "but one of the conditions is that it
must all be done anonymously; at least, so far as the late Mr. Gordon is
concerned. As for your own identity in the several cases, you may make
it known or not, as you see fit."

"How truly fascinating!" sneers Mr. Steele, gettin' up and reachin' for
his hat. "To go about like an unseen ministering angel, trying to salve
the bygone bruises of those who were unlucky enough to get in Pyramid
Gordon's way! Beautiful! But unfortunately I have other affairs."

He was startin' for the door too, when Judson smiles quiet and holds up
a stayin' hand. "Just a moment more," says the lawyer. "You may be
interested to hear of another disposition decided upon by Mr. Gordon in
the event of your refusal to act in this capacity."

"He might have known me better," says Steele.

"Perhaps he did," says Judson. "I should hardly say that he lacked
insight or shrewdness. He was a man too, who was quite accustomed to
having his own way. In this instance he had rather a respectable fortune
to dispose of according to his own somewhat original ideas. Leave it to
public institutions he would not. He was thoroughly opposed to what he
termed post-mortem philanthropy of the general kind. To quote his own
words, 'I am not enough of a hypocrite to believe that a society based
on organized selfishness can right its many wrongs by spasmodic gifts to
organized charity.'"

J. Bayard shifts uneasy on his feet and smothers a yawn. "All very
interesting, I'm sure," says he; "but really, you know, Pyramid
Gordon's theories on such matters do not----"

"I am merely suggesting," breaks in the lawyer, "that you may care to
glance over another list of twenty names. These are the persons among
whom Mr. Gordon's estate will be divided if the first plan cannot be
carried out."

Mr. Steele hesitates; but he fin'lly fishes out a pair of swell nose
pinchers that he wears hung from a wide ribbon, and assumes a bored
expression. He don't hold that pose long. He couldn't have read more'n a
third of the names before he shows signs of bein' mighty int'rested.

"Why, see here!" says he. "I'd like to know, Sir, where in thunder you
got this list!"

"Yes, I thought you would," says Judson. "It was quite simple. Perhaps
you remember, a few days ago, meeting a friendly, engaging young man in
the café of your hotel? Asked you to join him at luncheon, I believe,
and talked vaguely about making investments?"

"Young Churchill?" says J. Bayard.

"Correct," says the lawyer. "One of our brightest young men.
Entertaining talker too. And if I'm not mistaken, it was he who opened a
good-natured discussion as to the limit of actual personal acquaintance
which the average man has, ending by his betting fifty dollars--rather
foolishly, I admit--that you could not remember the names and addresses
of twenty persons whom you actually disliked. Well, you won. Here is the
list you made out."

And the stunned way J. Bayard gawps at the piece of paper brings out a
snicker from me. He flushes up at that and glares down at Judson.

"Tactics worthy of a Tombs lawyer!" says he. "I congratulate you on your
high-class legal methods!"

"Oh, not at all," says Judson. "A suggestion of Mr. Gordon's. Another
evidence of his insight into character, as well as his foresight into
events. So, you see, Mr. Steele, if you decline to become the benefactor
of Mr. Gordon's enemies, his money goes to yours!"

"The old fox!" snarls J. Bayard. "Why--I--let me see that list again."

It's no more'n gripped in his fingers than he steps back quick and
begins tearin' it to bits. I'd jumped for him and had his wrists
clinched when Judson waves me off.

"Only a copy," says he smilin'. "I have several more. Sit down, Mr.
Steele, and let me give you another."

Kind of dazed and subdued, J. Bayard submits to bein' pushed into a
chair. After a minute or so he fixes his glasses again, and begins
starin' at the fresh list, mumblin' over some of the names to himself.

"To them! Three millions!" says he gaspy.

"Roughly estimated," says Judson, "that would be about one hundred and
fifty thousand dollars apiece which you would, in effect, hand over."

"And the only way to keep them from getting it," goes on Steele, "is for
me to spend my time hunting up Pyramid Gordon's lot?"

"Not entirely without recompense," adds the lawyer. "As an inducement
for doing the work thoroughly, I am authorized to give you a commission
on all you spend in that way."

"How much?" demands the other.

"Twenty per cent.," says Judson. "For instance, if in doing some kind
and generous deed for a person on Mr. Gordon's list, you spend, say,
five thousand, you get a thousand for yourself."

"Ah!" says Steele, perkin' up consider'ble.

"The only condition being," goes on the lawyer, "that in each case your
kind and generous proposals must have the indorsement and approval of
Professor McCabe, who is asked to give his advice in these matters on a
five per cent. basis. I may add that a like amount comes to me in place
of any other fee. So you see this is to be a joint enterprise. Is that
satisfactory to you, Mr. McCabe?"

"It's more'n I usually get for my advice," says I, "and I guess Pyramid
Gordon knew well enough he didn't have to pay for anything like that
from me. But if that's the way he planned it out, it goes."

"And you, Mr. Steele?" says Judson.

"One dollar for every five that I can spend of Pyramid Gordon's money?"
says he, wrinklin' his eye corners. "With pleasure! When may I begin?"

"Now," says Judson, reachin' prompt into a pigeonhole and producin' a
sealed envelope. "Here is the first name on the list. When you bring me
Professor McCabe's indorsement of any expenses incurred, or sum to be
paid out, I shall give you a check at once."

And, say, the last I see of J. Bayard he was driftin' through the door,
gazin' absentminded at the envelope, like he was figurin' on how much
he could grab off at the first swipe. I gazes after him thoughtful until
the comic side of it struck me.

"This is a hot combination we're in, eh?" I chuckles to the lawyer gent.
"Steele, Judson & McCabe, Joy Distributers; with J. Bayard there
wieldin' the fairy wand. Why, say, I'd as quick think of askin' Scrappy
McGraw to preside at a peace conference!"

Mr. Judson's busy packin' away his papers in a document case; but he
smiles vague over his shoulder.

"Honest now," I goes on, "do you think our friend will make good as the
head of the sunshine department?"

"That," says Judson, "is a matter which Mr. Gordon seems to have left
wholly to you."

"Eh?" says I, doin' the gawp act sudden on my own account. "Well, post
me for a Bush League yannigan if it don't listen that way! Then I can
see where I'll be earnin' my five per cent. all right, and yet some!
Referee for a kind deeds campaign! Good night, Sister Sue! But it's on
old Pyramid's account; so let J. Bayard shoot 'em in!"



CHAPTER II

A FEW SQUIRMS BY BAYARD


Say, take it from me, this job of umpirin' a little-deeds-of-kindness
campaign, as conducted by J. Bayard Steele, Esq., ain't any careless
gladsome romp through the daisy fields. It's a real job!

He's the one, you know, that poor old Pyramid Gordon--rest his
soul!--picked out to round up all the hangover grouches he'd strewed
behind him durin' a long and active career, with instructions to soothe
the same with whatever balm seemed best, regardless of expense.

And the hard part of it for Steele is that he has to get my O.K. on all
his schemes before he can collect from the estate. And while I don't
bill myself for any expert on lovin'-kindness, and as a gen'ral thing I
ain't of a suspicious nature, I'm wise enough to apply the acid test and
bore for lead fillin' on anything he hands in. Course maybe I'm too hard
on him, but it strikes me that an ex-pool organizer, who makes a livin'
as capper for a hotel branch of a shady stock-brokin' firm, ain't had
the best kind of trainin' as an angel of mercy.

So when he shows up at my Physical Culture Studio again, the day after
Lawyer Judson has explained for us the fine points of that batty will of
Pyramid's, I'm about as friendly and guileless as a dyspeptic customs
inspector preparin' to go through the trunks of a Fifth avenue
dressmaker. He comes in smilin' and chirky, though, slaps me chummy on
the shoulder, and remarks cordial:

"Well, my trusty coworker in well doing, I have come to report
progress."

"Shoot it, then," says I, settlin' back in my chair.

"You will be surprised," he goes on, "to learn who is first to benefit
by my vicarious philanthropy."

"Your which?" says I.

"Merely another simile for our glorious work," says he. "You couldn't
guess whose name was in that envelope,--Twombley-Crane's!"

"The Long Island plute?" says I. "You don't say! Why, when did Pyramid
ever get the best of him, I wonder?"

"I had almost forgotten the affair myself," says Steele. "It was more
than a dozen years ago, when Twombley-Crane was still actively
interested in the railroad game. He was president of the Q., L. & M.;
made a hobby of it, you know. Used to deliver flowery speeches to the
stockholders, and was fond of boasting that his road had never passed a
dividend. About that time Gordon was organizing the Water Level System.
He needed the Q., L. & M. as a connecting link. But Twombley-Crane would
listen to no scheme of consolidation. Rather an arrogant aristocrat,
Twombley-Crane, as perhaps you know?"

"Yes, he's a bit stiff in the neck," says I.

"He gave Gordon a flat no," goes on Steele. "Had him shown out of his
office, so the story went. And of course Pyramid started gunning for
him. Twombley-Crane had many interests at the time, financial, social,
political. But suddenly his appointment as Ambassador to Germany, which
had seemed so certain, was blocked in the Senate; his plans for getting
control of all the ore-carrying steamer lines on the Lakes were upset by
the appearance of a rival steamship pool; and then came the annual
meeting of the Q., L. & M., at which Gordon presented a dark horse
candidate. You see, for months Pyramid had been buying in loose holdings
and gathering proxies, and on the first ballot he fired Twombley-Crane
out of the Q., L. & M. so abruptly that he never quite knew how it
happened. And you know how Gordon milked the line during the next few
years. It was a bitter pill for Twombley-Crane; for it hurt his pride as
well as his pocketbook. That was why he quit Chicago for New York. Not a
bad move, either; for he bought into Manhattan Transportation at just
the right time. But I imagine he never forgave Gordon."

"Huh!" says I. "So that's why they used to act so standoffish whenever
they'd run across each other here at the studio. Well, well! And what's
your idea of applyin' a poultice to Twombley-Crane's twelve-year-old
sting?"

"Ah-h-h!" says J. Bayard, rubbin' his hands genial, and at the same time
watchin' me narrow to see how I'm goin' to take it. "Rather difficult,
eh? I confess that I was almost stumped at first. Why, he's worth to-day
twice as much as Gordon ever was! So it ought to be something handsome,
hadn't it?"

"That depends," says I. "Have anything special in mind, did you?"

"Oh, yes," says Steele. "Now what do you say to presenting him with a
nice, comfortable steam yacht, all equipped for cruising, with a captain
and----"

"Flag it!" says I. "Twombley-Crane ain't a yachty person, at all. He's a
punk sailor, to begin with. Besides, he's tried ownin' a yacht, and she
almost rusted apart waitin' for him to use her. Nothing like that for
him."

J. Bayard looks mighty disappointed. He'd planned on spendin' a couple
of hundred thousand or so of Pyramid's money at one lick, you see, which
would have been some haul for him, and my turnin' the scheme down so
prompt was a hard blow. He continued to argue the case for ten minutes
before he gives up.

"Well, what is the objection, then," he goes on, "to a handsome
limousine, with one of those luxurious French bodies, solid silver
fittings, and----"

"He's got a garage full of cars now," says I, "and hardly ever steps
into one himself. His fad is to stick to horses, you know."

More long-face business by J. Bayard. But he's a quick recoverer. "In
that case," says he, "suppose I send over for a pair of Arabs, the best
blood to be found, and have them put into his stable as a surprise?"

"Steele," says I, tappin' him encouragin' on the knee, "you've got the
spendin' part down fine; but that alone don't fill the bill. As I take
it, Pyramid meant for us to do more than just scatter around a lot of
expensive gifts reckless like. 'Some kind and generous act,' is the way
he put it. Let's remember that."

"But," says he, shruggin' his shoulders eloquent, "here is a man who has
everything he wants, money enough to gratify every wish. How am I to do
anything kind and generous for him?"

"That's all up to you," says I. "As a matter of fact, I don't believe
there ever was anybody, no matter how rich, who had everything he
wanted. There's always something, maybe so simple as to sound absurd,
that he'd like and can't get. I'll bet it's that way with
Twombley-Crane. Now if you don't know him well enough to find out, my
advice would be to----"

"Oh, I know him well enough," breaks in J. Bayard, "even if he doesn't
know me. I share the distinction with Gordon of having been, on one
occasion, barred out of Twombley-Crane's office; only I got no farther
than his private secretary. It meant a good deal to me at the time too,
and wouldn't have hurt him at all. I merely wanted his firm to handle
some bonds of a concern I was trying to promote. With merely a nod he
could have opened the door of success for me. But he wouldn't. Oh, no!
Played the rôle of haughty aristocrat, as usual, and never gave me
another thought. But I managed to get back at him, in a small way."

"Oh, you did, eh?" says I.

"It was a couple of years later, in Paris," goes on Steele. "I was
dining in one of those big cafés--Maxime's, I think,--when I recognized
him at the next table. He was telling a friend of a find he'd made in an
old printshop,--a pencil sketch by Whistler. He collects such things, I
believe. Well, this was something he wanted very badly; but he'd
happened to be caught without cash enough to pay for it. So he'd asked
the dealer to put it aside until next day. There was my chance. I know
something about etchings; own a few, in fact, although I'd never
splurged on Whistlers. But I was on hand next morning when that shop
opened, and for a bonus of twenty francs I persuaded the old pirate to
sell me the sketch he was holding for Twombley-Crane. It was a beauty
too; one of the half-dozen Whistler did in working up that portrait of
his mother, perhaps his most famous piece. It's about the only sketch of
the kind, too, not in a public gallery. How Twombley-Crane must have
raved at that Frenchman! So, as the English put it, I did score off him
a bit, you see."

"You sure did," says I. "That picture collection is what he's daffy
over; even more so than over his horses. And right there, J. Bayard, is
your cue."

"Eh?" says he, starin' puzzled.

"Simple as swearin' off taxes," says I. "Send him the sketch."

Mr. Steele gasps. "Wha-a-at!" says he. "Why, I've been offered ten times
what I paid for it, and refused; although there have been times
when--well, you understand. My dear McCabe, that little pencil drawing
is much more to me than a fragment of genius. It stands for
satisfaction. It's something that I own and he wants."

"And there you are," says I. "Been rackin' your nut to dig up something
kind and generous to do for him, ain't you! Well?"

Say, you should have seen the look J. Bayard gives me at that! It's a
mixture of seven diff'rent kinds of surprise, reproach, and indignation.
And the line of argument he puts up too! How he does wiggle and squirm
over the very thought of givin' that picture to Twombley-Crane, after
he'd done the gloat act so long!

But I had the net over Mr. Steele good and fast, and while I was about
it I dragged him over a few bumps; just for the good of his soul, as
Father Reardon would say.

"Oh, come!" says I. "You're makin' the bluff that you want to scatter
deeds of kindness; but when I point one out, right under your nose, you
beef about it like you was bein' frisked for your watch. A hot idea of
bein' an angel of mercy you've got, ain't you? Honest now, in your whole
career, was you ever guilty of wastin' a kind word, or puttin' out the
helpin' hand, if you couldn't see where it might turn a trick for J.
Bayard Steele?"

Makes him wince a little, that jab does, and he flushes up under the
eyes.

"I don't know that I have ever posed either as a philanthropist or a
saint," says he. "If I seem to have assumed a rôle of that sort now, it
is because it has been thrust upon me, because I have been caught in a
web of circumstances, a tangle of things, without purpose, without
meaning. That's what life has always been to me, always will be, I
suppose,--a blind, ruthless maze, where I've snatched what I could for
myself, and given up what I couldn't hold. Your friend Gordon did his
share in making it so for me; this man Twombley-Crane as well. Do you
expect me to be inspired with goodness and kindliness by them?"

"Oh, Pyramid had his good points," says I. "You'd find Twombley-Crane
has his, if you knew him well enough."

"And who knows," adds Steele, defiant and bitter, "but that I may have
mine?"

I glances at him curious. And, say, with that set, hard look in them
narrow eyes, and the saggy droop to his mouth corners, he's almost
pathetic. For the first time since he'd drifted across my path I didn't
feel like pitchin' him down the stairs.

"Well, well!" says I soothin'. "Maybe you have. But you don't force 'em
on folks, do you? That ain't the point, though. The question before the
house is about that----"

"Suppose I hand back Twombley-Crane's name," says he, "and try another?"

I shakes my head decided. "No dodgin'," says I. "That point was covered
in Pyramid's gen'ral directions. If you do it at all, you got to take
the list as it runs. But what's a picture more or less? All you got to
do is wrap it up, ship it to Twombley-Crane, and----"

"I--I couldn't!" says J. Bayard, almost groanin'. "Why, I've disliked
him for years, ever since he sent out that cold no! I've always hoped
that something would happen to bend that stiff neck of his; that a panic
would smash him, as I was smashed. But he has gone on, growing richer
and richer, colder and colder. And when I got this sketch away from
him--well, that was a crumb of comfort. Don't you see?"

"Kind of stale and picayune, Steele, it strikes me," says I. "Course,
you're the doctor. If you'd rather see all them other folks that you
dislike come in for a hundred and fifty thousand apiece, with no rakeoff
for you--why, that's your business. But I'd think it over."

"Ye-e-es," says he draggy. "I--I suppose I must."

With that he shakes his shoulders, gets on his feet, and walks out with
his chin well up; leavin' me feelin' like I'd been tryin' to wish a dose
of castor oil on a bad boy.

"Huh!" thinks I. "I wonder if Pyramid guessed all he was lettin' me in
for?"

What J. Bayard would decide to do--drop the whole shootin' match, or
knuckle under in this case in the hopes of gettin' a fat commission on
the next--was more'n I could dope out. But inside of an hour I had the
answer. A messenger boy shows up with a package. It's the sketch from
Steele, with a note sayin' I might send it to Twombley-Crane, if that
would answer. He'd be hanged if he would! So I rings up another boy and
ships it down to Twombley-Crane's office, as the easiest way of gettin'
rid of it. I didn't know whether he was in town or not. If he wa'n't,
he'd find the thing when he did come in. And while maybe that don't
quite cover all the specifications, it's near enough so I can let it
pass. Then I goes out to lunch.

Must have been about three o'clock that afternoon, and I'd just finished
a session in the gym, when who should show up at the studio but
Twombley-Crane. What do you suppose? Why, in spite of the fact that I'd
sent the picture without any name or anything, he'd been so excited over
gettin' it that he'd rung up the messenger office and bluffed 'em into
tellin' where the call had come in from. And as long as I'd known him
I've never seen Twombley-Crane thaw out so much. Why, he acts almost
human as he shakes hands! Then he takes the package from under his arm
and unwraps it.

"The Whistler that I'd given up all hope of ever getting!" says he,
gazin' at it admirin' and enthusiastic.

"So?" says I, non-committal.

"And now it appears mysteriously, sent from here," says he. "Why, my
dear fellow, how can I ever----"

"You don't have to," I breaks in, "because it wa'n't from me at all."

"But they told me at the district office," he goes on, "that the call
came from----"

"I know," says I. "That's straight enough as far as it goes. But you
know that ain't in my line. I was only passin' it on for someone else."

"For whom?" he demands.

"That's tellin'," says I. "It's a secret."

"Oh, but I must know," says he, "to whom I am indebted so deeply. You
don't realize, McCabe, how delighted I am to get hold of this gem of
Whistler's. Why, it makes my collection the most complete to be found in
any private gallery!"

"Well, you ought to be satisfied then," says I. "Why not let it go at
that?"

But not him. No, he'd got to thank somebody; to pay 'em, if he could.

"How much, for instance?" says I.

"Why, I should readily have given five thousand for it," says he; "ten,
if necessary."

"Not fifteen?" says I.

"I think I would," says he.

"Huh!" says I. "Some folks don't care what they do with money. We'll
split the diff'rence though, and call it twelve and a half. But it don't
cost you a cent. It's yours because you wanted it, that's all; and maybe
the one that sent it is glad you've got it. That's as far as I can go."

"But see here, McCabe!" he insists. "Delighted as I am, I must know who
it is that----"

Just here the front office door opens, and in walks J. Bayard. For a
second he don't notice Twombley-Crane, who's standin' between me and the
window.

"Oh, I say!" says Steele, sort of breathless and hasty. "Have you sent
that away yet?"

A freak hunch hit me and I couldn't shake it: I guess I wanted to see
what would happen. So I nudges Twombley-Crane.

"Here's the party now, if you must know," says I. "This is Mr. J. Bayard
Steele."

"Eh?" says he, steppin' forward. "Steele, did you say? Why, my dear Sir,
although I must admit that I am stupid enough not to remember you, I
must express my most----"

Say, he did it handsome too. He grabs J. Bayard brotherly by the mitt,
and passes him an enthusiastic vote of thanks that don't leave out a
single detail. Yes, he sure did unload the gratitude; with J. Bayard
standin' there, turnin' first one color and then another, and not bein'
able to get out a word.

"And surely, my dear Sir," he winds up, "you will allow me to recompense
you in some way?"

Steele shakes his head. "It's not precisely," he begins, "as if
I--er----"

"Ah-h-h!" says Twombley-Crane, beamin' friendly. "I think I see. You had
heard of my collection."

J. Bayard nods.

"And you conceived the idea," goes on Twombley-Crane, "of completing it
in this anonymous and kindly manner? Believe me, Sir, I am touched,
deeply touched. It is indeed good to know that such generous impulses
are felt, that they are sometimes acted upon. I must try to be worthy of
such a splendid spirit. I will have this hung at once, and to-morrow
night, Friend Steele, you must come to see it; at my country place, you
know. We dine at seven. I shall expect you, Sir." And with a final
brotherly grip he goes out.

"Well," says I to J. Bayard, "that's over, ain't it? You've put across
the genuine article. How does it feel?"

He brushes his hand over his eyes sort of dazed. "Really," says he,
"I--I don't know. I was coming, as a matter of fact, to take the sketch
back. The more I thought it over, the worse I---- But he was pleased,
wasn't he? And Twombley-Crane too! I would not have believed that he
could act so decently."

"Well, he believed it of you," says I. "You don't stand to lose so much
either, by the way. Here! Wait until I write a voucher for twenty per
cent. of twelve thousand five hundred. His figures, you know. There! Now
you can collect from Judson and call for name Number Two."



CHAPTER III

PEEKING IN ON PEDDERS


Who started that dope about Heaven givin' us our relations but thanks be
we can pick friends to suit ourselves? Anyway, it's phony. Strikes me we
often have friends wished on us; sort of accumulate 'em by chance, as we
do appendicitis, or shingles, or lawsuits. And at best it's a matter of
who you meet most, and how.

Take J. Bayard Steele. Think I'd ever hunted him out and extended the
fraternal grip, or him me? Not if everyone else in the world was deaf
and dumb and had the itch! We're about as much alike in our tastes and
gen'ral run of ideas as Bill Taft and Bill Haywood; about as congenial
as our bull terrier and the chow dog next door. Yet here we are, him
hailin' me as Shorty, and me callin' him anything from J. B. to Old Top,
and confabbin' reg'lar most every day, as chummy as you please.

All on account of our bein' mixed up in carryin' out this batty will of
Pyramid Gordon's. First off I didn't think I'd have to see him more'n
once a month, and then only for a short session; but since he put
through that first deal and collected his twenty-four hundred
commission, he's been showin' up at the studio frequent, with next to no
excuse for comin'.

You remember how he drew Twombley-Crane as the first one that he had to
unload a kind and gen'rous act on, and how I made him give up the
picture that he'd gloated over so long? Well, J. Bayard can't seem to
get over the way that turned out. Here he'd been forced into doin'
something nice for a party he had a grudge against, has discovered that
Twombley-Crane ain't such a bad lot after all, and has been well paid
for it besides, out of money left by his old enemy.

"Rather a remarkable set of circumstances, eh, Shorty?" says he, tiltin'
back comf'table in one of my front office chairs and lightin' up a fresh
twenty-five-cent cigar. "An instance of virtue being rewarded on a cash
basis. Not only that, but I was royally entertained down at
Twombley-Crane's the other night, you know. I think too I interested him
in a little development scheme of mine."

"Jump off!" says I. "You're standin' on your foot. If you dream you can
slip any of your fake stock onto him, you're due to wake up. Better
stick to widows and orphans."

At which jab Mr. Steele only chuckles easy. "What an engagingly frank
person you are!" says he. "As though rich widows weren't fair game! But
with the practice of philanthropy so liberally compensated I'm not
troubling them. Your friend, the late Mr. Gordon, has banished the wolf
from my door; for the immediate present, at least. I wonder if he
anticipated just how much I should enjoy his post-mortem munificence?"

And here J. Bayard gives a caressin' pat to his Grand Duke whiskers and
glances approvin' down at the patent leathers which finish off a costume
that's the last word in afternoon elegance. You've seen a pet cat
stretch himself luxurious after a full meal? Well, that's J. Bayard.
He'd hypothecated the canary. If he hadn't been such a dear friend of
mine too, I could have kicked him hearty.

"Say, you're a wonder, you are!" says I. "But I expect if your kind was
common, all the decent people would be demandin' to be jailed, out of
self-respect."

Another chuckle from J. Bayard. "Is that envy," says he, "or merely
epigram? But at least we will agree that our ethical standards vary. You
scorn mine; I find yours curiously entertaining. The best thing about
you is that you seem to bring me good luck."

"Don't trust that too far," says I. "I'm neither hump-backed, nor a live
Billiken. How soon are you going to start on proposition Number Two?"

"Ah!" says he, straightenin'. "That is the real business of the moment,
isn't it? As a matter of fact, I was just about to seek your valuable
advice on the subject."

"Shoot it, then," says I. "Who's the party?"

He explores his inside pockets, fishes out an envelop, and inspects it
deliberate. It's sealed; but he makes no move to open it. "My next
assignment in altruism," says he, holdin' it to the light. "Rich man,
poor man, beggar man, thief--I wonder?"

"Ah, come!" says I, handin' him a paper knife.

"But there's no need for haste," says J. Bayard. "Just consider, Shorty:
In this envelop is the name of some individual who was the victim of
injustice, large or small, at the hands of Pyramid Gordon, someone who
got in his way, perhaps years ago. Now I am to do something that will
offset that old injury. While the name remains unread, we have a bit of
mystery, an unknown adventure ahead of us, perhaps. And that, my dear
McCabe, is the salt of life."

"Say, you ought to take that lecture out on the Chautauqua," says I.
"Get busy--slit or quit!"

"Very well," says he, jabbin' the knife under the flap. "To discover the
identity of the next in line!"

"Well?" says I, as he stares at the slip of paper. "Who do you pluck
this time?"

"An enigma, so far as I am concerned," says he. "Listen: 'John Wesley
Pedders, in 1894 cashier of the Merchants' Exchange Bank, at Tullington,
Connecticut.' Ever hear of such a person, Shorty!"

"Not me," says I, "nor the place either."

"Then it remains to be discovered first," says Steele, "whether for
twenty years Pedders has stayed put or not. Haven't a Pathfinder handy,
have you? Never mind, there are plenty at the hotel. And if to-morrow is
such another fine spring day as this, I'll run up there. I'll let you
know the results later; and then, my trusty colleague, we will plot
joyously for the well-being of John Wesley Pedders."

"Huh!" says I. "Don't try to pull any steam yachts or French limousines
on me this time. The kind stuff goes, remember."

"To your acute sense of fitness in such matters, McCabe," says he, "I
bow profoundly," and with a jaunty wave of his hand he drifts out.

Honest, compared to the shifty-eyed, suspicious-actin' party that blew
into my studio a few weeks back, he seems like a kid on a Coney Island
holiday. I expect it's the prospects of easy money that's chirked him up
so; but he sure is a misfit to be subbin' on a deeds-of-kindness job.
That ain't my lookout, though. All I got to do is pass on his plans and
see that he carries 'em out accordin' to specifications. So I don't
even look up this tank station on the map.

A couple of days go by, three, and no bulletin from J. Bayard. Then here
the other mornin' I gets a long distance call. It's from Steele.

"Eh?" says I. "Where the blazes are you?"

"Tullington," says he.

"Oh!" says I. "Still there, are you? Found Pedders?"

"Ye-e-es," says he; "but I am completely at a loss to know what to do
for him. I say, McCabe, couldn't you run up here? It's a curious
situation, and I--well, I need your advice badly. There's a train at
eleven-thirty that connects at Danbury. Couldn't you?"

Well, I hadn't figured on bein' any travelin' inspector when I took this
executor job; but as J. Bayard sends out the S O S so strong I can't
very well duck. Besides, I might have been a little int'rested to know
what he'd dug up.

So about three-fifteen that afternoon finds me pilin' off a branch
accommodation at Tullington. Mr. Steele is waitin' on the platform to
meet me, silk lid and all.

"What about Pedders?" says I.

"I want you to see him first," says J. Bayard.

"On exhibition, is he?" says I.

"In a town of this size," says he, "everyone is on exhibition
continuously. It's the penalty one pays for being rural, I suppose.
I've been here only two days; but I'll venture to say that most of the
inhabitants know me by name and have made their guess as to what my
business here may be. It's the most pitiless kind of publicity I ever
experienced. But come on up to the postoffice, and I'll show you
Pedders."

"Fixture there, is he?" says I.

"Twice a day he comes for the mail," says J. Bayard. "Your train brought
it up. He'll be on hand."

So we strolls up Main street from the station, while Steele points out
the brass works, the carpet mill, the opera house, and Judge Hanks'
slate-roofed mansion. It sure is a jay burg, but a lively one. Oh, yes!
Why, the Ladies' Aid Society was holdin' a cake sale in a vacant store
next to the Bijou movie show, and everybody was decoratin' for a
firemen's parade to be pulled off next Saturday. We struck the
postoffice just as they brought the mail sacks up in a pushcart and
dragged 'em in through the front door.

"There he is," says Steele, nudgin' me, "over in the corner by the
writing shelf!"

What he points out is a long-haired, gray-whiskered old guy, with a
faded overcoat slung over his shoulders like a cape, and an old slouch
hat pulled down over his eyes. He's standin' there as still and quiet as
if his feet was stuck to the floor.

"Kind of a seedy old party, eh?" says I.

"Why not?" says J. Bayard. "He's an ex-jailbird."

"You don't say!" says I. "What brand?"

"Absconder," says he. "Got away with a hundred and fifty thousand from
the local bank."

"Well, well!" says I. "Didn't spend it dollin' himself up, did he?"

"Oh, all that happened twenty years ago," says Steele. "The odd part of
it is, though---- But come over to the hotel, where I can tell you the
whole story."

And, say, he had a tale, all right. Seems Pedders had been one of the
leadin' citizens,--cashier of the bank, pillar of the church, member of
the town council, and all that,--with a wife who was a social fav'rite,
and a girl that promised to be a beauty when she grew up. The Pedders
never tried to cut any gash, though. They lived simple and respectable
and happy. About the only wild plunge the neighbors ever laid up against
him was when he paid out ten dollars once for some imported tulip bulbs.

Then all of a sudden it was discovered that a bunch of negotiable
securities had disappeared from the bank vaults. The arrow pointed
straight to Pedders. He denied; but he couldn't explain. He just shut up
like a clam, and let 'em do their worst. He got ten years. Before he was
put away they tried to make him confess, or give 'em some hint as to
what he'd done with the bonds. But there was nothin' doin' in that
line. He just stood pat and took his medicine.

Bein' a quiet prisoner, that gave no trouble and kept his cell tidy, he
scaled it down a couple of years. Nobody looked for him to come back to
Tullington after he got loose. They all had it doped out that he'd
salted away that hundred and fifty thousand somewhere, and would proceed
to dig it up and enjoy it where he wa'n't known.

But Pedders fooled 'em again. Straight back from the bars he come, back
to Tullington and the little white story-and-a-half cottage on a side
street, where Mrs. Pedders and Luella was waitin' for him.

She'd had some hand-to-hand tussle meanwhile, Mrs. Pedders had; but
she'd stuck it out noble. At the start about nine out of ten of her
neighbors and kind friends was dead sure she knew where that bunch of
securities was stowed, and some of 'em didn't make any bones of sayin'
she ought to be in jail along with Pedders. So of course that made it
nice and comfy for her all around. But she opened up a little millinery
shop in her front parlor, and put up jams and jellies, and raised a few
violets under a window sash in the back yard. She didn't quite starve
that first year or so; though nobody knew just how close she shaved it.
And in time even them that had been her closest friends begun to be
sorry for her.

When Pedders showed up again all the old stories was hashed over, and
the whole of Tullington held its breath watchin' for some sign that he's
dug up his hank loot. But it didn't come. Pedders just camped down
silent in his old home and let his whiskers grow. Twice a day he made
reg'lar trips back and forth from the postoffice, lookin' at nobody,
speakin' to nobody. Mrs. Pedders held her usual fall and spring openin's
of freak millinery, while Luella taught in the fourth grade of the
grammar school and gave a few piano lessons on the side. They didn't act
like a fam'ly that had buried treasure.

But what had he done with that hundred and fifty thousand? How could he
have blown so much without even acquirin' a toddy blossom? Or had he
scattered it in the good old way, buckin' Wall Street? But he'd never
seemed like that kind. No, they didn't think he had the nerve to take a
chance on a turkey raffle. So that left the mystery deeper'n ever.

"No chance of him bein' not guilty to begin with, eh?" I suggests.

J. Bayard smiles cynical. "So far as I am able to learn," says he,
"there is just one person, aside from Mrs. Pedders and her daughter, who
believes him innocent. Strangely enough too, that's Norris, who was
teller at the time. He's president of the bank now. I had a talk with
him this morning. He insists that Pedders was too honest to touch a
dollar; says he knew him too well. But he offers no explanation as to
where the securities went. So there you are! Everyone else regards him
as a convicted thief, who scarcely got his just deserts. He's a social
outcast, and a broken, spiritless wretch besides. How can I do anything
kind and generous for such a man?"

Well, I didn't know any more'n he did. "What gets me," I goes on, "is
how he ever come to be mixed up with Pyramid Gordon. Got that traced
out?"

"I sounded Norris on that point," says Steele; "but he'd never heard of
Gordon's having been in Tullington, and was sure Pedders didn't know
him."

"Then you ain't had a talk with Pedders himself?" says I.

"Why, no," says J. Bayard, shruggin' his shoulders scornful. "The poor
devil! I didn't see what good it would do--an ex-convict, and----"

"You can't always be dealin' with Twombley-Cranes," I breaks in. "And
it's Pedders you're after this trip. Come on. Let's go tackle him."

"What! Now?" says Steele, liftin' his eyebrows.

"Ah, you ain't plannin' to spend the summer here, are you?" says I.
"Besides, it'll do you good to learn not to shy at a man just because
he's done time. Show us the house."

I could have put it even stronger to him, if I'd wanted to rub it in.
Had about as much sympathy for a down-and-out, Steele did, as you'd find
milk in a turnip. You should see the finicky airs he puts on as he
follows me into the Pedders cottage, and sniffs at the worn,
old-fashioned furniture in the sittin' room.

It's Mrs. Pedders that comes in from the shop to greet us. Must have
been quite a good looker once, from the fine face and the still slim
figure. But her hair has been frosted up pretty well, and there's plenty
of trouble lines around the eyes. No, we couldn't see Mr. Pedders. She
was sorry, but he didn't see anyone. If there was any business, perhaps
she could----

"Maybe you can," says I; "although it ain't exactly business, either.
It's a delayed boost we're agents for; friendly, and all that."

"I--I don't believe I understand," says she.

"We'll get to that later on," says I, "if you'll take our word and help.
What we're tryin' to get a line on first off is where and how Mr.
Pedders run against Pyramid Gordon."

"Gordon?" says she. "I don't think I ever heard him mention the name."

"Think 'way back, then," says I, "back before he was--before he had his
trouble."

She tried, but couldn't dig it up. We was still on the subject when in
floats Daughter. She's one of these nice, sweet, sensible lookin' girls,
almost vergin' on the old maid. She'd just come home from her school.
The case was explained to her; but she don't remember hearin' the name
either.

"You see, I was only nine at the time," says she, "and there was so much
going on, and Papa was so upset about all those letters."

"Which letters?" says I.

"Oh, the people who wrote to him during the trial," says she. "You've no
idea--hundreds and hundreds of letters, from all over the country; from
strangers, you know, who'd read that he was--well, an absconder. They
were awful letters. I think that's what hurt Papa most, that people were
so ready to condemn him before he'd had a chance to show that he didn't
do it. He would just sit at his old desk there by the hour, reading them
over, and everyone seemed like another pound loaded on his poor
shoulders. The letters kept coming long after he was sent away. There's
a whole boxful in the garret that have never been opened."

"And he never shall see them!" announced Mrs. Pedders emphatic.

"H-m-m-m!" says I. "A whole boxful that nobody's opened? But suppose now
that some of 'em wa'n't--say, why not take a look at the lot, just the
outsides?"

Neither Mrs. Pedders nor Luella took kind to that proposition; but
somehow I had a vague hunch it ought to be done. I couldn't say exactly
why, either. But I kept urgin' and arguin', and at last they gave in.
They'd show me the outsides, anyway; that is, Luella might, if she
wanted to. Mrs. Pedders didn't even want to see the box.

"I meant to have burned them long ago," says she. "They're just letters
from idle, cruel people, that's all. And you don't know how many such
there are in the world, Mr. McCabe. I hope you never will know. But go
up with Luella if you wish."

So we did, J. Bayard glancin' suspicious at the dust and cobwebs and
protectin' his silk hat and clothes cautiously. It's a good-sized box
too, with a staple and padlock to keep the cover down. Luella hunted up
the key and handed out bunch after bunch. Why do people want to write to
parties they've read about in the newspapers? What's the good too, of
jumpin' on bank wreckers and such at long range? Why, some even let
their spite slop over on the envelopes. To see such a lot of letters,
and think how many hard thoughts they stood for, almost gave you chills
on the spine.

Didn't seem to do much good to paw 'em over now, at this late date,
either. I was almost givin' up my notion and tellin' Luella that would
be about enough, when I noticed a long yellow document envelope stowed
away by itself in a corner.

"There's a fat one," says I.

She hands it out mechanical, as she'd done the rest.

"Hello!" says I, glancin' at the corner.

"Gordon & Co., Broad Street, New York! Why, say, that's the Pyramid
Gordon I was askin' about."

"Is it?" says she. "I hadn't noticed."

"Might give us some clew," I goes on, "as to what him and your Paw had a
run-in about."

"Well, open it, if you like," says Luella careless.

J. Bayard and I takes it over to the window and inspects the cancel
date.

"June, 1894," says I. "Twenty-eight cents postage; registered too. Quite
a package. Well, here goes!"

"Bonds," says Steele, takin' a look. "That old Water Level Development
Company's too."

"And here's a note inside," says I. "Read it."

It was to John Wesley Pedders, cashier of the Merchants' Exchange Bank,
from Mr. Gordon. "In depositing securities for a loan, on my recent
visit to your bank," it runs on, "I found I had brought the wrong set;
so I took the liberty, without consulting your president, of
substituting, for a few days, a bundle of blanks. I am now sending by
registered mail the proper bonds, which you may file. Trusting this
slight delay has caused you no inconvenience, I am----"

"The old fox!" cuts in J. Bayard. "A fair sample of his methods! Had to
have a loan on those securities, and wanted to use them somewhere else
at the same time; so he picked out this little country bank to work the
deal through. Oh, that was Pyramid Gordon, every time! And calmly
allowed a poor cashier to go to State's prison for it!"

"Not Pyramid," says I. "I don't believe he ever heard a word of the
trouble."

"Then why did he put Pedders' name on his list?" demands Steele.

"Maybe he thought sendin' on the bonds would clear up the mess," says I.
"So it would, if they hadn't come a day or two late and got stowed away
here. And here they've been for twenty years!"

"Yes, and quite as valuable to the bank as if they'd been in the
vaults," sneers J. Bayard. "That Water Level stock never was worth the
paper it was printed on, any more than it is now."

"We'll make it useful, then," says I. "Why, it's got Aladdin's lamp beat
four ways for Wednesday! These bonds go to Pedders. Then Pedders shaves
off his whiskers, puts on his Sunday suit, braces his shoulders back,
walks down to the bank, and chucks this bunch of securities at 'em
triumphant."

"But if the bank is still out a hundred and fifty thousand," objects
Steele, "I don't see how----"

"They ain't out a cent," says I. "We'll find a customer for these
bonds."

"Who?" says he.

"J. Bayard Steele," says I. "Ain't you actin' for a certain party that
would have wanted it done?"

"By Jove!" says he. "Shorty, you've hit it! Why, I'd never have thought
of----"

"No," says I; "you're still seein' only that twenty per cent commission.
Well, you get that. But I want to see the look in Mrs. Pedders' eyes
when she hears the news."

Say, it was worth makin' a way train trip to Tullington, believe me!

"I knew," says she. "Oh, I always have known John didn't do it! And now
others will know. Oh, I'm glad, so glad!"

Even brought a slight dew to them shifty eyes of J. Bayard's, that
little scene did. "McCabe," says he, as we settles ourselves in the
night express headed towards Broadway, "this isn't such a bad game,
after all, is it?"



CHAPTER IV

TWO SINGLES TO GOOBER


"Shorty," says Sadie, hangin' up the 'phone and turnin' to me excited,
"what do you think? Young Hollister is back in town!"

"So are lots of other folks," says I, "and more comin' every day."

"But you know he promised to stay away," she goes on, "and his mother
will feel dreadfully about it when she hears."

"I know," says I. "And a livelier widow never hailed from Peachtree
street, Atlanta; which is sayin' a lot. Who sends in this bulletin about
Sonny?"

"Purdy-Pell," says Sadie, "and he doesn't know what to do."

"Never does," says I.

Sadie flickers a grin. "It seems Robin came two days ago, and has hardly
been seen about the house since. Besides, Purdy-Pell could do nothing
with him when he was here before, you remember."

"Awful state of things, ain't it?" says I. "The youngster's all of
nineteen, ain't he?"

"He's nearly twenty-one," says Sadie. "And Mrs. Hollister's such a
dear!"

"All of which leads up to what?" says I, tearin' my eyes from the
sportin' page reluctant.

"Why," says Sadie, cuddlin' up on the chair arm, "Purdy-Pell suggests
that, as Robin appeared to take such a fancy to you, perhaps you
wouldn't mind----"

"Say," I breaks in, "he's a perfectly punk suggester! I'd mind a lot!"

Course that opened the debate, and while I begins by statin' flat-footed
that Robin could come or go for all I cared, it ends in the usual
compromise. I agrees to take the eight-forty-five into town and skirmish
for Sonny. He'd be almost sure to show up at Purdy-Pell's to-night, Sadie
says, and if I was on hand I might induce him to quit wreckin' the city
and be good.

"Shouldn't I wear a nurse's cap and apron?" I remarks as I grabs my hat.

For, honest, so far as I've ever seen, this young Hollister was a nice,
quiet, peaceable chap, with all the earmarks of a perfect gent. He'd
been brought up from the South and put into Purdy-Pell's offices, and
he'd made a fair stab at holdin' down his job. But of course, bein'
turned loose in New York for the first time, I expect he went out now
and then to see what was goin' on under the white lights.

From some youngsters that might have called for such panicky protests as
Mother and Mrs. Purdy-Pell put up; but young Robin had a good head on
him, and didn't act like he meant to develop into a rounder. Course I
didn't hear the details; but all of a sudden something happened that
caused a grand howl. I know Sadie was consulted, then Mrs. Hollister was
sent for, and it ended by Robin marchin' into the studio one mornin' to
say good-by. He explains that he's bein' shipped home. They'd got a job
for him with an uncle out in the country somewhere. That must have been
a year or so ago, and now it looked like he'd slipped his halter and had
headed back for Broadway.

I finds Purdy-Pell peeved and sarcastic. "To be sure," he says, "I feel
honored that the young man should make my house his headquarters
whenever his fancy leads him to indulge his sportive instincts. Youth
must be served, you know. But Mrs. Hollister has such a charmingly
unreasonable way of holding me responsible for her son's conduct! And
since she happens just now to be our guest--well, you get the idea,
McCabe."

"What do you think he's up to?" says I.

Purdy-Pell shrugs his shoulders. "If he were the average youth, one
might guess," says he; "but Robin Hollister is different. His mother is
a Pitt Medway, one of the Georgia Medways."

"You don't say!" says I. I expect I ought to know just how a Georgia
Medway differs from a New Jersey Medway, or the Connecticut brand; but,
sad to say, I don't. Purdy-Pell, though, havin' been raised in the
South himself, seems to think that everyone ought to know the traits of
all the leadin' fam'lies between the Potomac and the Chattahoochee.

"Last time, you know," goes on Purdy-Pell, "it was a Miss Maggie Toots,
a restaurant cashier, and a perfectly impossible person. We broke that
up, though."

"Ye-e-es?" says I.

"Robin's mother seemed to think then," says he, "that it was largely my
fault. I suppose she'll feel the same about whatever mischief he's in
now. If I could only find the young scamp! But really I haven't time.
I'm an hour late at the Boomer Days' as it is."

"Then toddle along," says I. "If I'm unanimously elected to do this
kid-reformin' act, I expect I might as well get busy."

So as soon as the butler's through loadin' Purdy-Pell into the limousine
I cross-examines Jarvis about young Mr. Hollister's motions. Yes, he'd
shown up at the house both nights. It might have been late, perhaps
quite late. Then this afternoon he'd 'phoned to have his evenin' clothes
sent uptown by messenger. No, he couldn't remember the number, or the
name of the hotel.

"Ah, come, Jarvis!" says I. "We know you're strong for the young man,
and all that. But this is for the best. Dig it up now! You must have put
the number down at the time. Where's the 'phone pad?"

