Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: Gullible's Travels, Etc.
Author: Lardner, Ring, 1885-1933
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 "Gullible's Travels, Etc." ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



                        Gullible's Travels, Etc.

                         _By_ RING W. LARDNER

                    _Author of_ You Know Me, Al, etc.

    _Illustrated by_
    MAY WILSON PRESTON

    INDIANAPOLIS
    THE BOBBS-MERRILL COMPANY
    PUBLISHERS

    COPYRIGHT
    THE CURTIS PUBLISHING COMPANY

    COPYRIGHT 1917
    THE BOBBS-MERRILL COMPANY

    PRESS OF
    BRAUNWORTH & CO.
    BOOK MANUFACTURERS
    BROOKLYN, N. Y.



[Illustration: "Please see that they's some towels put in 559."]



CONTENTS


CARMEN

THREE KINGS AND A PAIR

GULLIBLE'S TRAVELS

THE WATER CURE

THREE WITHOUT, DOUBLED



Gullible's Travels, Etc.



CARMEN


We was playin' rummy over to Hatch's, and Hatch must of fell in a bed of
four-leaf clovers on his way home the night before, because he plays
rummy like he does everything else; but this night I refer to you
couldn't beat him, and besides him havin' all the luck my Missus played
like she'd been bought off, so when we come to settle up we was plain
seven and a half out. You know who paid it. So Hatch says:

"They must be some game you can play."

"No," I says, "not and beat you. I can run two blocks w'ile you're
stoopin' over to start, but if we was runnin' a foot race between each
other, and suppose I was leadin' by eighty yards, a flivver'd prob'ly
come up and hit you in the back and bump you over the finishin' line
ahead o' me."

So Mrs. Hatch thinks I'm sore on account o' the seven-fifty, so she
says:

"It don't seem fair for us to have all the luck."

"Sure it's fair!" I says. "If you didn't have the luck, what would you
have?"

"I know," she says; "but I don't never feel right winnin' money at
cards."

"I don't blame you," I says.

"I know," she says; "but it seems like we should ought to give it back
or else stand treat, either one."

"Jim's too old to change all his habits," I says.

"Oh, well," says Mrs. Hatch, "I guess if I told him to loosen up he'd
loosen up. I ain't lived with him all these years for nothin'."

"You'd be a sucker if you did," I says.

So they all laughed, and when they'd quieted down Mrs. Hatch says:

"I don't suppose you'd feel like takin' the money back?"

"Not without a gun," I says. "Jim's pretty husky."

So that give them another good laugh; but finally she says:

"What do you say, Jim, to us takin' the money they lose to us and
gettin' four tickets to some show?"

Jim managed to stay conscious, but he couldn't answer nothin'; so my
Missus says:

"That'd be grand of you to do it, but don't think you got to."

Well, of course, Mrs. Hatch knowed all the w'ile she didn't have to, but
from what my Missus says she could tell that if they really give us the
invitation we wouldn't start no fight. So they talked it over between
themself w'ile I and Hatch went out in the kitchen and split a pint o'
beer, and Hatch done the pourin' and his best friend couldn't say he
give himself the worst of it. So when we come back my Missus and Mrs.
Hatch had it all framed that the Hatches was goin' to take us to a show,
and the next thing was what show would it be. So Hatch found the
afternoon paper, that somebody'd left on the street-car, and read us off
a list o' the shows that was in town. I spoke for the Columbia, but the
Missus give me the sign to stay out; so they argued back and forth and
finally Mrs. Hatch says:

"Let's see that paper a minute."

"What for?" says Hatch. "I didn't hold nothin' out on you."

But he give her the paper and she run through the list herself, and then
she says:

"You did, too, hold out on us. You didn't say nothin' about the
Auditorium."

"What could I say about it?" says Hatch. "I never was inside."

"It's time you was then," says Mrs. Hatch.

"What's playin' there?" I says.

"Grand op'ra," says Mrs. Hatch.

"Oh!" says my Missus. "Wouldn't that be wonderful?"

"What do you say?" says Mrs. Hatch to me.

"I think it'd be grand for you girls," I says. "I and Jim could leave
you there and go down on Madison and see Charley Chaplin, and then come
back after you."

"Nothin' doin'!" says Mrs. Hatch. "We'll pick a show that everybody
wants to see."

Well, if I hadn't of looked at my Missus then we'd of been O. K. But my
eyes happened to light on where she was settin' and she was chewin' her
lips so's she wouldn't cry. That finished me. "I was just kiddin'," I
says to Mrs. Hatch. "They ain't nothin' I'd like better than grand
op'ra."