He produces it, blank. "You see, Sir," says he, "I tore off the leaf and
gave it to the messenger."

"But you're a heavy writer, ain't you?" says I. "Find me a readin'
glass."

And, sure enough, by holdin' the pad under the big electrolier in the
lib'ry, we could trace out the address.

"Huh!" says I. "The Maison Maxixe, one of them new trot palaces! Ring up
a taxi, Jarvis."

Didn't happen to be up around there yourself that night, did you? If you
had, you couldn't missed seein' him,--the old guy with the Dixie lid and
the prophet's beard, and the snake-killer staff in his fist,--for with
that gold and green entrance as a background, and in all that glare of
electric lights, he was some prominent.

Sort of a cross between Father Time and Santa Claus, he looks like, with
his bumper crop of white alfalfa, his rosy cheeks, and his husky build.
Also he's attired in a wide-brimmed black felt hat, considerable dusty,
and a long black coat with a rip in the shoulder seam. I heard a couple
of squabs just ahead of me giggle, and one of 'em gasps:

"Heavings, Lulu! Will you lamp the movie grandpop! I wonder if them
lambrequins are real?"

She says it loud enough to be heard around on Broadway, and I looks to
see how the old boy takes it; but he keeps right on beamin' mild and
sort of curious at the crowds pushin' in. It was them calm, gentle old
blue eyes of his, gazin' steady, like he was lookin' for someone, that
caught me. First thing, I knew he was smilin' folksy straight at me, and
liftin' one hand hesitatin', as if he wanted to give me the hail.

"Well, old scout?" says I, haltin' on the first step.

"Excuse me, Neighbor," says he, drawlin' it out deep and soft, "but be
yo' goin' in thayah?"

"I don't say it boastin'," says I, "but that was the intention."

"We-e-e-ell," he drawls, half chucklin', half sing-songy, "I wisht I
could get you to kind of look around for a young fellah in thayah,--sort
of a well favored, upstandin' young man, straight as a cornstalk, and
with his front haiah a little wavy. Would you?"

"I might find fifty that would answer to that description," says I.

"No, Suh, I reckon not," says he, waggin' his noble old head. "Not fifty
like him, nor one! He'll have his chin up, Suh, and there'll be a
twinkle in his brown eyes you can't mistake."

"Maybe so," says I. "I'll scout around a bit. And if I find him, what
then?"

"Jes' give him the word, Neighbor," says he, "that Uncle Noah's a
waitin' outside, wantin' to see him a minute when he gets through.
He'll understand, Robin will."

"Eh?" says I. "Robin who?"

"Young Mistuh Hollister I should say, Suh," says he.

"Well, well!" says I, gawpin' at him. "You lookin' for Robin Hollister
too? Why, so am I!"

"Then we ought to find him between us, hadn't we?" says he, smilin'
friendly. "Lott's my name, Suh."

"Wha-a-at!" says I, grinnin' broad as the combination strikes me. "Not
Uncle Noah Lott?"

"It's a powerful misleadin' name, I got to admit," says he, returnin'
the grin; "but I reckon my folks didn't figure jes' how it was goin' to
sound when they tacked the Noah onto me, or else they didn't allow for
my growin' up so simple. But I've had it so long I'm used to it, and so
is most everyone else down in my part of Jawgy."

"Ah!" says I. "Then you're from Georgia, eh? Down where they sent Robin,
I expect?"

"That's right," says he. "I'm from Goober."

"Goober!" I echoes. "Say, that's a choice one too! No wonder Robin
couldn't stand it! Sent you up to fetch him back, did they?"

"No, Suh," says he. "Mistuh Phil Hollister didn't send me at all. I jes'
come, Suh, and I can't say if I'm goin' to carry him back or no. You
see it's like this: Robin, he's a good boy. We set a heap by him, we do.
And Robin was doin' well, keepin' the bale books, lookin' after the
weighin', and takin' general charge around the cotton gin. Always had a
good word for me in the mornin' when I hands over the keys, me bein'
night watchman, Suh. 'Well, Uncle Noah,' it would be, 'didn't let
anybody steal presses, did you?' 'No, Mistuh Robin,' I'd say, 'didn't
lose nary press last night, and only part of the smokestack.' We was
that way, me and Robin. And when Mistuh Phil and his folks started off
to visit their married daughter, up in Richmond, he says to me, 'Uncle
Noah, I expect you to look after Robin while I'm gone, and see that he
don't git into no trouble.' Them was his very words, Suh."

"And Robin's kept you busy, eh?" says I.

"Well, he's a good boy, Robin is," insists Uncle Noah. "I reckon it took
him sort of sudden, this wantin' to leave Goober. Just had to come to
New York, it seems like. I dunno what for, and I ain't askin'; only I
promised his Uncle Phil I'd see he didn't git into no trouble,
and--well, I'm a waitin' around, you see, waitin' around."

"How'd you come to locate him, Uncle?" says I.

"We-e-ell," says he, "I reckon I shouldn't a done it nohow, but he left
the envelope to her letter on his desk,--a Miss Toots it come
from,--and the address was on the back. It was directly afterwards that
Robin quits Goober so sudden."

"Ah-ha!" says I. "Maggie Toots again, eh?"

Looked like the myst'ry was solved too, and while I wa'n't plannin' to
restrict any interstate romance, or throw the switch on love's young
dream, I thought as long as I'd gone this far I might as well take a
look.

"Maybe he'll be too busy to receive any home delegation just now," says
I; "but if you want to stick around while I do a little scoutin' inside,
Uncle, I'll be out after a bit."

"I'll be a waitin'," says Uncle Noah, smilin' patient, and I leaves him
backed up against the front of the buildin' with his hands crossed
peaceful on the top of his home-made walkin' stick.

It's some giddy push I gets into after I've put up my dollar for a
ballroom ticket and crowded in where a twenty-piece orchestra was busy
with the toe-throbby stuff. And there's such a mob on the floor and
along the side lines that pickin' out one particular young gent seems
like a hopeless job.

I drifts around, though, elbowin' in and out, gettin' glared at by fat
old dames, and bein' bumped by tangoin' couples, until I finds a spot in
a corner where I could hang up and have a fair view. About then someone
blows a whistle, and out on the platform in front of the orchestra
appears a tall, bullet-headed, pimple-faced young gent, wearin' white
spats with his frock-coat costume, and leadin' by the hand a zippy young
lady who's attired mostly in black net and a pair of gauze wings growin'
out between her shoulder blades. It's announced that they will do a
fancy hesitation.

Take it from me, I never saw it danced like that before! It was more'n a
dance: it was an acrobatic act, an assault with intent to maim, and
other things we won't talk about. The careless way that young sport
tossed around this party with the gauze wings was enough to make you
wonder what was happenin' to her wishbone. First he'd swing her round
with her head bent back until her barrette almost scraped the floor;
then he'd yank her up, toss her in the air, and let her trickle graceful
down his shirt front, like he was a human stair rail. Next, as the music
hit the high spots, they'd go to a close clinch, and whirl and dip and
pivot until she breaks loose, takes a flyin' leap, and lands shoulder
high in his hands, while he walks around with her like she was something
he was bringin' in on a tray.

The hesitation, eh? Say, that's what Mrs. McCabe has been at me to take
lessons in. I can see myself, with Sadie tippin' the scales at one
hundred and sixty-eight! But when I go home to-night I'll agree to try
it if she's willin' to have her spine removed first.

The young lady in black, though, don't seem to mind. She bows smilin' at
the finish, and then trips off with Pimple Face, lookin' whole and
happy. I was watchin' 'em as they made their way out towards the front.
Seemed to be gen'ral fav'rites with the crowd, for they were swappin'
hails right and left, and she was makin' dates for the next ground and
lofty number, I expect; when all of a sudden they're stopped by someone,
there's a brief but breezy little argument, and I hears a soft thud that
listens like a short arm jab bein' nestled up against a jawbone. And
there's Pimple Face doin' a back flip that ain't in his repertoire at
all.

Course that spilled the beans. There was squeals, and shrieks, and a
gen'ral mixup; some tryin' to get closer, others beatin' it to get away,
and all the makin's of a young riot. But the management at the Maison
Maxixe don't stand for any rough stuff. In less than a minute a bunch of
house detectives was on the spot, the young hesitationer was whisked
into a cloakroom, and the other gent was bein' shot towards the fresh
air.

Just a glimpse that I caught of his flushed face as it was bein' tucked
under a bouncer's arm set me in action. I made a break for a side exit;
but there's such a jam everywhere that it's two or three minutes before
I can get around to the front.

And there's young Hollister, with an end of his dress collar draped
jaunty over his right ear, tryin' to kick the belt buckle off a
two-hundred-pound cop who's holdin' him at arm's length with one hand
and rappin' his nightstick for help with the other; while Uncle Noah
stands one side, starin' some disturbed at the spectacle. I knew that
was no time to butt in!

In that section of the White Light district too you can call up plenty
of help by a few taps from the locust. Cops came on the jump from two
adjoinin' posts,--big husky Broadway cops,--and they swoops down on
young Robin like a bunch of Rockefeller deacons on a Ferrer school
graduate who rises in prayer meetin' to ask the latest news from Paint
Creek.

"What you got, Jim?" puffs one.

"Young hick that got messy in the tango joint," says Jim.

"Ah, fan him a few!" remarks the other. "Hold him still now while I----"

At which Uncle Noah pushes in and holds up a protestin' hand. "Now see
heah, Mistuh Constable," says he, "I wouldn't go for to do anything like
that!"

"Wha-a-at?" snarls the copper. "Say, you old billy-goat, beat it!" And
he proceeds to clip young Mr. Hollister a glancin' blow on the side of
the bead. His next aim was better; but this time the nightstick didn't
connect.

There's been let loose a weird, high-pitched howl, which I didn't
recognize at the time as the old Rebel yell, but know now that it was.
Uncle Noah had gone into action. That walkin' stick of his was a
second-growth hickory club as thick as your wrist at the big end. He
swung it quick and accurate, and if that cop ain't nursin' a broken
forearm to-day he's lucky. I expect his dome was solid iv'ry,--most of
them sluggers have that kind,--and in this case he needed it; for, once
he gets goin', Uncle Noah makes a thorough job of it. He lands his next
swipe square on the copper's head and tumbles him to the sidewalk like a
bag of meal. The other two was at him with their clubs by this time,
swingin' on him vicious; but somehow they couldn't get in anything but
body blows that echoed on Uncle Noah's ribs like thumpin' a barrel. Must
have been a tough old boy; for that never fazed him. And the crowd, that
was a block deep by this time, seemed to be right with him.

"Slug the clubbers!" they yelled. "Knock their blocks off! Go to it, old
man!"

He didn't need that to encourage him; for he wades in lively, raps first
one head and then the other, until he had 'em all three on the pavement.
That set the crowd wild.

"Now sneak while the sneakin's good, old top!" shouts one.

"Jump a cab!" sings out another.

Say, the idea that either of 'em might get out of this muss without
goin' to the station house hadn't occurred to me before. But here was a
taxi, jam up against the curb not a dozen feet off, with the chauffeur
swingin' his cap enthusiastic.

"Quick, Uncle!" says I, gettin' him by the arm. "It's your one chance.
You too, Robin. But show some speed about it."

At that, if it hadn't been for half a dozen chaps in the front row of
the crowd that helped me shove 'em in, and the others that blocked off
the groggy coppers who were wabblin' to their feet, we couldn't have
pulled it off. But we piled 'em in, I gave the cabby the Purdy-Pells'
street number, and away they was whirled. And you can bet I didn't
linger in front of the Maison Maxixe long after that.

Twenty minutes later we had a little reunion in the Purdy-Pell lib'ry.
Robin was holdin' some cracked ice to a lump on his forehead, and Uncle
Noah was sittin' uncomf'table on the edge of a big leather chair.

"How cheery!" says I. "But take it from me, Uncle, you're some
two-fisted scrapper! I didn't think it was in you."

"We-e-ell," he drawls out, still breathin' a bit hard, but gettin' back
his gentle smile, "I didn't want to do no fursin' with them constables;
but you know Mistuh Phil he told me to see that Robin didn't git into no
trouble, and--and--we-e-ell, I didn't care for their motions none at
all, I didn't. So I jes' had to tap 'em a little."

[Illustration: "Now see hea-uh, Mistuh Vonstable," says he, "I wouldn't
go for to do anything like that."]

"Tappin' is good!" says I. "And how about you, Robin? How do you come to
be mixin' it up so conspicuous?"

"I'm sorry," says he. "I suppose I made an awful ass of myself. But even
if she is a public dancer, that snipe shouldn't have insulted her. Of
course I'd found out long before that Miss Toots was no longer anything
to me; but----"

"Then that was the famous Maggie, was it?" I breaks in. "The one that
lured you up from Dixie?"

"Not exactly a lure," says he. "She didn't think I'd be chump enough to
come. But that's all off now."

"I ain't curious," says I, "but the fam'ly has sort of delegated me to
keep track of your moves. What's next, if you know?"

Robin shrugs his shoulders sort of listless. "I don't know," says he.
Then he turns to Uncle Noah. "Uncle," says he, "how will those
scuppernongs be about now on the big arbor in front of Uncle Phil's?"

"Bless you, Mistuh Robin," says old Noah, "they'll be dead ripe by now,
and there's jes' doodlins of 'em. Miss Peggy Culpepper, she'll be mighty
lonesome, a pickin' of 'em all by herself."

"Humph!" says Robin, tintin' up. "Think so, do you?"

"I don't have to think, Mistuh Robin," says Uncle Noah. "Miss Peggy told
me that herself the mornin' I come away."

Young Mr. Hollister gazes earnest into them gentle old blue eyes for a
second, then he takes a turn or two up and down the lib'ry, and fin'lly
claps Uncle Noah on the shoulder. "I've been waiting all summer for a
taste of those grapes," says he. "Come, we can just catch the midnight.
I've had enough of Broadway to last me for a long time."

And my partin' glimpse of 'em was at eleven-fifty-six, when they pushed
through the gate bound for Goober, Georgia.

"After all," thinks I, "it may not be so bad as it sounds."



CHAPTER V

THE CASE OF A FEMALE PARTY


You know how free this J. Bayard Steele has been in callin' on me for
help in puttin' over his little deeds of kindness, at so much per deed?
Well, here the other day he shows up at the studio with sealed envelope
No. 3 in his pocket, and after springin' his usual guff about the door
of fate he opens it.

"Well, who's the party of the second part this time?" says I.

But he just gazes at the slip of paper he's taken out and smiles mushy.

"All right," says I. "Keep it to yourself. This is my busy day, anyway."

"Pardon me, McCabe," says he. "I was lost in wonder at the varied
character of the persons whom the late Pyramid Gordon numbered on his
conscience list. This time it is a lady."

"Huh!" says I. "Didn't know Pyramid ever had any skirt complications."

"From Adam down has any man escaped?" says J. Bayard, wavin' his
cigarette jaunty. "No, your friend Gordon was no wiser than the rest of
us, as this shows. Hearken to the name--Josie Vernon!"

"That does listen flossy," says I. "But I never heard him mention any
Josie as long as I knew him. Any details?"

"There's an address," says J. Bayard, "and in one corner is written,
'Mrs. Fletcher Shaw.' Probably a friend, or next of kin. Ah, but this is
something like! Knight-errantry for the fair sex! Here, McCabe, is where
I shine!"

"You do, eh?" says I. "Think you can handle this case all by your
lonesome?"

Did he? Why, to see him turkeyin' round, glancin' at himself approvin'
in the mirror, and pattin' them Grand Duke whiskers of his into shape,
you'd think he had some matinée idol as an understudy. Oh, yes, he
rather fancied he understood women, knew how to handle 'em, and all
that. He would look up Josie Vernon at once, find out what had been the
trouble between her and Pyramid, and decide on some kind and generous
way of evenin' the score, accordin' to the terms of Mr. Gordon's will.

"And in this instance, Shorty," says he, "I shall probably not be
compelled to trouble you at all until I submit my plans for your
indorsement. Now I'm off. The ladies, bless 'em!" and he winks giddy as
he trips through the door.

Ain't they the nutty ones, these old cut-ups? Look at Steele now,--in
the late fifties, but just at the mention of a name like Josie Vernon he
gets kittenish!

Well, it's nothin' to me, and I'm glad to duck any dealin's with stray
dames; for when it comes to the surprisin' sex you never know what
you're goin' to be let in for. Besides, my part of his executor game was
only to O.K. J. Bayard's final schemes and see that he spent the money
somewhere near the way I judged Pyramid meant to have it distributed.
Course, I hadn't been able to stick to that very strict in the first two
cases; but this time it looked like I would.

So by the next afternoon, havin' been busy in the gym since nine A.M.,
I'd forgotten the incident complete, and I'm some surprised when Swifty
Joe announces that there's a female party askin' for me in the front
office.

"Wha' d'ye mean--female party?" says I. "Is it a lady?"

"Ah-r-r-r chee!" says Swifty. "How do I know?"

That's some surprisin' too; for as a rule he ain't strong on drawin'
fine distinctions. If they're young and flossy dressed, he calls 'em
"fluffs"; but anything over twenty-five, no matter how she's costumed,
is a lady to Swifty, even a scrubwoman. So his describin' this visitor
as a female party gets me curious.

The minute I steps into the office and gets a glimpse at her, though, I
got Swifty's point of view. The battered old lid had been gay enough
once, a few seasons back, when the willow plume hadn't been dislocated
in four places, and before the velvet trimmin' had faded into so many
differ'nt shades. It had been a lady's hat once. And the face under it,
in spite of the red tip to the nose and the puffs under the eyes, might
have belonged to a lady. Anyway, there was traces of good looks there.
But the rusty black cloak that hung limp over the sagged shoulders, only
part hidin' the sloppy shirt waist and reachin' but halfway down the
side-hiked, draggled-edge skirt--that's the sure mark of a female party.
I don't know why, but it is.

Where they get cloaks like that is a mystery. You see 'em on women
panhandlers, on the old hags that camp on park benches, and in the jag
line at police courts. But you never see a new one. Perhaps they're made
special by second-hand shops for the female party trade.

"Well?" says I, lookin' her over cold and curious.

But you can't faze a female party so simple. They're used to that. She
stares back at me just as cool, and then remarks, "I guess you know who
I am well enough."

"Sure!" says I. "You're the long lost Duchess of Gainsborough, ain't
you?"

She just gazes at me brassy and shakes her head.

"Then you must be a lady snake agent," says I.

"What?" says she, scowlin' puzzled.

"I don't know the answer, either," says I. "Called for Professor McCabe,
didn't you? Well, you're connected. Shoot the rest of it."

"I'm Mrs. Fletcher Shaw," says she.

And for a minute there I couldn't place the name. Then it came to me.
"Oh!" says I. "Some relation of Josie Vernon's, eh?"

"Suppose I am?" she demands, eyin' me suspicious.

"Tut, tut, now!" says I. "You're the one that's occupyin' the witness
stand, you know. You were about to tell why you came."

"Was I?" says she. "You might guess that: you've had a man pryin' and
snoopin' around my flat for two days."

I gawps at her for a second, and then chuckles. "You mean a
classy-dressed gent with whiskers?" says I.

She nods.

"Mr. J. Bayard Steele," says I. "He's the one to see. He'll give you all
the partic'lars."

"Humph!" says she, sniffin'. "What does he want of Josie Vernon? What's
his game?"

"Deeds of kindness, that's all," says I.

Mrs. Shaw indulges in a hard, throaty cackle. "There ain't no such
animal," says she. "Come now, you're in on this with him. He said so.
What's it all about?"

"Mrs. Shaw," says I, "you've heard all I got to say on the subject. I'm
more or less busy too, and----"

"How impolite!" she breaks in. "And me a lady too! Heavings! how faint I
feel!" With that she sidles towards my desk chair and slumps into it.

"Very distressin' symptoms," says I. "But I got a quick cure for attacks
like that. It's fresh air, taken outside."

"I sha'n't budge until I've found why you're hounding me!" says she,
grippin' the chair arms.

"So?" says I. "Maybe you didn't notice the size of my assistant, Swifty
Joe, as you came in? His specialty is escortin' obstreperous parties
downstairs and dumpin' 'em on the curb."

"You try any strong-arm stuff on me and I'll scream for help!" says she.
"I'll make a charge against you too."

She looked equal to it, and for a minute I stands there gazin' puzzled
at her and scratchin' my head.

"You win," says I. "I can't have Swifty scratched up. He's too handsome.
It ain't any secret I'm keepin' away from you, anyway. All Mr. Steele
wants to do is to locate Josie Vernon. It's a will case, and there may
be something in it for her. There! That's the whole story."

"It's a fishy one," says she.

"Maybe," says I; "but I'm givin' you my word on it. Produce Josie, and
you'll see."

She squints at me doubtful, glances around the room cautious once or
twice, and then remarks quiet, "Very well. I'll take a chance. I'm
Josie."

"Eh?" says I. "You!"

"Ask the Sergeant over at the Nineteenth," says she. "He ran me out of
his precinct because I wouldn't give up enough. Fortune-telling, you
know. He wanted twenty a month. Think of that!"

"Never mind the Sarge," says I. "Did you know Mr. Gordon?"

"Pyramid?" says she. "Rather! Back in the '90's, that was. I was in his
offices for awhile."

"Oh--ho!" says I. "Then you must be the one. Would you mind givin' me a
sketch of the affair?"

Mrs. Shaw shrugs her shoulders under the old cape. "Why should I care
now?" says she. "I sprung a breach of promise suit on him, that's all. I
might have known better. He was a hard man, Pyramid Gordon. What with
lawyers and the private detectives he set after me, I was glad to get
out of the city alive. It was two years before I dared come back--and a
rough two years they were too! But you're not raking that up against me
at this late date, are you?"

"I'm not," says I. "Any move I make will be for your good. But Steele's
the man. I'll have to call him in."

"Call away, then," says she. "I ain't afraid of him, either."

And by luck I catches J. Bayard at his hotel and gets him on the 'phone.

"Well?" says I. "How about the fair Josie?"

I could hear him groan over the wire. "Hang Josie!" says he. "See here,
McCabe, I've had a deuce of a time with that case. Must have been
something wrong with the address, you know."

"How's that?" says I.

"Why," says he, "it led me to a smelly, top-floor flat up in Harlem, and
all I could find there was this impossible person, Mrs. Fletcher Shaw.
Of all the sniveling, lying, vicious-tongued old harridans! Do you know
what she did? Chased me down four flights of stairs with a broom, just
because I insisted on seeing Josie Vernon!"

"You don't say!" says I. "And you such a star at this knight-errant
business! Still want to see Josie, do you?"

"Why, of course," says he.

"Then come down to the studio," says I. "She's here."

"Wha-a-at!" he gasps. "I--I'll be right down."

And inside of ten minutes he swings in, all dolled up elegant with a
pink carnation in his buttonhole. You should have seen the smile come
off his face, though, when he sees what's occupyin' my desk chair. He'd
have done a sneak back through the door too, if I hadn't blocked him
off.

"Steady there, J. Bayard!" says I. "On the job, now!"

"But--but this isn't Josie Vernon," says he. "It's that Mrs.----"

"One and the same," says I. "The lady says so herself. She's proved it
too."

"I had you sized up as a police spotter," puts in Mrs. Shaw, "trying to
get me for palm reading. Thought you might have run across one of my
cards. Josie Vernon's the name I use on them. Sorry if I was too free
with the broom."

"I was merely returning to tell you, Madam," says Steele, "that I had
discovered you to be an impostor. Those five children you claimed as
yours did not belong to you at all. The janitor of the building informed
me that----"

"Yes, I heard him through the dumb-waiter shaft," says Mrs. Shaw. "But I
always borrow some youngsters for my poor widow act when I think I'm
being shadowed; so you needn't get peeved."

"Of course not. How silly of him!" I puts in. "There, Steele, that's all
straightened out, and here is the original Josie Vernon. What have you
got to suggest?"

He stares at me blank, and then takes another look at Mrs. Shaw. I'll
admit she wa'n't a fascinatin' sight.

"You don't mean," says he, whisperin' husky in my ear, "that you would
do anything for such a creature?"

"She's on the list, ain't she?" says I.

"Ye-e-es," he admits; "but----"

"Let's ask the lady herself for a few more details, so we can have
something definite to go on," says I. "Excuse us, Mrs. Shaw, for this
little side debate; but we ain't quite made up our minds about you yet.
Let's see--you was tellin' me about bringin' a breach of promise suit
against Pyramid, and how he ran you out of town. You had a good case
too, I expect?"

"What's the use of lying about it now?" says she. "It was a cheap bluff,
that's all; one of Mr. Shaw's brilliant schemes. Oh, he was a schemer,
Shaw was! Pretended to be a lawyer, Fletcher did, in those days. He was
smooth enough for one, but too lazy. I didn't know that when I married
him. What I didn't know about him then! But I learned. He thought he
could scare Mr. Gordon into settling for a few thousand. Of course my
claim was all bosh. Pyramid Gordon hardly knew I was in his office.
Besides, I was married, anyway. He didn't guess that. But the bluff
didn't work. We were the ones who were scared; scared stiff, too."

"H-m-m-m!" says I. "Not what you might call a pretty affair, was it?"

Mrs. Shaw don't wince at that. She just sneers cynical. "Life with
Fletcher Shaw wasn't pretty at any stage of the game," says she. "Say,
you don't think I picked my career, do you? True, I was only a girl; but
I wasn't quite a fool. You will laugh, I suppose, but at twenty-two I
had dreams, ambitions. I meant to be a woman doctor. I was teaching
physiology and chemistry in a high school up in Connecticut, where I was
born. In another year I could have begun my medical course. Then
Fletcher came along, with his curly brown hair, his happy, careless
smile, and his fascinating way of avoiding the truth. I gave up all my
hopes and plans to go with him. That's what a woman does when she
marries. I don't know why it should be so, but it is. Take my case: I
had more brains, more energy, more character, than he. But he was a man;
so I had to live his life. A rotten sort of life it was. And when it was
over--well, look at me. I've learned to drink gin and to make a living
as a fortune-teller. And the worst of it is, I don't care who knows it.
Wanted details, didn't you? Well, you've got 'em."

I glances at J. Bayard, and finds him lookin' the other way with his lip
curled. You couldn't blame him so much. Listenin' to a female party tell
the story of her life ain't inspirin', and we're all apt to duck things
of that kind. They may be true; but it's easier and pleasanter to look
the other way. As for me, I want to, but can't. I just got to take
things as they are and as they come. Forgettin' weeds in the back yard
don't get rid of 'em. I'm apt to paw around and see where the roots
spread to.

Meanwhile J. Bayard has stepped over by the window and signals me to
follow. "Disgusting, isn't it?" says he. "And you see by this creature's
own story that she doesn't deserve a penny of Pyramid's money. He was
fooled by her, that's all."

"Not Pyramid," says I. "Didn't he have her married name on the slip too?
So he must have found out."

"That's so," says Steele. "Well, suppose we give her fifty or so, and
ship her off."

"That's kind of small, considerin' the pile we got to draw on, ain't
it!" says I. "And it strikes me that since Pyramid put her name down he
meant---- Let's see if there ain't something special she wants."

"Say," sings out Mrs. Shaw, "what about that will business? If it was
old Gordon, I suppose he wouldn't leave me much. He had no call to."

"About what would you expect, now?" says I, as we drifts back to her.

She squints foxy at us for a minute. "After all this fuss," says she,
"it ought to be two or three hundred--maybe five. No, I mean a
thousand."

"Huh!" says I. "A thousand! Got your nerve with you, ain't you? But
suppose it was that much, what would you do with it?"

"Do!" says she, her eyes brightenin'. "Why, I would--I---- Ah, what's
the use! I'd make a fool of myself, of course. And inside of ten days
I'd be in a D.T. ward somewhere."

"No old home or folks that you could go back to?" I suggests.

She shakes her head. "It's too late for me to go back," says she. "Too
late!" She don't try to be tragic, don't even whine it out, but just
states it dull and flat.

"But most everyone has a friend or so somewhere," says I.

At first that don't make any impression at all. Then all of a sudden she
sits up and gazes vague over the top of my head.

"There's the Baron!" says she.

"The which?" says I.

"Von Blatzer," says she. "Oh, he's a real Baron, all right; an
odd-looking, dried up little chap with a wig and painted eyebrows. Yet
he's hardly sixty. I got to know him at Atlantic City, where I had a
Board Walk pitch one season. Queer? That's no word for it! Shy and
lonesome he was; but after you got to know him, one of the brightest,
jolliest old duffers. Our first talk was out on the end of one of those
long piers, by moonlight.

"After that it was a regular thing. We'd walk up and down like two kids,
telling each other all about ourselves. I'd never stated my full opinion
of Fletcher Shaw to a soul before; but somehow old Von was so friendly
and sympathetic that I cut loose. The Baron ground his teeth over it. He
said that Fletcher should have been caught young and shot from a cannon.
Good old Von Blatzer! Wanted me to go back to Vienna as the Baroness.
Think of it--me! But I was having a good season. Besides, I didn't think
I could stand for a wig. I didn't know how much I was going to miss
him."

"You wouldn't shy at the wig now, eh?" says I.

"Would I?" says she. "Honest, I liked Von Blatzer, for all his freaky
ways. He was human, he was, and we understood each other. He'll be at
Monte Carlo now. Roulette, you know. That's all he lives for. Plays a
system. Nice little income he has; not big, but comfortable. And during
the season he feeds it all into the wheel. Someone ought to cure him of
that."

"Think you could, I expect?" says I. "But how about you and the juniper
juice?"

"Oh, I could quit that easy if there was anything else to do," says she.
"But there isn't."

"Then here's a proposition," says I. "You query him by cable to see if
he's changed his mind; and if he's still a candidate for
matrimony--well, I guess Mr. Steele will see that you get to the Baron."

"You--you mean that?" says she gaspy.

"Uh-huh," says I. "It's up to you."

"But--but I---- Why, look at me!" says she.

"Two weeks on the water wagon, a few visits to the beauty parlors, and
an outfit of tango skirts ought to make some diff'rence, hadn't it?"
says I. "Those items would be included. What do you say?"

I expect it was a good deal of a proposition to spring on a female
party. No wonder she choked up over it.

"If I thought you were just guying me," says she, "I--I'd----"

"Here's a cable blank," says I. "Frame up your call to the Baron while I
state the case to Mr. Steele."

He couldn't see it at all, J. Bayard couldn't. "What!" says he. "Waste
all that money on such a wretch! Why, the woman is unworthy of even the
most----"

"What's that got to do with it?" says I. "Pyramid didn't put that in the
bill of partic'lars, did he? Maybe he had doubts about himself. And how
would we qualify? How would you? Come, what's your battin' average,
Steele, in the worthy league?"

J. Bayard squirms a little at that, and then hunches his shoulders.
"Oh, if you're going to put it that way," says he, "go ahead. But when
she starts to be a Baroness, I'd like to see her."

"You'll be there to hand her the tickets," says I. "You'll get her
ready. That's part of your job."

He saw the point. And, say, he did his work thorough. I saw no more of
Mrs. Shaw until nearly two weeks later, when Steele towed me down to the
steamer.

"Which one?" says I, lookin' at the crowd along the rail. "Ah, come off!
That with the veils and the stunnin' figure--the one wavin' this way?
That ain't never Mrs. Fletcher Shaw!"

"That's Josie," says he. "And before the end of the month she'll be the
Baroness Von Blatzer. Changed? Why, I hardly recognized her myself after
her first day's shopping! She must have been quite a beauty once. But
what a wreck she was when----"

"When she chased you with the broom, eh?" says I, chucklin'. "And now
you're as chesty over her as though you'd been workin' a miracle. Just
beamin' for joy, you are!"

"I know," says he. "And really, McCabe, I've never had a hand in
anything which has given me so much genuine pleasure. It--it's weird,
you know. I can't think what's happening to me."

"Maybe," says I, "you're sproutin' a soul."



CHAPTER VI

HOW MILLIE SHOOK THE JINX


Kind of odd the way the Morans and Elisha Porter Bayne coincided. You'd
think so if you could see 'em bunched once; for Elisha P. is a mighty
fine man; you know, one of our most prominent and highly respected
citizens. Everybody says so. The local weekly always prints it that way.
Besides, he's president of the Trust Company, head of the Buildin' and
Loan, chairman of the School Board, and a director of such things as the
Old Ladies' Home, the Hospital, and the Nut and Bolt Works. Always wears
a black frock coat and a white string tie too,--tall, thin jawed,
distinguished lookin' gent.

While the Morans--say, let's put them off as long as we can. And the
more we linger in the society of Mr. Bayne the better we ought to be. Up
to last spring, I blush to admit, I'd never been favored much. Course,
commutin' in and out the way I do, I didn't have a good show. But we
passes the nod when we meets. Elisha P. never strains his neck durin'
the exercise. You could detect his nod with the naked eye, though, and I
expect that was a good deal from him to me. You get the idea. That nod
includes only the Mr. McCabe that owns a shore-front place and votes in
Rockhurst-on-the-Sound. It don't stretch so far as to take in Shorty
McCabe who runs a Physical Culture Studio on 42d-st. And that's all
right too. I'm satisfied.

Then here one day back in April, as I'm drivin' home from the station
with Sadie, who should step to the curb and hold me up but Mr. Bayne.
Does it offhand, friendly, mind you. Course I stops sudden. Sadie bows
and smiles. I lifts my lid. Mr. Bayne holds his square-topped derby
against his white shirt front. We shakes hands cordial. And I'm most
gaspin' for breath when it's over.

"Ah, by the way, Mr. McCabe," says he, "about that--er--Sucker Brook
tract? Have you thought it over yet?"

Just like that, you know; as if it was something we'd been talkin' about
for months, while as a matter of fact this is the first hint I'd had
that Elisha P. was interested at all.

Not that it hadn't been put up to me. Why, three diff'rent parties had
interviewed me confidential on the proposition, offerin' to let me in on
the ground floor, and givin' as many diff'rent but more or less
convincin' reasons for bein' so generous. One explains how he wanted to
see the tract go to some local man instead of New York speculators;
another confesses that their little syndicate is swingin' too much
undeveloped property and has got to start a bargain counter; while the
third man slaps me hearty on the back and whispers that he just wants to
put me next to a good thing.

I come near swallowin' the bait too; for I'd turned over some Bronx
buildin' lots not long before at a nice little advance, and the kale was
only drawin' three per cent. Course this Sucker Brook chunk ain't much
to look at, a strip of marshy ground along the railroad; but half a mile
away they're sellin' villa plots, and acreage is mighty scarce so near
the city line as we are. Took me a week of scoutin' among my friends to
discover that this gang of real estate philanthropists had bought up the
Sucker Brook tract on a private tip that a trolley extension was goin'
to be put through there. So it might have been too, only a couple of the
County Board members who was tryin' to pull off another deal got busy
and blocked the franchise. Then it was a case of unload, with me runnin'
as favorite in the Easy Mark Handicap. And now here comes Elisha P.,
straight out of the Trust Company, to spring the trapdoor himself.

"Why, yes, Mr. Bayne," says I. "I've chewed it over some; but I ain't
quite made up my mind to take it on."

"You haven't!" says he, his nice, white, respectable eyebrows showin'
great surprise. "But, my dear man, I personally had that offer made to
you. Why, we could have---- But never mind that. I hope you may see fit
to give us your answer by Saturday noon."

"That depends," says I, "on whether you come for it or not."

"I beg pardon?" says he, starin'.

"At the studio," says I, shovin' over one of my professional cards.
"That's where I do business. So long, Mr. Bayne." And with that I throws
in the clutch and leaves him gawpin'!

"Why, Shorty!" says Sadie. "How horrid of you! And Mr. Bayne is such a
nice old gentleman too!"

"Yes, ain't he?" says I. "And for smoothness he's got a greased plank
lookin' like a graveled walk."

I didn't think he'd come after that. But the other lines they had out
must have been hauled in empty; for not ten days later I has a 'phone
call from him sayin' he's in town and that if it's convenient he'll drop
around about three P.M.

"I'll be here," says I.

"And I trust," he adds, "that I--er--may not encounter any pugilists
or--er----"

"You'll be safe," says I, "unless some of my Wall Street customers break
office rules and try to ring you in on a margin deal. Outside of them,
or now and then a railroad president, the studio has a quiet, refined
patronage."

"Ah, thanks," says he.

"Swifty," says I to my assistant, "don't show yourself in the front
office after three to-day. I'm goin' to entertain a pillar of society,
and a sight of that mug of yours might get him divin' through the
window."

"Ahr-r-r-r chee!" remarks Swifty Joe, catchin' the wink.

Course, I might have got real peevish over Mr. Bayne's suspicions, and
told him to go chase himself; but I'm feelin' sort of good-humored that
day. Besides, thinks I, it won't do any harm to show him just how
peaceful and respectable a physical culture studio can be. You know the
ideas some people get. And as a rule our floor here is the quietest in
the buildin'. I knew it would be that day specially; for all we had on
the slate was a couple of poddy old parties who'd be workin' away at the
apparatus, havin' about as strenuous a time as a baby playin' with its
toes.

But I hadn't counted in that Sieger & Bloom combination, up on the
fourth. They run a third-rate theatrical agency, you know, and just
about then they was fillin' out contracts for summer snaps, and what you
saw driftin' up and down the stairs didn't make you yearn to be a
vaudeville actor. So later on, when I heard an argument in progress out
in the hall, I glances nervous at the clock. It's almost on the tick of
three.

"Hey, cut out the riot!" I calls through the transom; but as there's no
letup to the debate I strolls over to the door, prepared to reprove
someone real severe.

It's quite some spirited scene out on the landin'. There's old man
Bloom, a short, squatty, fish-eyed old pirate with a complexion like
sour dough. He has one foot on the next flight, and seems to be
retreatin' as he waves his pudgy hands and sputters. Followin' him up is
a tall, willowy, black-eyed young woman in a giddy Longchamps creation
direct from Canal-st. She's pleadin' earnest that Bloom mustn't forget
he's talkin' to a lady. Behind her is a husky, red-haired young gent
with his fingers bunched menacin'; while just below, hesitatin' whether
to push through the hostilities or beat it back to the street, is Elisha
P. Bayne, Esq.

"Give us a show to make good, that's all we ask," the young woman is
sayin'. "Put us on somewhere, as you said you would when you took our
money."

"Bah!" snorts old Bloom. "I vouldn't sign you for a Third-ave. cabaret.
Your act is rotten. A pair of cheab skaters, you are--cheab skaters!"

"Oh, we are, are we?" explodes the young woman. Then, biff! out flashes
one of her long arms, and the next thing Bloom knows his silk lid has
been smashed down over his eyes.

"Helb! Helb!" he squeals. "Bolice! I vill ged the bolice after you."
With that he makes a break past her and goes waddlin' downstairs on the
run.

"Now I've done it, I reckon," says the young woman. "And that about
finishes us, Timothy dear. He's after a cop."

"Yes, and he'll bring one back," I puts in, "or I don't know Abie Bloom.
About five and costs will be the bill. But it ought to be worth it."

"It would, every cent," says she, "if we had the five."

"In that case," says I, "you'd better do a sudden duck."

"But where to!" says she, glancin' desperate down the stairs.

And, say, the thought of how comic old Bloom looked strugglin' out of
his hat, and of how eager he'd be to get her sent to the Island for it,
was too much for me.

"In here," says I, steppin' out of the studio door. "You too," and I
motions to the red-haired gent. Then, turnin' to Elisha P., I goes on,
"Better join the group, Mr. Bayne."

"But, you know," he protests, "this is the very thing I wished to avoid.
I do not care to mingle with such--er----"

"I expect not," says I; "but if you stay here you'll be gathered in as a
witness to the assault. Course, if you'd rather do that--why----"

"No, no!" says he. "I--I think I will step in, for a moment at least."

He made up his mind just in time; for I'd no sooner herded the bunch
into the front office and locked the door than we hears Bloom towin'
the cop up the stairs and describin' puffy how he'd been most murdered.
We listens while they searches the hallways clear to the top, and then
hears the cop trampin' down again. He calls back to Bloom that he'll
keep an eye out for the female assaulter.

"That's Roundsman Foley," says I, "and he's got a four-mile beat to
cover between now and five o'clock. Inside of twenty minutes he'll be
blocks away. Might as well sit down, Folks."

"Say, Mister," speaks up the young woman, "I don't know who you are, but
we're much obliged. Tim, speak up."

Timothy wanted to; but he ain't an easy converser, and the language
seems to clog his tongue.

"Don't mention it," says I. "I ain't got any personal grudge against Mr.
Bloom; but I've been achin' to see someone hand him a pat, just for
greens. There's my name on the door."

"Oh!" says the young woman. "Then you're Professor McCabe? Well, we're
the Morans, Millie and Tim. Tango is our line."

I can see Elisha P. shudder visible at that. He hesitates a second, and
then comes to the front. "McCabe," says he, "I feel that I must protest.
An assault was committed in your presence. As a law-abiding citizen it
should be your duty to turn the offender over to the authorities
instead of furnishing a hiding place."

"Now listen to that!" says I. "All right, Mr. Bayne, if you insist. But
you go along as a witness too."

"In a police court!" he gasps. "Why--really, you know, I--I couldn't do
such a thing."

"Case quashed then," says I. "I'm too bashful to go alone."

"But you know," says he, "I came here merely on a matter of business."

"Yes, we'll get to that pretty soon," says I. "Our friends here are only
goin' to stop until the travelin' is safer." Then I turns to the Morans.
"Dancers, eh!" says I. "Where have you been on?"

"Nowhere," says Millie. "We're tryin' to break in."

"Oh!" says I. "Candidates for amateur night?"

"Not much!" says Millie. "We're as good as any. Maurice ain't got a
thing on us, honest; nor that Ripple combination, either. Why, we got
steps of our own that the rest haven't thought of!"

"Ye-e-es?" says I.

"Oh, I know," says she, shruggin' her shoulders. "Maybe we don't look
it; but, say, we've got the goods."

"Case of undiscovered genius, eh?" says I.

Millie flushes a little at that; but bites her lips to keep back the
hot retort. Bright lookin' girl, Millie; and if she hadn't been costumed
so vivid she wouldn't have been such a bad looker. But in that tight,
striped dress with the slashed skirt, and that foolish lid with the two
skimpy pink feathers curlin' over the back--well, believe me, she was
some zippy!

"Say, lemme tell you how it happened, won't you?" says she.

"If it ain't too long," says I.

"I'll make it sketchy," says she. "In the first place, when I landed
here in New York about a year and a half ago, I'd made up my mind to
connect with big money. I didn't know exactly how; the stage, maybe.
Anyway, I knew the coin was here, and that it wasn't in Saskatoon."

"Sass--which?" says I.

"Saskatoon," says she. "It's on the map, up in Saskatchewan, you know.
No, I wasn't born there. Hardly anybody was. It's too new. I went there
with Mother and Brother Phil when the Northwest boom first started. It
was all right for Philip. He could do surveying, and then he got to
dipping into real estate. But there was no chance for me; so I started
for the white lights. While I was looking around here I took on anything
that would furnish a meal ticket. Oh, you can't starve Millie! I did
fancy ironin' in a hand laundry, was window demonstrator for an electric
vibrator concern, did a turn as a dress model, and sold soda checks in
a drugstore. They don't load you down on payday in any of them places;
but that didn't worry me. I was sizing up the good things, and I'd about
decided on the front row of a musical comedy for mine, when what did I
have to go and do but get soft on Tim here!"

Tim blushes embarrassed and scrapes his hoof.

"Enough to wreck most any career, wasn't it?" goes on Millie. "Think of
it! Me, who'd come down to New York with my head so full of ambitions
there wasn't any room to catch cold, and then in a little over a year to
go and marry the first good-natured Irishman that asked me! You see, I'm
only half Irish myself,--Mother was Argentine Spanish,--which makes me
so different from Tim. Look at him! Would you dream he had a bit of
sense? But he's--oh, he's Tim, that's all. And not many of 'em come
better. Driving a motor truck, he was, and satisfied at that. It was up
at a Terrace Garden dance we got acquainted. No music at all in his
head; but in his feet--say, he just naturally has to let his toes follow
the tune, and if ragtime hadn't been invented he'd have walked slow all
his life. And me? Well, I ought to dance, with Father a born fiddler,
and Mother brought up with castanets in her hands. We danced twelve of
the fourteen numbers together that night, and I never even noticed he
had red hair. I'd been dying to dance for months. Some partner, Tim was
too. That began it. We joined a class and started learning the new
steps. And almost before I knew it I was Mrs. Moran. We'd been married
nearly a month before I woke up to what a fool thing I'd done. There I
was, tryin' to feed and clothe two people, besides payin' the rent and
furniture installments, all on sixteen per. I got a job as cashier in a
quick lunch place next day. Tim didn't like it a bit; did you, Tim?"

Mr. Moran grins good-natured.

"That's the way he stormed around at home," says Millie. "But I had a
scheme. We'd seen some of this dancing done on the stage, not much
better than we could do ourselves. 'Tim dear,' says I, 'we've been
dancing for the fun of it. It's the best thing you do. Now let's make it
pay.' He thought I was crazy. I believe he had an idea he was born to
drive a gasoline truck, and that it would be wicked to try anything
else. But I do the heavy thinking for the Moran family. I nearly starved
him until I'd saved out a tenspot. Then I went to the best tango
professor I could find and took an hour lesson. Next I taught Tim. We
cleared out our little dining room and had our meals off the gas range.
My next splurge was a music machine and some dance records. One Saturday
Tim brought home two dollars for overtime, and that night we watched
Maurice from the second balcony. Then we really began practicing. Why,
some nights I kept him at it for four hours on a stretch. He weighed
one hundred and eighty at the start; but now he's down to one hundred
and forty-three. But it's been good for him. And trying to keep all
those new variations in his head--why, he's almost learned to think!
Say, you know you can get almost anything by keeping at it. And Tim and
I have learned rag dancing, all there is to it, besides some I've made
up. All we need now is a chance, and it's such scum as old Bloom that
keeps us out. Do you blame me for landing on his hat?"

"Not me," says I. "And I hope you break in sometime or other."

"It's got to be now," says Millie. "I've made Tim quit the truck, and
we're down to our last dollar. Think of that! Just when I can see
daylight ahead too! Why, if I knew where I could get hold of two
hundred----"

She pauses and gazes around sort of desperate, until she and Elisha P.
Bayne are starin' at each other.

I couldn't resist the temptation, either. "There you are," says I. "Mr.
Bayne runs a bank. Lendin' money's his business."

"Really, McCabe!" says Bayne indignant.

But Millie ain't lettin' any hints get by. "Why wouldn't someone lend me
that much?" says she, gazin' earnest at me once more. "Just two hundred!
I could pay it back in less than six months. Oh, I'm sure I could! Mr.
McCabe, wouldn't you?"

Almost took my breath away, the quick way she turned my josh back on me.
"Why," says I, "I--I might--on security."

"Security?" says she, kind of vague. Then all of a sudden she brightens
up. "Why, yes; of course you'd want security. I'd put up Tim."

"Eh?" says I, and something of the kind comes from Timothy too.

"He can always earn from twelve to fifteen a week," says Millie, eager.
"You could have ten of it for twenty weeks. We could live in one room,
and I would keep things running. Honest, if we don't make a go of it
we'll come back and pay up."

"But what's the scheme?" says I. "Going off somewhere, are you?"

"That's what I want the money for, to take us there," says she. "I--I
don't want to tell the rest. I haven't even told Tim. But we can win
out. I'm sure we can if you'll stake us. Won't you, please, Professor
MCCabe?"

And I expect it was all due to that sneer of Elisha P. Bayne's. For
while this was about as batty a business proposition as I ever had put
up to me, this scheme of Millie's for hockin' her hubby, I'd got more or
less int'rested in her yarn. And it struck me that a girl who'd done
what she had wa'n't any quitter. Elisha puts on such a hard, cold sneer
too; and comin' from this wise, foxy old near-plute who'd been playin'
lead pipe cinches all his life, I expect, and never lettin' go of a
nickel until he had a dime's worth of goods in his fist--well, it got
to me, all right.

[Illustration: "Say, I'm a bear for Paris."]

"You win," says I, flashin' my roll and startin' to count off the
twenties.

"But, McCabe!" gasps Elisha P. "Surely you're not going to lend two
hundred dollars to--to such a person as this?"

"Yep," says I. "This is my foolish day. And I'm goin' to write you a
check for two hundred more for a six months' option on that Sucker Brook
tract. Here you are, Mrs. Moran. Never mind the ticket for Tim. I'm
takin' your word."

"Talk about miracles!" says Millie, countin' the money dazed.

"Bless you, Sorr!" says Tim husky as I shows 'em out.

And I finds Elisha P. sittin' there rubbin' his hands expectant. He must
have suspicioned I was easy all the while, or he wouldn't have hung on
so; but after this exhibition I expect he felt it was only a matter of
makin' a few passes and then walkin' off with everything but my shirt.
Fact is, though, I'd had some new dope on this property, and while it
looked like a thirty-to-one shot I thought I'd take a chance. Course, he
tries to close the deal outright; but the option is as far as I'll go.

For weeks after that, though, I carried four hundred on the books with a
minus sign in front. Then I crossed it off altogether. Not a word from
the Morans. Nothing doing in the way of buying booms around Sucker
Brook. But you got to stand some losses now and then if you're goin' to
keep in line for an occasional big cleanup. And, anyway, it was worth
while to head Elisha P. Bayne's boob list. You ought to see the
sarcastic smiles he used to shoot over when we'd meet and he'd ask if
I'd heard from, my dancing friends yet. Say, I expect I furnished the
one joke of his life.

I did bank on gettin' back something from Millie, though, if only a
money order for ten on account. But all through June and July, clear
into August, not a whisper. Whatever her scheme had been, it must have
gone wrong.

And then here one mornin' last week as I'm gazin' idle out the front
window onto 42d-st., up rolls a taxi, and out climbs a couple that you
might have said had been shot over by aëroplane from the Rue de Rivoli.
Couldn't tell that so much from her getup as from the Frenchy hat and
boulevard whiskers he's sportin'. First brick red imperial I ever
remember seein' too. It ain't until they've climbed the stairs and
walked in the studio door, though, that I even had a glimmer as to who
they was. But one glance at them black eyes of the lady's was enough.

"Well, I'll be singed!" says I. "The Morans!"

"Of London and Paris," adds Millie.

"Gwan!" says I.

"Show him, Tim," says she. At which Timothy extracts from the inside of
his silk tile a billboard poster announcing the comin', for a limited
engagement only, of those European tango wizards, Mons. and Mlle. Moran.

"I cabled our agents we wouldn't sail until we'd seen a sample of the
paper," says Millie.

"Gee!" says I. "You must have got next!"

"Did we?" says Millie. "My word! Why, when we hit London the craze was
just striking in over there. We was among the advance guard. Say, we
hadn't been over ten days before we headed the bill at the Alcazar as
the famous New York tango artists. Inside of two weeks more we were
doing three turns a night, with all kinds of private dates on the side.
Say, would you believe it? I've danced with a real Duke! And Tim--why if
it hadn't been for me on the spot there'd been no telling what would
have happened. Those English society women are the limit. Then Paris.
Ah, _ma chère Paris_! Say, I'm a bear for Paris. Didn't we soak the
price on when that Moulin Rouge guy came after us, though? _Ma foi!_
Say, he used to weep when be paid me the money. '_Mon Dieu!_ Five
hundred francs for so small a _danse_!' But he paid. Trust Millie Moran!
Say, I collected a few glad rags over there too. What about this one?"

"It don't need any Paris label," says I. "Don't see how you got
upstairs in it, though."

"I can do a cartwheel in it," says she. "We've learned to handle
ourselves some, Tim and I. And now I guess I'll take him out of hock.
You'll find two hundred gold in the package."

"Thanks," says I, openin' the long envelope. "But what's this other?"

"Oh, that!" says she. "Interest. Deed for a few lots in the new North
Addition to Saskatoon."

"Tut, tut!" says I. "I can't take 'em. That wa'n't any loan I staked you
to; just bread on the waters."

"Well, you can't kick if it comes back a ham sandwich," says she.
"Besides, the lots stand in your name now. They were a mile out of town
when I bought 'em; but Brother Phil says the city's bulged that way
since. They've got the boom, you know. That's where we've been sending
all our spare salary. Phil's down here to see us open."

"Eh?" says I. "Not the surveyor!"

"He still does some of that," says she.

"Do you suppose," says I, "I could get him to do a little stunt for me
while he's here?"

"Do I?" says she. "Why, he knows all about it. Brother Phil will go the
limit for you."

Uh-huh. Philip was up to all the fine points of the game, and the
imitation he gave of layin' out a two-million-dollar factory site along
Sucker Brook was perfect, even to loadin' his transit and target
jugglers into a tourin' car right in front of the Rockhurst Trust
Company.

Maybe that's how it come to be noised around that the Western Electric
Company was goin' to locate a big plant on the tract. Anyway, before
night I had three of the syndicate biddin' against each other
confidential; but when Elisha P. runs it up to four figures, offerin' to
meet me at the station with a certified check, I closes the deal with a
bang.

"Swifty," says I, hangin' up the 'phone, "trot around to the Casino and
get a lower box for to-night, while I find a florist's and order an
eight-foot horseshoe of American beauties."

"Chee!" says Swifty, gawpin'. "What's doin'?"

"I'm tryin' to celebrate a doubleheader," says I.



CHAPTER VII

REVERSE ENGLISH ON SONNY BOY


"Do you know, Shorty," says J. Bayard Steele, balancin' his bamboo
walkin' stick thoughtful on one forefinger, "I'm getting to be a regular
expert in altruism."

"Can't you take something for it?" says I.

But he waves aside my comedy stab and proceeds, chesty and serious,
"Really, I am, though. It's this philanthropic executor work that I've
been dragged into doing by that whimsical will of your friend, the late
Pyramid Gordon, of course. I must admit that at first it came a little
awkward, not being used to thinking much about others; but now--why, I'm
getting so I can tell almost at a glance what people want and how to
help them!"

"Huh!" says I. "Then you're some wizard. It often bothers me to dope out
just what I need myself; and when it comes to decidin' for other
folks---- Say, have you tackled envelope No. 4 on Pyramid's list yet?"

"I have," says J. Bayard, smilin' confident. "Peculiar case too. A month
or so ago I should have been puzzled. Now it seems very simple. I've
done all my investigating, made my plans, and if you will run downtown
to a lawyer's office with me after luncheon we shall meet the
beneficiaries-to-be and fix up the details of a nice little deed of
kindness of which I am the proud author."

"Fat commission in it for you, eh?" says I.

J. Bayard looks pained and hurt. "Really," says he, "I hadn't thought of
that. No, the outlay will be slight. In fact, it's merely a matter of
launching a young man in society."

"Well, well!" says I. "That's a husky job for a couple of grown men like
us, ain't it? Who's the young gent--Clarence what?"

"Ever hear of Hungry Jim Hammond?" says he.

I had, but couldn't quite place him; so J. Bayard supplies the
description. He'd started out as a railroad man, Hammond had, back in
the days when Pyramid Gordon was first beginnin' to discover that
swappin' hot air for votin' shares was perfectly good business so long
as you could get away with the goods. Only Hammond was the real thing.
He was a construction expert.

Mr. Gordon had found him on the payroll of a line he'd annexed by a
midnight deal; concluded he knew too much about the job to be a safe man
to have around; so he transfers him to the Far West and sets him to work
on a scheme to lay out a road parallelin' the Southern Pacific. Hammond
couldn't tell it was a stall. He blazes merrily ahead surveyin' a right
of way across three States, and had got as far as Death Valley when the
rumor comes to camp that this new line is all a fake.

Hammond had a gang of twenty-five or thirty men with him, and his weekly
pay check hadn't shown up for about a month. But he couldn't believe
that Pyramid had laid down on him. He'd got mighty int'rested in
buildin' that road across the desert, and had dreamed some rosy dreams
about it. But his men felt diff'rent. They wanted action on the
cashier's part, or they'd quit. Hammond begged 'em to stay. He even blew
in his own bank account settlin' part of the back wages. But inside of
three days his crew had dwindled to a Chinese cook and a Greaser mule
driver. Took him a couple of weeks more to get wise to the fact that he
was stranded there in the sand, six miles from a water hole, with a few
cases of canned beef and a sack of corn meal.

Even then he didn't give up for good. He made his way back to a stage
station and sent through a wire to Pyramid askin' for instructions. More
than a month he waited, with no word from Gordon. Seems that by then
Pyramid was too busy with other things. He'd cashed in on his bluff and
was sortin' a new hand. And maybe he wa'n't anxious to have Hammond come
East again. Anyway, he let him shift.

That was when Hammond came so near starvin'. But he didn't--quite. For a
year or more he managed to live somehow. Then one day he drove a team
of boneyard mules into Blue Dog with a wagonload of stuff that the
natives stared at. It was white, shiny stuff. Hammond said it was borax.
He'd discovered a big deposit of it out there in the blisterin' sand. He
was goin' to ship it back East and sell it. They thought he was nutty.
He wasn't, though. On East they was usin' a lot of borax and demandin'
more.

With a few thousand back of him Hammond might have got to be the Borax
King right then; but as it was he held onto an interest big enough to
make him quite a plute, and inside of a year he was located in Denver
and earnin' his nickname of Hungry Jim. His desert appetite had stayed
with him, you see, and such little whims as orderin' a three-inch
tenderloin steak frescoed with a pound of mushrooms and swimmin' in the
juice squeezed from a pair of canvasback ducks got to be a reg'lar thing
for him.

It was there he met and married the husky built head waitress and moved
into a double-breasted mansion up on Capitol Hill. Also he begun wearin'
diamond shirtstuds and givin' wine dinners.

"But, like others of his kind," goes on J. Bayard, "his luck didn't
last. Because he'd made one big strike, he thought he knew the mining
game from top to bottom. He lost hundreds of thousands on wild ventures.
His long drawn out suit against Pyramid was another expensive luxury;
for in the end Gordon beat him.

"It was Hammond's big appetite that finished him off, though,--acute
indigestion. So that is why Pyramid leaves us this item in his list:
'The widow or other survivor of James R. Hammond.' Well, I've found them
both, Mrs. Hammond and her son Royce. I haven't actually seen either of
'em as yet; but I have located Mrs. Hammond's attorney and had several
conferences with him. And what do you think? She won't take a dollar of
Gordon's money for herself; nor will Royce directly. There's one thing,
however, that she will probably not refuse,--any social assistance we
may give to her son. That's her chief ambition, it seems,--to see Royce
get into what she considers smart society. Well, what do you say,
McCabe? Can't we help?"

"Depends a good deal on Royce," says I. "Course, if he's too raw a
roughneck----"

"Precisely!" breaks in J. Bayard. "And as the son of such a man we must
look for rather a crude youth, I suppose. But in order to carry out the
terms of Gordon's will we must do some kind and generous act for these
people. This seems to be our only chance. Now here is my plan."

And he's comin' on, J. Bayard is! He proposes that we use our combined
pull with Mr. Twombley-Crane to land Royce--for one consecutive night,
anyway--plunk in the middle of the younger set. He's leased a nice
furnished cottage from one of the Meadowbrook bunch, not more'n a mile
from the Twombley-Crane estate, got the promise of havin' the
youngster's name put up at the Hunt Club for the summer privileges, and
has arranged to have mother and son move in right in the height of the
season.

"In time for the Twombley-Cranes' big costume ball?" I suggests.

"Nothing less," says he. "And if we could manage to have them invited to
that--well, what more could a fond parent ask?"

"H-m-m-m!" says I, rubbin' my chin. "Might get ourselves disliked if we
sprung a ringer on 'em that way. Course, if this Royce boy could be
trained to pull a broad A now and then, and be drilled into doin' a
maxixe that would pass, I might take a chance. Mrs. McCabe could get
their names on the guest list, all right. But I'd have to have a peek at
Sonny first."

You see, with an ex-waitress mother, and a Hungry Jim for a father,
Royce might be too tough for anything but a Coney Island spiel-fest. In
that case J. Bayard would have to dig up a new scheme. So we starts out
to look 'em up.

Accordin' to schedule we should have found 'em both waitin' for us at
the lawyer's, sittin' side by side and lookin' scared. But the boy that
shows us into the reception room says how Mrs. Hammond is in the private
office with the boss, and it looks like Sonny was late.

"I'll tell you," says I to J. Bayard. "You push in and interview Mother,
while I stick around out here and wait for the other half of the
sketch."

He agrees to that, and has disappeared behind the ground-glass door when
I discovers this slick-haired young gent sittin' at a desk over by the
window,--a buddin' law clerk, most likely. And by way of bein' sociable
I remarks casual that I hear how McGraw is puttin' Tesreau on the mound
again to-day against the Cubs.

That don't get much of a rise out of him. "Aw, rully!" says he.

"I expect you'll be hikin' out for the grandstand yourself pretty
quick?" I goes on.

"No," says he, shruggin' his shoulders annoyed. "I take no interest in
baseball; none whatever, I assure you."

"Excuse my mentionin' it, then," says I. "But just what is your
line,--croquet?"

"My favorite recreation," says he, "is dawncing." And with that he turns
away like he'd exhausted the subject.

But this gives me an idea. Maybe he could be hired to coach Royce.

"It's a thrillin' sport," says I. "And, by the way, there's a young chap
due to show up here soon. I wonder if you've seen him around
before,--young Hammond?"

"I beg pardon," says he, "but do you refer to Royce Hammond?"

"That's the guy," says I. "Kind of a husky young hick, eh?"

He stares at me cold and disapprovin'. "I am Royce Hammond!" says he.

You could have bought me for a yesterday's rain check. "Wha-a-at!" says
I, gawpin'. "You--you are----"

Say, come to look him over close, I might have known he was no
ten-a-week process server. He's costumed neat but expensive, and his
lily-white hands are manicured to the last notch. Nice lookin' youth he
is, with a good head on him and a fine pair of shoulders. And for
conversation he uses the kind of near-English accent you hear along the
Harvard Gold Coast. Cul-chaw? Why, it fairly dripped from Royce, like
moisture from the ice water tank on a hot day!

"Excuse," says I. "I'm Professor McCabe, and I was only----"

"Oh, yes," says he, sighin' weary, "I understand. Something absurd about
a will, isn't it? Mother is quite keen over it; and I wish she wouldn't,
you know."

"Eh?" says I, a bit dizzy from tryin' to follow him.

"Oh, I've no doubt you mean well enough," he goes on; "but we cawn't
accept favors from utter strangers--really, we cawn't. And besides, old
Gordon was such a rotter!"

To relieve his feelin's he lights a cigarette and gives me the shoulder
once more. I felt like I'd been slapped on the wrist and sent to stand
in the corner.

"Maybe you'd like my apology in writin'?" says I. "Just point out a real
dusty spot on the floor, and I'll grovel in it. But remember, Son, all
we laid out to do, in our humble way, was to give you a boost. So don't
be too hard on us."

He smiles patronizin' at that. "No offense intended, I'm suah," says he.
"I merely wished to make clear my own position in this ridiculous
affair. Of course, if Mother insists, I presume I must---- Bah Jove!
Here they are, though!"

And out through the door comes J. Bayard and the lawyer, escortin' a
stunnin'-built lady with her face half hid by veils. I'd been introduced
too, and was just handin' her a chair, when we got a good square look at
each other. So it was simultaneous. She gives a little gasp and
stiffens, and I expect I did some open-face work myself. I glances from
her to J. Bayard and stares foolish.

"Did you say Mrs. Hammond?" says I.

"Of course, McCabe," says he sort of peevish. "You know I explained
beforehand."

"Yes," says I; "but--but----"

Then the lady steps to the front herself, her chin up and her lips
pressed tight. "Professor McCabe and I have met before," says she,
"under--well, under different circumstances. That is all. And now, Mr.
Steele, you spoke of securing an invitation for my son and myself to an
important social affair. At just whose house, please?"

"Why," says J. Bayard, "at Mr. Twombley-Crane's."

She don't wince. Near as I could tell she don't make a move, and a
second later she's turned to me with a sketchy sort of a smile. "I think
I may trust you to explain to Mr. Steele later on," says she, "how
impossible it would be for me to accept such an invitation."

I nods, still gawpin' at her. You'd most thought that would have been
hint enough for J. Bayard; but he's such a fathead at times, and he's so
strong for carryin' through any proposition of his own, that it don't
get to him.

"But, my dear lady," says he, "such an opportunity! Why, the
Twombley-Cranes, you know, are----"

"Ah, ditch it, J. B.!" I cuts in, and shakes my head menacin'.

The lady smiles grateful and lifts one hand. "It's no use," says she.
"I've given up. And you might as well know the whole story at once;
Royce too. I didn't mean that he should ever know; but I see now that he
is bound to hear it sooner or later. Professor McCabe, you tell them."

It's some attentive audience I faced too; J. Bayard starin' puzzled, the
lawyer with his eyes squinted hard at her, and young Royce growin' pale
around the gills. It was that look of his that hurried me on.

"Why, it ain't so much," says I; "only when I knew you you was
housekeeper at the Twombley-Cranes, wa'n't you?"

"Mother!" says the young gent choky, jumpin' to his feet.

"I was," says she. "That was four years ago, when Royce was a freshman.
Very glad I was to get the position too, and not a little pleased that I
was able to fill it. Why? Because it gave me a chance to learn there the
things I wanted to know; the things I needed to know, Royce, as your
mother."

But he only gazes at her blank and shocked.

"Can't you understand, Royce?" she goes on pleadin'. "You know how we
have moved from place to place; how at times my cards have read 'Mrs.
James R. Hammond,' then 'Mrs. J. Royce Hammond,' and finally 'Mrs. Royce
Hammond'? But it was all useless. Always someone came who knew, and
after that--well, I was just the widow of Hungry Jim Hammond.

"Not that I cared for myself. I was never ashamed of Hungry Jim while he
lived. He was a real man, Jim Hammond was, honest and kind and brave.
And if he was crude and rough, it was only because he'd lived that way,
because he'd had to. He let them call him Hungry Jim too. No one ever
knew him to resent it. But it hurt, just the same. He tried to live it
down, there in Denver, tried to be refined and polite; but those years
in the desert couldn't be wiped out so easily. He was Hungry Jim to the
last.

"He wanted his son to be different, though. 'Outfit him to travel with
the best, Annie,' he used to say to me during those last days, 'and see
that he gets on a polish. Promise, now!' I promised. And I've done as
well as I could. I've lived for that. But I soon found that real
refinement was something you couldn't order at the store. I found that
before I could get it for Royce I must have at least a speaking
acquaintance with it myself.

"That meant associating with nice people. But nice people didn't care to
mix with Mrs. Jim Hammond. I didn't blame them for shutting their front
doors to me. I had to get in, though. So I slipped in by the back
way--as housekeeper. I kept my eyes and ears open. I picked up their
little tricks of speech and manner, their ways of doing things. I toned
my voice down, schooled myself, until I knew the things that Royce ought
to know. It wasn't easy, especially the giving him up during his
holidays and sending him off with his college friends, when I wanted him
to be with me. Oh, how much I did miss him those two summers! But I had
promised Jim, and--and--well, I think I've made of Royce what he wanted
me to make of him."

Somehow or other, as she stops, we all turns towards young Hammond. His
face ain't pale any more. It's well pinked up.

"By Jove!" says J. Bayard enthusiastic. "But that's what I call real
pluck, Mrs. Hammond. And your son does you credit too. So what if the
Twombley-Cranes might remember you as a former housekeeper? They don't
know the young man, needn't know just who he is. Why not accept for him?
Why not give him a chance? What do you say, McCabe?"

"Sure!" says I. "I'm backin' him to qualify."

"It might mean," goes on J. Bayard insinuatin', "an opportunity
to--well, to meet the right girl, you know."

Mrs. Hammond draws in her breath sharp and clasps her hands tight. I
could see the picture she was watchin' on the screen,--Royce and a real
swell young lady plutess trippin' towards the altar; maybe a crest on
the fam'ly note paper.

"Oh!" says she. "And he should have the chance, shouldn't he? Well then,
he must go. And you can just leave me out."

That seemed to settle it, and we was all takin' a deep breath, when
Royce steps to the center of the stage. He puts his arm gentle around
Mrs. Hammond and pats her on the shoulder.

"Sorry, Mother," says he, "but I'm going to do nothing of the sort.
You're an old dear, and the best mother a boy ever had. I never knew how
much you had given up for me, never dreamed. But from now on it's going
to be different. It's my turn now!"

"But--but, Royce," protests Mrs. Hammond, "you--you don't quite
understand. We can't go on living as we have. Our income isn't so much
as it was once, and----"

"I know," said Royce. "I had a talk with your attorney last week. It's
the fault of that Honduras rubber plantation, where most of our funds
are tied up. That Alvarez, your rascally Spanish superintendent, has
been robbing you right and left. Well, I'm going to put a stop to that."

"You, Royce!" says Mother.

"Yes," says he quiet but earnest, "I'm going down there and fire him.
I'm going to run the plantation myself for awhile."

"Why, Royce!" gasps Mrs. Hammond.

He smiles and pats her on the shoulder again. "I know," he goes on. "I
seem useless enough. I've been trained to shine at dinner parties, and
balls, and _thés dansants_. I suppose I can too. And I've learned to
sound my final G's, and to use the right forks, and how to make a
parting speech to my hostess. So you've kept your promise to Father. But
I've been thinking it all over lately. That isn't the sort of person I
want to be. You say Father was a real man. I want to be a real man too.
I mean to try, anyway. This little affair with Alvarez ought to test
me. They say he's rather a bad one, that he can't be fired. We'll see
about that. There's a steamer for Belize next Thursday. I'm going to
sail on her. Will you go along too?"

For a minute they stood there, Mother and Sonny boy, gazin' into each
other's eyes without sayin' a word; and then--well, we turns our backs
as they goes to a clinch and Mother turns on the sprinkler.

But J. Bayard's programme for helpin' Royce break into the younger set
is bugged for fair. Instead we've dug up an expert in rubber farmin' and
are preparin' to send him down as first assistant to the classiest
plantation manager that ever started for Honduras. Mrs. Hammond
announces that she's goin' too.

"There's good stuff in that young chap," says J. Bayard. "He isn't the
son of Hungry Jim for nothing. I'll bet he wins out!"

"Win or lose," says I, "he's ducked bein' a parlor rat for life, which
is something."



CHAPTER VIII

GUMMING GOPHER TO THE MAP


I'd heard the front office door pushed open and listened to a couple of
heavy steps on the floor runner before I glances round to find this high
party with the wide, stooped shoulders and the rugged face standin'
there beamin' at me genial and folksy. In one hand he has a green cloth
bag with somethin' square in it, and in the other he has a broad-brimmed
soft hat about the color of Camembert cheese. A tank station delegate
and no mistake!

"The Horse Dealers' Exchange is over east of Fourth avenue, about eight
blocks down," says I.

He chuckles good-natured and shakes his head. "You got two more comin'
to you, Brother," says he.

"Is it sawmill machinery you're lookin' for, then," says I, "or the home
office of Marriage Bells?"

"Struck out!" says he. "Now it's my bat. Are you J. Bayard Steele,
Mister?"

"Honest, now," says I, "do I look it?"

"Then I reckon you're the other one--Professor McCabe," says he.

"Line hit over center field!" says I. "What's the follow up to that?"

"No hurry," says he. "Have a button first."

"Eh?" says I, gawpin', as he tosses the green bag and yellow lid onto a
chair, dives into his side pocket, and proceeds to pin something on my
coat lapel.

"Plenty of 'em," says he. "Here, take some for your friends. How's that
for a slogan, anyway? 'Go to Gopher!' Good advice too. Gopher's the
garden spot of the universe."

"Gopher what--where is it?" says I.

"Why," says he, "Gopher, U.S.A. That's the idea! I'm from there. Hubbs
is the name,--Nelson Hubbs, secretary of the Gopher Board of Trade,--and
I never miss a chance to give Gopher a boost."

"If this is a sample," says I, "you don't need to make an affidavit. But
you wanted to see J. Bayard Steele, didn't you?"

It was as I'd suspicioned. Mr. Hubbs was No. 5 on the kindly deeds list
that Pyramid Gordon had wished on Steele and me. We was to apply
soothin' acts and financial balm to all the old grouches that Pyramid
had left behind him, you remember, on a commission basis.

Seems J. Bayard had been tracin' Hubbs up by mail for more'n a month,
and at that it was just by chance one of his letters had been forwarded
to the right place. So Hubbs had come on to see what it was all about.

"Course," says he, "I remember this Gordon; but I didn't think he would
me, and I can't see how settlin' up his will could----"

"Threw the hooks into you sometime or other, didn't he?" says I.

"I dun'no's you'd rightly call it that, either," says Hubbs, runnin' his
long fingers reflective through his heavy mop of wavy hair. "I was
station agent and dispatcher out at Kayuse Creek the only time we met
up--and of all the forsaken, dreary, one-mule towns along the line that
was the worst. I'd been there a year and a half, with no signs of ever
gettin' out, and I'd got so I hated every human, being in sight,
includin' myself. I even hated the people in the trains that went
through, because they was goin' somewhere, and I wasn't. You know how it
is."

"Well?" says I.

"So when this special pulled in, two private cars and a blind baggage,"
he goes on, "and a potty conductor asked me for a clear track to Omaha,
I turned him down flat. Might of done it, you know, for the express was
four hours behind schedule; but I was just too ornery. I let on I hadn't
got the order, made 'em back their old special on a siding, and held 'em
there all one blisterin' hot afternoon, while they come in by turns and
cussed me. But your Mr. Gordon was the only one that talked straight to
the point. 'Let us through, or I'll see that you're fired before
morning!' says he, and fired I was. The night freight dropped a new
agent, and by breakfast time I was a wanderer on the face of the earth.
Which was the best thing, Sir, that ever happened to me! I might have
stuck in Kayuse Creek until this day."

"How long was it until you discovered this Gopher spot?" says I. "Near a
dozen years," says he, "and during that time, Sir, I've had a whirl at
more different kinds of industry than you'd believe existed, from
runnin' a self-binder to canvassin' for the Life of James A. Garfield.
It was Possum Oil that brought me good luck. Boiled linseed with camphor
and a little tincture of iron was what it was really made of; but there
was a 'possum picture on the label, and I've had testimonials provin'
that it has cured nearly every disease known to man, from ringworm to
curvature of the spine. I'd worked up a fifteen-minute spiel too that
was a gem of street corner eloquence, and no matter where I stuck up my
flare I could do an evenin's business runnin' from ten to forty dollars.

"So when I hit them corn fritters of Mrs. Whipple's that night in Gopher
I had no more notion of quittin' the road than a prairie chicken has of
breakin' into a hencoop. But say, Brother, no human being ever made
tastier corn fritters than them. 'Young lady,' says I to the half-grown
girl that waited on table, 'who built these?'--'Mrs. Whipple,' says
she. 'Present my best compliments to her,' says I, 'and tell me where I
can find Mr. Whipple. I want to congratulate him.'--'Lawzee! Whipple?'
says she. 'Why, he died back East goin' on six years ago.'--'Then,' says
I, 'I'll take the message to Mrs. Whipple myself. She's, around, I
suppose?'--'No,' says the girl. 'Soon's she got supper ready she had to
go down to the square 'lectioneerin'. She's runnin' for Mayor.'

"Say, Professor McCabe, it was a fact! Besides conductin' her boardin'
house and bein' president of the Civic League, she was candidate for
Mayor on an independent ticket. Got it too, Sir! They have the vote out
in our State, you know.

"Well, hearin' that sort of cooled me down a bit. I thought she'd be a
hatchet-faced female with a voice like a guinea hen. So I didn't, see
her until I was all packed up to leave next day and hunted her up to pay
my bill. And say, Brother, doggoned if she don't turn out to be about
the plumpest, cheeriest, winningest little body that ever I see
unclaimed! Nothin' standoffish about her, either. 'There!' says she.
'Look at you, going off with all that dandruff on your coat collar!
Mamie, bring me that whisk broom.'--'Ma'am,' says I, when she'd finished
the job and added a little pat to my necktie, 'my name is Hubbs. It's a
homely name, and I'm a homely man; but if there's any chance of ever
persuadin' you to be Mrs. Nelson Hubbs, I'll stick around this town
until the crack of doom.'--'Now don't be foolish,' says she. 'Run along.
I'm busy.' Wa'n't so encouragin', was it? 'Let's see,' says I, 'what
place is this anyhow?'--'The idea!' says she. 'It's Gopher; and let me
tell you, Mr. Hubbs, some day it's going to be one of the finest cities
west of Chicago!'--'While you're in it,' says I, 'it's goin' to be good
enough for me. I'm goin' to stay right here.'

"Well, that's what I did, Sir. The Gopher Gazette was for sale, and
inside of twenty-four hours I'd bought it, one-third cash, and I've been
runnin' it ever since. And I've proposed to Mrs. Whipple once a week
reg'lar the whole ten months."

"Only to get more of that run-along-now advice?" says I.

He winks rapid two or three times by way of relievin' his feelin's. "It
ain't exactly as bad as that," says he. "I reckon she's kind of got used
to my homely face, and if I have any good points at all, you can bet
she's found 'em. Anyway, one night a couple of months ago she dropped a
hint that was like manna from the sky. I've been livin' on it ever
since. 'Nelson,' says she, 'there's only one man I'd have, and that's
the man who will put Gopher on the map.'"

"Oh-ho!" says I. "Hence the buttons?"

"That's only part of my scheme," says Hubbs. "The rest I worked out
between the time I got word from this Mr. Steele and the day I left for
New York. Up to then I hadn't thought of comin' East to boost Gopher;
but the letter settled me. 'I'm goin' on,' says I to Mrs. Whipple, 'and
if Gopher ain't on the map when I come back, I'll never ask you again to
change your name to Hubbs. I'll change mine to Dubb!' So you see,
Professor, I ain't got any time to waste. Where can I find Mr. Steele?"

I gave him directions for locatin' J. Bayard, and off he pikes, swingin'
the green bag jaunty in one big paw. He'd been here ten minutes, and
he'd told me the story of his life. Now see what Steele gets out of him.

"Shorty," says J. Bayard, driftin' in languid after lunch and caressin'
his bank president whiskers approvin' as he camps down by the desk, "the
deeper I get into the career of your late friend, Pyramid Gordon, the
more I am amazed at the infinite pains he took to deal unjustly with so
many different persons of no account."

"All of which means, I expect," says I, "that you've been havin' a talk
with Hubbs. Well, what you goin' to do for him?"

Mr. Steele shrugs his shoulders. "He is simply impossible!" says he.

"How's that?" says I.

"I was unable to decide," says J. Bayard, "whether he was mentally
unbalanced, or just plain crank. Comes from some absurd little hole out
West, and has but one idea in his head,--to boom that place. Tried to
pin a beastly button on me. Ah! I see you have one."

"Sure!" says I. "'Go to Gopher!' Catchy, ain't it?"

"Bah!" says he. "What do I care for his little two-by-four village? What
does anyone care, save the poor wretches who must live there? And yet he
insisted on boring me for one mortal hour with his preposterous schemes.
It appears that he has raised an advertising fund of a thousand dollars,
and means to open a publicity bureau somewhere downtown."

"Well, that's enterprisin', ain't it?" says I.

"It's imbecile!" says J. Bayard. "What can he do with a thousand in New
York. You might as well try to sprinkle Central Park with a quart
watering can. I told him so. I tried to get out of him too some
suggestion as to how we could best carry out the terms of Gordon's crazy
will; some kind and generous act that we could do for him, you know. But
he would talk of nothing but Gopher--everlastingly and eternally
Gopher!"

"Yes," says I, "that's his long suit."

"And do you know what he thinks he's going to do?" goes on Steele. "Why,
he's had the nerve to plot out a whole quarter-section around his
infernal town, organized a realty company, and had half a million
dollars' worth of Gopher Development shares printed! Thinks he's going
to unload trash like that here in New York! Now what can I do for such
a man?"

"Ain't that right in your line, though?" says I.

"It may have been at one time," admits J. Bayard; "but to-day you
couldn't give away nickel chances on the national gold reserve. The
market is dead. Even the curb brokers have fallen back on racing tin
rolling toys and matching quarters."

Well, I couldn't dispute it. If anyone knows the phony finance game at
all, it's J. Bayard Steele. And the best I could do was to get him to
agree to sort of keep track of Hubbs and maybe, after he'd blown all his
cash against this bloomin' stunt, step in and send him back to Gopher
before he hit the bread line.

Must have been a week that I didn't hear from either of 'em, and then
here the other afternoon J. Bayard calls up on the 'phone.

"Shorty," says he, "if you want to see our friend Hubbs reach the
pinnacle of his folly, come down to Broad street right away. I'll meet
you in front of the Hancock National!"

As there's no rush on at the studio just then I goes down.

"It's rich," says Steele. "Actually, that country clown is trying on,
right here in New York, the same primitive methods that real estate
boomers use in the soggy South and the woolly West. Would you believe
it? Come have a look."

Well, say, it wa'n't easy gettin' near enough, at that. But we works our
way through the mob until we're in front of the buildin', where there's
a big, yellow-lettered sign that reads:

    GOPHER, U.S.A.
    HEADQUARTERS

Underneath the sign was a big window with the sash out and a sort of
platform juttin' over the sidewalk. Just as we arrives out steps Nelson
Hubbs, wearin' the same rube rig and carryin' the same green bag. He
looks just as big and homely and good-natured as ever.

"Friends," says he, sweepin' off the alfalfa lid with a flourish, "out
in Gopher we always like to open up with a little music; and while I
ain't no Caruso, or anything like that, I'm goin' to do my best."

A snicker runs through the crowd at that, turnin' to haw-haws as he
proceeds to unlimber something from the green bag. It's an accordion,
one of these push and pull organs. Believe me, though, he could sing
some! Throwin' back his head and shakin' that heavy mop of hair, he
roars out deep and strong the first advertisin' solo, I guess, that New
York ever heard.

"Now, Friends, everybody in on the chorus!" he calls. "Every-body! Here
she goes!

    "Oh, I want to go to Gopher--Gopher--
    Oh, I want to go to Gopher--Gopher!
    The streets are straight, the sky is high,
    You'll strike it rich, and live on pie,
    You can't get sick, and you never die,
    In Gopher, U. S. A."

Did they join in? Say, it was a swingin' tune, the words was easy to
follow, and the crowd was ready for anything. They simply cut loose, and
by the time they'd done that chorus two or three times he had 'em right
with him. Then he springs his business spiel.

Talk about your boost orations--say, that was a classic! He tells 'em
confidential how Gopher is the comin' metropolis of the great West; how,
"with its main boulevard laid out along the sinuous, lovely banks of the
pellucid Pinto River, and its western boundaries stretching off to the
sunset-tinted tops of Soup Kettle Range, it has a scenic setting
unsurpassed anywhere this side of Switzerland." And when it comes to
predictin' how prosperity has picked Gopher for its very own, he goes
the limit. Next he tells 'em about the development company and the
shares.

"Remember, Friends," says he, "every share means a front foot, and every
front foot a fortune. Send in fifty shares, and we'll give you a deed to
a city lot. First come first served, and the early bird laps up the
cream. I don't urge you to buy 'em. I'm just giving you a chance to get
in on the ground floor. And if you don't want to come in to-day, maybe
you will to-morrow. Anyway, have a button. Wear it! Tell your friends
about Gopher. Here you are! Every-body have a button!"

With that he scatters handful after handful broadcast into the crowd,
which catches 'em eager. Even J. Bayard gets excited and grabs for one.

"By George, Shorty!" says he. "Hanged if there isn't the germ of a good
idea in this scheme of his! Every share a front foot! And if he could
only get the buying started----"

Steele is gazin' over the heads of the crowd absentminded. All of a
sudden he breaks out again. "I have it!" says he. "I'll get that curb
gang to fooling with Gopher."

But, foxy as he was, I don't believe J. Bayard knew just how big a
bonfire he was touchin' off. I know I thought he was nutty when he wants
me to O.K. his plan for buyin' a hundred shares to distribute free.

"Bait!" says he. "They'll bite! You watch 'em!"

Well, if you've been followin' the market close, you know what happened.
I expect the first bids was made just as a josh. I hear that Gopher
Development started at ten cents. Then someone sold a block at fifteen.
By noon they'd gone to twenty. Durin' luncheon time a sporty bunch in a
rathskeller cooked up the bright idea that it would be humorous to sell
Gopher short and hammer the price down to five cents. Before three P.M.
the gross transactions had run into the thousands.

[Illustration: "Now, Friends!" he calls, "Everybody in on the chorus."]

I was in Hubbs' office when the first real money was paid over for
Gopher. A hook-nosed young broker in a shepherd plaid suit and a pink
felt hat rushes in and planks down twenty dollars for fifty shares at
the market. Hubbs was just passin' 'em over too, when Steele interferes.

"Five more, please," says J. Bayard. "We are holding Gopher at 50."

"Wha'd'ye mean, fifty?" gasps the curb man. But he was short on a
three-fifteen delivery, and he had to put up the extra five.

"Stick to that rule," Steele advises Hubbs. "Ask 'em ten points more
than outside quotations."

What really got things goin', though, was when some of the stock clerks
and bookkeepers, who'd heard and talked nothin' but Gopher these last
two days, begun buyin' lots outright and turnin' 'em in for deeds.
Whether or not they believed all Hubbs had fed 'em about Gopher don't
matter. They was takin' a chance. So they slips out at noon and gives
real orders. Course, they wa'n't plungin'; but the combined effect was
the same.

And it don't take the curb long to get wise. "The suckers are buying
Gopher," was the word passed round. Then maybe the quotations didn't
jump! There wa'n't any quarter matchin' down in Broad street after
that. They was too busy yellin' Gopher at each other. Up she went,--75,
then 85, then 110, and when closin' hour come the third day it was the
liveliest scene inside the ropes that the margin district had known in
years.

I expect the newspapers helped a lot too. They had a heap of fun with
Hubbs and his Gopher proposition,--Hubbs of Gopher, U.S.A. They printed
pictures of him playin' the accordion, and interviews reproducin' his
descriptive gems about "the banks of the pellucid Pinto," and such.

But you never can tell how a comedy stab is goin' to turn out. This game
of buyin' real estate shares for a dollar or so, with the prospects that
before night it might be worth twice as much, was one that hit 'em hard.
By Friday Gopher stock was being advertised like Steel preferred, and
the brokers was flooded with buyin' orders. Some of the big firms got
into the game too. A fat German butcher came all the way down from the
Bronx, counted out a thousand dollars in bills to Nelson Hubbs, and was
satisfied to walk away with a deed for a hundred front feet of Gopher
realty. He wasn't such a boob, either. Two hours later he could have
closed out five hundred to the good.

It wa'n't like a stock flurry, where there's an inside gang manipulatin'
the wires. All the guidin' hand there was in this deal was that of J.
Bayard Steele, and he contents himself with eggin' Hubbs on to stand
firm on that ten-cent raise.

"Not a penny more, not a penny less," says he, beamin'. "It'll get 'em."

And I don't know when I've seen him look more contented. As for Nelson
Hubbs, he seems a little dazed at it all; but he keeps his head and
smiles good-natured on everybody. Not until Gopher Development hits
twenty-five dollars a share does he show any signs of gettin' restless.

"Boys," says he, bangin' his fist down on the desk, "it's great! I've
turned that thousand-dollar fund into fifty, and as near as I can figure
it property values along our Main street have been jumped about eight
hundred per cent. They've heard of it out home, and they're just wild. I
expect I ought to stay right here and push things; but--well, McCabe,
maybe you can guess."

"No word from a certain party, eh?" says I.

Hubbs shakes his head and starts pacin' up and down in front of the
window. He hadn't done more'n three laps, though, before in blows a
messenger boy and hands him a telegram.

"We-e-e-yow!" yells Hubbs. "Hey, Shorty, it's come--doggoned if it ain't
come! Look at that!"

It was a brief bulletin, but full of meat. It runs like this:

     Good work, Nelson. You've done it. Gopher's on the map.

And the last we saw of him, after he'd turned the stock business over to
Mendell & Co., he was pikin' for a west-bound train with his grip in one
fist and that old accordion in the other.

J. Bayard smiles after him friendly and indulgent. "A woman in the case,
I suppose?" says he.

"Uh-huh," says I. "The plumpest, cheeriest, winnin'est little body ever
left unclaimed,--his description. She's the lady Mayor out there. And if
I'm any judge, with them two holdin' it down, Gopher's on the map to
stay."



CHAPTER IX

WHAT LINDY HAD UP HER SLEEVE


"But think of it, Shorty!" says Sadie. "What an existence!"

"There's plenty worse off than her," says I; "so what's the use?"

"I can't help it," says she. "Twenty years! No holidays, no home, no
relatives: nothing but sew and mend, sew and mend--and for strangers, at
that! Talk about dull gray lives--ugh!"

"Well, she's satisfied, ain't she?" says I.

"That's the worst of it," says Sadie. "She seems to live for her work.
Goodness knows how early she's up and at it in the morning, and at night
I have to drive her out of the sewing room!"

"And you kick at that?" says I. "Huh! Why, on lower Fifth-ave. they
capitalize such habits and make 'em pay for fifteen-story buildin's.
Strikes me this Lindy of yours is perfectly good sweatshop material. You
don't know a good thing when you see it, Sadie."

"There, there, Shorty!" says she. "Don't try to be comic about it.
There's nothing in the least funny about Lindy."

She was dead right too; and all I meant by my feeble little cracks was
that a chronic case of acute industry was too rare a disease for me to
diagnose offhand. Honest, it almost gave me the fidgets, havin' Lindy
around the house. Say, she had the busy bee lookin' like a corner loafer
with his hands in his pockets!

About once a month we had Lindy with us, for three or four days at a
stretch, and durin' that time she'd be gallopin' through all kinds of
work, from darnin' my socks or rippin' up an old skirt, to embroiderin'
the fam'ly monogram on the comp'ny tablecloths; all for a dollar'n a
half per, which I understand is under union rates. Course, Sadie always
insists on throwin' in something for overtime; but winnin' the extra
didn't seem to be Lindy's main object. She just wanted to keep goin',
and if the work campaign wa'n't all planned out for her to cut loose on
the minute she arrived, she'd most have a fit. Even insisted on havin'
her meals served on the sewin' table, so she wouldn't lose any time.
Sounds too good to be true, don't it? But remember this ain't a class
I'm describin': it's just Lindy.

And of all the dried-up little old maids I ever see, Lindy was the
queerest specimen. Seems she was well enough posted on the styles, and
kept the run of whether sleeves was bein' worn full or tight, down over
the knuckles or above the elbow, and all that; but her own costume was
always the same,--a dingy brown dress that fits her like she'd cut it
out in the dark and had put it together with her eyes shut,--a faded old
brown coat with funny sleeves that had little humps over the shoulders,
and a dusty black straw lid of no partic'lar shape, that sported a bunch
of the saddest lookin' violets ever rescued from the ashheap.

Then she had such a weird way of glidin' around silent, and of shrinkin'
into corners, and flattenin' herself against the wall whenever she met
anyone. Meek and lowly? Say, every motion she made seemed to be sort of
a dumb apology for existin' at all! And if she had to go through a room
where I was, or pass me in the hall, she'd sort of duck her head, hold
one hand over her mouth, and scuttle along like a mouse beatin' it for
his hole.

You needn't think I'm pilin' on the agony, either. I couldn't exaggerate
Lindy if I tried. And if you imagine it's cheerin' to have a human being
as humble as all that around, you're mistaken. Kind of made me feel as
if I was a slave driver crackin' the whip.

And there wa'n't any special reason that I could see for her actin' that
way. Outside of her clothes, she wa'n't such a freak. That is, she
wa'n't deformed, or anything like that. She wa'n't even wrinkled or gray
haired; though how she kept from growin' that way I couldn't figure out.
I put it down that her lonesome, old maid existence must have struck in
and paralyzed her soul.

There was another queer quirk to her too. Work up as much sympathy as
you wanted to, you couldn't do anything for her. Sadie ain't slow at
that, you know. She got int'rested in her right off, and when she
discovers how Lindy lives in a couple of cheap rooms down in the Bronx
all by herself, and never goes anywhere or has any fun, she proceeds to
spring her usual uplift methods. Wouldn't Lindy like a ticket to a nice
concert? No, thanks, Lindy didn't care much about music. Or the theater?
No, Lindy says she's afraid to go trapesin' around town after dark.
Wouldn't she quit work for an hour or so and come for a spin in the car,
just to get the air? Lindy puts her hand over her mouth and shakes her
head. Automobiles made her nervous. She tried one once, and was so
scared she couldn't work for two hours after. The subway trains were bad
enough, goodness knows!

I couldn't begin to tell you all the things Lindy was afraid
of,--crowds, the dark, of getting lost, of meetin' strangers, of tryin'
anything new. I remember seein' her once, comin' out on the train. She's
squeezed into the end seat behind the door, and was huddled up there,
grippin' a little black travelin' bag in one hand and a rusty umbrella
in the other, and keepin' her eyes on the floor, for all the world like
she'd run away from somewhere and was stealin' a ride. Get it, do you?

But wait! There was one point where Lindy had it on most of us. She
knew where she was goin'. Didn't seem to have any past worth speakin'
about, except that she'd been born in England,--father used to keep a
little store on some side street in Dover,--and she'd come over here
alone when she was quite a girl. As for the present--well, I've been
tryin' to give you a bird's-eye view of that.

But when it comes to the future Lindy was right there with the goods.
Had it all mapped out for twenty years to come. Uh-huh! She told Sadie
about it, ownin' up to bein' near forty, and said that when she was
sixty she was goin' to get into an Old Ladies' Home. Some
prospect--what? She'd even picked out the joint and had 'em put her name
down. It would cost her three hundred and fifty dollars, which she had
salted away in the savings bank already, and now she was just driftin'
along until she could qualify in the age limit. Livin' just for that!

"Ah, can the gloom stuff, Sadie!" says I as she whispers this latest
bulletin. "You give me the willies, you and your Lindy! Why, that old
horse chestnut out there in the yard leads a more excitin' existence
than that! It's preparin' to leaf out again next spring. But Lindy! Bah!
Say, just havin' her in the house makes the air seem moldy. I'm goin'
out and tramp around the grounds a bit before dinner."

That was a good hunch. It's a clear, crisp evenin' outside, with the
last red of the sun just showin' in the northwest and a thin new moon
hangin' over Long Island Sound off in the east, and in a couple of turns
I shook off the whole business. I'd taken one circle and was roundin'
the back of the garage, when I sees something dark slip into a tree
shadow up near the house.

"That you, Dominick?" I sings out.

There's no answer to that, and, knowin' that if there's one failin'
Dominick don't possess it's bein' tonguetied, I gets suspicious.
Besides, a couple of porch-climbin' jobs had been pulled off in the
neighborhood recent, and, even though I do carry a burglar policy, I
ain't crazy about havin' strangers messin' through the bureau drawers
while I'm tryin' to sleep. So I sneaks along the hedge for a ways, and
then does the sleuthy approach across the lawn on the right flank.
Another minute and I've made a quick spring and has my man pinned
against the tree with both his wrists fast and my knee in his chest.

"Woof!" says he, deep and guttural.

"Excuse the warm welcome," says I, "but that's only a sample of what we
pass out to stray visitors like you. Sizin' up the premises, were you,
and gettin' ready to collect a few souvenirs?"

"A thousand pardons," says he, "if I have seem to intrude!"

"Eh?" says I. That wa'n't exactly the comeback you'd expect from a
second-story worker, and he has a queer foreign twist to his words.

"It is possible," he goes on, "that I have achieved the grand mistake."

"Maybe," says I, loosenin' up on him a little. "What was it you thought
you was after?"

"The house of one McCah-be," says he, "a professor of fists, I am told."

"That's a new description of me," says I, "but I'm the party. All of
which don't prove, though, that you ain't a crook."

"Crook?" says he. "Ah, a felon! But no, Effendi. I come on an errand of
peace, as Allah is good."

How was that now, havin' Allah sprung on me in my own front yard? Why
travel?

"Say, come out here where I can get a better look," says I, draggin' him
out of the shadow. "There! Well, of all the----"

No wonder I lost my breath; for what I've picked up off the front lawn
looks like a stray villain from a comic opera. He's a short,
barrel-podded gent, mostly costumed in a long black cape affair and one
of these tasseled Turkish caps. About all the features I can make out
are a pair of bushy eyebrows, a prominent hooked beak, and a set of
crisp, curlin' black whiskers. Hardly the kind to go shinnin' up
waterspouts or squeezin' through upper windows. Still, I'd almost caught
him in the act.

"If that's a disguise you've got on," says I, "it's a bird. And if it
ain't--say, let's hear the tale. Who do you claim to be, anyway?"

"Many pardons again, Effendi," says he, "but it is my wish to
remain--what you call it?--incognito."

"Then you don't get your wish," says I. "No John Doe game goes with me.
Out with it! Who and what?"

"But I make protest," says he. "Rather would I depart on my way."

"Ah, ditch that!" says I. "I caught you actin' like a suspicious
character. Now, if you can account for yourself, I may turn you loose;
but if you don't, it's a case for the police."

"Ah, no, no!" he objects. "Not the constables! Allah forbid! I--I will
make explanation."

"Then let it come across quick," says I. "First off, what name are you
flaggin' under?"

"At my home," says he, "I am known as Pasha Dar Bunda."

"Well, that's some name, all right," says I. "Now the next item, Pasha,
is this, What set you to prowlin' around the home of one McCabe?"

"Ah, but you would not persist thus far!" says he, pleadin'. "That is a
personal thing, something between myself and Allah alone."

"You don't say," says I. "Sorry to butt in, but I've got to have it all.
Come, now!"

"But, Effendi----" he begins.

"No, not Fender," says I, "nor Footboard, or anything like that: just
plain McCabe."

"It is a word of respect," says he, "such as Sir Lord; thus, Effendi
McCabe."

"Well, cut out the frills and let's get down to brass tacks," says I.
"You're here because you're here, I expect. But what else?"

He sighs, and then proceeds to let go of a little information. "You have
under your roof," says he, "a Meesis Vogel, is it not?"

"Vogel?" says I, puzzled for a second. "You don't mean Lindy, do you?"

"She was called that, yes," says the Pasha, "Meelinda."

"But she's a Miss--old maid," says I.

"Ah?" says he, liftin' his bushy eyebrows. "A Mees, eh? It may be so.
They tell me at her place of living that she is to be found here.
_Voilà!_ That is all."

"But what about her?" says I. "Where do you come in?"

"Once when I am in England," says he, "many years gone past, I know her.
I learn that she is in New York. Well, I find myself in America too. I
thought to see her. Why not? A glimpse, no more."

"Is it the style where you come from," says I, "to gumshoe around and
peek in the windows to see old friends?"

"In my country," says he, "men do not--but then we have our own customs.
I have explain. Now I may depart."

"Not so fast, old scout!" says I. "If it's so you're a friend of Lindy,
she'll be wantin' to see you, and all we got to do is to step inside and
call her down."

"But thanks," says he. "It is very kind. I will not trouble, however. It
need not be."

"Needn't, eh?" says I. "Look here, Pasha So and So, you can't put over
anything so thin on me! You're up to something or other. You sure look
it. Anyway, I'm goin' to march you in and find out from Lindy herself
whether she knows you or not. Understand?"

He sighs resigned. "Since you are a professor of fists, it must be so,"
says he. "But remark this, I do not make the request to see her,
and--and you may say to her that it is Don Carlos who is here."

"Ah-ha!" says I. "Another pen name, eh? Don Carlos! Low Dago, or
Hidalgo?"

"My father," says he, "was a Spanish gentleman of Hebrew origin. My
mother was French."

"Some combination!" says I. "And Lindy knows you best as Don Carlos,
does she? We'll soon test that."

So I escorts him in by the side door, plants him in the livin' room
where I can keep an eye on him, and hoohoos gentle up the stairs to
Sadie.

"Yes?" says she.

"Shut the sewin' room door," says I.

"All right," says she. "Well?"

"There's a gent down here, Sadie," says I, "that looks like a cross
between a stage pirate and an Armenian rug peddler."

"For goodness' sake!" says Sadie. "Not in the house! What on earth did
you let him in for?"

"Because," says I, "he claims to be an old friend of Lindy's."

"Of Lindy's!" she gasps. "Why, what----"

"I don't know the rest," says I. "You spring it on her. Tell her it's
Don Carlos, and then let me know what she says."

That seems like a simple proposition; but Sadie takes a long time over
it. I could hear her give a squeal of surprise at something, and then
she seems to be askin' a lot of fool questions. In the course of five or
six minutes, though, she leans over the stair rail lookin' sort of
excited.

"Well?" says I. "Does she know him?"

"Know him!" says Sadie. "Why, she says he's her husband!"

"Not Lindy's!" I gasps.

"That's what she says," insists Sadie.

"Great Scott!" says I. "Must be some mistake about this. Wait a minute.
Here, you, Pasha! Come here! Lindy says you're her husband. Is that so?"

"Oh, yes," says he, as easy as you please. "Under your laws I suppose I
am."

"Well, wouldn't that frost you!" says I.

"But, say, Sadie, why don't she come down and see him, then?"

"Just what I've been asking her," says Sadie. "She says she's too busy,
and that if he wants to see her he must come up."

"Well, what do you know!" says I. "Pasha, do you want to see her?"

"As I have told," says he, "there is no need. I do not demand it."

"Well, of all the cold-blooded pairs!" says I. "How long since you've
seen her?"

"Very long," says he; "perhaps twenty years."

"And now all you can work up is a mild curiosity for a glimpse through
the window, eh?" says I.

He shrugs his shoulders careless.

"Then, by the great horned spoon," I goes on, "you're goin' to get what
you came after! Trail along upstairs after me. This way. In through
here. There you are, Pasha! Lindy, here's your Don Carlos!"

"Oh!" says she, lookin' up from the shirt-waist she was bastin' a sleeve
on, and not even botherin' to take the pins out of her mouth.

And maybe they ain't some cross-mated couple too! This Pasha party shows
up ponderous and imposin', in spite of the funny little fez arrangement
on his head. He's thrown his cloak back, revealin' a regulation frock
coat; but under that is some sort of a giddy-tinted silk blouse effect,
and the fringed ends of a bright red sash hangs down below his knee on
the left side. He's got a color on him like the inside of an old
coffeepot, and the heavy, crinkly beard makes him look like some foreign
Ambassador. While Lindy--well, in her black sewin' dress and white
apron, she looks slimmer and more old maidish than ever.

He confines his greetin' to a nod of the head, and stands there gazin'
at her as calm as if he was starin' at some stranger in the street.

"I suppose you've come to take me away with you, Carlos?" says she.

"No," says he.

"But I thought," says Lindy, "I--I thought some day you might. I didn't
know, though. I haven't planned on it."

"Is it your wish to go with me?" says he.

"Why, I'm your wife, you know," says she.

"You had my letters, did you?" he goes on.

"Four," says she. "There was one from Spain, when you were a brigand,
and another----"

"A brigand!" breaks in Sadie. "Do you mean that, Lindy?"

"Wasn't that it?" asks Lindy of him.

"For two years, Madam," says Don Carlos, bowin' polite. "A dull sort of
business, mingling so much with stupid tourists. Bah! And such small
gains! By the time you have divided with the soldiers little is left. So
I gave it up."

"The next came from that queer place," says Lindy, "Port--Port----"

"Port Said," helps out Pasha, "where I had a gambling house. That was
good for a time. Rather lively also. We had too much shooting and
stabbing, though. It was an English officer, that last one. What a row!
In the night I left for Tunisia."

"Oh, yes, Tunis," says Lindy. "Something about slaves there, wasn't it?"

"Camels also," says Pasha. "I traded in both stolen camels and smuggled
slaves."

He throws this off as casual as if he was tellin' about sellin' sewin'
machines. I glances over to see how Sadie's takin' it, and finds her
drawin' in a long breath.

"Well, I never!" says she explosive. "What a shameless wretch! And you
dared confess all this to Lindy?"

"Pardon, Madam," says he, smilin' until he shows most of his white
teeth, "but I desired no misunderstanding. It is my way with women, to
tell them only what is true. If they dislike that--well, there are many
others."

"Humph!" says Sadie, tossin' her head. "Lindy, do you hear that?"

Lindy nods and keeps right on bastin' the sleeve.

"But how did you ever come to marry such a person, Lindy?" Sadie
demands.

Carlos executes another smile at this and bows polite. "It was my
fault," says he. "I was in England, waiting for a little affair that
happened in Barcelona to blow over. By chance I saw her in her father's
shop. Ah, you may find it difficult to believe now, Madam, but she was
quite charming,--cheeks flushed like dawn on the desert, eyes like the
sea, and limbs as lithe as an Arab maiden's! I talked. She listened. My
English was poor; but it is not always words that win. These British
girls, though! They cannot fully understand romance. It was she who
insisted on marriage. I cared not a green fig. What to me was the
mumbling of a churchman, I who cared not for the priests of my mother
nor the rabbi of my father? Pah! Two weeks later I gave her some money
and left her. Once more in the mountains of Spain I could breathe
again--and I made the first English we caught settle the whole bill.
That is how it came to be, Madam. Ask her."

Sadie looks at Lindy, who nods. "Father drove me out when I went back,"
says she; "so I came over here. Carlos had told me where to write. You
got all my letters, did you, Carlos?"

"Oh, yes," says he. Then, turnin' to Sadie, "A wonderful writer of
letters, Madam,--one every month!"

"Then you knew about little Carlos?" puts in Lindy. "It was a pity. Such
lovely big black eyes. He was nearly two. I wish you could have seen
him."

"I also had regret," says Carlos. "I read that letter many times. It was
because of that, I think, that I continued to read the others, and was
at pains to have them sent to me. They would fill a hamper, all of
them."

"What!" says Sadie. "After you knew the kind of monster he was, Lindy,
did you keep on writing to him?"

"But he was still my husband," protested Lindy.

"Bah!" says Sadie, throwin' a scornful glance at the Pasha.

Don Carlos he spreads out his hands, and shrugs his shoulders. "These
English!" says he. "At first I laughed at the letters. They would come
at such odd times; for you can imagine, Madam, that my life has
been--well, not as the saints'. And to many different women have I read
bits of these letters that came from so far,--to dancing girls, others.
Some laughed with me, some wept. One tried to stab me with a dagger
afterward. Women are like that. You never know when they will change
into serpents. All but this one. Think! Month after month, year after
year, letters, letters; about nothing much, it is true, but wishing me
good health, happiness, asking me to have care for myself, and saying
always that I was loved! Well? Can one go on laughing at things like
that? Once I was dangerously hurt, a spearthrust that I got near Biskra,
and the letter came to me where I lay in my tent. It was like a
soothing voice, comforting one in the dark. Since then I have watched
for those letters. When chance brought me to this side of the world, I
found myself wishing for sight of the one who could remain ever the
same, could hold the faith in the faithless for so long. So here I am."

"Yes, and you ought to be in jail," says Sadie emphatic. "But, since
you're not, what do you propose doing next?"

"I return day after to-morrow," says Don Carlos, "and if the lady who is
my wife so wills it she shall go with me."

"Oh, shall she!" says Sadie sarcastic. "Where to, pray?"

"To El Kurfah," says he.

"And just where," says Sadie, "is that?"

"Three days by camel south from Moorzook," says he. "It is an oasis in
the Libyan Desert."

"Indeed!" says Sadie. "And what particular business are you engaged in
there,--gambling, robbing, slave selling, or----"

"In El Kurfah," breaks in Don Carlos, bowin' dignified, "I am Pasha Dar
Bunda, Minister of Foreign Affairs and chief business agent to
Hamid-al-Illa; who, as you may know, is one of the half-dozen rulers
claiming to be Emperor of the Desert. Frankly, I admit he has no right
to such a title; but neither has any of the others. Hamid, however, is
one of the most up-to-date and successful of all the desert chieftains.
My presence here is proof of that. I came to arrange for large shipments
of dates and ivory, and to take back to Hamid an automobile and the
latest phonograph records."

"I don't like automobiles," says Lindy, finishin' up the sleeve.

"Neither does Hamid," says Pasha; "but he says we ought to have one
standing in front of the royal palace to impress the hill tribesmen when
they come in. Do you go back to El Kurfah with me, Mrs. Vogel?"

"Yes," says Lindy, rollin' up her apron.

"But, Lindy!" gasps Sadie. "To such a place, with such a man!"

"He is my husband, you know," says she.

And Lindy seems to think when she's put that over that she's said all
there was to say on the subject. Sadie protests and threatens and begs.
She reminds her what a deep-dyed villain this Carlos party is, and
forecasts all sorts of dreadful things that will likely happen to her if
she follows him off. But it's all wasted breath.

And all the while Pasha Dar Bunda, alias Don Carlos Vogel, stands there
smilin' polite and waitin' patient. But in the end he walks out
triumphant, with Lindy, holdin' her little black bag in one hand and her
old umbrella in the other, followin' along in his wake.

Then last Friday we went down to one of them Mediterranean steamers to
see 'em actually start. And, say, this slim, graceful party in the
snappy gray travelin' dress, with the smart lid and all the gray veils
on, looks about as much like the Lindy we'd known as a hard-boiled egg
looks like a frosted cake. Lindy has bloomed out.

"And when we get to El Kurfah guess what Carlos is going to give me!"
she confides to Sadie. "A riding camel and Batime. He's one of the best
camel drivers in the place, Batime. And I have learned to salaam and say
'Allah il Allah.' Everyone must do that there. And in our garden are
dates and oranges growing. Only fancy! There will be five slaves to wait
on me, and when we go to the palace I shall wear gold bracelets on my
ankles. Won't that seem odd? It's rather warm in El Kurfah, you know;
but I sha'n't mind. Early in the morning, when it is cool, I shall ride
out into the sandhills with Carlos. He is going to teach me how to shoot
a lion."

She was chatterin' along like a schoolgirl, and when the boat pulls out
of the slip she waves jaunty to us. Don Carlos, leanin' over the rail
alongside of her, gazes at her sort of admirin'.

"El Kurfah, eh?" says I to Sadie. "That's missin' the Old Ladies' Home
by some margin, ain't it?"



CHAPTER X

A CASE OF NOBODY HOME


"Yes," says J. Bayard Steele, adjustin' the chin part in his whiskers
and tiltin' back comf'table in his chair, "I am beginning to think that
the late Pyramid Gordon must have been a remarkably good judge of human
nature."

"For instance?" says I.

"His selection of me as an executor of his whimsical will," says he.

"Huh!" says I. "How some people do dislike themselves! Now, if you want
to know my views on that subject, J. B., I've always thought that was
one of his battiest moves."

But he's got a hide like a sample trunk, Mr. Steele has. He only shrugs
his shoulders. "Yes, you have given me similar subtle hints to that
effect," says he. "And I will admit that at first I had doubts as to my
fitness. The doing of kind and generous acts for utter strangers has not
been a ruling passion with me. But so far I have handled several
assignments--in which have I failed?"

"Look who's been coachin' you, though!" says I.

J. Bayard bows and waves a manicured hand graceful. "True," he goes on,
"your advice has been invaluable on occasions, friend McCabe; especially
in the early stages of my career as a commissioned agent of
philanthropy. But I rather fancy that of late I have developed an
altruistic instinct of my own; an instinct, if I may say so, in which
kindly zeal is tempered by a certain amount of practical wisdom."

"Fine!" says I. "Bein' a little floral tribute, I take it, from Mr.
Steele to himself."

"Unless it should occur to you, McCabe," says he, "to make the
distinction between offensive egoism and pardonable pride."

"I don't get you," says I; "but I feel the jab. Anyhow, it's instructin'
and elevatin' to hear you run on. Maybe you've got somethin' special on
your mind?"

"I have," says he, producin' an envelope with some notes scribbled on
the back.

"Is that No. 6 on the list?" says I. "Who's the party?"

"Here," says he, tappin' the envelope impressive, "are my findings and
recommendations in the case of Hackett Wells."

"Shoot it," says I, settlin' back in the desk chair.

It's a pity too I can't give you all the high English J. Bayard uses up
in statin' this simple proposition; for he's in one of them comf'table,
expandin', after-luncheon moods, when his waist band fits tight and the
elegant language just flows from him like he had hydrant connection
with the dictionary.

It seems, though, that this Wells party had been sort of a partner of
Pyramid's back in the early days. Some sort of a buyers' pool for
Eastern coal deliveries, I believe it was, that Hackett had got into
accidental and nursed along until he found himself dividin' the cream of
the profits with only half a dozen others. Then along came Pyramid with
his grand consolidation scheme, holdin' out the bait of makin' Mr. Wells
head of the new concern and freezin' out all the rest.

Wells, he swallows it whole: only to wake up a few months later and
discover that he's been double crossed. Havin' served his turn, Gordon
has just casually spilled him overboard, thinkin' no more of doin' it
than he would of chuckin' away a half-smoked cigar.

But to Hackett Wells this was a national calamity. Havin' got in with
the easy-money bunch by a fluke in the first place, he wa'n't a man who
could come back. Course he brought suit, and wasted a lot of breath
callin' Pyramid hard names from a safe distance; but Pyramid's lawyers
wore him out in the courts, and he was too busy to care who was cussin'
him.

So Mr. Wells and his woe drops out of sight. He's managed to keep hold
of a little property that brings him in just enough to scrub along on,
and he joins that hungry-eyed, trembly-fingered fringe of margin pikers
that hangs around every hotel broker's branch in town, takin' a timid
flier now and then, but tappin' the free lunch hard and reg'lar. You
know the kind,--seedy hasbeens, with their futures all behind 'em.

And in time, broodin' over things in gen'ral, it got to Hackett Wells in
his weak spot,--heart, or liver, or something. Didn't quite finish him,
you understand, but left him on the scrapheap, just totterin' around and
stavin' off an obituary item by bein' mighty careful.

"I suppose Gordon must have heard something of the shape he was in,"
says J. Bayard, "when he included him in his list. Well, I hunted him up
the other day, in a cheap, messy flat-house to the deuce and gone up
Eighth avenue, got his story from him, and decided on a way of helping
him out."

"Want to buy him a coal mine, or something like that?" says I.

J. Bayard refuses to notice my little sarcastic play. "I am sure Pyramid
would have wanted this worn-out, cast-off tool of his to end his days
decently," goes on Mr. Steele; "but to give him a lump sum would be
worse than useless. Two or three plunges, and it would be all gone."

"Think of puttin' him in a home somewhere?" says I.

"That might be a good plan," says Steele, "if he was still a widower;
but it appears that he has married again,--a young woman too, some
waitress that he met in a quick-lunch place. I saw her. Bah! One of
these plump, stupid young females, who appeared in a dingy dressing gown
with her hair down. What an old fool! But I suppose she takes care of
him, in a way. So I thought that an annuity, of say a thousand or two,
paid in monthly installments, would be the wisest. That would enable
them to move out into the country, get a nice little house, with a
garden, and really live. It was pathetic to see how grateful he was when
I told him of my scheme. Of course, McCabe, all this is subject to your
indorsement. Thought you might like to have a talk with them first, and
see for yourself; so I asked them to meet me here about----"

"Guess they're right on time," says I as the studio door opens, and in
drifts a December-and-May pair that answers all the details of his
description.

The old boy might have been still in the sixties; but with his remnant
of white hair, watery eyes, and ashy cheeks he looks like a reg'lar
antique. Must have been one of these heavy-set sports in his day, a good
feeder, and a consistent drinker; but by the flabby dewlaps and the
meal-bag way his clothes hang on him I judge he's slumped quite a lot.
Still, he's kind of a dignified, impressive old ruin, which makes the
contrast with the other half of the sketch all the more startlin'.

She's a bunchy blonde, she is, about four foot six in her French heels,
with yellow hair, China-doll eyes, a snub nose, and a waxy pink and
white complexion like these show-window models you see in department
stores. She's costumed cheap but gaudy in a wrinkled, tango-colored
dress that she must have picked off some Grand street bargain counter
late last spring. The ninety-nine-cent soup-plate lid cocked over one
ear adds a rakish touch that almost puts her in the comic valentine
class.

But when I'm introduced to the old scout he glances fond at her and does
the honors graceful. "Mrs. Wells, Professor," says he, and she executes
an awkward duck response.

While the three of us are talkin' over J. Bayard's proposition she sits
at one side, starin' blank and absentminded, as if this was somethin'
that don't concern her at all.

It ain't a long debate, either. Hackett Wells seems satisfied with most
any arrangement we want to make. He's a meek, broken old sport, grateful
for anything that comes his way. That's what led me to insist on
boostin' the ante up to twenty-five hundred, I guess; for it didn't look
like he could go on pullin' that down for many years more. And of course
J. Bayard is tickled to get my O.K. so easy.

"Then it's all settled," says Mr. Steele. "You will receive a check from
the attorney of Mr. Gordon's estate on the first of every month. You and
Mrs. Wells ought to start to-morrow to look for a place in some nice
little country town and--why, what's the matter with your wife?"

She has her face in her hands, and her dumpy shoulders are heavin' up
and down passionate. At first I couldn't make out whether it's woe, or
if she's swallowed a safety pin. Anyway, it's deep emotion of some kind.

"Why, Deary!" says Mr. Wells, steppin' over and pattin' her on the back.

But that don't have any effect. The heavin' motion goes right on, and no
answer comes from Deary.

"Mabel! Mabel, dear!" insists Hackett. "Tell me what is wrong. Come
now!"

Mabel just shakes off his hand and continues her chest gymnastics. Also
she begins kickin' her heels against the chair rungs. And as Hubby
stands there lookin' helpless, with J. Bayard starin' disturbed, but
makin' no move, it appears like it was up to me to take a hand.

"Don't mind the furniture, Ma'am," says I. "Take a whack at the desk
too, if you like; but after you're through throwin' the fit maybe you'll
let us know what it's all about."

At which she begins rockin' back and forth and moanin' doleful. A couple
of hairpins works loose and drops to the floor.

"Excuse me, Ma'am," says I, "but you're goin' to lose the inside of that
French roll if you keep on."

That fetched her out of it in a hurry. Grabbin' wild at her back hair,
she sat up and faced us, with no signs at all of real weeps in her
eyes.

"I won't live in the country, I won't!" she states explosive.

"Why, Mabel dear!" protests Mr. Wells.

"Ah, don't be an old bonehead!" comes back Mabel. "What's the idea,
wishin' this Rube stuff on us? You can just count me out, Hacky, if
that's the game. Do you get me?"

Hacky does. "I'm very sorry, Gentlemen," says he, "to ask you to modify
your generous terms; but I feel that my wife's wishes in the matter
ought to be taken into account."

"Why--er--to be sure," says J. Bayard. "I merely suggested your living
in the country because it seemed to me the wisest plan; but after
all----"

"Do we look like a pair of jays, I'd like to know?" demands Mrs. Wells
indignant. "And another thing: I don't stand for this so much a month
dope, either. What's the good of a little now and then? If we've got
anything coming to us, why not hand it over annual? There'd be some
sense to that. Stick out for once a year, Hacky."

Which he done. She had him well trained, Mabel did. He shrugs his
shoulders, tries to smile feeble, and spreads out his hands. "You see,
Gentlemen," says he.

I must say too that Mr. Steele puts up a mighty convincin' line of talk,
tryin' to show 'em how much better it would be to have a couple of
hundred or so comin' in fresh on the first of every month, than to be
handed a lump sum and maybe lose some of it, or run shy before next
payday. He explains how he was tryin' to plan so the money might do 'em
the most good, and unless it did how he couldn't feel that he'd done his
part right.

"All of which," he goes on, "I am quite sure, Mrs. Wells, you will
appreciate."

"Go on, you whiskered old stuff!" comes back Mabel spiteful. "How do you
know so much what's good for us? You and your nutty dreams about cows
and flower gardens and hens! I'd rather go back to Second avenue and
frisk another quick-lunch job. Hand us a wad: that's all we want."

Course it was a batty piece of work, tryin' to persuade people to let
you push money on 'em; but that's just where we stood. And in the end J.
Bayard wipes his brow weary and turns to me.

"Well, McCabe, what do you say?" he asks. "Shall we?"

"I leave it with you," says I. "You're the one that's developed this
what-do-you-call-it instinct, temperin' kindly zeal with practical
wisdom, ain't you? Then go to it!"

So five minutes later Hackett Wells shuffles out with an order good for
the whole twenty-five hundred in his pocket, and Mabel clingin' tight to
his arm.

[Illustration: "What's the idea," says Mabel, "Wishin' this Rube stuff
on us?"]

"So long, Profess," says she over her shoulder, as I holds the door open
for 'em. "We're headed for happy days."

And J. Bayard Steele, gazin' after her, remarks puzzled, "Now just
precisely what can she mean by that?"

"Bein' only a crude and simple soul, J. B.," says I, "I got to give it
up. Anyhow, Mabel's entirely too thick a girl for me to see through."

Besides, not knowin' her tastes or little fads, how was I to guess her
notion of happy days? Then again, I didn't have to. All that's clear is
that Pyramid had wanted us to do some good turn for this old goat, to
sort of even up for that spill of years gone by, and we'd done our best.
Whether the money was to be used wise or not accordin' to our view was a
problem that don't worry me at all. Might have once, when I was dead
sure my dope on things in gen'ral was the only true dope. But I'm
getting over that, I hope, and allowin' other folks to have theirs now
and then. In fact, I proceeded to forget this pair as quick as possible,
like you try to shake a bad dream when you wake up in the night. And I
warned J. Bayard that if he didn't quit luggin' his punk philanthropy
specimens into my studio I'd bar him out entirely.

Let's see, that was early in the summer, and it must have been just
before Labor Day that I broke away for a week or so to run up into the
White Mountains and bring back Sadie and little Sully. First off Sadie
was plannin' to come by train; but by the time I got there she'd
changed her mind and wanted to tour back in the machine.

"It's such gorgeous weather," says she, "and the leaves are turning so
nicely! We'll take three days for it, making short runs and stopping at
night wherever we like."

"You mean," says I, "stoppin' wherever you can find an imitation
Waldorf-Castoria."

"Not at all," says she. "And you know some of these little automobile
inns are perfectly charming."

Well, that's what brought us to this Sunset Lake joint the first night
out. Somewhere in New Hampshire it was, or maybe Vermont. Anyway, it was
right in the heart of the summer boarder belt, and it had all the usual
vacation apparatus cluttered around,--tennis courts, bowling alleys,
bathing floats, dancing pavilion, and a five-piece Hungarian orchestra,
four parts kosher, that helped the crockery jugglers put the din in
dinner.

It was a clean, well-kept place, though, and by the quality of the
tomato bisque and the steamed clams that we started with I judged we was
actually goin' to be surprised with some real food. We'd watched the
last of the sunset glow fade out from the little toy lake, and while we
was waitin' to see what the roast and vegetables might be like we gazed
around at the dinner push that was filterin' in.

And what a job lot of humanity does have the coin to spend the summer,
or part of it, at these four-a-day resorts! There's middle-aged sports,
in the fifties or over, some of 'em with their fat, fussed-up wives,
others with giddy young Number Twos; then there's jolly, sunburned,
comf'table lookin' fam'ly parties, includin' little Brother with the
peeled nose, and Grandmother with her white lace cap. Also there's quite
a sprinklin' of widows, gay and otherwise, and the usual bunch of young
folks, addin' lively touches here and there. All city people, you know,
playin' at bein' in the country, but insistin' on Broadway food at
Broadway prices.

Our waitress was just staggerin' in with a loaded tray, and Sadie was
tryin' to induce little Sully not to give the college yell when he asked
personal questions about folks at the next table, when I notices her
glance curious at something over my head, then lower her eyes and sort
of smile. Course I suspects something worth lookin' at might be floatin'
down the aisle; so I half swings around to get a view. And I'd no sooner
got it than I wished I hadn't been so curious; for the next second there
comes, shrillin' sharp and raspy above the dinin' room clatter, a free
and happy hail.

"Well, what do you know! Professor McCabe, ain't it!"

Me--I just sat there and gawped. I don't know as I could be blamed.
Course, I'd seen bunchy little blondes before; but this was the first
time I'd ever seen one that had draped herself in a rainbow. That's the
only word for it. The thin, fluttery silk thing with the butterfly
sleeves is shaded from cream white to royal purple, and underneath is
one of these Dolly Varden gowns of flowered pink, set off by a Roman
striped sash two feet wide. And when you add to that such details as
gold shoes, pink silk stockin's, long pearl ear danglers, and a weird
lid perched on a mountain of yellow hair--well, it's no wonder I was
sometime rememberin' where I'd seen them China-doll eyes before.

"Deary," she goes on, turnin' to what's followin' her, "look who's here!
Our old friend, the Profess!"

And with that she motions up a dignified old wreck dolled out in a white
flannel suit and a red tie. If it hadn't been for that touch of red too,
he sure would have looked ghastly; for there was about as much color in
his face as there was in his white buckskin shoes. But he steps up spry
and active and shoves out a greetin' hand.

I ain't got the nerve, either, to look at Sadie while I'm doin' the
introducin'. I was watchin' Mrs. Hackett Wells sort of fascinated and
listenin' to her chatter on.

"Well, if this don't froth the eggs!" says she, pattin' me chummy on the
shoulder. "Havin' you show up like this! And, say, lemme put you
wise,--here's where you want to stick around for a week or so. Yea, Bo!
Perfectly swell bunch here, and something doin' every minute. Why, say,
me and Deary has been here six weeks, and we've been havin' the time of
our lives. Know what they call me here? Well, I'm the Hot Baby of Sunset
Lake; and that ain't any bellboy's dream, either! I'm the one that
starts things. Yes, and I keep 'em goin' too. Just picked this place out
from the resort ads in the Sunday edition; and it was some prize pick,
believe me! 'A quiet, refined patronage of exclusive people,' the
picture pamphlet puts it, and I says to Deary, 'Me for that, with three
wardrobe trunks full of glad rags.' So you can tell your friend with the
face privet that we got to the country after all. Did I miss my guess?
Never a miss! Why, say, some of these swell parties lives on West End
avenue and the Drive, and I can call half of 'em by their first names.
Can't I, Deary?"

And Hackett Wells nods, smilin' at her fond and sappy.

"Drop round to the dancin' pavilion later," says she, "and watch me push
him through the onestep. After that me and one of the boys is goin' to
tear off a little Maxixe stuff that'll be as good as a cabaret act, and
about ten-thirt we'll tease Deary into openin' a couple of quarts in the
café. So long! Don't forget, now!" And off she floats, noddin' cheerful
right and left, and bein' escorted to her table by both head waiters.

I couldn't stave off meetin' Sadie's glance any longer. "Eh?" says I.
"Why, that's only Mabel. Cunnin' little thing, ain't she?"

"Shorty," demands Sadie, "where on earth did you ever meet such a
person?"

Then, of course, I had to sketch out the whole story. It was high time;
for Sadie's lips was set more or less firm. But when she hears about J.
Bayard's wise-boy plans for settlin' the Hackett Wells in some pastoral
paradise, and how they got ditched by militant Mabel, she indulges in a
grim smile.

"A brilliant pair of executors you and Mr. Steele are," says she, "if
this is a sample of your work!"

"Ah, come, don't be rough, Sadie!" says I. "It's hard to tell, you know.
What's the odds if they do have to go back to their little Eighth avenue
flat next week? They're satisfied. Anyway, Mabel is. She's New York born
and bred, she is, and now that she's had her annual blow she don't care
what happens. Next year, if Deary hangs on, they'll have another."

"But it's so foolish of them!" insists Sadie.

"What else do you expect from a pair like that?" says I. "It's what they
want most, ain't it? And there's plenty like 'em. No, they ain't such
bad folks, either. Their hearts are all there. Just a case of vacancy in
the upper stories: nobody home, you know."



CHAPTER XI

UNDER THE WIRE WITH EDWIN


If you must know, I was doin' a social duck. Not that I ain't more or
less parlor broke by this time, or am apt to shy at a dinner coat, like
a selfmade Tammany statesman when addressin' his fellow Peruvians.
Nothing like that! Pick out the right comp'ny, and I can get through
quite some swell feed without usin' the wrong fork more'n once or twice.
I don't mind little fam'ly gatherin's at Pinckney's or the Purdy-Pells'
now. I can even look a butler in the eye without feelin' shivery along
the spine. But these forty-cover affairs at the Twombley-Cranes', with a
dinner dance crush afterwards and a buffet supper at one-thirty
A.M.--that's where I get off.

Sadie likes to take 'em in once in awhile, though, and as long as she'll
spend what there's left of the night with friends in town, and don't
keep me hangin' round until the brewery trucks and milk wagons begin to
get busy, I ain't got any kick comin'.

It was one of these fussy functions I was dodgin'. I'd had my dinner at
home, peaceable and quiet, while Sadie was dressin', and at that there
was plenty of time left for me to tow her into town and land her at the
Twombley-Cranes', where they had the sidewalk canopy out and an extra
carriage caller on duty. I'd quit at the mat, though, and was slopin'
down the front steps, when I'm held up by this sharp-spoken old girl
with the fam'ly umbrella and the string bonnet.

"Young man," says she, plantin' herself square in front of me, "is this
Mr. Twombley-Crane's house?"

"This is where it begins," says I, lookin' her over some amused; for
that lid of hers sure was the quaintest thing on Fifth-ave.

"Humph!" says she. "Looks more like the way into a circus! What's this
thing for?" and she waves the umbrella scornful at the canopy.

"Why," says I, "this is to protect the guests from the rude stares of
the common herd; also it's useful in case of a shower."

"Of all things!" says she, sniffin' contemptuous.

"If you don't like the idea," says I, "suppose I mention it to Mr.
Twombley-Crane? Maybe he'll take it down."

"That'll do, young man!" says she. "Don't try to be smart with me! And
don't think I'm asking fool questions just out of curiosity! I'm related
to Twombley-Crane."

"Eh?" says I, gawpin' at her.

"Cousin by marriage," says she.

"I--I take it all back then," says I. "Excuse my gettin' so gay. Come on
a visit, have you?"

"Ye-e-es," says she hesitatin'; "that is, I s'pose we have. We ain't
made up our minds exactly."

"We?" says I, gazin' around.

"Mr. Leavitt is behind the tent there, as usual," says she, "and he----
My land! I guess it's jest as well he is," she gasps, as a limousine
rolls up to the front of the canopy, a liveried footman hops off the
driver's seat, whisks open the door, and helps unload Mrs. K. Taylor
French.

Quite some wishbone in front and more or less spinal column aft Mrs. K.
Taylor is exposin' as she brushes past us up the strip of red carpet. So
you could hardly blame the old girl for bein' jarred.

"Young man," says she, turnin' on me severe, "what's going on here
to-night?"

"Dinner dance, that's all," says I.

"You mean they're having a lot of company in?" says she.

I nods.

"Then that settles it!" says she. "We don't go a step nearer to-night.
But where we will stay, goodness only knows!"

She was pikin' off, her chin in the air, when it struck me that if these
really was jay relations of the Twombley-Cranes, maybe I ought to lend
'em a helpin' hand. So I trails along until she brings up beside another
party who seems to be waitin' patient just under the front windows.

He's a tall, stoop-shouldered gent, with a grayish mustache and a good
deal of gold watch chain looped across his vest. In each hand he's
holdin' a package careful by the strings, and between his feet is one of
these extension canvas grips that you still see in use out in the
kerosene circuit.

"Excuse me, Ma'am," says I, "but I'm more or less a friend of the
fam'ly, and if you've come on special to visit 'em, maybe you'd better
wait while I let 'em know you're here. My name's McCabe, and if you'll
give me yours, why----"

"I'm Mrs. Sallie Leavitt, of Clarks Mills," says the old girl.

"Oh, yes," says I, "Clarks Mills. Up Skowhegan way, ain't it?"

"Vermont," says she. "This is Mr. Leavitt. I'm much obliged to you, Mr.
McCabe, but you needn't bother about tellin' anyone anything. If they've
got company, that's enough. I wish I'd never left Clarks Mills, that's
what I wish!"

"Now, Sallie!" protests the other half of the sketch, speakin' mild and
gentle.

"That'll do, Mr. Leavitt!" says she decided. "You know very well it was
all along of your fussing and fretting about never having seen your
cousin that we come to make this fool trip, anyway."

"I realize that, Sallie," says he; "but----"

"Mr. Leavitt," she breaks in, "will you be careful of them pies?" Then
she turns to me apologizin'. "Course, it does seem sort of silly,
travelin' around New York with two pumpkin pies; but I didn't know how
good a cook the folks had here; and besides I don't take a back seat for
anybody when it comes to mince or pumpkin. You see, I was planning to
surprise Cousin Twombley by slipping 'em onto the table to-morrow for
breakfast."

Say, the thought of what the Twombley-Cranes' English flunkies would do
at the sight of pumpkin pie on the breakfast table was most too much for
me. As it was, I had a bad coughin' fit, and when I recovered I suggests
eager, "Well, why not? They'll keep a day or so, won't they?"

"Not while I'm as hungry as I am now," says she. "And I'm dog tired too.
Young man, where'll we find a good, respectable tavern around here?"

"A which?" says I. "Oh! I get you--hotel. Now let's see. Why, I expect
the best thing you can do is to jump in one of these motor buses and
ride down to--no, I might's well go along, as it's right on my way home.
Here's one coming now."

So we piles in, umbrella, pies, and all, and inside of half an hour
I've landed the whole shootin' match safe in a two-fifty air-shaft room
in one of those punk little ten-story hotels down in the 40's. I showed
'em how to work the electric light switch, got 'em some ice water, and
pointed out the fire escape. In fact, I done everything but tuck 'em in
bed, and I had said good-night twice and was makin' my getaway, when
Mrs. Leavitt follows me out into the hall, shuttin' Hubby in by himself.

"Just one thing more, Mr. McCabe," says she. "I guess you needn't say
anything to Twombley-Crane about our bein' here."

"Oh!" says I. "Goin' to spring it on him to-morrow yourself?"

"Maybe," says she, "and then again maybe I won't go near 'em at all. I'm
going to think it over."

"I see," says I. "But I expect Mr. Leavitt will be up."

"What, alone?" says she. "Him? Not much!"

"Oh!" says I, and while I didn't mean it to show, I expect I must have
humped my eyebrows a little. Anyway, she comes right back at me.

"Well, why should he?" she demands.

"Why, I don't know," says I; "only he--he's the head of the house, ain't
he?"

"No, he ain't," says she. "I don't say it in a boasting spirit, for it's
always been one of the trials of my life; but Mr. Leavitt ain't at the
head of anything--never was, and never will be."

"Had plenty of chance, I expect?" says I sarcastic.

"Just the same chances other men have had, and better," says she. "Why,
when we was first married I thought he was going to be one of the
biggest men in this country. Everyone did. He looked it and talked it.
Talk? He was the best talker in the county! Is yet, for that matter.
Course, he'd been around a lot as a young man--taught school in Rutland
for two terms, and visited a whole summer in Bellows Falls. Besides
there was the blood, him being an own cousin to Twombley-Crane. Just
that was most enough to turn my head, even if that branch of the family
never did have much to do with the Leavitt side. But it's a fact that
Mr. Leavitt's mother and Twombley-Crane's father were brother and
sister."

"You don't mean it!" says I.

"Of course," she goes on, "the Leavitts always stayed poor country
folks, and the Cranes went to the city and got rich. When the old
homestead was left to Mr. Leavitt, though, he said he wasn't going to
spend the rest of his life on an old, worn-out farm. No, Sir! He was
going to do something better than that, something big! We all believed
it too. For the first six months of our married life I kept my trunk
packed, ready to start any minute for anywhere, expecting him to find
that grand career he'd talked so much about. But somehow we never
started. That wa'n't the worst of it, either. A year slipped by, and we
hadn't done a thing,--didn't even raise enough potatoes to last us
through Thanksgivin', and if we hadn't sold the hay standing and the
apple crop on the trees I don't know how we'd got through the winter.

"Along about the middle of March I got my eyes wide open. I saw that if
anything was done to keep us out of the poorhouse I'd got to do it. Old
Mr. Clark wanted someone to help in the general store about then, and I
took the job at six dollars a week. Inside of a year I was actin'
postmistress, had full charge of the drygoods side, did all the grocery
buyin', and was agent for a horse rake and mower concern. Six months
later, when Mr. Clark gave up altogether and the store was for sale, I
jumped in, mortgaged the Leavitt place all it would stand, borrowed
fifteen hundred dollars from a brother-in-law back in Nova Scotia, and
put a new sign over the door. That was over thirty years ago; but it's
there yet. It reads, 'Mrs. Sallie Leavitt, General Merchandise.'"

"But where did Mr. Leavitt fit in?" says I.

"Humph!" says she. "Mostly he's set around the store and talked. Oh, he
helps with the mail, cooks a little when I'm too rushed and ain't got
any hired girl, and washes dishes. That's always been the one useful
thing he could do,--wash dishes. I expect that's why everybody at the
Mills calls him Mr. Sallie Leavitt. There! It's out. I don't know as I
ever said that aloud before in my life. I've been too much ashamed. But
I might's well face the truth now. He's just Mr. Sallie Leavitt. And if
you don't think that hurts for me to have to own up to it, then you're
mighty mistaken. Maybe you can guess too why I ain't so anxious to
parade a husband like that before folks."

"Oh, well," says I, "sometimes a man gets tagged with a nickname like
that and don't half deserve it."

"Huh!" says she. "You don't know Mr. Leavitt as I do. I wa'n't goin' to
mention it; but--but--well, he's a book reader."

"A what?" says I.

"Reads books," says she. "Just reads and reads and reads. He's got what
he calls our circulatin' lib'ry in a room he's fixed up over the store.
Lends out books at five cents a week, you know. But, land! he reads more
of 'em himself than any ten customers. History, explorin' books, and
novels--specially novels about English society folks, like 'Lady
Thingumbob's Daughter,' and so on. And the fool ideas he gets from 'em!
I expect you'll laugh, but he actually tries to talk and act like them
people he reads about. Learned to drink tea out of books, Mr. Leavitt
has, and wants me to quit the store every afternoon about half past four
and drink it with him. Think of that! And instead of havin' his supper
at night he wants to call it dinner. Did you ever? Yes, Sir, that's the
kind of tomfoolery I've been puttin' up with all these years, and tryin'
to hide from the neighbors! Maybe you'll notice I always call him Mr.
Leavitt? That's why; to cover up the fact that he's only--well, what
they call him. And so, cousin or no cousin, I don't see how I'm goin' to
bring myself to let the Twombley-Cranes know. Anyway, I want to sleep on
it first. That's why I'd just as soon you wouldn't tell 'em we're here."

"I see," says I. "And you can bank on me."

I didn't peep a word, either. It's only the followin' evenin', though,
that Sadie announces:

"What do you think, Shorty? A Vermont cousin of Mr. Twombley-Crane is in
town, with his wife, and they're going to give them a dinner party
Friday night."

"Gee!" says I. "I'd like to be there."

"You will be," says she; "for you are specially invited."

"Eh?" says I. "To meet the poor relations? How's that?"

"Who said they were poor?" says Sadie. "Why, Twombley-Crane says that
his cousin's wife is one of the shrewdest business women he's ever heard
of. He has been handling her investments, and says she must be worth
half a million, at least; all made out of a country store, maple sugar
bushes, and farm mortgages. I'm crazy to see her, aren't you?"

"What--Sallie?" says I. "Half a million! Must be some mistake."

Course I had to tell her then about the couple I'd run across, and about
Mr. Sallie, and the pies, and the string bonnet. We had such a warm
debate too, as to whether she was really well off or not, that next day
my curiosity got the best of me, and I calls up the hotel to see if the
Leavitts are in. Well, they was, and Mrs. Leavitt, when she finds who it
is, asks pleadin' if I won't run up and see 'em a little while.

"Please come," says she; "for I'm completely flabbergasted. It's--it's
about Mr. Leavitt."

"Why, sure," says I. "I'll come right up."

I finds 'em sittin' in their dull, bare little hotel room, one on each
side of the bed, with the extension grip half packed on the floor.
"Well," says I, "what's up?"

"Ask him," says she, noddin' at Mr. Sallie.

But Leavitt only hangs his head guilty and shuffles his feet. "Then I'll
tell you," says she. "Yesterday he slipped out, hunted up his cousin,
and got us invited to dinner. More'n that, he said we'd come."

"Well, why not go?" says I.

"Because," says she, "I--I just can't do it. I--I'm--well, we've been
around some since we got here, lookin' into the big stores and so on,
and I've been noticin' the women, how they talk and act and dress
and--and--oh, I'm afraid, that's all!"

"Why, Sallie!" says Mr. Leavitt.

"Yes, I am," she insists. "I'm plumb scared at the thought of mixin'
with folks like that--just plumb scared. And, as you know, Mr. Leavitt,
it's the first time in my life I've ever been afraid of anything."

"Yes, that's so," says he, "that's so, Sallie. But you're not going to
be afraid now. Why should you?"

"Listen to him, Mr. McCabe!" says she. "Do you know what he wants me to
do? Spend a lot of money on clothes and rig myself up like--like that
woman we saw the other night!"

"And you're going to do it too," says Mr. Leavitt. "You can afford to
have the best there is,--a Paris frock, and the things that go with it.
I mean you shall, not for my sake, but for your own. You're a wonderful
woman, Sallie, and you ought to know it for once in your life. I want my
cousin to know it too. You've not only got more brains than most women,
but you're mighty good looking, and in the proper clothes you could hold
up your head in any company."

"Pshaw!" says Mrs. Leavitt, almost blushin'. "Right before Mr. McCabe
too!"

"Well, isn't it so?" demands Mr. Leavitt, turnin' to me.

"Why--er--of course it is," says I.

I tried to make it enthusiastic, and if it come out a little draggy it
must have been on account of that ancient lid of hers that's hangin' in
full view on one of the bedposts. As a matter of fact, she's one of
these straight-built, husky, well-colored dames, with fairly good lines
in spite of what the village dressmaker had done to her.

"There!" says Mr. Leavitt. "Now let's have no more talk of going home.
Let's go out and get the clothes right now. Perhaps Mr. McCabe can show
us where we can buy the right things."

"Land sakes! What a man you are, Mr. Leavitt!" says Sallie, weakenin' a
little.

Five minutes more of that kind of talk, and he'd got her to tie on her
bonnet. Then, with me leadin' the way and him urgin' her on from behind,
we starts on our shoppin' expedition.

"It's to be a complete outfit, from the ground up, ain't it?" says I.

"That's it," says Mr. Leavitt.

So, instead of botherin' with any department stores, I steers 'em
straight for Madame Laplante's, where they set you back hard, but can
furnish a whole trousseau, I'm told, at an hour's notice.

Mrs. Leavitt was still protestin' that maybe she wouldn't do any more
than look at the things, and how she wouldn't promise to wear 'em even
if she did buy a few; but you know what smooth salesladies they have in
such places. When I left two of 'em was gushin' over Mrs. Leavitt's
chestnut-tinted hair that she had piled up in slick coils under the
bonnet, and a third was runnin' a tape over her skillful. If it had been
anybody but Mrs. Sallie Leavitt, I'd have hated to take chances on
havin' to write the check when it was all over.

"Well, is she coming?" asks Sadie that night.

"Search me," says I. "I wouldn't bet a nickel either way."

That was Wednesday. All day Thursday I was expectin' to be called in
again, or hear that Sallie had made a break back for Vermont. But not a
word. Nor on Friday, either. So at seven o'clock that night, as we
collected in the Twombley-Cranes' drawin' room, there was some suspense;
for at least half of us were wise to the situation. At seven-fifteen,
though, they arrives.

And, say, I wish you could have seen Mrs. Sallie Leavitt of Clarks
Mills! I don't know what it cost to work the miracle, but, believe me,
it was worth twice the money! Leavitt was dead right. All she needed was
the regalia. And she'd got it too,--sort of a black lacy creation, with
jet spangles all over it, and long, sweepin' folds from the waist down,
and with all that hair of hers done up flossy and topped with a fancy
rhinestone headdress, she looked tall and classy. And stunnin'? Say, she
had a neck and shoulders that made that Mrs. K. Taylor French party
look like a museum exhibit!

Then there was Mr. Leavitt, all dolled up as correct as any cotillion
leader, balancin' his silk tile graceful on one wrist, and strokin' his
close-cropped mustache with his white glove, just as Mrs. Humphry Ward
describes on page 147.

"Well!" gasps Sadie. "I thought you said they were a pair of countrified
freaks!"

"You should have seen 'em when they landed with the pies," says I.

And, if you'll believe me, Mr. Leavitt not only had on the costume, but
he had the lines too. Sounded a little booky in spots maybe; but he was
right there with the whole bag of chatty tricks,--the polite salute for
the hostess, a neat little epigram when it come his turn to fill in the
talk, a flash or so of repartee, and an anecdote that got a good hand
all round the table. You see, he was sort of doublin' in brass, as it
were; conversin' for two, you know. For Sallie was playin' it safe,
watchin' how the others negotiated the asparagus, passin' up all the
dishes she couldn't dope out, and sayin' mighty little. Mostly she's
watchin' Mr. Leavitt, her eyes growin' brighter and rounder as the meal
progresses, and at last fairly beamin' across the table at him.

I didn't quite get the slant of all this until later, when we'd finished
and was trailin' into the lib'ry. Mrs. Leavitt breaks loose from
Twombley-Crane and falls back alongside of me.

"Well, how goes it?" says I. "Wasn't so bad, after all, was it?"

"Don't tell anyone," she whispers, "but I'm so scared I'd like to yell
and run away. I would too, if it wasn't for Edwin."

"Who?" says I.

"Mr. Leavitt," says she. "He's going to be Edwin to me after this,
though--my Edwin. Isn't he great, though? Course, I always knew he was a
good talker, and all that; but to do it in comp'ny, before a lot of city
folks--well, I must say I'm mighty proud of such a husband, mighty
proud! And anybody who ever calls him Mr. Sallie Leavitt again has got
to reckon with me! They'll never have a chance to do it in Clarks Mills.
The Mills ain't good enough for Edwin. I've just found that out. And to
think that all these years I've believed it was the other way round! But
I'm going to make up for all that. You'll see!"

Uh-huh! Mrs. Leavitt's a woman of her word. Soon as she can settle up
things at the store, foreclose a few mortgages, and unload a few blocks
of stock that can't be carried safe without watchin', it's goin' to be
the grand European tour for her and Edwin, and maybe a house in town
when they come back.

"Which only goes to show, Mrs. McCabe," says I, "how it's never too
late to discover that, after all, old Hubby's the one best bet on the
card."

"Pooh!" says Sadie. "It isn't always safe to let him know it, even if
you have."



CHAPTER XII

A FIFTY-FIFTY SPLIT WITH HUNK


"And believe me, Shorty," goes on Mr. Hunk Burley, tappin' a stubby
forefinger on my knee, and waggin' his choppin'-block head energetic,
"when I get behind a proposition yuh goin' to get some action."

"Sure, I know, Hunk," says I, glancin' up at the clock uneasy and
squirmin' a bit in the swing chair.

You see, this had been goin' on now for near an hour, and while it might
be more or less entertainin' as well as true, I wa'n't crazy about
listenin' to it all the afternoon. For one thing, I wa'n't comin' in on
his scheme. Not a chance. I can be bilked into buyin' tickets for a
raffle, even when I wouldn't take the junk that's put up as a gift, and
I'm easy in other ways; but when it comes to any gate-money game, from
launchin' a musical comedy to openin' a new boxin' club, I'm Tight Tommy
with the time lock set. None in mine! I've had my guesses as to what the
public wants, and I know I'm a perfectly punk prophet.

Besides, it was about time for J. Bayard Steele to show up with this
gent from Washington, Cuyler Morrison De Kay, and--well, I'd just as
soon not be bothered to explain Hunk Burley to a pair like that. You
know the kind of bygone friends that do need explainin'--well, Hunk
needed it bad; for as far as looks went he was about the crudest party
that ever sported a diamond elephant stickpin or chewed twenty-five-cent
cigars for a steady diet.

Built wide and substantial, Hunk was, with the longest arms you ever saw
outside an iron cage, and a set of rugged features that had the Old Man
of the Mountain lookin' like a ribbon clerk. Reg'lar cave dweller's
face, it was; and with his bristly hair growin' down to a point just
above his eyes, and the ear tufts, and the mossy-backed paws--well, if
there ever was a throw-back to the Stone Age he was it.

As a rubber in my old trainin' camp outfit, though, Hunk had his good
points. I've gone on the table to him with a set of shoulder muscles as
stiff as a truck trace and inside of half an hour jumped up as limber as
a whale-bone whip. And I'd never sign up for more'n a ten-round go
without sendin' for Hunk first thing after the forfeits was up. Course,
when it come to society, there was others I liked better, and I expect
after I quit the ring I didn't take any particular pains to keep his
name in my address book.

But Hunk was one of the old crowd that didn't need much dodgin'. He went
his way like I went mine, and I hadn't seen him for years when he
tramps into the studio here the other noon, treadin' heavy on his heels
and wearin' this suit of peace-disturbin' plaids. He hadn't climbed the
stairs just for any Auld Lang Syne nonsense, either. He was there on
business.

That is, it seemed like business to him; for, in his special way, Hunk
had been comin' along. He hadn't stuck to bein' a rubber. He'd done a
strong-man turn with a medicine top for awhile, then he'd worked into
the concession game on the county fair circuit, managed a Ferris wheel
and carrousel outfit, and even swung an Uncle Tom troupe, with six real
bloodhounds, through the town halls of fourteen States.

"Pullin' down the kale by the double handsful, mind you," says Hunk.
"But no more! The movies has queered the Topsy business. Absolutely! I
seen it comin' just in time, and I've been layin' low until I could find
something to beat it. Say, I've got it too. Not for this territory. I'll
give the film people two years more to kill themselves in the North,
with the rot they're puttin' out. But in the South they ain't got such a
hold, and the folks are different. They're just old style enough down
there to fall for a street parade and fifty-cent seats on the blue
benches. They got the coin too--don't make no mistake about that. And
this Great Australian Hippodrome will make 'em loosen up like a Rube
showin' his best girl what he can do throwin' baseballs at the dummies.
Yea, Bo! It's the biggest bargain on the market too. Come in with me,
Shorty, on a half int'rest, splittin' fifty-fifty."

"Too big a gamble, Hunk," says I. "I've seen more money dropped on ring
shows than----"

"But we carry a pair of boxin' kangaroos," he breaks in eager, "that
pulls an act they go nutty over. And our tribe of original wild Bush
people has never been shown this side of Melbourne."

"Sorry, Hunk," says I, "but if I had all that money tied up in billboard
sheets and smoky canvas, I couldn't sleep well on windy nights. None of
your flat-car hippodromes for me. That's final! Besides, I got a date
with a couple of swells that's liable to show up here any minute, and I
ought to----"

What I really ought to have done was to have chucked a table cover over
Hunk and played him for a piece of statuary; but before I can make a
move in walks J. Bayard and this Washington gent. Next minute we was
bein' introduced, and all I can do is stand in front of Hunk with one
hand behind me, givin' him the fade-away signal energetic.

Does he get it? Not Hunk! The one real sensitive spot in his system can
be reached only by sluggin' him behind the ear with a bung starter, and
I didn't have one handy. He shoves his chair back into the corner and
continues to gawp; so I just has to let on that he ain't there at all.

Course I'd been put wise to who this Cuyler Morrison De Kay was. He's
what Mr. Steele calls an object of altruism. In other words, he's No. 7
on Pyramid Gordon's list, and our job is to frame up for him some kind
and generous deed, accordin' to the specifications of the will. As usual
too, J. Bayard had got all balled up over doin' it; for while Mr. De Kay
ain't quite the plute he looks, it turns out he's holdin' down one of
them government cinches, with a fat salary, mighty little real work, and
no worry. He's a widower, and a real elegant gent too. You could tell
that by the wide ribbon on his shell eyeglasses and the gray suède
gloves.

I could see in a minute that he'd sort of put the spell on Steele, most
likely because he was a genuine sample of what J. Bayard was givin' only
a fair imitation of. You know, one of these straight-backed,
aristocratic old boys that somehow has the marks of havin' been
everywhere, seen everything, and done everything. You'd expect him to be
able to mix a salad dressin' _à la Montmartre_, and reel off anecdotes
about the time when he was a guest of the Grand Duke So and So at his
huntin' lodge. Kind of a faded, thin-blooded, listless party, somewhere
in the late fifties, with droopy eye corners and a sarcastic bite to his
offhand remarks.

I may as well admit that I didn't take so kindly to Cuyler from the
first. Also I was a little peeved at J. Bayard when I discovers he's
lugged him up here without findin' out much about him. Hadn't even asked
De Kay how it was him and Pyramid Gordon had bumped up against one
another. So I fires that at him straight.

"Let's see," says I, "where was it you and Mr. Gordon got mixed up?"

"Gordon?" says he, shruggin' his shoulders and smilin' cynical. "Really,
I can't conceive just why he should remember me. True, during our brief
acquaintance, he showed a most active dislike for me; but I assure you
it was not mutual. A man of Gordon's type---- Bah! One simply ignores
them, you know."

"You don't say!" says I. "Now I had an idea that wa'n't so dead
easy--ignorin' Pyramid."

Cuyler humps his gray eyebrows as if he was slightly annoyed. "I was
referring merely to his offensive personality," he goes on. "One does
not quarrel with a bulldog for its lack of manners."

"Ah, come!" says I. "Maybe he took you for one of these parlor spaniels
and was tryin' to throw a scare into you with a few growls."

I could hear J. Bayard gasp protestin'; but Cuyler shrugs it off without
wincin'. "Just how he regarded me was a subject to which I gave not the
slightest thought," says he. "I was concerned only with his enterprise
of crossing the Peoria & Dayton at grade in the face of an injunction
issued by the State supreme court. You see, I happened to be president
of the road at the time."

"Now we're gettin' to the plot of the piece," says I. "You blocked him
off, eh?"

"I did my best," says Mr. De Kay. "Of course I was not a practical
railroad man. I'd been somewhat of a figurehead, you understand. But in
this emergency I was called back from Europe and at the urgent request
of the directors I assumed active charge. My first step was to secure
the injunction."

"Which worried him, I expect?" says I, winkin' at J. Bayard.

"Quite as much as if I had sent a note by my office boy," says Cuyler.
"He rushed a construction train with two hundred men to the spot and
gave the order himself to tear up our tracks. Well, it was rather a
spirited contest. I mobilized our entire working force, had them sworn
in as deputy sheriffs, and kept three switch engines moving up and down
the line. For forty-eight hours we held them back."

"And then?" says I.

Cuyler executes that careless shoulder shrug once more. "Rifles," says
he. "I suppose I should have retaliated with machine guns; but I
preferred to put my trust in the law of the land. Of course I found out
how absurd that was later on. Gordon crossed our grade. After four or
five years of expensive litigation we gave up. By that time our road had
become part of the Gordon system. I was glad to get 48 for my holdings;
so you see his victory was quite complete. But the only real personal
contact I had with him was during those two days of the crossing war
when we took our meals at the wretched little hotel, facing each other
across the table. Fancy! His coarse attempts to treat the situation
humorously were more offensive, if anything, than his guerrilla business
tactics. An ill-bred, barbarous fellow, this Gordon of yours."

"Huh!" says I. "He wa'n't any parlor entertainer, that's a fact; but
take it from me, Mr. De Kay, he was a good deal of a man, for all that."

"So, I presume, was Captain Kidd," sneers Cuyler, "and Jesse James."

"Maybe," I comes back kind of hot. "But Pyramid Gordon was white enough
to want to divide his pile among the poor prunes he'd put out here and
there along the way. You're on the list too, and the chief object of
this little tête-à-tête is to frame up some plan of givin' you a boost."

"So Mr. Steele gave me to understand," says Cuyler. "In my case,
however, the reparation comes a little late. The fact is, Gentlemen,
that I--well, why quibble? I may be good for another ten or a dozen
years. But I shall go on just as I've been going on, following my daily
routine in the department, at my club, at my bachelor quarters. You get
into it, you know,--bath, breakfast, desk, dinner, a rubber or two of
bridge, and bed. A trifle monotonous, but a comfortable, undisturbed,
assured existence. I may have had ambitions once,--yes, I'm quite
sure,--but no longer. After my--er--my elimination, I got this place in
the department. There I've stuck for fifteen years. I've settled into
official routine; I'm fixed there hard and fast. It's so with many of
us. Most of us recognize the hopelessness of ever pulling out. At least
I do, fully. As I sometimes confess, I am merely one of the unburied
dead. And there you are!"

Kind of took me off my guard, that did. And me about to knock him so
hard! I glances over at J. Bayard sort of foolish, and he stares back
vacant and helpless. Somehow we'd never been up against a proposition
like this, and it had us fannin' the air.

"Unburied dead, eh?" says I. "Oh come, Mr. De Kay, ain't that drawin' it
a little strong? Why, you ought to have lots of punch left in you yet.
All you got to do is buck up."

"The optimism of youth!" says he. "I suppose I ought to feel grateful,
Professor McCabe, for your well intentioned advice. And I can almost say
that I wish I might----"

He don't get a chance to finish; for this is right where Hunk Burley,
that I'd almost forgot was in the room, suddenly kicks into the debate.
I'd felt one or two tugs at my coat; but this last one was so vigorous
it nearly whirls me around. And as I turns I finds him blinkin' and
splutterin' excited, like he'd swallowed his cigar.

"Eh?" says I. "What's troublin' you, Hunk?"

"He--he's the guy," says Hunk, "the very guy!"

"Wha-a-at?" says I, followin' the look in them wide-set pop eyes of his.
"Who is?"

"Him," says he, pointin' to Cuyler. "He's a reg'lar guy, he is; the spit
and image of what I been wantin' to connect with these last six months.
Say, Shorty, put me next."

"Gwan!" says I. "You ain't supposed to exist. Paint your funnels black
and run the blockade."

At which Cuyler, who has been starin' curious through his glasses, steps
forward. "What is it?" says he. "Do I understand that the gentleman
wishes to speak to me?"

"You're hootin'," says Hunk. "Only I ain't no gent. I'm just Hunk
Burley, managin' producer. Tent shows is my line, ring or stage, and I'm
carryin' a proposition up my cuff that means a lot of easy money to
whoever grabs it first. Do you get me?"

"Ah, stow it, Hunk!" says I. "Mr. De Kay ain't one of your crowd. Can't
you see he's----"

"But with him out front," breaks in Hunk eager, "and pullin' that swell
line of patter, we could pack the reserved benches from dirt to canvas.
Honest, we could! Say, Mister, lemme put it to you on the level. You buy
in with me on this Great Australian Hippodrome, a half int'rest for
twelve thou cash, leave me the transportation and talent end, while you
do the polite gab at the main entrance, and if we don't lug away the
daily receipts in sugar barrels I'll own the boxin' kangaroos for first
cousins. Why, it's the chance of a lifetime! What do you say to it?"

And you should have seen the look on Cuyler Morrison's aristocratic map
as he inspects Hunk up and down and it dawns on him that he's bein'
invited to break into the circus business. But after the first shock has
passed off he ends by smilin' indulgent.

"My good fellow," says he, "you flatter me. My qualifications for such a
partnership are entirely too limited."

"If you mean you couldn't get away with it," says Hunk, "you got another
guess. Why, in one forenoon I could coach you up for a spiel that would
set 'em mobbin' the ticket wagons! And with you in a white silk lid
drivin' four spotted ponies and leadin' the grand street parade--say
they'd be lettin' out the schools for our matinées."

Out of the tail of my eye I could see that J. Bayard was speechless with
indignation. But what could I do? The only way of stoppin' Hunk was to
choke him, which wa'n't any pink tea proceedin'. Besides, Cuyler seems
to be mildly entertained at it all.

"A fascinating picture, truly!" says he. "I have often envied those
important personages at the head of street parades without ever dreaming
that some day the opportunity might come to me of---- But alas! I have
no twelve thousand to invest in such an estimable enterprise."

"Ah, quit your kiddin'!" says Hunk.

He wouldn't believe for a minute that Cuyler couldn't cash a check for
twice that, wouldn't even listen to Mr. De Kay while he protests that
really he's a poor man livin' on a government salary. Hunk knew better.
The ribbon on the shell-rim eyeglasses had got him, too.

"Very well," laughs Cuyler, givin' up the attempt. "But I must insist
that I have no surging ambition, at my time of life, to drive spotted
ponies in public. In fact, I've no ambitions at all."

"Then that's just why you ought to hook up with me," says Hunk. "Wait
until you've been out a week on the road; that'll be enough to get you
interested. And take it from me, there ain't any game like it,--pilin'
out of your berth at a new pitch every mornin', breakfast in the mess
car on the sidin', strollin' out to the grounds and watchin' the pegs
sunk, drivin' around town to take a glance at the paper display, formin'
on for the parade, sizin' up the sidewalk crowds, and a couple of hours
later seein' 'em collectin' from all sides around the big top; then at
night, when you've had two big houses, to check up the receipts and
figure out how much you are to the good. Say, don't make any mistake,
that's livin'! It ain't layin' back easy and havin' things handed you on
a platter: it's goin' out after what you want, your jaw set and your
shoulders braced, and bringin' home the bacon."

Cuyler, he's still listenin' sort of amused; but he's inspectin' this
crude specimen in front of him with a little more int'rest. He shakes
his head though.

"I've no doubt the life is all you describe," says he. "However, it is
not for me."

"Why not?" demands Hunk. "Didn't I just hear you tellin' how you was
travelin' with a bunch of dead ones? Ain't stuck on it, are you? And the
answer is, Come out of your trance. I take it you ain't anybody special
where you are now; just one of the cogs. Buy in with me, and I'll make
you the main belt. That's right! Say, I'll tell you what! We'll feature
you on the four-sheets--De Kay & Co.'s Grand Australian Hippodrome. Your
picture in a wreath of roses,--no, a horseshoe's better,--and we'll play
up the show as a refined, educatin', moral exhibition. They'll believe
it when they see you. You'll be the big noise, the man in front. You'll
hear 'em passin' the tip along the curb as the parade swings by, 'That's
him--Mr. De Kay!' And you'll be the one to receive the Mayor and his
wife and show 'em to their arena box. Every day a new Mayor in a new
town. And you'll know 'em all, and they'll know you. What! That'll be
bein' somebody, eh?"

He'd stepped up, right in front of Cuyler, talkin' free and easy, as one
man to another. But then he always was that way. Not fresh, you know,
nor cocky; but just as if he was as good as anybody, and allowed
everybody was as good as him. He's lookin' Mr. De Kay straight in
between the eyes, good-natured but earnest, and all of a sudden he
reaches out a big paw and slaps him folksy on the shoulder.

"Well, Brother," says he, "how about it?"

I don't know how it struck J. Bayard Steele, but as for me, right then
and there I got wise to the fact that, in spite of the ear tufts and
low-brow manners, Hunk Burley, man for man, would measure up with De Kay
or anyone else; that is, within his limits. For he'd found his job. He
was there with the goods!

The same thought must have hit Cuyler too. Couldn't help it. He was
lookin' level into them steady eyes, hearin' that husky, even voice, and
watchin' that calm, rugged face that had so much strength behind it. A
party to depend on, to tie to. Anyway, something of the kind got him,
got him hard.

"By George!" says he. "I--I wish I could!" And with that he gives Hunk
the grip, quick and impulsive.

Which was when I developed this foolish idea. I looks over to J. Bayard
and grins. Then I turns back to Cuyler. "Well, it can be fixed," says I.

"Eh?" says he. "I beg pardon?"

"Your bit from Pyramid's pile," says I. "If you'll take the chance of
chuckin' your salary and quittin' the ranks of the unburied dead, we'll
stake you to enough so you can buy in with Hunk. Won't we, Steele?"

J. Bayard gulps once or twice and looks sort of dazed. "If Mr. De Kay
really wishes to connect himself with such a venture," says he, "of
course I----"

"I do," breaks in Cuyler. "And I assure you, Gentlemen, that I feel more
alive at this moment than I have for the last twenty years. My friend
Burley here has done that. I want to go on feeling that way. I am
willing to follow him anywhere."

"Then it's a go," says I. "Steele, write a voucher and I'll O.K. it."

"Good work!" says Hunk, givin' Cuyler another bone crushing grip. "And
remember, we split fifty-fifty on all the net. I'll close the deal by
to-morrow noon, and three weeks from to-day we open in Savannah."

Half an hour after they'd both gone J. Bayard still sits there gazin'
vague and puzzled at the silver crook on his walkin' stick.

"Just fancy!" he mutters. "A circus!"

"Oh, well," says I, "maybe it's better to be keepin' step to 'Rockin'
the Boat' than draggin' your heels along in the wake of the unburied
dead."

One thing I'm sure of, Cuyler wa'n't indulgin' in any momentary fit. He
meant business. I saw him last night, just as he was startin' for the
steamer.

"How you and Hunk comin' on?" says I.

"Excellent!" says he. "We've made some compromises, naturally. For
instance, he is to drive the spotted ponies, and I am to wear an
ordinary black silk hat when I lead the street parade."



CHAPTER XIII

A FOLLOW THROUGH BY EGGY


Might have been a wrong hunch, as it turned out; but for awhile there
what I wanted to do most was to take this Eggleston K. Ham, wad him up
in a neat little lump, and stuff him into the waste basket. I wouldn't
have been exertin' myself much, at that.

He's one of that kind, you know. Insignificant? Why, in full daylight
you almost had to look twice to see him--and then you'd be guessin'
whether it was a lath that had sprouted whiskers, or whiskers that was
tryin' to bud a man! Them and the thick, gold-rimmed glasses sure did
give him a comic, top-heavy look.

Course, we get all kinds in our buildin'; but when the lady voice
culturist on the top floor sublets her studio for the summer to this
freak I thought we'd gone from bad to worse. And she even has the nerve
to leave the key with me, sayin' Mr. Ham would call for it in the course
of a week or so.

[Illustration: He sidles up to the desk and proceeds to make some
throaty noises.]

We'd enjoyed about ten days of peace too, with no bloodcurdlin' sounds
floatin' down the light shaft, and I was hopin' maybe the subtenant had
renigged, when one mornin' the front office door opens easy, and in
slips this face herbage exhibit. It's no scattered, hillside crop,
either, but a full blown Vandyke. When he'd got through growin' the
alfalfa, though, his pep seemed to give out, and the rest of him was as
wispy as a schoolgirl.

He sidles up to the desk, where I have my heels elevated restful, and
proceeds to make some throaty noises behind his hand. I'm just readin'
how Tesreau pulled out of a bad hole in the seventh with two on bases;
but I breaks away long enough to glance over the top of the paper.

"Go on, shoot it," says I.

"I--I'm very sorry," says he, "but--but I am Mr. Ham."

"Never mind apologizin'," says I. "Maybe it ain't all your fault. After
the key, ain't you?"

"Yes, thank you," says he.

"Eggleston K., I suppose?" says I.

"Oh, yes," says he.

"Here you are, then, Eggy," says I, reachin' into a pigeonhole and
producin' it. "What's your instrument of torture, the xylophone?"

"I--I beg pardon?" says he.

"Come now," says I, "don't tell me you're a trombone fiend!"

"Oh, I see," says he. "No, no, I--I'm not a musician."

"Shake, Eggy!" says I, reachin' out my hand impulsive. "And I don't care
how many cubist pictures you paint up there so long as you ain't noisy
about it."

He fingers his soft hat nervous, smiles sort of embarrassed, and
remarks, "But--but I'm not an artist either, you know."

"Well, well!" says I. "Two misses, and still in the air. Is it anything
you can speak of in public?"

"Why," says he, "I--I've said very little about it, as a matter of fact,
but--but I am doing a little research work in--in anthropology."

"Good night!" says I. "Mixin' things up that's liable to blow the roof
off, ain't it?"

"Why, no," says he, starin' at me puzzled. "It's merely studying racial
characteristics, making comparisons, and so on. Incidentally, I--I'm
writing a book, I suppose."

"Oh!" says I. "Authoring? Well, there's no law against it, and ink is
cheap. Go to it, Eggy! Top floor, first door to your left."

And that seems to be the finish of the Ham incident. All was peaceful in
the light shaft,--no squeaky high C's, no tump-tump-tump on the piano:
just the faint tinkle of a typewriter bell now and then to remind us
that Eggy was still there. Once in awhile I'd pass him on the stairs,
and he'd nod bashful but friendly and then scuttle by like a rabbit.

"Must be a hot book he's writin'!" thinks I, and forgets his existence
until the next time.

The summer moseys along, me bein' busy with this and that, goin' and
comin' back, until here the other day when things is dullest Pinckney
calls up from the club and announces that he's got a new customer for
me, someone very special.

"Visitin' royalty, or what?" says I.

"Winthrop Hubbard," says he impressive.

"The guy that invented squash pie?" says I.

"No, no!" peeves Pinckney. "The son of Joshua Q. Hubbard, you know."

"I get you," says I. "The Boston cotton mill plute that come so near
bitin' a chunk out of the new tariff bill. But I thought he was
entertainin' the French Ambassador or someone at his Newport place?"

Well, he was; but this is only a flyin' trip. Seems Son Winthrop had
fin'ly been persuaded to begin his business career by bein' made first
vice president of the General Sales Company, that handled the export end
of the trust's affairs. So, right in the height of his season, he's had
to scratch his Horse Show entries, drop polo practice, and move into a
measly six-room suite in one of them new Fifth-ave. hotels, with three
hours of soul-wearin' officework ahead of him five days out of seven.
He'd been at the grind a month now, and Mother had worried so about his
health that Joshua Q. himself had come down to observe the awful
results. Meanwhile Josh had been listenin' to Pinckney boostin' the
Physical Culture Studio as the great restorer, and he'd been about
persuaded that Son ought to take on something of the kind.

"But he wants to see you first," says Pinckney. "You understand. They're
rather particular persons, the Hubbards,--fine old Plymouth stock, and
all that."

"Me too," says I. "I'm just as fussy as the next--old Ellis Island
stock, remember."

"Oh, bother!" says Pinckney. "Will you come up and meet him, or won't
you?"

It wa'n't reg'lar; but as long as he's a friend of Pinckney's I said I
would.

And, say, Joshua Q. looks the part, all right. One of these imposin',
dignified, well kept old sports, with pink cheeks, a long, straight
nose, and close-set, gray-blue eyes. They're the real crusty stuff,
after all, them Back Bay plutes. For one thing, most of 'em have been at
it longer. Take J. Q. Hubbard. Why, I expect he begun havin' his nails
manicured before he was ten, and has had his own man to lay out his
dinner clothes ever since he got into long pants.

Nothin' provincial about him, either. Takes his trip across every winter
reg'lar, and I suppose he's as much at home on Unter den Linden, or the
Place de Concord or Neva Prospect as he is on Tremont-st. And, sittin'
there sippin' his hock and seltzer, gazin' languid out on Fifth-ave., he
gives kind of a classy tone to one of the swellest clubs in New York.
There ain't any snobbish frills to him, though. He gets right down to
brass tacks.

"McCabe," says he, "what class of persons do you have as patrons."

"Why," says I, "mostly Wall Street men, with a sprinklin' of afternoon
tea Johnnies, such as Pinckney here."

"No objectionable persons, I trust?" says he.

"Any roughneck gets the quick dump," says I.

"Ah, I think I catch your meaning," says he, "and I've no doubt your
establishment can supply precisely what my son needs in the way of
exercise. I suppose, however, I'd best see for myself. May we go now?"

"Sure," says I. "No special visitin' days."

"Then I'll 'phone Winthrop to meet us there," says he.

Seems he couldn't get Son direct; but he leaves word at his office, and
then off we goes in Pinckney's limousine de luxe. It ain't often I worry
any about the outside looks of things at the joint; but somehow, with
this elegant old party comin' to inspect, I was kind of hopin' the
stairs had been swept and that Swifty Joe wouldn't have any of his Red
Hook friends callin' on him.

So I most gasps when we piles out in front of the studio and finds a mob
that extends from the curb to the front door. Not only that, but the
lower hall is crowded, and they line the stairs halfway up. And such a
bunch! Waps, Dagoes, Matzers, Syrians, all varieties.

"By Jove, though!" says Pinckney. "What's all this?"

"Looks like someone was openin' a sweatshop in the buildin', don't it!"
says I. "If that's so, here's where I break my lease."

"Really," says Mr. Hubbard, eyin' the crowd doubtful, "I hardly believe
I care to----"

"Ah, I'll clear 'em out in two shakes," says I. "Just follow after me.
Hey, you! _Heim gagen_. Mushong! Gangway, gangway!" and I motions
threatenin'. "Ah, beat it, you garlic destroyers!" I sings out. "Back up
there, and take your feet with you! Back, you fatheads!" and I sends one
caromin' to the right and another spinnin' to the left.

The best I could do, though, was to open a three-foot lane through 'em,
and there they stuck, lined up on either side like they was waitin' for
a parade. It was something like that too,--me leadin' the way, Pinckney
steerin' J. Q. by the arm. We'd got inside the doorway without a word
bein' said, when a bright-eyed Dago girl with a rainbow-tinted
handkerchief about her neck breaks the spell.

"Picture, Meester--take-a da picture?" says she pleadin'. With that the
others breaks loose. "Picture, Meester! Please-a, Meester? Picture,
picture!" They says it in all sorts of dialects, with all sorts of
variations, all beggin' for the same thing. "Picture, picture!" They
reaches out, grabbin' at our coat sleeves. Three of 'em had hold of J.
Q. at once when I whirls on 'em.

"Ah, ditch the chorus!" I yells at 'em. "What do you think this is,
anyway, a movie outfit? Get back there! Hands off, or I call the cops!"

It's strenuous work; but I manages to quiet 'em long enough for Pinckney
and Mr. Hubbard to get through and slip up to the studio. Then I tries
to shoo the bunch into the street; but they don't shoo for a cent. They
still demands to have their pictures taken.

"Say, you Carlotta, there!" says I, singlin' out the Dago girl. "Who
gave you this nutty picture hunch?"

"Why, Meester Hama," says she. "Nice-a man, Meester Hama."

"Is he?" says I. "Well, you wait here until I see him about this.
Wait--understand?" With that I skips upstairs, and explains the mystery
of our bein' mobbed. "It's a whiskered freak on the top floor they're
after," says I. "Swifty, run up and get that Ham and Eggs gent. I'm
yearnin' for speech with him. I don't know what this is all about; but
I'll soon see, and block any encores."

"Quite right," says Mr. Hubbard. "This is all extremely annoying. Such a
rabble!"

"Positively disgusting!" adds Pinckney. "A crowd of smelly foreigners!
Shorty, you should put a stop to this."

"Trust me," says I. "Ah, here we have the guilty party!" and in comes
Swifty towin' Eggleston K. by the collar. No wonder Eggy is some
agitated, after bein' hauled down two flights in that fashion!

"Well," says I, as Swifty stands him up in front of us. "Who are your
outside friends, and why?"

"My--my friends?" says he. "I--I don't understand. And I must protest,
you know, against this manner of----"

"Gwan!" says I. "I'm doin' all the protestin' here. And I want to know
what you mean by collectin' such a crowd of steerage junk that my
customers can't get in without bein' mobbed? Howled for us to take their
pictures, and mentioned your name."

"Oh! Pictures!" and Eggy seems to get the key. "Why, I--I'd forgotten."

"Can you beat that?" says I. "He'd forgotten! Well, they hadn't. But
what's the idea, anyway? Collectin' fam'ly portraits of prominent
gunmen, or what?"

"It--it's my way of getting material for my work," says Eggleston. "You
see, through some friends in a settlement house, I get to know these
people. I take snapshots of them for nothing. They like to send the
pictures back home, you know, and I can use some of them myself."

"In the book?" says I.

"Perhaps," says Eggy, blushin'. "I had promised a few of them to take
some studio pictures if they would come up to-day."

"And they didn't do a thing but bring all their friends," says I. "Must
be fifty of them down there. You'll have a thick book before you get
through."

"I beg pardon," puts in Mr. Hubbard, leanin' forward int'rested, "but
may I ask the nature of the book?"

"It--it's to be about our foreign-born citizens," says Eggy.

"Ah, I see!" says J. Q. "Pointing out the evils of unrestricted
immigration, I presume?"

"Well--er--not exactly," says Eggy.

"Then I should advise you to make it so," says Mr. Hubbard. "In fact, if
the subject were well handled, and the case put strongly enough to meet
my views, I think I could assure its immediate publication."

"Oh, would you?" says Eggleston, real eager. "But--but what are your
views as to our treatment of aliens?"

"My programme is quite simple," says Mr. Hubbard. "I would stop all
immigration at once, absolutely. Then I would deport all persons of
foreign birth who had not become citizens."

Eggy gasped. "But--but that would be unjust!" says he. "Why, it would be
monstrous! Surely, you are not in earnest?"

Mr. Hubbard's eyelids narrow, his jaw stiffens, and he emphasizes each
word by tappin' his knee. "I'd like to see it done to-morrow," says he.
"Check this flood of immigration, and you solve half of our economic and
industrial problems. Too long we have allowed this country to be a
general dumping ground for the scum of Europe. Everyone admits that."

"If you please," says Eggy, runnin' his fingers through his beard
nervous, "I could not agree to that. On the contrary, my theory is that
we owe a great deal of our progress and our success to the foreign
born."

"Oh, indeed!" remarks Mr. Hubbard, cold and sharp. "And you mean to try
to prove that in your book?"

"Something like that," admits Eggy.

"Then, Sir," goes on J. Q., "I must tell you that I consider you a most
mischievous, if not dangerous person, and I feel it my duty to
discourage such misdirected enterprise. Aren't you an instructor in
economics under Professor Hartnett?"

Eggy pleads guilty.

"I thought I recognized the name," says J. Q. "Well, Mr. Ham, I am
Joshua Q. Hubbard, and, as you may know, I happen to be one of the
governing board of that college; so I warn you now, if you insist on
publishing such a book as you have suggested, you may expect
consequences."

For a minute that seems to stun Eggleston. He stares at Mr. Hubbard,
blinkin' his eyes rapid and swallowin' hard. Then he appears to recover.
"But--but are you not somewhat prejudiced?" says he. "I think I could
show you, Sir, that these poor aliens----"

"Mr. Ham," says J. Q. decided, "I know exactly what I am talking about;
not from hearsay, but from actual experience. Hundreds of thousands of
dollars these wretched foreigners have cost me within the last few
years. Why, that last big strike cut dividends almost in half! And who
causes all the strikes, is at the bottom of all labor disturbances? The
foreign element. If I had my way, I'd call out the regular army and
drive every last one of them into the sea."

You'd most thought that would have squelched Eggy. I was lookin' for him
to back through the door on his hands and knees. But all he does is
stand there lookin' J. Q. Hubbard square in the eye and smilin' quiet.

"Yes, I've heard sentiments like that before," says he. "I presume, Mr.
Hubbard, that you know many of your mill operatives personally?"

"No," says J. Q., "and I have no desire to. I haven't been inside one of
our mills in fifteen years."

"I see," says Eggy. "You keep in touch with your employees
through--er--your bankbook? But is it fair to judge them as men and
women wholly on their ability to produce dividends for you?"

"As an employer of labor, what other test would you have me apply?" says
J. Q.

"Then you are classing them with machines," says Eggy.

"No," says Mr. Hubbard. "I can depend upon my looms not to go on
strike."

"But you own your looms," says Eggleston. "Your loom tenders are human
beings."

"When they mob strike breakers they behave more like wild animals, and
then you've got to treat 'em as such," raps back J. Q.

"Are you quite certain that the standards of humanity you set up are
just?" asks Eggy. "You know people are beginning to question your
absolute right to fix arbitrarily the hours and wages and conditions of
labor. They are suggesting that your mills produce tuberculosis as well
as cloth. They are showing that, in your eagerness for dividends, you
work women and children too long, and that you don't pay them a living
wage."

"Rot!" snorts J. Q. "These are all the mushy theories of
sentimentalists. What else are these foreigners good for?"

"Ah, there you get to it!" says Eggy. "Aren't they too valuable to be
ground up in your dusty mills? Can they not be made into useful
citizens?"

"No, they can't," snaps Mr. Hubbard. "It's been tried too often. Look at
the results. Who fill our jails? Foreigners! Who swarm in our filthy
city slums? Foreigners! They are the curse of this country. Look at the
wretched mob you have brought about your heels to-day, those outside
there. There's a sample."

"If you only would look and understand!" says Eggleston. "Won't
you--now? It will take only a little of your time, and I'll promise to
keep them in order. Oh, if you'd only let me!"

"Let you what?" demands J. Q., starin' puzzled.

"Introduce a few of them to you properly," says Eggy; "only four or
five. Come, a handful of simple-minded peasants can't hurt you. They're
poor, and ignorant, and not especially clean, I'll admit; but I'll keep
them at a proper distance. You see, I want to show you something about
them. Of course, you're afraid you'll lose your cherished
prejudices----"

"I'm afraid of nothing of the sort," breaks in Mr. Hubbard. "Go on. Have
'em up, if McCabe is willing."

"Eh?" says I. "Bring that mob up here?"

"Just a few," pleads Eggy, "and for ten minutes only."

"It might be sport," suggests Pinckney.

"I'll take a chance," says I. "We can disinfect afterwards."

Eggy dashes off, and after a lively jabberin' below comes back with his
selected specimens. Not a one looks as though he'd been over more'n a
year, and some are still wearin' the outlandish rigs they landed in.
Then Eggy begins introducin' 'em. And, say, you'd hardly know him for
the same bashful, wispy party that Swifty had dragged in a little while
before. Honest, as he warms to it, he sort of swells up and straightens,
he squares his shoulders, his voice rings out confident, and his eyes
behind the thick glasses are all aglow.

"We will dispense with names," says he; "but here is a native of Sicily.
He is about thirty-five years old, and he worked in the salt mines for
something like twelve cents a day from the time he was ten until he came
over here under contract to a padrone a few months ago. So you see his
possibilities for mental development have been limited. But his muscles
have been put to use in helping dig a new subway for us. We hope,
however, that in the future his latent talents may be brought out. That
being the case, he is possibly the grandfather of the man who in 1965
will write for us an American opera better than anything ever produced
by Verdi. Why not?"

We gawps at the grandfather of the musical genius of 1965 and grins.
He's a short, squatty, low-browed party with gold rings in his ears and
a smallpox-pitted face. He gazes doubtful at Eggleston durin' the talk,
and at the finish grins back at us. Likely he thought Eggy'd been makin'
a comic speech.

"An ingenious prophecy," says Mr. Hubbard; "but unfortunately all
Italians are not Verdis."

"Few have the chance to be," says Eggy. "That is what America should
mean to them,--opportunity. We shall benefit by giving it to them too.
Look at our famous bands: at least one-third Italians. Why, nine-tenths
of the music that delights us is made for us by the foreign born! Would
you drive all those into the sea?"

"Absurd!" says Mr. Hubbard. "I referred only to the lower classes, of
course. But let's get on. What next?"

Eggy looks over the line, picks out a square-jawed, bull-headed,
pie-faced Yon Yonson, with stupid, stary, skim-milk eyes, and leads him
to the front. "A direct descendant of the old Vikings," says he, "a
fellow countryman of the heroic Stefansson, of Amundsen. Just now he
works as a longshoreman. But give him a fair chance, and his son's son
will turn out to be the first Admiral of the Federal Fleet of Commerce
that is to be,--a fleet of swift government freighters that shall knit
closely together our ports with all the ports of the Seven Seas.
Gentlemen, I present to you the ancestor of an Admiral!"

Pinckney chuckles and nudges Mr. Hubbard. Yonson bats his stupid eyes
once or twice, and lets himself be pushed back.

"Go on," says J. Q., scowlin'. "I suppose you'll produce next the
grandfather of a genius who will head the National Pie Bureau of the
next century?"

"Not precisely," says Eggy, beckonin' up a black-haired, brown-eyed
Polish Jewess. "A potential grandmother this time. She helps an aunt who
conducts a little kosher delicatessen shop in a Hester-st. basement. Her
granddaughter is to organize the movement for communal dietetics, by
means of which our children's children are all to be fed on properly
cooked food, scientifically prepared, and delivered hot at a nominal
price. She will banish dyspepsia from the land, make obsolete the
household drudge, and eliminate the antique kitchen from twenty million
homes. Perhaps they will put up a statue in her memory."

"Humph!" snorts Mr. Hubbard. "Is that one of H. G. Wells' silly dreams?"

"You flatter me," says Eggy; "but you give me courage to venture still
further. Now we come to the Slav." He calls up a thin, peak-nosed,
wild-eyed gink who's wearin' a greasy waiter's coat and a coffee-stained
white shirt. "From a forty-cent table d'hôte restaurant," goes on
Eggleston. "An alert, quick-moving, deft-handed person--valuable
qualities, you will admit. Develop those in his grandson, give him the
training of a National Academy of Technical Arts, bring out the
repressed courage and self-confidence, and you will produce--well, let
us say, the Chief Pilot of the Aëro Transportation Department, the man
to whom Congress will vote an honorary pension for winning the first
Washington-to-Buenos Ayres race in a three-hundred-foot Lippmann
Stabilized quadroplane, carrying fifty passengers and two tons of mail
and baggage."

Mr. Hubbard gazes squint-eyed at the waiter and sniffs.

"Come, now, who knows?" insists Eggy. "These humble people whom you so
despise need only an opportunity. Can we afford to shut them out? Don't
we need them as much as they need us?"

"Mr. Ham," says J. Q., shuttin' his jaws grim, "my motto is, 'America
for Americans!'"

"And mine," says Eggy, facin' him defiant, "is 'Americans for America!'"

"You're a scatterbrained visionary!" snaps J. Q. "You and your potential
grandfather rubbish! What about the grandsons of good Americans? Do you
not reckon them in at all in your----"

"Whe-e-e-e! Whoop!" comes from the hall, the front office door is kicked
open joyous, and in comes a tall, light-haired, blue-eyed young gent,
with his face well pinked up and his hat on the back of his head. He's
arm in arm with a shrimpy, Frenchy lookin' party wearin' a silk lid and
a frock coat. They pushes unsteady through Eggy's illustrious ancestor
bunch and comes to parade rest in the center of the stage.

"Winthrop!" gasps Mr. Hubbard.

"Eh?" gasps the young gent, starin' round uncertain until he locates J.
Q. Then he makes a stab at straightenin' up. "'S a' right, Governor," he
goes on, "'s a' right. Been givin' lil' lu-luncheon to for'n
rep'sen'tives. Put 'em all out but An-Andorvski, and he's nothing but a
fish--deuced Russian fish. Eh, Droski?"

Believe me, with J. Q. Hubbard turnin' purple in the gills, and all them
cheap foreigners lookin' on bug-eyed, it wa'n't any humorous scene. With
the help of the waiter and the longshoreman they loads Winthrop and his
friend into a taxi, and Pinckney starts with 'em for the nearest Turkish
bath. The grandfather debate is adjourned for good.

I was talkin' it over with Swifty Joe, who, havin' been born in County
Kerry and brought up in South Brooklyn, is sore on foreigners of all
kinds. Course, he sides hearty with Mr. Hubbard.

"Ahr-r-r-chee!" says he. "That Hamand boob, stickin' up for the Waps and
Guineas, he--he's a nut, a last year's nut!"

"Hardly that, Swifty," says I. "A next year's nut, I should say."



CHAPTER XIV

CATCHING UP WITH GERALD


"It seemed so absurdly simple at first too," says J. Bayard Steele,
tappin' one of his pearl-gray spats with his walkin' stick. "But
now--well, the more I see of this Gerald Webb, the less I understand."

"Then you're comin' on," says I. "In time you'll get wise to the fact
that everybody's that way,--no two alike and every last one of us
neither all this nor all that, but constructed complicated, with a
surprise package done up in each one."

"Ah! Some of your homespun philosophy, eh?" says J. Bayard. "Interesting
perhaps, but inaccurate--quite! The fellow is not at all difficult to
read: it's what we ought to do for him that is puzzling."

Which gives you a line, I expect, on this little debate of ours. Yep!
Gerald is No. 8 on Pyramid Gordon's list. He'd been a private secretary
for Mr. Gordon at one time or another; but he'd been handed his
passports kind of abrupt one mornin', and had been set adrift in a cold
world without warnin'.

"In fact," goes on Steele, "I am told that Gordon actually kicked him
out of his office; in rather a public manner too."

"Huh!" says I. "I expect he deserved it, then."

"Not at all," says Steele. "I've looked that point up. It was over a
letter which Gordon himself had dictated to Webb not forty-eight hours
before; you know, one of his hot-headed, arrogant, go-to-blazes retorts,
during the thick of a fight. But this happened to be in reply to an
ultimatum from the Reamur-Brooks Syndicate, and by next morning he'd
discovered that he was in no position to talk that way to them. Well, as
you know, Pyramid Gordon wasn't the man to eat his own words."

"No," says I, "that wa'n't his fav'rite diet. So he made Gerald the
goat, eh?"

"Precisely!" says Steele. "Called him in before the indignant
delegation, headed by old Reamur himself, and demanded of poor Webb what
he meant by sending out such a letter. The youngster was so flustered
that he could only stammer a confused denial. He started sniveling. Then
Gordon collared him and booted him into the corridor. That should have
closed the incident, but a few moments later back comes Webb, blubbering
like a whipped schoolboy, and perfectly wild with rage. He was armed
with a mop that he'd snatched from an astonished scrubwoman, and he
stormed in whimpering that he was going to kill Gordon. Absurd, of
course. A mop isn't a deadly weapon. Some of the clerks promptly rushed
in and held Webb until an officer could be called. Then Pyramid laughed
it off and refused to prosecute. But the story got into the papers, you
may remember; and while more or less fun was poked at Gordon, young Webb
came in for a good share. And naturally his career as a private
secretary ended right there."

"Yes," says I. "If I was takin' on a secretary myself, I wouldn't pick
one that was subject to fits of mop wieldin'. What happened to him after
that? How low did he fall?"

J. Bayard tosses over a fancy business card printed in three colors and
carryin' this inscription in old English letterin':

    AT THE SIGN OF THE BRASS CANDLESTICK
    Tea Room and Gift Shop
    Mr. Gerald Webb, Manager.

"Oh, well," says I, "that ain't so bad. Must have run across a backer
somewhere."

"His sisters," says Steele. "He has five, and some of the four married
ones are quite well to do. Then there is Evelyn, the old maid sister,
who went in with him. It's from her I've found out so much about Gerald.
Nice, refined, pleasant old maid; although somewhat plain featured. She
tells me they have a shop at some seashore resort in summer,--Atlantic
City, or the Pier,--and occasionally have quite a successful season.
Then in the fall they open up again here. The last two summers, though,
they've barely made expenses, and she fears that Gerald is becoming
discouraged."

"Well, what you beefin' about?" says I. "There's your chance, ain't it?
Jump in and cheer him up. Go round every day and drink yourself full of
tea. Lug along your friends--anything. Got the whole Gordon estate back
of you, you know. And it's plain Pyramid had in mind squarin' accounts
for that raw deal he handed Gerald years back, or he wouldn't have named
him in the will. And if your dope is right, I judge there ought to be
something nice comin' to him."

"Of course, of course," says Steele. "But you see, McCabe, as an expert
in altruism, I have reached the point where I no longer act hastily on
crude conclusions. Possibly you will fail to understand, but now I take
a certain pride in doing just the right thing in exactly the right way."

"I knew you was developin' into some variety of nut," says I. "So that's
it, eh? Well, go on."

J. Bayard smiles indulgent and shrugs his shoulders. "For instance,"
says he, "this Gerald Webb seems to be one of those highly sensitive,
delicately organized persons; somewhat effeminate in fact. He needs
considerate, judicious handling."

"Then why not present him with an inlaid dressin' table and a set of
eyebrow pencils?" I suggest.

Steele brushes that little persiflage aside too. "He's no doubt an
idealist of some sort," says he, "a man with high hopes, ambitions. If
I only knew what they were----"

"Ain't tried askin' him, have you?" says I.

"Certainly not!" says J. Bayard. "Those are things which such persons
can rarely be induced to talk about. I've been studying him at close
range, however, by dropping in now and then for a cup of tea and
incidentally a chat with his sister; but to no effect. I can't seem to
make him out. And I was wondering, Shorty, if you, in your rough and
ready way----"

"P.O.F.!" I breaks in.

"What?" says Steele.

"Please omit floral tributes," says I. "You was wonderin' if I couldn't
what--size him up for you?"

"Just that," says J. Bayard. "While your methods are not always of the
subtlest, I must concede that at times your--er--native intuition----"

"Top floor--all out!" I breaks in. "You mean I can do a quick frame-up
without feelin' the party's bumps or consultin' the cards? Maybe I can.
But I ain't strong for moochin' around these oolong joints among the
draped tunics and vanity boxes."

He's a persistent party, though, J. Bayard is, and after he's guaranteed
that we won't run into any mob of shoppers this late in the day, and
urged me real hard, I consents to trail along with him and pass on
Gerald.

One of the usual teashop joints, the Brass Candlestick is, tucked away
in a dwelling house basement on a side street about half a block east of
Fifth avenue, with a freaky sign over the door and a pair of moultin'
bay trees at the entrance. Inside we finds a collection of little white
tables with chairs to match, a showcase full of arty jew'lry, and some
shelves loaded with a job lot of odd-shaped vases and jugs and teapots
and such truck.

A tall, loppy female with mustard-colored hair and haughty manners tows
us to a place in a dark corner and shoves a menu at us. You know the
tearoom brand of waitress maybe, and how distant they can be? But this
one fairly sneers at us as she takes our order; although I kind of
shrivels up in the chair and acts as humble as I know how.

"That ain't Sister Evelyn, is it?" says I, as she disappears towards the
back.

"No, no," says Steele. "Miss Webb is at the little cashier's desk, by
the door. And that is Webb, behind the counter, talking to those
ladies."

"Oh!" says I. "Him with the pale hair and the narrow mouth? Huh! He is
Lizzie-like, ain't he?"

He's a slim, thin-blooded, sharp-faced gent, well along in the thirties,
I should judge, with gray showin' in his forelock, and a dear little
mustache pointed at the ends; the sort of chappy who wears a braid-bound
cutaway and a wrist watch, you know. He's temptin' his customers with
silver-set turquoise necklaces, and abalone cuff links, and moonstone
sets, and such; doin' it dainty and airy, and incidentally displayin' a
job of manicurin' that's the last word in fingernail decoration. Such
smooth, highbrow conversation goes with it too!

"Oh, yes, Madam," I overhears him gurgle. "Quite so, I assuah you. We
import these direct from Cairo; genuine scarabs, taken from ancient
mummy cases. No, not Rameses; these are of the Thetos period. Rather
rare, you know. And here is an odd trifle, if you will permit me. Oh, no
trouble at all. Really! When we find persons of such discriminating
taste as you undoubtedly have we----"

"Say," I remarks low to Steele, "he's some swell kidder, ain't he? He'll
be chuckin' her under the chin next. What a sweet thing he is! It's a
shame to waste all that on a side street too. He ought to be farther up
in the shoppin' district and on the avenue."

"Do you think so?" says J. Bayard. "I've been considering that--setting
him up in first-class style on a big scale. But of course I should like
to be sure that is what he wants most."

"That's my best guess," says I. "I'll bet he'd eat it up. Spring it on
him and see."

"Perhaps I will when he's through," says J. Bayard. "There! They're
going now."

He was wrong: they was only startin' to go. They had to come back twice
and look at something all over again, after which Gerald follows 'em to
the door and holds it open for 'em while they exchange a few last words.
So it's ten minutes or more before Steele has a chance to call him over,
get him planted in the extra chair, and begin breakin' the news to him
about Pyramid's batty will.

And even after all them years Webb flushes pink in the ears at the
mention of the name. "Oh, yes, Gordon," says he. "I--I did hold a
position at one time in his office. Misunderstanding? Not at all. He
treated me shamefully. Rank injustice, it was! He--he was by no means a
gentleman, by no means!"

"I hear you tried to assassinate him with a mop," says I.

"I--I was not quite myself," says Gerald, colorin' still more. "You see,
he put me in such a false position before those Chicago men; and when I
tried to tell them the truth he--well, he acted brutally. I ask you, Mr.
McCabe, what would you have done?"

"Me?" says I. "I expect I'd slapped him rough on the wrist, or something
like that. But you know he was always a little quick about such things,
and when it was all over he was gen'rally sorry--if he had time. You see
he remembered your case. Now the idea is, how can that little affair of
yours be squared?"

"It may have been a little affair to him," says Gerald, poutin' a bit
sulky; "but it wasn't so to me. It--it changed my whole life--utterly!"

"Of course," puts in J. Bayard soothin'. "We understand that, Mr. Webb."

"But you've come out all right; you struck something just as good, or
better, eh?" and I waves round at the teashop. "Course, you ain't
catchin' the business here you might if you was located better. And I
expect you feel like you was wastin' your talents on a place this size.
But with a whole second floor near some of the big Fifth avenue
department stores, where you could soak 'em half a dollar for a club
sandwich and a quarter for a cup of tea,--a flossy, big joint with a
hundred tables, real French waiters from Staten Island, and a genuine
Hungarian orchestra, imported from East 176th street, where you could
handle a line of Mexican drawnwork, and Navajo blankets, and Russian
samovars, and----"

"No, no!" breaks in Gerald peevish. "Stop!"

"Eh?" says I, gawpin' at him.

"If you are proposing all that as a--a recompense for being publicly
humiliated," says he, "and having my career entirely spoiled--well, you
just needn't, that's all. I do not care for anything of the kind."

I gasps. Then I gazes foolish over at J. Bayard to see if he has
anything to offer. He just scowls at me and shakes his head, as much as
to say:

"There, you see! You've messed things all up."

"All right, Mr. Webb," says I. "Then you name it."

"Do you mean," says he, "that Mr. Gordon intended to leave me something
in his will; that he--er--considered I was entitled to some--ah----"

"That's the idea, more or less," says I. "Only Mr. Steele here, he's
been tryin' to dope out what would suit you best."

"Could--could it be in the form of a--a cash sum?" asks Gerald.

I sighs relieved and looks inquirin' at Steele. He nods, and I nods
back.

"Sure thing," says I.

"How much?" demands Webb.

"Time out," says I, "until Mr. Steele and I can get together."

So while Gerald is pacin' nervous up and down between the tables we
makes figures on the back of the menu. We begins by guessin' what he was
gettin' when he was fired, then what salary he might have been pullin'
down in five years, at the end of ten, and so on, deductin' some for
black times and makin' allowances for hard luck. But inside of five
minutes we'd agreed on a lump sum.

"What about twenty thousand?" says I.

Gerald gulps once or twice, turns a little pale, and then asks choky,
"Would--would you put that in writing?"

"I can give you a voucher for the whole amount," says Steele.

"Then--then please!" says Gerald, and he stands over J. Bayard, starin'
eager, while the paper is bein' made out. He watches us both sign our
names.

"This is drawn," says Steele, "on the attorney for the estate, and when
you present it he will give you a check for----"

"Thanks," says Gerald, reachin' trembly for the voucher.

For a minute he stands gazin' at it before he stows it away careful in
an inside vest pocket. Then all of a sudden he seems to straighten up.
He squares his shoulders and stiffens his jaw.

"Evelyn!" he sings out. "Ho, Evelyn!"

It ain't any smooth, ladylike tone he uses, either. A couple of stout
female parties, that's been toyin' with lobster Newburg patties and
chocolate éclairs and gooseberry tarts, stops their gossipin' and glares
round at him indignant.

"Evelyn, I say!" he goes on, fairly roarin' it out.

At that out comes Sister from behind her little coop lookin' panicky.
Also in from the kitchen piles the haughty waitress with the
mustard-tinted hair, and a dumpy, frowzy one that I hadn't noticed
before. The haughty one glares at Gerald scornful, almost as if he'd
been a customer.

"Why--why, Brother dear!" begins Evelyn, still holdin' open the novel
she'd been readin'. "What is the matter?"

"I'm through, that's all," he announces crisp.

"You--you are what?" asks his sister.

"Through," says Gerald loud and snappy. "I'm going to quit all
this--now, too. I'm going to close up, going out of the business.
Understand? So get those women out of here at once."

"But--but, Gerald," gasps Evelyn, "they--you see they are----"

"I don't care whether they've finished or not," says he. "It doesn't
matter. They needn't pay. But clear 'em out. Right away!"

She had big dark eyes, Sister Evelyn. She was thinner than Gerald, and a
few years older, I should guess. Anyway, her hair showed more gray
streaks. She had a soft, easy voice and gentle ways. She didn't faint,
or throw any emotional fit. She just looks at Gerald mildly reproachful
and remarks:

"Very well, Brother dear," and then glides down the aisle to the two
heavy-weight food destroyers.

We couldn't hear just what she told 'em, but it must have been
convincin'. They gathers up their wraps and shoppin' bags and sails
out, sputterin' peevish.

"Here, Celia!" commands Gerald, turnin' to the waitresses. "You and
Bertha pull down those front shades--tight, mind you! Then turn on the
dome and side lights--all of 'em."

We sat watchin' the proceedin's, Steele and me, with our mouths open,
not knowin' whether to go or stay. Evelyn stands starin' at him too. In
a minute, though, he whirls on her.

"You needn't think I've gone crazy, Evelyn," he says. "I was never more
sane. But something has happened. I've just had a windfall. You'd never
guess. From old Gordon; you remember, the beast who----"

"Yes, I know," says Evelyn. "Mr. Steele has been talking to me about
it."

"Has, eh?" says Gerald. "Well, I trust it wasn't you who gave him that
idea about keeping me in this fool business for the rest of my life.
Ugh! Talking sappy to an endless stream of silly women, palming off on
them such useless junk as this! Look at it! Egyptian scarabs, made in
Connecticut; Ceylonese coral, from North Attleboro, Mass.; Bohemian
glassware, from Sandsburg, Pa.; Indian baskets woven by the Papago
tribe, meaning Rutherford, N. J. Bah! For nearly twelve years I've been
doing this. And you're to blame for it, you and Irene and Georgianna.
You got me into it when I could find nothing else to do, and then
somehow I couldn't seem to get out. Lying and smirking and dickering
day after day--sickening! But I'm through. And just as a relief to my
feelings I'm going to finish off a lot of this rubbish before I go.
Watch!"

With that he picks a teapot from our table, balances it careful in one
hand, and sends it bang at a shelf full of blue and yellow pitchers.

Crash! Smash! Tinkle-tinkle!

It was a good shot. He got three or four of 'em at one clip.

Next he reaches for the sugar bowl and chucks that. More crash. More
tinkle-tinkle. This time it was sort of a side-wipin' blow, and a full
half-dozen fancy cream jugs bit the dust.

"Good eye!" says I, chucklin'. Even J. Bayard has to grin.

As for Sister Evelyn, she says never a word, but braces herself against
a table and grips her hands together, like she was preparin' to have a
tooth out. The dumpy waitress clutches the haughty one around the waist
and breathes wheezy.

"Vases!" says Gerald, scowlin' at a shelf. "Silly vases!"

And with that he ups with a chair, swings it over his shoulder, and mows
down a whole row of 'em. They goes crashin' onto the floor.

"Muh Gord!" gasps the dumpy tea juggler.

"Clean alley! Set 'em up on the other!" I sings out.

But Gerald is too busy to notice side remarks. His thin face is flushed
and his eyes sparkle. Peelin' off the cutaway, he tosses it careless on
a table.

"Look out for splinters!" says he as he heaves a chair into the showcase
among the fake jew'lry, and with another proceeds to make vicious swipes
at whatever's left on the shelves.

As a tearoom wrecker he was some artist, believe me! Not a blessed thing
that could be smashed did he miss, and what he couldn't break he bent or
dented.

"Ain't he just grand!" observes Celia to her dumpy friend. "My! I didn't
think it was in him."

It was, though. A village fire department couldn't have done a neater
job, or been more thorough. He even tosses down a lot of work baskets
and jumps on 'em and kicks 'em about.

"There!" says he, after a lively session, when the place looks like it
had been through a German siege. "Now it's all genuine junk, I guess."

Sister Evelyn gazes at him placid. "No doubt about that," she remarks.
"And I hope you feel better, Brother dear. Perhaps you will tell me,
though, what is to become of me now."

"I am going to leave some money for you," says he. "If you're silly
enough, you can buy a lot more of this stuff and keep on. If you have
any sense, you'll quit and go live with Irene."

"And you, Gerald?" asks Evelyn.

"I'm off," says he. "I'm going to do some real work, man's work. You saw
that dark-looking chap who was in here a few days ago? That was Bentley,
who used to be bank messenger in old Gordon's office. He was discharged
without cause too. But he had no five sisters to make a sappy tearoom
manager out of him. He went to the Argentine. Owns a big cattle ranch
down there. Wants me to go in with him and buy the adjoining ranch. He
sails day after to-morrow. I'm going with him, to live a wild, rough
life; and the wilder and rougher it is the better I shall like it."

"Oh!" says Sister Evelyn, liftin' her eyebrows sarcastic. "Will you?"

Well, that's just what J. Bayard and I have been askin' each other ever
since. Anyway, he's gone. Showed up here in the studio the last thing,
wearin' a wide-brimmed felt hat with a leather band--and if that don't
signify somethin' wild and rough, I don't know what does.

"Rather an impetuous nature, Gerald's," observes Steele. "I hope it
doesn't get him into trouble down there."

"Who knows?" says I. "Next thing we may be hearin' how he's tried to
stab some Spaniard with a whisk broom."



CHAPTER XV

SHORTY HEARS FROM PEMAQUID


It was mostly my fault. I'd left the Physical Culture Studio and was
swingin' east across 42d-st. absentminded, when I takes a sudden notion
to have lunch at my favorite chophouse joint on Broadway, and it was the
quick turn I made that causes the collision.

I must have hit him kind of solid too; for his steel-rimmed glasses are
jarred off, and before I can pick 'em up they've been stepped on.

"Sorry, old scout," says I. "Didn't know you'd dodged in behind. And
it's my buy on the eyeglasses."

"Sho!" says he. "No great harm done, young man. But them specs did cost
me a quarter in Portland, and if you feel like you----"

"Sure thing!" says I. "Here's a half--get a good pair this time."

"No, Son," says he, "a quarter's all they cost, and Jim Isham never
takes more'n his due. Just wait till I git out the change."

So I stands there lookin' him over while he unwraps about four yards of
fishline from around the neck of a leather money pouch. Odd old Rube he
was, straight and lean, and smoked up like a dried herring.

"There you be," says he, countin' out two tens and a five.

Course, I'd felt better if he'd kept the half. The kale pouch wa'n't so
heavy, and from the seedy blue suit and the faded old cap I judged he
could use that extra quarter. But somehow I couldn't insist.

"All right, Cap," says I. "Next time I turn sudden I'll stick my hand
out." I was movin' off when I notices him still standin' sort of
hesitatin'. "Well?" I adds. "Can I help?"

"You don't happen to know," says he, "of a good eatin' house where it
don't cost too all-fired much to git a square meal, do you?"

"Why," says I, "I expect over on Eighth-ave., you could----" And then I
gets this rash notion of squarin' the account by blowin' him to a real
feed. Course, I might be sorry; but he looks so sort of lonesome and
helpless that I decides on takin' a chance. "Say, you come with me,"
says I, "and lemme stack you up against the real thing in Canadian
mutton chops."

"If it don't cost over twenty-five cents," says he.

"It won't," says I, smotherin' a grin. He wa'n't a grafter, anyway, and
the only way I could ease his mind on the expense question was to let
him hand me a quarter before we went in, and make him think that covered
his share. Max, the head waiter, winks humorous as he sees who I'm
towin' in; but he gives us a table by a Broadway window and surprises
the old boy by pullin' out his chair respectful.

"Much obliged, Mister," says Jim Isham. "Much obliged."

With that he hangs his old cap careful on the candle shade. It's one of
these oldtime blizzard headpieces, with sides that you can turn down
over your ears and neck. Must have worn that some constant; for from the
bushy eyebrows up he's as white as a piece of chalk, and with the rest
of his face so coppery it gives him an odd, skewbald look.

I expected a place like Collins's, with all its pictures and rugs and
fancy silverware, would surprise him some; but he don't seem at all
fussed. He tucks his napkin under his chin natural and gazes around
int'rested. He glances suspicious at a wine cooler that's carted by, and
when the two gents at the next table are served with tall glasses of ale
he looks around as if he was locatin' an exit. Next he digs into an
inside pocket, hauls out a paper, spreads it on the table, and remarks:

"Let's see, Mister--jest about where are we now?"

I gives him the cross street and the Broadway number, and he begins
tracin' eager with his finger. Fin'lly he says:

"All correct. Right in the best of the water."

"Eh?" says I. "What's that you've got there?"

"Sailin' directions," says he, smilin' apologetic. "You mustn't mind;
but for a minute there, seein' all the liquor bein' passed around, I
didn't know but what I'd got among the rocks and shoals. But it's all
right. Full ten fathom, and plenty of sea room."

"Too tarry for me," says I. "Meanin' what, now?"

He chuckles easy. "Why, it's this way," says he: "You see, before I
starts from home I talks it over with Cap'n Bill Logan. 'Jim,' says he,
'if you're goin' to cruise around New York you need a chart.'--'Guess
you're right, Cap'n Bill,' says I. 'Fix me up one, won't ye?' And that's
what he done. You see, Cap'n Bill knows New York like a book. Used to
sail down here with ice from the Kennebec, and sometimes, while he was
dischargin' cargo, he'd lay in here for a week at a time. Great hand to
knock around too, Cap'n Bill is, and mighty observin'."

"So he made a map for you, did he?" says I.

"Not exactly," says Mr. Isham. "Found one in an old guide book and fixed
it up like a chart, markin' off the reefs and shoals in red ink, and the
main channels in black fathom figures. Now here's Front and South-sts.,
very shoal, dangerous passin' at any tide. There's a channel up the
Bowery; but it's crooked and full of buoys and beacons. I ain't tackled
that yet. I've stuck to Broadway and Fifth-ave. All clear sailin'
there."

"Think so?" says I. "Let's see that chart?"

He passes it over willin' enough. And, say, for a sailor's guide to New
York, that was a peach! Cap'n Bill Logan's idea seems to have been to
indicate all the crooked joints, gamblin' halls, and such with red
daggers. Must have been some investigator too; for in spots they was
sprinkled thick, with the names written alongside. When I begun readin'
some of 'em, though, I snickers.

"What's this on the Bowery?" says I. "Suicide Hall?"

"You bet!" says he. "Cap'n Bill warned me about that special."

"Did, eh?" says I. "Well, he needn't; for it's been out of business for
years. So has Honest John Kelly's, and Theiss's, and Stevenson's. What
vintage is this, anyway? When was it your friend took in the sights
last?"

"Wall, I guess it's been quite awhile," says Jim Isham, rubbin' his
chin. "Let's see, Bill opened the store in '95, and for a couple of
years before that he was runnin' the shingle mill. Yes, it must have
been nigh twenty years ago."

"Back in the days of the Parkhurst crusade," says I. "Yes, I expect all
them dives was runnin' full blast once. But there ain't one of 'em
left."

"Sho!" says he. "You don't say! Gov'ment been improvin' the channels,
same as they done in Hell Gate?"

"Something like that," says I. "Only not quite the same; for when them
Hell Gate rocks was blown up that was the end of 'em. But we get a fresh
crop of red light joints every season. You tell Cap'n Bill when you get
back that his wickedness chart needs revisin'."

"I'll write him that, b'gum!" says Mr. Isham. "Maybe that's why I
couldn't locate this reservoir he said I ought to see, the one I was
huntin' for when we fouled. See, it says corner of 42d and Fifth-ave.,
plain as day; but all I could find was that big white buildin' with the
stone lions in front."

"Naturally," says I; "for they tore the old reservoir down years ago and
built the new city lib'ry on the spot. But how was it your friend put in
so many warnin's against them old dives? You didn't come on to cultivate
a late crop of wild oats, did you?"

"Nary an oat," says he, shakin' his head solemn. "I ain't much of a
churchgoer; but I've always been a moderate, steady-goin' man. It was on
account of my havin' this money to invest."

"Oh!" says I. "Much?"

"Fifty thousand dollars," says he.

I glances at him puzzled. Was it a case of loose wirin', or was this old
jay tryin' to hand me the end of the twine ball? Just then, though,
along comes Hermann with a couple of three-inch combination chops and a
dish of baked potatoes all broke open and decorated with butter and
paprika; and for the next half-hour Mr. Isham's conversation works are
clogged for fair. Not that he's one of these human sausage machines; but
he has a good hearty Down East appetite and a habit of attendin'
strictly to business at mealtime.

But when he's finished off with a section of deep-dish apple pie and a
big cup of coffee he sighs satisfied, unhooks the napkin, lights up a
perfecto I've ordered for him, and resumes where he left off.

"It's a heap of money ain't it?" says he. "I didn't know at first
whether or no I ought to take it. That's one thing I come on for."

"Ye-e-es?" says I, a little sarcastic maybe. "Had to be urged, did you?"

"Wall," says he, "I wa'n't sure the fam'ly could afford it exactly."

"It was a gift, then?" says I.

"Willed to me," says he. "Kind of curious too. Shucks! when I took them
folks off the yacht that time I wa'n't thinkin' of anything like this.
Course, the young feller did offer me some bills at the time; but he did
it like he thought I was expectin' to be paid, and I--well, I couldn't
take it that way. So I didn't git a cent. I thought the whole thing had
been forgotten too, when that letter from the lawyers comes sayin' how
this Mr. Fowler had----"

"Not Roswell K.?" I breaks in.

"Yes, that's the man," says he.

"Why, I remember now," says I. "It was the yacht his son and his new
wife was takin' a honeymoon trip on. And she went on some rocks up on
the coast of Maine durin' a storm. The papers was full of it at the
time. And how they was all rescued by an old lobsterman who made two
trips in a leaky tub of a motorboat out through a howlin' northeaster.
And--why, say, you don't mean to tell me you're Uncle Jimmy Isham, the
hero?"

"Sho!" says he. "Don't you begin all that nonsense again. I was pestered
enough by the summer folks that next season. You ought to see them
schoolma'ams takin' snapshots of me every time I turned around. And
gushin'! Why, it was enough to make a dog laugh! Course I ain't no
hero."

"But that must have been some risky stunt of yours, just the same," I
insists.

"Wall," he admits, "it wa'n't just the weather I'd pick to take the old
Curlew out in; but when I see through the glasses what the white thing
was that's poundin' around on Razor Back Ledges, and seen the distress
signal run up--why, I couldn't stay ashore. There was others would have
gone, I guess, if I hadn't. But there I was, an old bach, and not much
good to anybody anyway, you know."

"Come, come!" says I. "Why wa'n't you as good as the next?"

"I dun'no," says he, sighin' a little. "Only--only you know the kind of
a chap that everybody calls Uncle Jimmy? That--that's me."

"But you went out and got 'em!" I goes on.

"Yes," says he. "It wa'n't so much, though. You know how the papers run
on?"

I didn't say yes or no to that. I was sittin' there starin' across the
table, tryin' to size up this leather-faced old party with the bashful
ways and the simple look in his steady eyes. The grizzled mustache
curlin' close around his mouth corners, the heavy eyebrows, and the
thick head of gray hair somehow reminds me of Mark Twain, as we used to
see him a few years back walkin' up Fifth-ave. Only Uncle Jimmy was a
little softer around the chin.

"Let's see," says I, "something like three summers ago, that was, wa'n't
it?"

"Four," says he, "the eighteenth of September."

"And since then?" says I.

"Just the same as before," says he. "I've been right at Pemaquid."

"At what?" says I.

"Pemaquid," he repeats, leanin' hard on the "quid." "I've been there
goin' on forty years, now."

"Doin' what?" says I.

"Oh, lobsterin' mostly," says he. "But late years they've been runnin'
so scurce that summers I've been usin' the Curlew as a party boat.
Ain't much money in it, though."

"How much, for instance?" says I.

"Wall, this season I cleaned up about one hundred and twenty dollars
from the Fourth to Labor Day," says he. "But there was lots of good days
when I didn't git any parties at all. You see, I look kind of old and
shabby. So does the Curlew; and the spruce young fellers with the new
boats gits the cream of the trade. But it don't take much to keep me."

"I should say not," says I, "if you can winter on that!"

"Oh, I can pick up a few dollars now and then lobsterin' and fishin',"
says he. "But it's rough work in the winter time."

"And then all of a sudden, you say," says I, "you get fifty thousand."

"I couldn't believe it at fust," says he. "Neither did Cap'n Bill Logan.
He was the only one I showed the letter to. 'Mebbe it's just some fake,'
says he, 'gittin' you on there to sign papers. Tell 'em to send twenty
dollars for travelin' expenses.' Wall, I did, and what do you think?
They sends back two hundred, b'gum! Yes, Sir, Cap'n Bill took the check
up to Wiscasset and got the money on it from the bank. Two hundred
dollars! Why, say, that would take me putty nigh round the world, I
guess. I left part of it with the Cap'n, and made him promise not to
tell a soul. You see, I didn't want Cynthy to git wind of it."

"Oh-ho!" says I. "Some relation, is she?"

"Cynthy? Land, no!" says he. "She's just the Widow Allen, over to the
Neck--Cynthy Hamill that was. I've known her ever since she taught
school at Bristol Mills. She's been a widow goin' on twenty years now,
and most of that time we've been--well, I ain't missed goin' across the
bay once or twice a week in all that time. You see, Cynthy not havin'
any man, I kind of putter around for her, see that she has plenty of
stovewood and kindlin' chopped, and so on. She's real good company,
Cynthy is,--plays hymns on the organ, knits socks for me, and hanged if
she can't make the best fish chowder I ever e't! Course, I know the
neighbors laugh some about Cynthy and me; but they're welcome. Always
askin' me when the weddin's comin' off. But sho! They know well enough I
never had the money to git married on."

"Got enough now, though, ain't you, Uncle Jimmy?" says I, winkin'.

"Too blamed much," says he. "Cap'n Bill showed me that plain at our last
talk. 'Why, you old fool,' says he, 'if it turns out true, then you're a
mighty rich man, 'most a millionaire! You can't stay on livin' here in
your old shack at Pemaquid. You got to have the luxuries and the
refinements of life now,' says he, 'and you got to go to the city to git
'em. Boston might do for some; but if it was me I'd camp right down in
New York at one of them swell hotels, and just enjoy myself to the end
of my days.' Wall, here I be, and I'm gittin' used to the luxuries
gradual."

"How hard have you splurged?" says I.

"Had two sodas yesterday," says he, "and maybe I'll tackle one of them
movin' picture shows to-morrow. I been aimin' to. It'd be all right,
wouldn't it?"

"Yes, I wouldn't call that any wild extravagance, with fifty thousand to
draw on," says I. "How have you got it?"

He fishes out an old wallet, unstraps it careful, and shoves over a
cashier's check. No bluff about it. He had the goods.

"Said you was goin' to invest it, didn't you?" I suggests cautious.

"That's what's botherin' me most about this whole business," says Uncle
Jimmy. "It's an awful lot of money for an old codger like me to handle.
I tried to git young Mr. Fowler to take half of it back; but he only
laughs and says he couldn't do that, and guessed how he and the wife was
worth that much, anyway. Besides, I expect he don't need it."

"I should say that was a safe bet," says I. "If I remember right, his
share of the estate was ten or twelve millions."

"Gorry!" says Uncle Jimmy. "No wonder he couldn't tell me what to put it
into, either. Maybe you could give me an idea, though."

"Me?" says I. "Why, you don't know me, Uncle Jimmy. You wouldn't want
to take a stranger's advice about investin' your money."

"Sho!" says he. "Why not? I've asked most everybody I've had a chance to
talk with ever since I got here, and most of 'em has been mighty
accommodatin'. Why, there was one young man that followed me out of the
lawyer's office just to tell me of some gold mine stock he knew about
that inside of six months was goin' to be worth ten times what it's
sellin' for now. Offered to buy me a controllin' interest too."

"You don't mean it!" says I.

"Yes, Sir. Nice, bright feller that didn't know me from Adam," says
Uncle Jimmy. "Took me ridin' in one of these here taxicabs and bought me
a bang-up hotel dinner. And if it hadn't been that I knew of a Methodist
minister once who lost twenty dollars in gold mine stocks, hanged if I
wouldn't have invested heavy! But somehow, ever since hearin' of that,
I've had an idea gold mines was sort of risky."

"Which ain't such a fool hunch, either," says I.

"Then only this mornin'," goes on Uncle Jimmy enthusiastic, "I runs
across a mighty friendly, spruce-dressed pair,--big Pittsburgh
fi-nanciers, they said they was,--who was makin' money hand over fist
bettin' on hoss races somewheres."

"Well, well!" says I. "Had an operator who'd tapped a poolroom wire and
could hold up returns, didn't they?"

"That's it!" says Uncle Jimmy. "They explained just how it was done; but
I'm a little slow understandin' such things. Anyway, they took me to a
place where I saw one of 'em win two thousand inside of ten minutes; and
b'gum, if I'd been a bettin' man, I could have made a heap! I did let
one of 'em put up fifty cents for me, and he brought back five dollars
in no time. They seemed real put out too when I wouldn't take the chance
of a lifetime and bet a thousand on the next race. But somehow I
couldn't bring myself to it. What would Cynthy think if she knew I was
down here in New York, bettin' on hoss races? No, Sir, I couldn't."

"And you got away with the five, did you?" says I.

"Don't tell," says Uncle Jimmy, "but I slipped it in an envelope and
sent it to that shiftless Hank Tuttle, over at the point. You see, Hank
guzzles hard cider, and plays penny ante, and is always hard up. He
won't know where it come from, and won't care. The fine cigars them two
handed out so free I'm keepin' to smoke Sunday afternoons."

"Huh!" says I. "That's a good record so far, Uncle Jimmy. Anything more
along that line?"

"Wall," says he, "there was one chance I expect I shouldn't have let
slip. Got to talkin' with a feller in the hotel, sort of a hook-nosed,
foreign-speakin' man, who's in the show business. He says his
brother-in-law, by the name of Goldberg, has got an idea for a musical
comedy that would just set Broadway wild and make a mint of money. All
he needed to start it was twenty or thirty thousand, and he figured it
would bring in four times that the first season. And he was willin' to
let me have a half interest in his scheme. I'd gone in too, only from
what he said I thought it must be one of these pieces where they have a
lot of girls in tights, and--well, I thought of Cynthy again. What would
she say to me bein' mixed up with a show of that kind? So I had to drop
it."

"Any taxi rides or cigars in that?" says I.

"Just cigars," says Uncle Jimmy.

"But you mean to invest that fifty thousand sooner or later, don't you?"
says I.

"Cap'n Bill said I ought to," says he, "and live off'm the interest.
He's a mighty smart business man, Cap'n Bill is. And I guess I'll find
something before long."

"You can't miss it," says I, "specially if you keep on as you've
started. But see here, Uncle Jimmy, while I ain't got any wonderful deal
of my own for you to put your money in, I might throw out a useful hint
or two as to other folk's plans. Suppose you just take my card, and
before you tie up with any accommodatin' financiers drop in at the
studio, and talk it over with me."

"Why, much obliged, Mr.--er--Professor McCabe," says he, readin' the
name off the card. "Mebbe I will."

"Better make it a promise," says I. "I hate to knock our fair village;
but now and then you might find a crook in New York."

"So I've heard," says he; "but I kind of think I'd know one if he run
afoul of me. And everybody I've met so far has been mighty nice."

Well, what else was there for me to say? There wa'n't any more suspicion
in them gentle blue eyes of his than in a baby's. Forty years in
Pemaquid! Must be some moss-grown, peaceful spot, where a man can grow
up so innocent and simple, and yet have the stuff in him Uncle Jimmy
must have had. So I tows him back to 42d-st., points him towards the new
lib'ry again, and turns him loose; him in his old blue suit and faded
cap, with Cap'n Bill's antique dive chart and certified check for fifty
thousand in his inside pocket.

I thought he might show up at the studio in a day or so, to submit some
get-rich-quick fake to me. But he didn't. A couple of weeks goes by.
Still no Uncle Jimmy. I was beginnin' to look for accounts in the papers
of how an old jay from the coast of Maine had been bunkoed and gone to
the police with his tale of woe; but nothin' of the kind appears. They
don't always squeal, you know. Maybe he was that kind.

Then here the other day in that big storm we had, as I'm standin' in the
doorway hesitatin' about dodgin' out into them slantwise sheets of rain,
who should come paddlin' along, his coat collar turned up and his cap
pulled down, but Uncle Jimmy Isham.

"Well, well!" says I, makin' room for him in the hallway. "Still here,
eh? Gettin' to be a reg'lar Broadway rounder, I expect?"

"No," says he, shakin' the water off of him like a terrier, "I--I can't
seem to get used to bein' a city man. Fact is, McCabe, I guess I begun
too late. I don't like it at all."

"Homesick for Pemaquid?" says I.

"That's it," says he. "I stove it off until this mornin'. I'd been doin'
fust rate too, goin' to picture shows reg'lar, takin' in the sights, and
tryin' to make myself believe I was enjoyin' all the luxuries and
refinements of life, like Cap'n Bill said I ought to. But when I woke up
at daylight and heard this nor'easter snortin' through the streets I
couldn't stand it a mite longer. I dun'no's I can make it plain to you,
but--well, this ain't no place to be in a storm. Never saw the surf pile
up on Pemaquid Point, did you? Then you ought to once. And I bet it's
rollin' in some there now. Yes, Sir! The old graybacks are jest
thunderin' in on them rocks with a roar you can hear three miles back in
the woods. Roarin' and smashin', they are, grand and mighty and awful.
And I want to be there to see and hear. I got to, that's all. What's
shows and museums and ridin' in the subway, compared to a storm on
Pemaquid? No, Sir, I can't stand it any longer. I'm goin' back on the
Boston boat to-night, and before it's calmed down at the point I'll be
there. I'm goin' to stay there too; that is, if I don't move over to the
Neck."

"With Cynthy?" says I.

"If she'll let me," says he.

"Got the fifty thousand invested yet?" says I.

"No," says he, droppin' his chin guilty, "I ain't. And I expect Cap'n
Bill will call me an old fool. But I couldn't jest seem to find the
right thing to put it into. So I'm goin' to stop at Wiscasset and leave
it at the bank and git 'em to buy me some gover'ment bonds or something.
That won't bring me in much; but it'll be more'n I'll know what to do
with. Then I got to see Cynthy. If she says she'll have me, I suppose
I'll have to break it to her about the money. I dun'no what she's goin'
to say, either. That's what's botherin' me."

"Yes, Uncle Jimmy," says I, givin' him a farewell grip. "Like the cat in
the bird store--you should worry!"

Pemaquid, eh? Say, I'm goin' to hire a guide in Portland and discover
that place sometime. I'd like to see Uncle Jimmy again.



CHAPTER XVI

SCRATCH ONE ON BULGAROO


I'd strolled into the front office in my shirt sleeves, and was leanin'
against the gym door listenin' to Pinckney and his friend slangin' each
other--and, believe me, it's a wonderful gift to be able to throw the
harpoon refined and polite that way!

"Larry," says Pinckney, lookin' him over reproachful, "you are hopeless.
You merely cumber the earth."

"Having made an art of being useless," says Larry, "you should be an
excellent judge."

"You think you flatter me," says Pinckney; "but you don't. I live my
life as it comes. You are botching yours."

"Hear, hear!" says Larry. "The butterfly sermonizes!"

"Insect yourself!" says Pinckney.

"My word!" says Larry. "Chucking entomology at me too! Well, have it
that I'm a grasshopper. My legs are long enough."

"It's your ears that are long, Larry," says Pinckney.

"There you go, mixing the metaphor!" says Larry. "So I'm an ass, eh?"

"The word strikes me as beautifully descriptive," says Pinckney.

"Excuse me," says I, breakin' in, "but is this to a finish? If it is,
I'll send out for some throat troches."

Larry grins and settles himself back easy in my desk chair. Great lad,
this Mr. T. Lawrence Bolan! All he needs is a cape coat and a sugar-loaf
hat with a silver buckle to be a stage Irishman. One of these tall,
loose-hinged, awkward-gaited chaps, with wavy red hair the color of a
new copper pan, also a chin dimple and a crooked mouth. By rights he
should have been homely. Maybe he was too; but somehow, with that twisty
smile of his workin', and them gray-blue eyes twinklin' at you, the word
couldn't be said.

"Look at him, Shorty!" says Pinckney. "Six feet of futile clay; a waster
of time, money, and opportunity."

"The three gifts that a fool tries to save and a wise man spends with a
free hand," says Larry. "Give me a cigarette."

"How much, now, did you lose to that crowd of bridge sharks last night?"
demands Pinckney, passin' over a gold case.

"Not my self-respect, anyway," says Larry. "Was I to pass cowardly with
a hundred aces in hand? And I had the fun of making that Boomer-Day
person quit bidding on eight hearts. How she did glare as she doubled
me!"

"Set you six hundred, I hear," says Pinckney. "At a quarter the point
that's no cheap fun."

"Who asks for cheap fun?" says Larry. "I paid the shot, didn't I?"

"And now?" asks Pinckney.

Larry shrugs his shoulders. "The usual thing," says he; "only it happens
a little earlier in the month. I'm flat broke, of course."

"Then why in the name of all folly will you not borrow a couple of
hundred from me?" demands Pinckney.

"Would I pay it back?" says Larry. "No, I would not. So it would be
begging, or stealing? You see how awkward that makes it, old chap?"

"But, deuce take it! what are you to do for the next three weeks, you
know?" insists Pinckney.

"Disappear," says Larry, wavin' his cigarette jaunty, "and then--

    "The haunts that knew him once
    No more shall know.
    The halls where once he trod
    With stately tread--er--
    Tum-ti-iddity--
    As the dead--

or words, my dear Pinckney, much to that effect. My next remittance
should be here by the third."

"When you'll reappear and do it all over again," says Pinckney.

"In which you're quite wrong," says Larry. "Not that I am bitten by
remorse; but I weary of your game. It's a bit stupid, you know,--your
mad rushing about here and there, plays, dinners, dances, week-ends.
You're mostly a good sort; but you've no poise, no repose. Kittens
chasing your tails! It leaves no chance to dream dreams."

"Listen," says Pinckney, "to that superior being, the lordly Briton,
utter his usual piffle! I suppose you'd like to marry, settle down on a
hundred-acre estate nine miles from nowhere, and do the country
gentleman?"

"It would be the making of me," says Larry, "and I could be reasonably
happy at it."

"Then why not do it?" demands Pinckney.

"On a thousand pounds a year?" says Larry. "Go to!"

"The fact remains," says Pinckney, "that you have for an uncle the Earl
of Kerrymull."

"And that I'm his best hated nephew, paid to keep out of his sight,"
comes back Larry.

"But you are where an Earl-uncle counts for most," suggests Pinckney.
"By judicious choice of a father-in-law----"

"Rot!" breaks in Larry. "Am I a cheap adventurer in a third-rate
melodrama? Waster I may be; but no dowry hunter."

"As though you could not like, for herself alone, any one of the
half-dozen pretty girls who are foolish enough to be crazy over you,"
says Pinckney.

"As though I'd be blighter enough to let myself fall in love with any of
the sweet dears!" says Larry. "I'm in my thirties, Man."

"There's widows aplenty," hints Pinckney.

"Bless 'em all!" says Larry. "I'd not load one of them with a wild,
impecunious Irishman like myself."

"Then what?" says Pinckney. "Also where, and whither?"

"Bulgaroo," says Larry, wavin' vague into space.

"Is that a form of self-destruction?" asks Pinckney.

"Almost," says Larry. "It's the nearest town to Sir Horace Vaughn's No.
6 sheep ranch. Quaint little spot, Bulgaroo; chiefly corrugated iron
villas and kangaroo scrub, two hundred-odd miles back from Sidney. I'm
due there at the end of next month."

"My regards to the Bulgaroovians," says I.

"Is this just a whim of yours, or a crazy plan?" says Pinckney.

"Both," says Larry. "No. 6 is where I went to do penance when the Earl
and I had our grand smashup. Eighteen months I put in before he settled
an allowance on me. They'll give me another foreman's job. I'll stay
three years this time, saving pay and remittance drafts, and at the end
I'll have hoarded enough to buy an interest, or a ranch of my own.
That's the theory. Actually, I shall probably take an amazing thirst
into Bulgaroo about once a month, buy vile champagne at the Queen's
Arms, and otherwise disport myself like a true sheepherder. The finis
will not sound pretty."

Pinckney stares at him puzzled for a minute, and then turns to me.
"Shorty," says he, "you're a Celt. What do you make of him?"

"My guess is that there's a skirt in the background," says I.

"Oh-ho!" says Pinckney.

"Touched!" says Larry.

Pinckney aims the cigarette case at him, remarkin' savage, "The story or
your life. Come, now!"

Larry springs that wistful, twisty smile of his and goes on. "It
happened here, eight years ago, as I was on my way to No. 6. I'd picked
up a beastly fever somewhere, and I knew not a soul in your blessed
city. So I wabbled into a hospital and let them tuck me away in a cot.
Now grin, blast you! Yes, she was one of the day nurses, Katie McDevitt.
No raving beauty, you know. Ah, but the starry bright eyes of her, the
tender touch of her soft hand, and the quick wits under her white cap!
It wasn't just the mushy sentiment of a convalescent, either. Three
grand weeks afterwards I waited around, going walks with her in the
park, taking her on foolish steamer rides, sending her flowers, notes,
candy. We were rare spoons, and she was as good as she was witty. There
was an idyl for you! Then, when I woke up one day--why, I ran away
without a word! What else could I do? I was bound for an Australian
sheep ranch. And there I went. Since then not a whisper of her. By now
it's quite likely she's the wife of some lucky dog of a doctor, and
never gives me a thought. So why shouldn't I go back?"

"Because, you crack-brained Irishman," says Pinckney, "when you're not
maundering over some such idiocy as this, you're the most entertaining
good-for-nothing that ever graced a dinner table or spread the joy of
life through a dull drawing room. Come home with me for the week-end,
anyway."

"I'll not," says Larry. "I'm a pauper."

"Will you go with Shorty, then?" says Pinckney. "At times he's as absurd
as yourself."

"He's not asked me," says Larry.

"My tongue's drippin' with it," says I. "I had an own cousin come over
from Kerrymull. You'll be welcome."

"Done!" says Larry. "And for board and lodging I'll sing you Ballyshone
after dinner."

So he did too, and if you've ever heard it well sung, you'll know the
lump I had in my throat as I listened. Also I had him tell Sadie about
Katie McDevitt; and when he'd made friends with little Sully and the dog
we could have kept him for a year and a day.

But that Sunday afternoon, while we was swingin' out of the front gates
for a walk, we stops to let a limousine whizz by, and we gets a glimpse
of a woman's face through the windows.

"Lord love you, McCabe!" says Larry, grippin' me by the arm, "but who
was that?"

"In the car?" says I. "No one but Mrs. Sam Steele."

"Mrs., did you say?" says he.

"The rich widow," says I, "that lives in the big house over on the Shore
Drive." I pointed it out.

"A widow!" says he. "Thanks be! Shorty, she's the one!"

"Not your Miss McDevitt?" says I.

"No other," says he. "I'd swear it!"

"Then you're nutty in the head, Mr. Larry Bolan," says I; "for I've
known her these two years, and never heard of her being an ex-nurse."

"She might not care to boast of it," says he. "Rich, did you say?"

"Near a million, they say," says I; "which don't fit in with the nurse
idea, does it?"

"I couldn't mistake Katie McDevitt," says he, waggin' his head mulish.
"But who was this Steele beggar?"

"She moved here after plantin' him West somewhere," says I. "One of the
big lumber crowd, I've heard. Sadie can tell you more."

"Thanks," says he; "but I'll have it from Katie herself. Take me
there."

"Eh?" says I. "On a chance shot? I'd look well, wouldn't I?"

"But you must," says he. "Now!"

"Come off!" says I. "You with only a glance at her! Besides, she's one
of these stiff, distant parties that keeps to herself."

"McCabe," says he, "I mean to talk with her within the hour if I have to
smash in her front door and wring a butler's neck."

There's a thrill in his voice as he says it, and from all I know of
Larry Bolan there's no stoppin' him. We started off.

The nearer we got to the big house, though, the battier the enterprise
seemed to me. First off, I'd been nursin' a dislike for Mrs. Steele ever
since I'd overheard a little séance between her and one of the outside
men. She'd caught him smugglin' home a few measly vegetables from her
big garden, and after tongue lashin' him lively she fires him on the
spot--him a poor Dago with a big fam'ly. Then there'd been tales told by
the butcher, the plumber, and half a dozen others, all goin' to show she
was a lady tightwad, or worse.

So I'd sized her up as a cold, hard proposition. And when I work up
feelin's like that I'm apt to show 'em. I couldn't help thinkin' but
maybe I had. Here I was, though, cartin' a strange gent up to her front
door, on his guess that he's her long lost Romeo.

"Ah, be good, Larry!" says I. "Let's call it off."

He shakes his head stubborn.

"All right," says I; "but take it from me we're about to pull down
trouble. What's the plan?"

He thinks, as long as I know the lady, I'd better send in my name and
then break it to her easy. So, while I'm waitin' in the reception hall,
he kicks his heels impatient against the veranda rail outside.

Rather a classy lookin' party, Mrs. Steele is as she shows up in a
stunnin' house gown,--good lines, fine complexion, and all that. Takes
mighty good care of herself, so Sadie says, with two French maids to
help. She don't stint herself that way. And the little streak of early
gray through her front hair gives her sort of a distinguished look.
There's nothin' friendly, though, about the straight, tight-lipped
mouth, or the surprised look in her eyes as she discovers me standin'
there.

"Mr. McCabe?" says she.

"You see," says I, grinnin' foolish, "there's a chap outside who--who
has a batty idea he used to know you."

"Really?" says she, narrowin' her eyes a bit.

"Bolan's the name, Ma'am," I goes on, "Larry Bolan."

It wa'n't much,--just a quiver, a little lift of the shoulders, a
bunchin' of the fingers. Then she bites her lip and gets a grip on
herself. "Well?" says she. "What of it?"

"Why," says I, "he--he wants to have a talk with you. Course, though, if
you don't know him, or don't remember, all you got to do----"

"Yes, yes!" she breaks in. "I understand. Wait!"

A couple of minutes she stands there, never makin' a crack or givin' any
sign, except that the toe of one slipper taps the rug restless. Then she
gives her decision. "You may bring him in," says she.

"How about sendin' him?" I suggests.

"No, not alone," says she. "I want you to stay."

So I steps to the door. "Larry," says I, "you're called on the carpet;
but for the love of soup don't pull any of that old sweetheart stuff
reckless! The signs ain't right."

And a fat lot of notice he takes of my advice. Trust Larry! He pushes in
eager ahead of me, marches straight to where she is, gives her one
mushy, admirin' look, and the next thing I know he has reached for one
of her hands and is kissin' it as graceful and romantic as James K.
Hackett doin' a Zenda stunt.

Gave Mrs. Steele some jolt, that play did; for it's plain she was fixin'
to frost him at the start. But it's all over before she has time to draw
a breath, and he has let her fingers slip through his caressin'.

"Katie!" says he.

She flushes and stiffens up. "Silly as ever, I see," says she.

"More so," says he. "But it's only seeing you again that brings on the
attack. Katie, you're glorious!"

"Please!" says she, protestin'. "I've rather outgrown my liking for
sentimental speeches. Tell me, why do you hunt me up like this, after so
long?"

"Can you ask?" says he. "Look! No--in my eyes, Katie."

And, say, with things gettin' that gummy, I was beginnin' to feel like a
cold boiled potato served accidental with the pie.

"Excuse me," says I, "but maybe I'd better wait in the next room."

"Not at all," says Mrs. Steele, real crisp and businesslike. "It will be
only for a moment, while Mr. Bolan states very briefly his exact purpose
in coming here."

Larry bows. "To see once more the girl he could not forget," says he.

"Humph!" says she, curlin' her upper lip. "Very pretty, I suppose. But
let me assure you that foolish young person ceased to exist several
years ago."

"She lives for me--here," says Larry, placin' one hand on his left vest
pocket.

Mrs. Steele indulges in a thin little cold-storage laugh that sounds
almost as pleasant as tappin' a gas pipe. "What a sudden revival of an
old, worn-out affection!" says she. "When did you first hear I was a
widow?"

"Less than an hour ago," says Larry.

"Did they say I was rich, or poor?" she goes on sarcastic.

"Katie!" says he gaspy. "Surely you--you can't think----"

"It's what I ask them all," says she, "domestic and imported. Naturally
I am a little suspicious when they declare passionate love at the first
or second meeting; for, in spite of what my maids tell me, my mirror
insists that I'm not ravishingly beautiful. So I've begun to suspect
that perhaps my money may be the attraction. And I'm not in the market
for a husband, you know."

"Bing-g-g!" says I under my breath.

As for Larry Bolan, it leaves him with his chin down. For, after all, he
ain't one of your walrus-hided gents. As a matter of fact, he's as
sensitive as they come, and she couldn't have handed it out rougher.

"My dear lady," says he, "you are pleased to be cruel. Perhaps, though,
it's only my due. I admit that I'm only a poor pensioner posing as a
gentleman. But within a month I shall be on my way to bury myself on the
other side of the world. Meanwhile, I see you pass. Could I help wanting
a few kind words of yours to take with me?"

"If that is really all, Mr. Bolan," says she, "I would advise you to
outlive your nonsense, as I've outlived mine. Try paying your tailor
with kind words."

"Katie," says he, with a sob in his voice, "you--you've broken the heart
of me. Come, McCabe, we will go."

She stands watchin' us, smilin' cynical, until we're almost through the
door; and then--well, it's a sigh that comes out explosive. She starts
as if she meant to dash after us, and then stops with her arms out.

"Larry!" says she, almost in a whisper.

It pulls him up, and he stares at her a minute over his shoulder. "It's
no use, Katie," says he. "What's turned you hard and cold I don't know;
but you can't unsay what's been said. And it hurt--bitter."

"Oh, I know, I know!" says she. "But you must hear what it was that
changed me from the girl you knew. Money, Larry, the money for which I
married. As for the man--oh, I suppose he was no worse than the rest;
only he taught me to love a dollar more than anything else in earth or
heaven. He'd wrung all of his from a grudging world with his bare
hands,--starved and slaved and plotted for it, in mean ways, against
mean men; then fought to hold it. And he knew to a penny's worth what
every dollar he spent should buy for him. Among other things, he bought
me. Sixty-odd he was; I barely twenty. Why call it differently? I was
fool enough, too, to think I was a lucky girl. Ah, what a fool! Seven
years of fear and hate! It's an awful thing, Larry, to live so long
with hate in you for one at your side. But he--he never knew."

She leaves off, squeezin' one hand in the other until the ends of the
fingers went white, her chest heavin', her eyes stary. Larry watches her
without a word.

"Tell me," says she after a bit, "why you ran away that time and left me
to--to make such a mess of things. Why?"

"For the same reason that I'm going away again now," says he. "I've a
thousand pounds a year, and not sense enough to keep myself on it, let
alone a wife. So it's good-by, Katie."

Then the weeps came, open eyed; but she didn't try to hide 'em. "Oh,
oh!" she moans. "But I was so lonely then, and--and I'm so lonely now!"

Them few drops of brine turned the trick. "Ah, Katie McDevitt!" says he.
"If I could bring back the old Katie! By the soul of me, but I will? You
never heard of my old uncle, did you? Come with me to him, and see me
make it up; for I can't leave you this way, Katie, I just can't!"

"Larry!" says she, and with that they goes to a fond clinch.

"Help!" says I, and slides through the door.

When I gets home Sadie wants to know what I've done with Mr. Bolan.

"Towed him up to Hymen's gate," says I, "and left him bein' yanked
through by Mrs. Sam Steele."

"Wha-a-at?" says she. "Of all persons! And when did that start, I'd like
to know?"

"Eight years back," says I. "She was Katie the nurse, and this is their
second act. Anyway, he ducks Bulgaroo by it."



CHAPTER XVII

BAYARD DUCKS HIS PAST


First place, Swifty Joe should have let the subject drop. Anyway, he
needn't have come paradin' into the front office in his gym suit to show
me his nutty theory of how Young Disko landed that knockout on the
Australian in the breakaway.

"Turn over!" says I. "You're on your back! He couldn't have done
anything of the kind."

"Couldn't, eh?" growls Swifty. "Ahr-r-r-r chee! Couldn't give him the
shoulder on the jaw! Ain't I seen it done? Say, lemme show you----"

"Show nothing!" says I. "I'm tellin' you it was a right hook the kid put
him out with, from chancery. Now see!"

With that I sheds my coat, gets Swifty's neck in the crook of my left
elbow, swings him round for a side hip-lock, and bends his head forward.

"Now, you South Brooklyn kike," I goes on, maybe more realistic than I
meant, "I got you right, ain't I? And all I got to do is push in a
half-arm jolt like this, and----"

Well, then I looks up. Neither of us has noticed her come in, hadn't
even heard the knob turn; but standin' there in the middle of the room
and starin' straight at us is a perfectly good female lady.

That don't half tell it, either. She's all lady, from the tips of her
double-A pumps to the little gray wing peekin' over the top of her dingy
gray bonnet. One of these slim, dainty, graceful built parties, with
white, lacy stuff at her wrists and throat, and the rest of her costume
all gray: not the puckered-waist, half-masted skirt effects all the
women are wearin' now. I can't say what year's model it was, or how far
back; but it's a style that seems just fitted to her: maybe one that
she's invented herself. Around thirty-five, I should judge she was, from
the little streak of gray runnin' through her front hair.

What got me, though, was the calm, remote, superior look that she's
givin' us. She don't seem nervous or panicky at all, like most women
would, breakin' in on a roughhouse scene like that. She don't even stare
reprovin', but stands there watchin' us as serene as if we wa'n't
anything more'n pictures on a movie sheet. And there we was, holdin' the
pose; me with my right all bunched for action, and Swifty with his face
to the mat. Seemed minutes we was clinched there, and everything so
still you could hear Swifty's heavy breathin' all over the room.

Course I was waitin' for some remarks from her. You'd most think they
was due, wouldn't you? It's my private office, remember, and she's sort
of crashed in unannounced. If any explainin' was done, it was up to her
to start it. And waitin' for what don't come is apt to get on your
nerves.

"Eh?" I throws over my shoulder at her.

Her straight eyebrows kind of humps in the middle--that's all.

"Did you say anything?" I goes on.

"No," says she. If she'd smiled sort of faint, or even glared stern at
us, it wouldn't have been so bad. But she just presses her lips
together--thin, narrow-gage lips, they was--and goes on givin' us that
distant, unconcerned look.

Meanwhile Swifty, with his face bent towards the floor, ain't gettin'
any view at all, and is only guessin' what's happenin'. He squirms
impatient.

"Say, Shorty," he grumbles, "I got a few bones in me neck, remember.
Break, can't you?"

And as I loosens my hold he straightens up, only to get the full benefit
of that placid, ladylike lookover.

"Ahr-r-r chee!" says he, glancin' disgusted at me. Then he starts
gettin' rosy in the ears, like he always does when there's fluffs
around, and after one more hasty look he bolts back into the gym.

The strange lady watches this move like she has everything else, only
she shrugs her shoulders a bit. What she meant by that I couldn't make
out. I was gettin' to the point where I didn't care so much, either.

"Well, Ma'am?" says I.

"Poor fellow!" says she. "I am glad he escaped that brutal blow."

"Are you?" says I. "Well, don't waste too much sympathy on him; for I
was only demonstratin' how----"

"You might offer me a chair," she breaks in sort of casual.

"Why--er--sure!" says I, and before I knew it I was jumpin' to drag one
up.

She settles into it without even a nod of thanks.

"You see," I goes on, "he's my assistant, and I was tryin' to show him
how----"

"It's rather stuffy here," observes the lady. "Couldn't you open a
window?"

It's more an order than anything else; but I hops over and shoves the
sash wide open.

"That's too much," says she. "It causes a draft."

So I shuts it halfway. Then I gets her a glass of water. "Anything else
you'd like?" says I, tryin' to be sarcastic. "The mornin' paper, or----"

"Where is Mr. Steele?" she demands.

"Oh!" says I, gettin' a little light on the mystery. "J. Bayard, you
mean?"

"Of course," says she. "He was not at his hotel, and as this was the
other address I was given I expected to find him here."

"Huh!" says I. "Gave you this number, did he? Well, you see, this is my
Physical Culture Studio, and while he's apt to be here off and on, it
ain't his----"

"Just such a place as I might have anticipated finding Bayard in," says
she, glancin' around the front office at the portraits in ring costume
and so on. "Quite!"

"Let's see," says I, "you are--er----"

"I am Mrs. Lee Hollister," says she, "of Richmond, Virginyah."

"I might have suspicioned that last," says I, "by the way you----"

But she don't give me a show to register any little slam I might have
thought of puttin' over. She's the kind that conducts a conversation
accordin' to her own rules, and she never hesitates to cut in.

"I want to know what there is about this will of Mr. Gordon's," she
demands. "Some absurd legacy, I presume; at least, my solicitor, Colonel
Henderson, seemed to think so. I suppose you've heard of Colonel Britt
Henderson?"

"Not a whisper," says I, as defiant as I know how.

She expresses her opinion of such ignorance with a little lift of her
pointed chin. "Colonel Henderson," she goes on, "is perhaps the ablest
and most brilliant attorney in Virginyah. He is connected with the best
families in the State."

"Never heard of anybody from down there that wa'n't," says I. "And while
I ain't disputin' him, mind you, his guess about this bein' a legacy
is----"

"Will Mr. Steele be in soon?" she asks crisp.

"Might," says I, "and then again he mightn't."

"It's rather rude of him to keep me waiting," says she.

"Maybe if you'd sent word ahead," I suggests, "he'd been on hand. But
now you've come all this way----"

"You don't suppose," breaks in Mrs. Hollister, "that I came north just
for that? Not at all. It was to select a design for the memorial window
I am having placed in our church, in memory of poor, dear Professor
Hollister. My late husband, you know; and a most noble, talented,
courtly gentleman he was too."

"Ye-e-es'm," says I.

"What are those objects on the wall?" says she, shiftin' sudden.

"Boxin' gloves, Ma'am," says I. "That's the pair of mitts that won me
the championship, back in----"

"Has Mr. Steele become a pugilist, too?" she asks.

"Not so you'd notice it," says I.

"Hm-m-m-m!" says she, tappin' the toe of one of her pumps and gazin'
around critical.

Not that she takes any notice of me. Honest, if I'd been a yellow pup
tied in the corner, she couldn't have been more offhand. I was gettin'
warm in the neck by the minute too, and in three more shakes I'd been
cuttin' loose with the acid remarks, when the door opens and in blows J.
Bayard Steele. I sighs relieved when I sees him too.

"Oh!" says he, gettin' a back view of her. "I beg pardon. I--er----"
Then she turns and faces him. "Alice!" he gasps.

"My dear Bayard!" she protests. "Please let's not have any scene. It was
all so long ago, and I'm sure you must have gotten over that."

"But how--why--er----" he goes on.

"You wrote to Mrs. Lee Hollister, didn't you?" she demands. "I am Mrs.
Hollister."

Another gasp from Steele. "You?" says he. "Then you--you----"

"To be sure I married," says she. "And Professor Hollister was one of
the truest, noblest Southern gentlemen who ever lived. I have mourned
his loss for nearly ten years, and---- But don't stand there twiddling
your hat in that absurd fashion! You may sit, if you like. Get Mr.
Steele a chair, will you?"

I'd jumped and done it too, before I had time to think.

"Now what is this about Mr. Gordon's will?" says she.

Well, between us, whenever she'd let us get in a word, we managed to
sketch out the idea.

"You see," says Steele, "Pyramid Gordon wished to make what reparation
he could for any injustice he might have done during the course of his
business career. He left a list of names, among them being this, 'the
widow of Professor Lee Hollister.' Now possibly Gordon, in some way----"

"He did," breaks in Mrs. Hollister. "My husband had issued an elaborate
and exhaustive geological report on a certain district. It had attracted
wide attention. He was to have been appointed State Geologist, when
suddenly this Mr. Gordon appeared and began his unwarranted campaign of
abuse and opposition. Something about some coal and iron deposits, I
believe it was, on land which he was trying to sell to an English
syndicate. Professor Hollister's report failed to mention any such
deposits. As a matter of fact they did not exist. But Mr. Gordon
summoned experts of his own, who attacked my husband's statements. The
professor declined to enter into a public controversy. His dignity would
not permit him. Underhanded influence was brought to bear on the
Governor, and the appointment was given to another. But time has shown.
Discredited and beaten though he seemed to be, my husband was right. The
Gordon lands proved valueless. Those in which Professor Hollister
invested his savings were rich in minerals."

"Ah!" says Steele. "Quite like Pyramid. And it has been left to us, Mrs.
Hollister, to recompense, if we may, the bitterness of that----"

"Please!" says the lady. "Professor Hollister was not an embittered man.
Such methods were beneath his contempt. He merely withdrew from public
life. As for recompense--surely you would not think of asking me to
accept it from such a source! Never! Besides, I have more than enough.
Several years ago I disposed of our mineral holdings, bought back the
old Hollister mansion, and I am now living there in as much comfort as
poor Lee could have wished me to enjoy. What could Gordon's money add to
that?"

If I'd been J. Bayard, hanged if I wouldn't called it quits right there!
But he's gettin' so chesty over this job of sunshine distributer that
there's no holdin' him in.

"Surely, Alice," he insists, "there must be some way in which I,
as--er--an old friend, might----"

Mrs. Hollister cuts him off with a wave of her hand. "You don't
understand," says she. "I am no longer the vain, frivolous young girl
whom you knew that winter in Chicago. My first season, that was. I was
being lavishly entertained. I suppose I became dazzled by it all,--the
attention, the new scenes, the many men I met. I've no doubt I behaved
very silly. But now--well, I have realized all my social ambitions. Now
I am devoting my life to the memory of my sainted husband, to charity,
to our dear church."

I gawps curious over at J. Bayard to see what comeback he has to this
dose of mush, and finds him starin' foolish at her.

"There is only one thing----" she begins.

"Yes?" says Steele, kind of faint. "Something in which we might----"

"I am interested in a group of girls," says she, "factory girls; one of
our Guild Mission classes, you know. They have been anxious to have some
dances. Now I am strongly opposed to the modern dances, all of them.
True, I've seen very little, almost nothing. So I decided that, in order
to convince myself that I am right, I might as well, while I am in New
York--well--er----"

"I get you," I puts in. "You want to watch the real thing pulled--the
fox trot, and the new polkas, and so on. Eh?"

"Not for my own personal amusement," corrects Mrs. Hollister. "I am sure
I shall be bored, perhaps shocked; but then I shall be better able to
warn my girls."

"The old gag!" says I. "I know what would fit your case,--a late dinner
at the Maison Maxixe. Eh, Steele?" and I tips him the knowin' wink.

"Why--er--yes," says J. Bayard. "I presume Mr. McCabe is correct. And I
am sure we should be delighted to have Mrs. Hollister as our guest."

"We!" I gasps under my breath. Say, the nerve of him! But before I can
think up any previous date the lady has accepted.

"I have heard of the place," says she. "I am quite willing to endure an
evening there. I am wondering, though, if I should not be rather
conspicuous. You see, I brought with me none but simple gowns such as
this, and perhaps the contrast----"

"You'd be about as prominent at the Maxixe in that outfit," says I, "as
a one-legged albino at a coon cakewalk. Besides, they don't let you in
there unless you're in full evenin'. Course, there's other joints
where----"

"No," says she. "Let it be the Maison Maxixe, if that is the worst. And
for once too I may as well submit myself to the horrors of the new
fashions. I will order a costume to-day, and I can be ready for my
plunge into Gotham vanities by--let me see--we will say Saturday night.
I am at the Lady Louise. You may call for me there about eight. Good-by.
Don't be late, Gentlemen." And with that she does the abrupt flit,
leavin' us gawpin' at each other stupid.

"Much obliged, Steele," says I, "for ringin' me in on this nutty reunion
of yours. Say, J. B., you got a head like a tack, you have! Have a
heart, can't you?"

"My dear Shorty," says he, "permit me to point out that it was you who
suggested taking her to----"

"Because you was sittin' there like a gump," says I. "Only helpin' you
out, that's all. And I'm goin' to look nice, ain't I, trailin' into a
place like that with you and this--say, just where does the lady fit
into your past, anyway? Never heard you mention her, did I?"

"Naturally not," says he. "One doesn't boast of having been thrown
over."

"Eh?" says I. "You was engaged--to _her_?"

He nods and gazes sentimental at the ceilin'. "My one genuine romance,"
says he. "I suppose she wasn't really the radiant beauty I imagined; but
she was charming, vivacious, fascinating. It was a bad case of love at
first sight. At eleven o'clock that evening, I remember, I took her in
to supper. At twelve I was leading her into a palm-sheltered nook, and
the next thing I knew I had taken her in my arms and--well, the usual
thing. No one could have made a more complete ass of himself. She should
have boxed my ears. She didn't. The engagement lasted all of one week."

"Then you recovered from the attack?" says I.

"No," says he. "She had discovered another, several others. She told me
quite casually that she really hadn't meant it; and wasn't I, after all,
rather a wild young man? I assured her that if I wasn't wild I should
be after that. She only shrugged her shoulders. So I gave her up. The
others did too. And she went back to Richmond, it seems, and married a
sainted geologist; while I--well, I never did get over it, quite. Silly,
of course; but when I met other girls later I--I remembered, that's
all."

"Which accounts for you bein' a bach so long, does it?" says I. "Well,
it's never too late. Here's your chance once more. At the Maison Maxixe
you can pull any kind of romance, stale or recent, and nobody'll care a
hoot. I'll duck the dinner, and you can----"

"No, no!" protests J. Bayard. "I--er--I wouldn't take her to dinner
alone for worlds. Really!" he waves his hands almost tragic.

"Why not?" says I. "Thought you hadn't got over it."

"Oh, but I have," insists Steele, "thoroughly."

"Must have been lately then," says I.

"To-day--just now," says he. "I never dreamed she would develop
into--er--a woman like that,--the way she looks at you, you know."

"You don't need to describe it," says I. "That wa'n't a marker to the
way she looked at Swifty and me. But wait! We'll hand her a jolt
Saturday night."

Steele groans. "I wish I could---- By George!" he explodes. "I'd
forgotten Major Ben Cutter."

"What about him?" says I.

"An old friend," says J. Bayard. "He's landing Saturday, from Santa
Marta. I haven't seen him for years,--been down there running a banana
plantation, you know. He cabled up, and I'd promised to take him around
that evening, dinner at the club, and----"

"Ah, ditch it, J. B.!" says I. "No old-friend alibi goes in this case."

"But, Shorty," he protests, "how can I----"

"You can lug him along, can't you?" says I. "Make it a four-cornered
affair. The more the merrier."

"He's such a diffident, shy chap, though," goes on Steele, "and after
five years in the bush----"

"Oh, a dose of Mrs. Hollister will do him good," says I. "She won't
mind. She'll be bein' bored. Just 'phone her and explain. And remind her
when she's gettin' her costume that this ain't any church sociable we're
attendin'."

Honest, I was more leery on that point than about anything else; for you
know how giddy they doll up at them joints, and while her taste in
stained glass windows might be strictly up to date, when it comes to
flossin' up for the Maison Maxixe--well, no gray-and-white, back-number
regalia would do there. If we wa'n't shut out, we'd be guyed to death.

So about seven-thirty Saturday night I was some chilly in the ankles.
I'd called for J. Bayard at his hotel, and he'd shown up with the Major.
No figment of the imagination, either, the Major. He's a big, husky,
rich-colored party that's some imposin' and decorative in open-faced
togs; quiet and shy actin', though, just as Steele had said. I sort of
took to him, and we swaps friendly greetin's.

"All aboard now," says I, "and we'll collect our widow."

Which seems to startle the Major more or less. "I say, Bayard," he puts
in, "you didn't tell me she was a widow, you know. Perhaps, after all,
I'd best not----"

"Ah, she ain't the net-wieldin' kind," says I soothin'. "She'll tell you
all about her dear departed and the memorial window. About as gay as
Trinity Church on Ash Wednesday, she is. Come along."

Can you blame him, then, for glancin' reproachful at me when he sees
what answers our call at the Lady Louise a few minutes later? I lets go
of a few gasps myself; while J. Bayard--well, he just stares at her with
his mouth open.

For, take it from me, Mrs. Hollister had connected! Uh-huh! Not with any
last fall outfit, nor yesterday's. About day after to-morrow's, I should
call it. And if there wa'n't zipp and scream to it, then I'm
shortsighted in the eyes. My guess is that it's a mixture of the last
word in Byzantine effects, with a Cleopatra girdle and a Martha
Washington polonaise. Anyway, if there ain't much above the waist line
but gauze and strips of fur, there's plenty of flare below, as far as
the ankles. Lucky she'd invested in a generous fur-lined wrap to go with
it, or I wouldn't have stirred a step until we'd draped her in a rug or
something. I ain't sayin' much about the feather affair clamped around
her head in place of a hat; only it reminds me of an Indian war bonnet
that's been through a hard blow.

"Well, Bayard," says she, floatin' up to us wabbly on her high heels,
"you see I'm ready."

"Ye-e-es," says Steele draggy. And while I pushes the Major to the front
almost by main strength, J. Bayard presents him.

After that, though--say, I don't know when I've seen two parties indulge
in such a long and earnest look at each other as Major Ben and Mrs.
Hollister did then. While the Major flushes rosy and hardly has a word
to say for himself, he just naturally glues his lamps to her and don't
let 'em roam. Believe me too, she was some giddy picture! Wa'n't such a
bad looker, you know, in her other rig; but in this zippy regalia--well,
I got to admit that she's some ripe pippin. Her big brown eyes is
sparklin', she's smilin' coy as she looks the Major up and down, and the
next thing we know blamed if she ain't cuddled right up to him and
remarked kittenish:

"You dear man! I'm going to let you take me out to the cab."

Well, that was the programme from then on. It was the Major and Mrs.
Hollister first, with me and J. Bayard trailin' on behind. We'd had some
debate beforehand as to whether this should be a dry dinner or not,
endin' by Steele announcin' he was goin' to take a chance on Martinis
anyhow. Does she shy at the appetizer? Say, she was clinkin' glasses
with the Major before J. Bayard has a chance to reach for his. Same way
with the fizz that J. B. has put in a hurry order for.

"Bored to death, ain't she?" I remarks behind my hand.

And before the fillet of sole was served the Major had unlimbered his
conversation works, and that pair was havin' about the chattiest time of
any couple in the place, with me and J. Bayard stranded on the side
lines.

"Do you know, my dear Major," we hears her announce about nine-fifteen,
as she toys with a three-dollar portion of roast pheasant, "I had no
idea New York could be like this. Then there are the theaters, the
opera. I believe I shall stay up for the rest of the season."

"Good!" says the Major. "I shall stay too."

Half an hour later, while he was showin' her how to burn brandy on her
demitasse, I nudges Steele.

"Say," I whispers, "me for a spot where I ain't formin' a crowd!"

Steele takes a hasty glance at 'em. "I--I'm with you," says he.

"What!" says I. "Goin' to hand him over to her?"

He nods. "Well," says I, "I guess that'll pass for a kind deed."

"Also somewhat of a generous one," says he, exhibitin' the footin' of
the dinner bill he's just settled for.

I don't think they noticed, either of 'em, when we did our sneak. Once
outside, J. Bayard takes a long breath, like he was relieved at havin'
shifted something. Then he sort of sighs.

"Poor old Ben!" says he.

"Gwan!" says I. "You never can tell. Maybe he'll like playin' the
devoted slave act for the rest of his life. Besides, she's on a new
tack. The Major's quite a husk too. I'll bet he don't qualify for any
memorial window. Not him!"



CHAPTER XVIII

TRAILING DUDLEY THROUGH A TRANCE


The Adamses hadn't been in the neighborhood two weeks before Sadie's
discovered Veronica and was ravin' over her. "Isn't she perfectly
stunning, Shorty?" she demands.

"Now that you mention it, I expect she is," says I, playin' safe and
foxy. It's a useful phrase to pull in such cases; but here was once when
I must have worked it overtime. Sadie sniffs.

"Pooh!" says she. "Just as though you couldn't see for yourself! Don't
be absurd, Shorty."

"Gee! but you're hard to suit!" says I. "If I remember right, the last
time I got enthusiastic over the looks of a young queen you wrinkled
your nose and made remarks about my taste."

"It was that snippy little Marjorie Lowry with the baby face, wasn't
it?" says she. "Oh, very well, if you prefer that kind. Just like a
man!"

"Do I have to pick either one?" says I. "I hope not; for, between you
and me, Sadie, I'm satisfied as it stands."

"Goose!" says she, snugglin' up forgivin'. "And--would you guess
it?--they say she's twenty-six! I wonder why she isn't married?"

"There you go!" says I. "I could see it comin'."

"But she is such an attractive girl," goes on Sadie, "so well poised,
graceful, dignified, all that! And she has such exquisite coloring, and
such charming manners!"

Yep, I guess it was all so. One of these wavin' palm models, Veronica
was,--tall and willowy, with all the classy points of a heroine in a
thirty-five-cent magazine serial,--dark eyes, dark, wavy hair, good
color scheme in her cheeks,--the whole bag of tricks,--and specially
long on dignity. Say, she had me muffled from the first tap of the bell,
and you know how apt I am to try to break that sort of spell with a few
frivolous cracks. Not when Veronica swings on me with that calm gaze of
hers, though!

For Sadie don't do a thing but call on the Adamses, give a tea for
Veronica, and proceed to round up all the Johnnies in sight to meet her.
It's her reg'lar campaign, you know.

"Ah, why not let the poor girl alone?" says I. "Maybe she's got one in
trainin' somewhere herself. There's no tellin', too, but what she's
stayin' single from choice."

"Humph!" says Sadie. "Only the homely ones are entitled to give that
excuse, because they have no other; and only a stupid man would believe
it in either case. I suppose Miss Adams hasn't married because the right
man hasn't asked her. Sometimes they don't, you know. But it's a perfect
shame, and if I can help the right one to find her I'm going to do it."

"Sure you are," says I. "That's the skirt instinct. But, say, while the
men still have the vote all to themselves they ought to revise the game
laws by declarin' a close season on bachelors, say from the fifteenth of
August to the fifteenth of December."

"Too bad about the young men, isn't it?" says Sadie. "Anyone would think
we set traps for them."

"Show me a trap easier to fall into and harder to get out of," says I,
"and I'll make my fortune by puttin' it on the market as a new puzzle.
But blaze ahead. I ain't worryin'. I'm on the inside lookin' out,
anyway. Wish a hubby on her if you can."

And I must say it ain't any amateur effort Sadie puts over. From far and
near she rounds 'em up on one excuse or another, and manages to have 'em
meet Veronica. She don't take 'em miscellaneous or casual, like she
would for most girls. I notices that she sifts 'em out skillful, and
them that don't come somewhere near the six-foot mark gets the gate
early in the game. You catch the idea? Course, nobody would expect
Veronica to fall for any stunted Romeo that would give her a crick in
the back when it come to nestlin' her head on his shoulder.

So with size added to the other elimination tests it must have made hard
scratchin' at times. But somehow or other Sadie produces a dozen or more
husky young chaps with good fam'ly connections and the proper financial
ratin's. Among 'em was a polo player, two ex-varsity fullbacks, and a
blond German military aide that she borrowed from a friend in Washington
for the occasion. She tries 'em out single and in groups, using Mrs.
Purdy-Pell's horseshow box and town house as liberal as railroad waitin'
rooms. And, say, when it comes to arrangin' chance tête-à-têtes, and
cozy little dinner parties where the guests are placed just right, she
develops more ingenuity than a lady book agent runnin' down her victims.
Talk about shifty work! She makes this fly-and-spider fable sound
clumsy.

Course, she had a cinch in one way. All she has to do is exhibit
Veronica in some public place, and she has every man in sight twistin'
his neck. They dropped for her at the first glimpse. It didn't need any
elaborate scenic effects to cause a stampede, either; for the simpler
she gets herself up the more dangerous she is, and in a plain black
velvet dress, with an old lace collar cut a little low in front, all she
lacks is a gold frame and a number to look like a prize portrait at the
National Academy. Say, I ain't got much of an eye that way myself, but
the first time I saw her in that rig I held my breath for two minutes on
a stretch, and just gawped.

Another thing that helped was the fact that Veronica could sing,--no
common parlor warblin', mind you, of such pieces as "The Rosary" or
"Land of the Sky Blue Water," but genuine operatic stuff, such as you
hear Louise Homer and Schumann-Heink shootin' on the three-dollar
records. Why not? Hadn't Veronica studied abroad for two years under
Parcheesi, who'd begged her almost on his knees to do the title rôle in
a new opera he was goin' to try out before the King of Bavaria? Uh-huh!
We had that straight from Mrs. Adams, who wa'n't much for boostin' the
fam'ly. But no stagework for her!

In private, though, Veronica was good-natured and obligin'; so it was an
easy after-dinner cue for a young gent to lead her to the piano and
persuade her to tear off a few little operatic gems, while he leaned on
one elbow and gazed soulful at her. And I expect they didn't have to
know such a lot about grand opera to play the leanin' part, either.

Just how much tumult was caused under dress shirt fronts durin' them few
weeks I couldn't say for certain, but at least four or five of the young
gents had bad attacks. The odd thing about it, though, was the sudden
way they dropped out. One day they'd be sendin' her flowers, and
followin' her around to teas and lunches and dances, gazin' longin' at
her every chance they got, and displayin' the usual mush symptoms, and
the next they wouldn't show up at all. They'd disappeared.

That's what puzzled Sadie so much at first. She couldn't make out what
had happened,--whether they'd got rash and gone on the rug too soon, or
had been run over by a truck while crossin' the street. Fin'ly she comes
across one of the quitters one afternoon as I'm towin' her down
Fifth-ave. on her way home from somewhere, and she puts me up to give
him the quiz.

"There, Shorty!" says she, stoppin' sudden. "There's Monty Willetts, who
was so crazy about Veronica. No one has seen him for a week. Couldn't
you ask if anything serious has happened to him?"

I expect her idea was for me to put him through the third degree so
subtle he wouldn't suspect. Well, leavin' Sadie gazin' into a jew'lry
window, I overhauls him and does my best.

"Say, Monty," says I, jabbin' him playful in the ribs, "how about you
and that Miss Adams? Did you follow her to the frost line, or what?"

"That's an excellent way to put it, McCabe," says he. "And I'm chilly
yet from the experience."

"Sporty lad!" says I. "Did you try to hold her hand, or something like
that?"

"What!" he gasps. "Try to hold hands with the stately Miss Adams? Heaven
forbid! I'm not absolutely reckless, you know. It was in our first
confidential chat that I went on the rocks. We'd discussed polo for half
an hour, until I found she knew more about the English team than I did.
Why, she'd visited at Hurlingham House during the practice matches. So I
floundered about, trying to shift the subject, until we hit on antique
vases--deuced if I know why. But my Governor dabbled in such junk a bit,
you know, and I suppose I thought, from having heard him talk, that I
was up on antiques. But, say, hanged if she couldn't name more kinds
than I ever knew existed! Rippled on about Pompeian art, and Satsuma
ware, and Egyptian tear jugs as readily as Ted Keefe, my stable manager,
would about ponies. I tried again and asked if she'd seen many of the
new plays, and the next thing I knew I was bluffing through a dialogue
about Galsworthy and Masefield and Sudermann on an experience strictly
limited to musical comedies and Belasco's latest. Whe-e-e-ew! I made my
escape after that. Say, isn't it a shame a girl with eyes like hers
should know so blamed much?"

I couldn't help grinnin' at Monty, and when I picks up Sadie again I
gives her the diagnosis.

"Case of springin' the highbrow chatter on a sportin' chappy that wears
a fifteen and a half collar and a six and three-quarters hat," says I.
"He's as thankful as if he'd come through a train wreck with his
cigarette still lighted. You ought to tip Veronica to chop her lines and
work the spell with her eyes."

"Pooh!" says Sadie. "Monty never had a chance, anyway. You can't expect
a brilliant girl like Veronica to be satisfied with a husband who's at
his best only when he's knocking a goal or leading a hunt, even if he is
big and handsome."

But with this as a clew I figured out how two or three of the other
candidates came to side-step so abrupt. The average Johnny is all right
so long as the debate is confined to gossipy bits about the latest Reno
recruits, or who's to be asked to Mrs. Stuyve Fish's next dinner dance;
but cut loose on anything serious and you have him grabbin' for the
lifeline.

There was two, though, that came through to the finals, as you might
say. One was this German guy, Baron Düsseldorf; and the other was young
Beverley Duer, whose fad is takin' movin' pictures of wild animals in
their native jungles and givin' private movie shows in the Plaza
ballroom. Some strong on the wise conversation himself, Beverley is. He
paints a bit, plays the 'cello pretty fair, has a collection of ivory
carvin's, and has traveled all over the lot. You can't faze him with the
snappy repartee, either; for that's his specialty.

As for the Baron, his long suit was listenin'. He was a bear for it.
He'd sit there, big and ornamental, with his light blue eyes glued on
Veronica, takin' it all in as fast as she could feed it to him, and
lookin' almost intelligent. Course, when he did try a comeback in
English he chopped his words up comic; but he could speak four other
languages, and Veronica seemed pleased enough to find someone she could
practice her French and German on.

For awhile there I'd have picked either of the two as a winner; only I
couldn't just make up my mind which would get the decision. But somehow
the affair don't seem to progress the way it should. Each one appeared
to get about so far, and then stick. They both seemed anxious enough
too; but just as one would take an extra spurt Veronica would somehow
cool him down. She didn't seem to be playin' one against the other,
either. Looked like careless work to me. Sadie gets almost peeved with
her.

Then one night at our house a lot of the mystery was cleared up by some
friendly joshin' across the dinner table. We had all the Adamses there
that evenin',--Pa Adams, a tall, dignified, white-whiskered old sport,
who looked like he might have been quite a gay boy in his day; Mother, a
cheery, twinklin'-eyed, rather chubby old girl; and Veronica, all in
white satin and dazzlin' to look at. Also Sadie had asked in Miss
Prescott, an old maid neighbor of ours, who's so rich it hurts, but
who's as plain and simple as they come. She's a fruit preservin'
specialist, and every fall her and Sadie gets real chummy over swappin'
cannin' receipts.

About five P.M., though, Miss Prescott 'phones over her regrets, sayin'
how her nephew had arrived unexpected; so of course she gets the word to
bring Dudley Byron along with her. Emerson, his last name is, and while
I hadn't seen much of him lately we'd been more or less friendly when he
was takin' special post-graduate work at some agricultural college and
was around home durin' vacations. An odd, quiet chap, Dudley Byron, who
never figured much anywhere,--one of the kind you can fill in with
reckless and depend on not to make a break or get in the way. He's a
slim, sharp-faced young gent, with pale hair plastered down tight, and
deep-set gray eyes that sort of wander around aimless.

It might have been kind of dull if it hadn't been for the Adamses; but
Veronica and her Pa are lively enough to wake up any crowd. They're
gen'rally jollyin' each other about something. This time what started it
was someone remarkin' about a weddin' that was to be pulled off soon,
and how the bride was to be the last of five daughters.

"Fortunate parent!" says Pa Adams. "Five! And here I've been unable to
get rid of one."

"You didn't begin early enough," comes back Veronica. "Do you know, Mrs.
McCabe, when I was nineteen Daddy used to be so afraid I would be
stolen away from him that he would almost lie in wait for young men with
a shotgun. After I passed twenty-four he began meeting them at the gate
with a box of cigars in one hand and a shaker full of cocktails in the
other."

Pa Adams joins in the laugh. "It's quite true," says he. "For the last
two or three years Mother and I have been doing our best to marry her
off. We gave up the United States as hopeless, and carted her all over
Europe. No use. Even younger sons wouldn't have her. Now we're back
again, trying the dodge of staying longer in one place. But I fail to
see any encouraging signs."

"I'm sure I've tried to do my part too," says Veronica, smilin' gay. "I
really shouldn't mind being married. My tastes are wholly domestic. But,
dear me, one must find somewhere near the right sort of man, you know!
And so far----" She ends with a shrug of her white shoulders and a
puckerin' of her rosy lips.

"Poor Baron!" sighs Sadie, teasin'.

"I know," says Veronica. "And what a big, handsome creature he is too!
But I fear I'm not equal to carrying on a lifelong monologue."

"Surely that wouldn't be the case with Beverley Duer," suggests Sadie.

"Isn't he entertaining!" says Veronica enthusiastic. "But wouldn't it be
a bit selfish, appropriating all that brilliance just for oneself? And
could it be done? I'm afraid not. About once a month, I imagine,
Beverley would need a new audience. Besides--well, I'm sure I don't
know; only I don't seem thrilled in the way I ought to be."

With chat like that bein' batted back and forth, I expect I wa'n't
takin' much notice of Dudley Byron, who's sittin' quiet between me and
Aunty; but all of a sudden he leans over and whispers eager:

"Isn't she perfectly splendid, though?"

"Eh?" says I, tearin' myself away from what's still goin' on at the
other end of the table. "Oh! Miss Adams? Sure, she's a star."

"I--I would like to know her better," says Dudley, sort of plaintive.

"Crash in, then," says I. "No opposition here."

I thought I was bein' humorous; for Dudley's about as much of a lady's
man as he is a heavy shot putter. I never knew of his lookin' twice at a
girl before; but to-night he seems to be makin' up for lost time. All
durin' the rest of the meal he does the steady, admirin' gaze at
Veronica. He don't try to hide it, either, but fixes them gray eyes of
his her way and neglects to eat five perfectly good courses. When we
adjourns to the livin' room for coffee he keeps it up too. Couldn't have
been much suddener if he'd been struck by lightnin'.

I don't know how many others noticed it, but it was as plain as day to
me that Dudley Byron is on the point of makin' a chump of himself. I
begun to feel kind of sorry for him too; for he's a decent, well meanin'
young chap. So I edges around where I can get a word with him on the
side.

"Come out of the trance, Dudley," says I.

"I--I beg pardon?" says he, startin' guilty.

"You'll only get your wings singed," says I. "Forget Veronica while
there's a chance."

"But I don't wish to forget her," says he. "She--she's beautiful."

"Ah, what's the use?" says I. "She's mighty particular too."

"She has every right to be," says Dudley. "What delicious coloring! What
a carriage! She has the bearing of a Queen."

"Maybe," says I. "But wouldn't you rattle around some on a throne? Keep
that in mind, Dudley."

"Yes, yes," says he. "I suppose I must remember how unimpressive I am."

He's an easy forgetter that evenin', though. When Sadie suggests that
Miss Adams favor us, blessed if it ain't Dudley who's right there doin'
the music turnin' act. I wonder how many others has struck that same
pose, and lost good sleep thinkin' it over afterwards? But never a one,
I'll bet, that looked like such a hopeless starter.

He seemed to be enjoyin' it as much as any, though. And afterwards,
when the other four settles themselves around the card table for the
usual three rubbers, blamed if Dudley don't have the nerve to tow
Veronica into the next room, stretchin' on tiptoe to talk earnest in her
ear.

I could guess what it was all about. Veronica had a nice way of soundin'
people for their pet hobbies, and she must have got Dudley started on
his; for it's the only subject I ever knew him to get real gabby over.
And you'd never guess from his looks what it was. Farmin'!

Course he ain't doin' the reg'lar Rube kind,--hay and hogs, hogs and
hay. He goes at it scientific,--one of these book farmers, you
understand. Establishin' model farms is his fad. Dudley told me all
about it once,--intensive cultivation, soil doctorin', harvestin'
efficiency, all such dope, with a cost-bearin' side line to fall back on
in the winter.

Not that he needs the money, but he says he wants to keep busy and make
himself useful. So his scheme is to buy up farms here and there, take
each one in turn, put it on a payin' basis by studyin' the best stuff to
raise and gettin' wise to the market, and then showin' his neighbors how
to turn the trick too. No rollin' out at four A.M. to milk the cows for
Dudley! He hires a good crew at topnotch wages, and puts in his time
plannin' irrigatin' ditches, experimentin' with fertilizers, doin' the
seed testin', and readin' government reports; even has a farm
bookkeeper.

[Illustration: Blamed if Dudley don't have the nerve to tow Veronica
into the next room, stretchin' on tiptoe to talk in her ear.]

Then when cold weather comes, instead of turnin' off his help, he
springs his side line,--maybe workin' up the wood lot into shippin'
crates, or developin' a stone quarry. Last I heard he was settin' out
willows he'd imported from Holland, and was growin' and makin' fancy
veranda furniture. He's rung in a whole town on the deal, and they was
all gettin' a good thing out of it. Establishing community industries,
is the way Dudley puts it. Says every jay burg ought to have one of its
own.

Most likely this was what he was so busy explainin' to Veronica. He's a
good talker when he gets started too, and for such a quiet appearin'
chap he can liven up a lot. Must have been goin' into the details deep
with her; for they don't come back--and they don't come back. I'd read
the evenin' papers, and poked up the log fire half a dozen times, and
stood around watchin' the bridge game until I nearly yawned my head off;
but they're still missin'.

I'd just strolled around into the front hall, kind of scoutin' to see if
he'd talked her to sleep, or whether she'd come back at him with some
brainy fad of her own and was givin' him the chilly spine, when out
through the door dashes Dudley Byron, runnin' his fingers through his
hair desperate and glarin' around wild.

"Aha!" says I. "So you got it too, did you?"

"McCabe," says he, hoarse and husky, "I--I've done a dreadful thing!"

"Why, Dudley!" says I. "I can't believe it."

"But I have," says he, clawin' me on the shoulder. "Oh, I--I've
disgraced myself!"

"How?" says I. "Called some German composer out of his right name, or
what?"

"No, no!" says he. "I--I can't tell you."

"Eh?" says I, starin' puzzled. "Well, you'd better."

"True, I'm your guest," says he. "But--but I forgot myself."

"Ah, cheer up," says I. "Veronica's a good sport. She wouldn't mind if
you let slip a cussword."

"Oh, you don't understand," says Dudley, wringin' his hands. "Really, I
have done something awful!"

"Come, come!" says I. "Let's have it, then."

"Believe me," says he, "I was carried away, quite intoxicated."

"Gwan!" says I. "Where'd you get the stuff?"

"I mean," says he, "by her wonderful beauty. And then, McCabe, in one
moment I--I kissed her!"

"Great guns!" says I. "Didn't plant a reg'lar smack, did you?"

He bows his head solemn. "Right on the lips," says he. "You see, we were
talking, her lovely face was very close, her glorious eyes were shining
into mine, when suddenly--well, it seemed as if I became dizzy, and the
next moment I seized her brutally in my arms and--and----"

"Good night!" says I, gaspin'. "What did she hit you with?"

"I--I can't say exactly what happened next," says Dudley. "I think I
dropped her and ran out here."

"Of all the boob plays!" says I. "To take a Brodie plunge like that, and
then do the fade-away!"

"But what must I do now?" groans Dudley. "Oh, what can I do?"

"Is she still in there?" says I.

"I--I suppose so," says he.

"Well, so far as I can see," says I, "you got to go back and apologize."

"What! Now?" says he.

"Before she has time to sick the old man on you with a gun," says I.

"Yes, yes!" says he. "Not that I am afraid of that. I wish he would
shoot me! I hope someone does! But I suppose I ought to beg her pardon."

"In with you, then!" says I, leadin' him towards the door.

With his hand on the knob he balks. "Oh, I can't!" says he. "I simply
cannot trust myself. If I should try, if I should find myself close to
her once more. McCabe, I--I might do it all over again."

"Say, look here, Dudley!" says I. "This ain't a habit you're breakin'
yourself of, you know: it's just a single slip you've got to apologize
for."

"I know," says he; "but you cannot imagine how madly in love with her I
am."

"I'm glad I can't," says I.

And, say, he sticks to it. No, Sir, I can't push him in there with
Veronica again. I had him out on the front steps for fifteen minutes,
tryin' to argue some sense into him; but all he wants to do is go jump
off the rocks into the Sound and have me tell Aunty he died disgraced
but happy. Fin'ly, though, he agrees to wait while I go sleuthin' in and
find whether Veronica has rushed in tears to Daddy, or is still curled
up on the davenport bitin' the cushions in rage.

I slips into the livin' room, where I find 'em addin' up the scores and
talkin' over the last hand, but otherwise calm and peaceful. Then I
opens the door soft into the next room, steps in, and shuts the door
behind me. No wild sobs. No broken furniture. There's Veronica, rockin'
back and forth under the readin' light, with a book in her lap.

"Well?" says I, waitin' breathless for the storm to break.

She gives a little jump, glances up quick, and pinks up like a poppy.
"Oh!" says she, "It's you?"

"Uh-huh," says I. "I--er--I've just been talkin' with Dudley."

"Ye-e-es?" says she, rollin' a leaf of the book over her finger nervous
and droopin' her long lashes.

"You see," says I, fidgetin' some on my own account, "he--he's goin'
home in a minute or two."

"Oh, is he?" says she. "There! And I meant to ask him if he wouldn't
call to-morrow. Won't you do it for me, Mr. McCabe?"

How about that for a reverse jolt, eh? I backs out of the room lookin'
foolish. And Dudley he near collapses when I brings him the glad news.

As for Sadie, she couldn't believe me at all when I tells her Dudley
looks like a sure winner. She had to wait until a few days later when
she catches 'em just breakin' a clinch, before she'll admit I ain't
stringin' her.

"But a shy, diffident fellow like Dudley!" says she. "I don't see how he
did it."

"Neither does Dudley," says I. "Guess it must have been a case of a guy
with the goods comin' across with the swift tackle. Maybe that's what
she'd been waitin' for all along."



CHAPTER XIX

A LITTLE WHILE WITH ALVIN


I can't say just how I got roped in; whether it was me that discovered
Alvin, or him who took to me. Must have been some my fault; for here was
a whole subway car full of people, and I'm the one he seems to pick. I
might lay it to an odd break, only things of that kind has happened to
me so often.

Anyway, here I am, doin' the strap-swingin' act patient, without makin'
any mad dash for a seat at stations, but hangin' on and watchin' the
crowds shift sort of curious. You might as well, you know; for if you do
get a chance to camp down durin' the rush hours, along comes some fat
lady and stands puffin' in front of you, or a thin, tired lookin' one
who glares at you over the top of your paper. But if you're a standee
yourself you feel free to look any of 'em in the eye.

And, say, ain't we a glum, peevish, sour lookin' lot, here in New York?
You'd most think that showin' any signs of good nature was violatin' a
city ordinance, and that all our dispositions had been treated with
acetic acid. Why, by the suspicious looks we give the stranger who rubs
elbows with us, you might suppose our population was ninety per cent.
escaped criminals.

As the idea struck me I may have loosened my mouth corners a little, or
may not. Anyway, as we pulls into 72d-st., and the wild scramble to
catch a packed express begins, I finds myself gazin' absentminded at
this slim, stoop-shouldered gent in the corner. Next thing I know he's
smilin' friendly and pointin' to a vacant seat alongside.

First off, of course, I thinks he must be someone I've met casual and
forgot; but as I slides in beside him and gets a closer view I know that
he's one of the ninety-odd millions of unfortunates who, up to date,
ain't had the benefit of my acquaintance. In other words, he's one of
the common suspects, an utter stranger.

Course, as far as his looks go, he might be a perfect gent. He's dressed
neat and plain, except for the brown spats; but as you run across a spat
wearer only now and then, you're bound to guess they ain't just right
somewhere. The sallow-complected face with the prominent cheekbones
don't count so much against him. Them points are common. What caught me,
though, was the lively brown eyes with just the hint of a twinkle in
'em. Always does. I know some like the wide-set, stary kind that go with
an open-faced smile and a loud haw-haw; but for me the quiet chuckle and
the twinklin' eye! Still, he hadn't proved yet that he wa'n't a
pickpocket or a wife beater; so I just nods non-committal over my
shoulder and resumes my usual aristocratic reserve.

"How does it happen," says he, "that you aren't on your way to the
funeral too?"

"Eh?" says I, a little jarred at this odd openin'.

"Or is it that they have all been indulgin' in family rows? Look at
them!" he goes on, wavin' his hand at the carful.

"Oh, I get you," says I. "Not so cheerful as they might be, are they?"

"But is it necessary for us all to be so selfishly sad," says he, "so
gloomily stern? True, we have each our troubles, some little, some big;
but why wear them always on our faces? Why inflict them on others? Why
not, when we can, the brave, kindly smile?"

"Just the way it struck me a minute ago," says I.

"Did it?" says he, beamin'. "Then I claim you for our clan."

"Your which?" says I.

"Our brotherhood," says he.

"Can't be very exclusive," says I, "if I've qualified so easy. Any
partic'lar passwords or grip to it?"

"We rehearsed the whole ritual before you sat down," says he. "The
friendly glance, that's all. And now--well, I prefer to be called
Alvin."

"So-o-o?" says I sort of distant. But I'd no more'n got it out than I
felt mean. What if he was a con man, or worse? I ought to be able to
take care of myself. So I goes on, "McCabe's my name; but among friends
I'm gen'rally known as Shorty."

"The best of credentials!" says he. "Then hail, Shorty, and welcome to
the Free Brotherhood of Ego Tamers!"

I shakes my head puzzled. "Now I've lost you," says I. "If it's a comedy
line, shoot it."

"Ah, but it's only tragedy," says Alvin, "the original tragedy of man.
See how its blight rests on these around us! Simply over-stimulation of
the ego; our souls in the strait-jacket of self; no freedom of thought
or word or deed to our fellows. Ego, the tyrant, rules us. Only we of
the Free Brotherhood are seeking to tame ours. Do I put it clumsily?"

"If you was readin' it off a laundry ticket, it couldn't be clearer,"
says I. "Something about tappin' the upper-case I too frequent, ain't
it?"

"An excellent paraphrase," says he. "You have it!"

"Gee!" says I. "Didn't know I was so close behind you. But whisper, I
ain't got my Ego on the mat with his tongue out, not yet."

"And who of us has?" says he. "But at least we give him a tussle now and
then. We've broken a fetter here and there. We have worked loose the
gag."

Say, he had, all right, or else he'd swallowed it; for as an easy and
fluent converser Alvin headed the bill. Course, it's an odd line he
hands out, the kind that keeps you guessin'. In spots it listens like
highbrow book stuff, and then again it don't. But somehow I finds it
sort of entertainin'. Besides, he seems like such a good-natured, well
meanin' gink that I lets him run on, clear to 42d-st.

"Well, so long," says I. "I get out here."

"To leave me among the Ishmaelites!" says he. "And I've two useless
hours to dispose of. Let me go a way with you?"

I hadn't counted on annexin' Alvin for the rest of the day, and I expect
I could have shook him if I'd tried; but by that time he'd got me kind
of curious to know who and what he was, and why. So I tows him over as
far as the Physical Culture Studio.

"Here's where I make some of 'em forget their egos, at so much per,"
says I, pointin' to the sign.

"Ah, the red corpuscle method!" says he. "Primitive; but effective, I've
no doubt. I must see it in operation."

And an hour later he's still there, reposin' comf'table in an office
chair with his feet on the windowsill, smokin' cigarettes, and throwin'
off chunks of classy dialogue that had Swifty Joe gawpin' at him like
he was listenin' to a foreign language.

"My assistant, Mr. Gallagher," says I, by way of apologizin'.

Alvin jumps up and shakes him hearty by the mitt. "Allow me to offer you
a cigarette, Sir," says he.

"Much obliged," says Swifty, eyin' the thin silver case with the gold
linin'. "Gee! what a swell box!"

"Do you fancy it?" says Alvin. "Then it is yours, with my best
compliments."

"Ah-r-r-r chee, no!" protests Swifty.

"Please, as a favor to me," insists Alvin, pushin' the case into his
hand. "One finds so few ways of giving pleasure. In return I shall
remember gratefully the direct sincerity of your manner. Charming!"

And, say, I expect it's the first time in his whole career that anybody
ever discovered any good points about Swifty Joe Gallagher on first
sight. He backs out with his mouth open and his face tinted up like an
old maid's that's been kissed in the dark.

But that little play only makes it all the harder for me to shoo him
out. The fact is, though, it's gettin' almost time for a directors'
meetin' that's to be pulled off in my front office. Sounds imposin',
don't it? Didn't know I was on a board, eh? Well, I am, and up to date
it's been one of the richest luxuries I ever blew myself to. I'd been
roped, that's all.

Young Blair Woodbury, one of my downtown reg'lars, had opened the cellar
door for me. Thinks he's a great promoter, Blair does. And somewhere
he'd dug up this nutty inventor with his milk container scheme. Oh, it
listens good, the way he put it. Just a two-ounce, woodpulp, mailin'
cartridge lined with oiled paper, that could be turned out for a dollar
a thousand, pint and quart sizes, indestructible, absolutely sanitary,
air tight, germ proof, and so on.

Simple little thing; but it was goin' to put the Milk Trust out of
business inside of six months, set back the high cost of livin' a full
notch, give every dairy farmer an automobile, and land the Universal
Container Company's stockholders at No. 1 Easy-st. For, instead of
payin' two prices for an imitation blend doctored up with formaldehyde,
you got the real, creamy stuff straight from the farm at five a quart,
and passed in at the front door with your morning mail. Didn't the
parcel post bring your drygoods? Why not your milk? And when it got to
be common the P.O. Department would put on carts for a six A.M.
delivery. There you are!

So I'd subscribed for a thousand shares, payin' fifty per cent. down for
development expenses, the rest on call. Yes, I know. But you should have
heard Blair Woodbury pull the prospectus stuff, and describe how the
dividends would come rollin' in!

That was six or eight months ago, and we'd stood for two assessments.
Then it turned out there was something wrong with the pulp compressor
dingus that was to have shot out containers at the rate of two hundred a
minute. Some of us went over to Jersey to see it work; but all it
produced while we was there was a groanin' sound and a smell of sour
dough. I could have bought out the holdin's of the entire bunch for my
return ticket. But the ticket looked above par to me.

After that our board meetin's wa'n't such gay affairs. A grouchy lot of
tinhorn investors we was, believe me; for the parties young Mr. Woodbury
had decoyed into this fool scheme wa'n't Standard Oil plutes or any of
the Morgan crowd: mostly salaried men, with a couple of dentists, a
retail grocer, and a real estate agent! None of us was stuck on droppin'
a thousand or so into a smelly machine that wouldn't behave. Maybe it
would next time; but we had our doubts. What we wanted most was to get
from under, and this meetin' to-day was called to chew over a
proposition for dumpin' the stock on the Curb on the chance that there
might be enough suckers to go around. It wouldn't be a cheerful séance,
either, and bystanders might not be exactly welcome. Misery may like
comp'ny; but it don't yearn for a gallery.

So I has to hint to Alvin that as I had a little business meetin'
comin' on maybe he wouldn't find it so entertainin'.

"Nothing bores me," says he. "Humanity, in all its phases, all its
efforts, is interesting."

"Huh!" says I. "Humanity beefin' over a dollar it's dropped through a
crack wouldn't furnish any Easter card scheme. Talk about grouchy
people! You ought to see this bunch, with their egos clutchin' their
checkbooks."

"Ah!" says Alvin. "A financial deal, is it?"

"It was," says I. "These are the obsequies we're about to hold."

And he's so prompt with the sympathy dope that I has to sketch the
disaster out for him, includin' a description of the container scheme.

"Why," says he, "that seems quite practical. Rather a brilliant idea,
and far too good to be abandoned without a thorough trial. It appeals
strongly to me, Friend McCabe. Besides, I've had some experience in such
affairs. Perhaps I could help. Let me try."

"I'll put it up to the board," says I. "If they say---- Ah, here comes
Doc Fosdick and Meyers the grocer now."

They don't appear arm in arm. In fact, at the last session they'd had a
hot run-in; so now they takes chairs on opposite sides of the room and
glares at each other hostile. A thin, nervous little dyspeptic, Doc
Fosdick is; while Meyers is bull necked and red faced. They'd mix about
as well as a cruet of vinegar and a pail of lard. Course I has to
introduce Alvin, and he insists on shakin' hands cordial.

"You professional chaps," says he to the Doc, "are such fine fellows to
know. Ah, a bit crusty on the surface perhaps; but underneath--what big
hearts! Delighted, Mr. Meyers! One can readily see how you translate
good health into good nature. And I congratulate you both on being
associated in such a splendid enterprise as this milk container scheme.
Bound to be a big thing; for it is founded on the public good. Altruism
always wins in the long run, you know, always."

Doc he tries to sniff disagreeable, and Meyers grunts disapprovin'; but
Alvin had 'em goin' for all that. You could tell by the satisfied way
the grocer lights up a cigar, and the soothed actions of Fosdick. As the
others drops in one by one, Alvin kept on spreadin' seeds of sunshine,
and before the meetin' was called to order he was on chummy terms with
nearly everyone in the room. The point of whether he was to stay or not
wa'n't even raised.

It was Manning, the real estate man, who sprung the new proposition.
"That fool inventor Nevins," says he, "insists that if we can give him
two weeks more and raise twenty-five thousand, he can perfect his
machine and start manufacturing. Now if we could only find buyers for
half those unsubscribed shares----"

"Bah!" snorts Fosdick. "Hasn't Woodbury hawked 'em all over town? Why
isn't he here now? Tell me that, will you? Because he's done with us!
We're squeezed lemons, we are, and he can't find any more to squeeze!"

"Pardon me," says Alvin, "but I wish to state that I believe fully in
this enterprise. It's sound, it's scientific, it's progressive. And
while as a rule I don't go in for speculative investments, I shall be
very glad, in this instance, providing you all agree to stand by and see
it through with me, to take--say ten thousand shares at par. In fact, I
stand ready to write a check for the full amount this minute. What do
you say?"

Well, we gasps and gawps at Alvin like so many orphan asylum kids when
Santa Claus bounces in at the Christmas exercises.

Manning gets his breath back first. "Gentlemen," says he, "isn't this
offer worth considering? Let's see, did I get your name right,
Mr.--er----"

"Alvin Pratt Barton," says our Santa Claus.

"Pratt Barton?" repeats Manning. "Any connection with the brokerage firm
of that name?"

Alvin shrugs his shoulders and smiles. "The late Mr. Barton was my
father," says he. "Mr. Pratt is my uncle by marriage. But I am doing
this on my own initiative, you know. I should like an expression of
opinion."

Say, he got it! Inside of three minutes we'd voted unanimous to hold on
for two months longer, made Alvin vice president of the comp'ny, and his
check has been handed over to the treasurer, which is me. Then he'd
shaken hands hearty with each one, patted 'em on the back, and even got
Doc Fosdick smilin' amiable as he leaves.

"Alvin," says I after they'd all gone, "take it from me, you're some
pacifier! Why, if it hadn't been for you jumpin' in, I expect we'd jawed
away here for hours until we broke up in a free-for-all. Honest, you got
the white dove of peace lookin' like a mad fish hawk."

"Tut, tut!" says Alvin. "No spoofing, you know. Really, it takes very
little to bring men together; for, after all, we are brothers. Only at
times we forget."

"You mean most of us never remember," says I. "But you're a true sport,
anyway, and the least I can do is to blow you to the best lunch on
Fifth-ave. Come on."

He consents ready enough, providin' I'll stroll over to the Grand
Central with him first, while he sees about some baggage. We was makin'
a dash through the traffic across Sixth-ave. when I misses Alvin, and
turns around to find him apologizin' to a young female he's managed to
bump into and spill in the slush just as he fetched the curb. He has his
hat off and is beggin' her pardon in his best society way too; although
he must have seen at a glance what she was,--one of these brassy-eyed
parties with a hand-decorated complexion and a hangover breath.

"Ah, chop the soft stuff!" says she, brushin' the mud off her slit skirt
vigorous. "And next time lamp who you're buttin' into, you pie-faced,
turkey-shanked----"

Well, maybe that's enough of the lady's repartee to quote exact; for the
rest wa'n't strictly ladylike. And the more Alvin tries to convince her
how sorry he is, the livelier she cuts loose with her tongue, until a
crowd collects to enjoy the performance.

"Beat it!" says I, tuggin' Alvin by the arm.

"Please wait here a moment, Madam," says he, and then starts off,
leavin' her starin' after him and still statin' her opinion of him
reckless. He only goes as far as the florist's, next to the corner, and
I follows.

"A dozen of those American beauties quickly, please," says Alvin,
fishin' hasty through his pockets. "Oh, I say, McCabe, can you lend me
fifteen for a few moments? Thank you."

And in a jiffy he's back at the curb, presentin' that armful of roses to
Tessie of the tabasco tongue, and doin' it as graceful and dignified as
if he was handin' 'em to a Pittsburgh Duchess. He don't wait for any
thanks, either; but takes me by the arm and hurries off. I had to have
one more look, though, and as I glances back she's still standin' there
starin' at the flowers sort of stupid, with the brine leakin' from both
eyes.

"Alvin," says I, "it's some education to travel with you."

"I'm a clumsy ass!" says he. "Poor wretch! I could think of nothing
sensible to do for her. Let's say no more about it. I must get that
suitcase from the baggage room."

He greets the grumpy checkroom tyrant like a friend and brother, and has
just slipped him a cigar when a husky-built square-jawed gent steps up
behind and taps Alvin familiar on the shoulder.

Alvin's jaw sags disappointed for a second as he turns; but he recovers
quick and gives the cheerful hail. "Oh, it's you, is it, Scully?" says
he. "I thought I'd given you the slip completely this time. Hope I
haven't made you a lot of trouble."

"Not a bit, Mr. Barton," says Scully. "You know it's a change for us,
Sir, getting out this way, with all expenses paid. They sent Talcott
with me, Sir."

"Fine!" says Alvin. "Of course I like them all; but I'm glad it happened
to be you and Talcott this trip."

"Hope you're ready to go back, Sir," says Scully.

"Oh, quite," says Alvin. "I've had a bully good time; but I'm getting a
little tired. And, by the way, please remember to have the doctor send
fifteen dollars to my friend McCabe here. You explain, will you,
Scully?"

Scully does. "From Dr. Slade's Restorium," says he, noddin' at Alvin and
tappin' his forehead. "Quite a harmless gentleman, Sir."

"Eh?" says I, turnin' to Alvin. "You from a nut factory? Good night!"

"It's a whim of Uncle's," says Alvin, chucklin'. "He's gone a little
cracked over making and saving money. Poor old chap! Ego developed most
abnormally. But the Judge he took me before was that kind too; so I am
compelled to live with Dr. Slade. Jolly crowd up there, though. Come
along, Scully; we mustn't be late for dinner."

And off he goes, smilin' contented and friendly at anyone who happens to
look his way. Wouldn't that crimp you?

Course, my first move after gettin' back to the studio was to dig that
check of his out of the safe and query the bank. "No account here," the
clerk 'phones back prompt, and I could see the Universal Liquid
Container Company takin' a final plunge down the coal chute.

For days, though, I put off callin' the bunch together and announcin'
the sad fact. More'n a week went by, and I was still dreadin' to do it.
Then here this mornin' in romps young Blair Woodbury, his eyes sparklin'
and a broad grin on his face. He's flourishin' a bundle about the size
of a two weeks' fam'ly wash, and as he sees me he lets out a joy yelp.

"Well, why the riot?" says I. "What you got there?"

"Containers!" says he. "Old Nevins has got the compressor working. Sixty
seconds to make these, my boy--two hundred in one minute! Count 'em!"

"I'll take your word for it," says I. "That's fine, too. But I'm
carryin' all the comp'ny stock I can stand. Go out and convince some
other come-ons."

"I don't have to," says he. "Why, during the last four days the issue
has been oversubscribed. It was getting that Mr. Barton, of Pratt &
Barton, on our list that turned the trick."

"Alvin!" I gasps. "Why--why, he's only a batty nephew, that they keep
under guard. Bughouse, you know. His check's no good."

"Doesn't matter in the least," says Blair. "He made good bait. We're
established, I tell you! Get the board together, and we'll let the
contracts for the factory. And then--well, McCabe, if our stock doesn't
hit one hundred and fifty inside of six months, I--I'll eat every one of
these!"

And, say, allowin' for all his extra enthusiasm, it looks like we stood
to win. I expect the other directors'll be some jarred, though, when
they hear about Alvin. I started in to break it to Swifty Joe.

"By the way, Swifty," says I, "you remember that Barton party who was in
here one day?"

"_Mister_ Barton," says he reprovin'. "Say, he was a reg'lar guy, he
was!"

"Think so?" says I.

"Think!" explodes Swifty indignant. "Ahr-r-r chee! Why, say, any
bonehead could see he was a real' gent to the last tap of the gong."

And, say, I didn't have the heart to break the spell. For, after all,
admittin' the state of his belfry, I don't know that many of us has so
much on Alvin, at that.

THE END



     *     *     *     *     *     *



JOHN FOX, JR'S. STORIES OF THE KENTUCKY MOUNTAINS

May be had wherever books are sold. Ask for Grosset and Dunlap's list.

THE TRAIL OF THE LONESOME PINE.
Illustrated by F. C. Yohn.

The "lonesome pine" from which the story takes its name was a tall tree
that stood in solitary splendor on a mountain top. The fame of the pine
lured a young engineer through Kentucky to catch the trail, and when he
finally climbed to its shelter he found not only the pine but the
_foot-prints of a girl_. And the girl proved to be lovely, piquant, and
the trail of these girlish foot-prints led the young engineer a madder
chase than "the trail of the lonesome pine."

THE LITTLE SHEPHERD OF KINGDOM COME
Illustrated by F. C. Yohn.

This is a story of Kentucky, in a settlement known as "Kingdom Come." It
is a life rude, semi-barbarous; but natural and honest, from which often
springs the flower of civilization.

"Chad," the "little shepherd," did not know who he was nor whence he
came--he had just wandered from door to door since early childhood,
seeking shelter with kindly mountaineers who gladly fathered and
mothered this waif about whom there was such a mystery--a charming waif,
by the way, who could play the banjo better that anyone else in the
mountains.

A KNIGHT OF THE CUMBERLAND.
Illustrated by F. C. Yohn.

The scenes are laid along the waters of the Cumberland, the lair of
moonshiner and feudsman. The knight is a moonshiner's son, and the
heroine a beautiful girl perversely christened "The Blight." Two
impetuous young Southerners' fall under the spell of "The Blight's"
charms and she learns what a large part jealousy and pistols have in the
love making of the mountaineers.

Included in this volume is "Hell fer-Sartain" and other stories, some of
Mr. Fox's most entertaining Cumberland valley narratives.

Ask for complete free list of G. & D. Popular Copyrighted Fiction

GROSSET & DUNLAP, 526 WEST 26th ST., NEW YORK

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STORIES OF RARE CHARM BY
GENE STRATTON-PORTER

May be had wherever books are sold. Ask for Grosset and Dunlap's list.

LADDIE. Illustrated by Herman Pfeifer.

This is a bright, cheery tale with the scenes laid in Indiana. The story
is told by Little Sister, the youngest member of a large family, but it
is concerned not so much with childish doings as with the love affairs
of older members of the family. Chief among them is that of Laddie, the
older brother whom Little Sister adores, and the Princess, an English
girl who has come to live in the neighborhood and about whose family
there hangs a mystery. There is a wedding midway in the book and a
double wedding at the close.

THE HARVESTER. Illustrated by W. L. Jacobs.

"The Harvester," David Langston, is a man of the woods and fields, who
draws his living from the prodigal hand of Mother Nature herself. If the
book had nothing in it but the splendid figure of this man it would be
notable. But when the Girl comes to his "Medicine Woods," and the
Harvester's whole being realizes that this is the highest point of life
which has come to him--there begins a romance of the rarest idyllic
quality.

FRECKLES. Decorations by E. Stetson Crawford.

Freckles is a nameless waif when the tale opens, but the way in which he
takes hold of life; the nature friendships he forms in the great
Limberlost Swamp; the manner in which everyone who meets him succumbs to
the charm of his engaging personality; and his love-story with "The
Angel" are full of real sentiment.

A GIRL OF THE LIMBERLOST. Illustrated by Wladyslaw T. Brenda.

The story of a girl of the Michigan woods; a buoyant, lovable type of
the self-reliant American. Her philosophy is one of love and kindness
towards all things; her hope is never dimmed. And by the sheer beauty of
her soul, and the purity of her vision, she wins from barren and
unpromising surroundings those rewards of high courage.

AT THE FOOT OF THE RAINBOW. Illustrations in colors by Oliver Kemp.

The scene of this charming love story is laid in Central Indiana. The
story is one of devoted friendship, and tender self-sacrificing love.
The novel is brimful of the most beautiful word painting of nature, and
its pathos and tender sentiment will endear it to all.

GROSSET & DUNLAP, PUBLISHERS, NEW YORK

     *     *     *     *     *     *

MYRTLE REED'S NOVELS
May be had wherever books are sold. Ask for Grosset & Dunlap's list.

LAVENDER AND OLD LACE.

A charming story of a quaint corner of New England where bygone romance
finds a modern parallel. The story centers round the coming of love to
the young people on the staff of a newspaper--and it is one of the
prettiest, sweetest and quaintest of old fashioned love stories, * * * a
rare book, exquisite in spirit and conception, full of delicate fancy,
of tenderness, of delightful humor and spontaneity.

A SPINNER IN THE SUN.

Miss Myrtle Reed may always be depended upon to write a story in which
poetry, charm, tenderness and humor are combined into a clever and
entertaining book. Her characters are delightful and she always displays
a quaint humor of expression and a quiet feeling of pathos which give a
touch of active realism to all her writings. In "A Spinner in the Sun"
she tells an old-fashioned love story, of a veiled lady who lives in
"solitude and whose features her neighbors have never seen. There is a
mystery at the heart of the book that throws over it the glamour of
romance."

THE MASTER'S VIOLIN.

A love story in a musical atmosphere. A picturesque, old German virtuoso
is the reverent possessor of a genuine "Cremona." He consents to take
for his pupil a handsome youth who proves to have an aptitude for
technique, but not the soul of an artist. The youth has led the happy,
careless life of a modern, well-to-do young American and he cannot, with
his meagre past, express the love, the passion and the tragedies of life
and all its happy phases as can the master who has lived life in all its
fulness. But a girl comes into his life--a beautiful bit of human
driftwood that his aunt had taken into her heart and home, and through
his passionate love for her, he learns the lessons that life has to
give--and his soul awakes.

Founded on a fact that all artists realize.

Ask for a complete free list of G. & D. Popular Copyrighted Fiction

GROSSET & DUNLAP, 526 WEST 26th ST., NEW YORK

     *     *     *     *     *     *

GROSSET & DUNLAP'S DRAMATIZED NOVELS
THE KIND THAT ARE MAKING THEATRICAL HISTORY

May be had wherever books are sold. Ask for Grosset & Dunlap's list.

WITHIN THE LAW. By Bayard Veiller & Marvin Dana.
Illustrated by Wm. Charles Cooke.

This is a novelization of the immensely successful play which ran for
two years in New York and Chicago.

The plot of this powerful novel is of a young woman's revenge directed
against her employer who allowed her to be sent to prison for three
years on a charge of theft, of which she was innocent.

WHAT HAPPENED TO MARY. By Robert Carlton Brown.
Illustrated with scenes from the play.

This is a narrative of a young and innocent country girl who is suddenly
thrown into the very heart of New York, "the land of her dreams," where
she is exposed to all sorts of temptations and dangers.

The story of Mary is being told in moving pictures and played in
theatres all over the world.

THE RETURN OF PETER GRIMM. By David Belasco.
Illustrated by John Rae.

This is a novelization of the popular play in which David Warfield, as
Old Peter Grimm, scored such a remarkable success.

The story is spectacular and extremely pathetic but withal, powerful,
both as a book and as a play.

THE GARDEN OF ALLAH. By Robert Hichens.

This novel is an intense, glowing epic of the great desert, sunlit
barbaric, with its marvelous atmosphere of vastness and loneliness.

It is a book of rapturous beauty, vivid in word painting. The play has
been staged with magnificent cast and gorgeous properties.

BEN HUR. A Tale of the Christ. By General Lew Wallace.

The whole world has placed this famous Religious-Historical Romance on a
height of pre-eminence which no other novel of its time has reached. The
clashing of rivalry and the deepest human passions, the perfect
reproduction of brilliant Roman life, and the tense, fierce atmosphere
of the arena have kept their deep fascination. A tremendous dramatic
success.

BOUGHT AND PAID FOR. By George Broadhurst and Arthur Hornblow.
Illustrated with scenes from the play.

A stupendous arraignment of modern marriage which has created an
interest on the stage that is almost unparalleled. The scenes are laid
in New York, and deal with conditions among both the rich and poor.

The interest of the story turns on the day-by-day developments which
show the young wife the price she has paid.

Ask for complete free list of G. & D. Popular Copyrighted Fiction

GROSSET & DUNLAP, 526 WEST 26th ST., NEW YORK

     *     *     *     *     *     *

GROSSET & DUNLAP'S DRAMATIZED NOVELS

Original, sincere and courageous--often amusing--the kind that are
making theatrical history.

MADAME X. By Alexandre Bisson and J. W. McConaughy. Illustrated with
scenes from the play.

A beautiful Parisienne became an outcast because her husband would not
forgive an error of her youth. Her love for her son is the great final
influence in her career. A tremendous dramatic success.

THE GARDEN OF ALLAH. By Robert Hichens.

An unconventional English woman and an inscrutable stranger meet and
love in an oasis of the Sahara. Staged this season with magnificent cast
and gorgeous properties.

THE PRINCE OF INDIA. By Lew. Wallace.

A glowing romance of the Byzantine Empire, presenting with extraordinary
power the siege of Constantinople, and lighting its tragedy with the
warm underglow of an Oriental romance. As a play it is a great dramatic
spectacle.

TESS OF THE STORM COUNTRY. By Grace Miller White.
Illust. by Howard Chandler Christy.

A girl from the dregs of society, loves a young Cornell University
student, and it works startling changes in her life and the lives of
those about her. The dramatic version is one of the sensations of the
season.

YOUNG WALLINGFORD. By George Randolph Chester.
Illust. by F. R. Gruger and Henry Raleigh.

A series of clever swindles conducted by a cheerful young man, each of
which is just on the safe side of a State's prison offence. As
"Get-Rich-Quick Wallingford," it is probably the most amusing expose of
money manipulation ever seen on the stage.

THE INTRUSION OF JIMMY. By P. G. Wodehouse.
Illustrations by Will Grefe.

Social and club life in London and New York, an amateur burglary
adventure and a love story. Dramatized under the title of "A Gentleman
of Leisure," it furnishes hours of laughter to the play-goers.

GROSSET & DUNLAP, 526 WEST 26th ST., NEW YORK

     *     *     *     *     *     *

B. M. BOWER'S NOVELS

Thrilling Western Romances

Large 12 mos. Handsomely bound in cloth. Illustrated

CHIP, OF THE FLYING U

A breezy wholesome tale, wherein the love affairs of Chip and Della
Whitman are charmingly and humorously told. Chip's jealousy of Dr. Cecil
Grantham, who turns out to be a big, blue eyed young woman is very
amusing. A clever, realistic story of the American Cow-puncher.

THE HAPPY FAMILY

A lively and amusing story, dealing with the adventures of eighteen
jovial, big hearted Montana cowboys. Foremost amongst them, we find
Ananias Green, known as Andy, whose imaginative powers cause many lively
and exciting adventures.

HER PRAIRIE KNIGHT

A realistic story of the plains, describing a gay party of Easterners
who exchange a cottage at Newport for the rough homeliness of a Montana
ranch-house. The merry-hearted cowboys, the fascinating Beatrice, and
the effusive Sir Redmond, become living, breathing personalities.

THE RANGE DWELLERS

Here are everyday, genuine cowboys, just as they really exist. Spirited
action, a range feud between two families, and a Romeo and Juliet
courtship make this a bright, jolly, entertaining story, without a dull
page.

THE LURE OF DIM TRAILS

A vivid portrayal of the experience of an Eastern author, among the
cowboys of the West, in search of "local color" for a new novel. "Bud"
Thurston learns many a lesson while following "the lure of the dim
trails" but the hardest, and probably the most welcome, is that of love.

THE LONESOME TRAIL

"Weary" Davidson leaves the ranch for Portland, where conventional city
life palls on him. A little branch of sage brush, pungent with the
atmosphere of the prairie, and the recollection of a pair of large brown
eyes soon compel his return. A wholesome love story.

THE LONG SHADOW

A vigorous Western story, sparkling with the free, outdoor, life of a
mountain ranch. Its scenes shift rapidly and its actors play the game of
life fearlessly and like men. It is a fine love story from start to
finish.

Ask for a complete free list of G. & D. Popular Copyrighted Fiction.

GROSSET & DUNLAP, 526 WEST 26TH ST., NEW YORK





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