"Nothin' except gettin' trimmed in a rummy game," says Hatch, but he
didn't get no rise.

Well, the Missus let loose of her lips so's she could smile and her and
Mrs. Hatch got all excited, and I and Hatch pretended like we was
excited too. So Hatch ast what night could we go, and Mrs. Hatch says
that depended on what did we want to hear, because they changed the bill
every day. So her and the Missus looked at the paper again and found out
where Friday night was goin' to be a big special night and the bill was
a musical show called _Carmen_, and all the stars was goin' to sing,
includin' Mooratory and Alda and Genevieve Farr'r, that was in the
movies a w'ile till they found out she could sing, and some fella they
called Daddy, but I don't know his real name. So the girls both says
Friday night was the best, but Hatch says he would have to go to lodge
that evenin'.

"Lodge!" says Mrs. Hatch. "What do you care about lodge when you got a
chance to see Genevieve Farr'r in _Carmen_?"

"Chance!" says Hatch. "If that's what you call a chance, I got a chance
to buy a thousand shares o' Bethlehem Steel. Who's goin' to pay for my
chance?"

"All right," says Mrs. Hatch, "go to your old lodge and spoil
everything!"

So this time it was her that choked up and made like she was goin' to
blubber. So Hatch changed his mind all of a sudden and decided to
disappoint the brother Owls. So all of us was satisfied except fifty per
cent., and I and the Missus beat it home, and on the way she says how
nice Mrs. Hatch was to give us this treat.

"Yes," I says, "but if you hadn't of had a regular epidemic o'
discardin' deuces and treys Hatch would of treated us to groceries for a
week." I says: "I always thought they was only twelve pitcher cards in
the deck till I seen them hands you saved up to-night."

"You lose as much as I did," she says.

"Yes," I says, "and I always will as long as you forget to fetch your
purse along."

So they wasn't no come-back to that, so we went on home without no more
dialogue.

Well, Mrs. Hatch called up the next night and says Jim had the tickets
boughten and we was to be sure and be ready at seven o'clock Friday
night because the show started at eight. So when I was down-town Friday
the Missus sent my evenin' dress suit over to Katzes' and had it pressed
up and when I come home it was laid out on the bed like a corpse.

"What's that for?" I says.

"For the op'ra," she says. "Everybody wears them to the op'ra."

"Did you ask the Hatches what was they goin' to wear?" I says.

"No," says she. "They know what to wear without me tellin' them. They
ain't goin' to the Auditorium in their nightgown."

So I clumb into the soup and fish, and the Missus spent about a hour
puttin' on a dress that she could have left off without nobody knowin'
the difference, and she didn't have time for no supper at all, and I
just managed to surround a piece o' steak as big as your eye and spill
some gravy on my clo'es when the bell rung and there was the Hatches.

Well, Hatch didn't have no more evenin' dress suit on than a kewpie. I
could see his pants under his overcoat and they was the same old bay
pants he'd wore the day he got mad at his kid and christened him
Kenneth. And his shoes was a last year's edition o' the kind that's
supposed to give your feet a chance, and if his feet had of been the
kind that takes chances they was two or three places where they could of
got away without much trouble.

I could tell from the expression on Mrs. Hatch's face when she seen our
make-up that we'd crossed her. She looked about as comf'table as a
Belgium.

"Oh!" she says. "I didn't think you'd dress up."

"We thought you would," says my Frau.

"We!" I says. "Where do you get that 'we'?"

"If it ain't too late we'll run in and change," says my Missus.

"Not me," I says. "I didn't go to all this trouble and expense for a
splash o' gravy. When this here uniform retires it'll be to make room
for pyjamas."

"Come on!" says Hatch. "What's the difference? You can pretend like you
ain't with us."

"It don't really make no difference," says Mrs. Hatch.

And maybe it didn't. But we all stood within whisperin' distance of each
other on the car goin' in, and if you had a dollar for every word that
was talked among us you couldn't mail a postcard from Hammond to Gary.
When we got off at Congress my Missus tried to thaw out the party.

"The prices is awful high, aren't they?" she says.

"Outrageous," says Mrs. Hatch.

Well, even if the prices was awful high, they didn't have nothin' on our
seats. If I was in trainin' to be a steeple jack I'd go to grand op'ra
every night and leave Hatch buy my ticket. And where he took us I'd of
been more at home in overalls and a sport shirt.

"How do you like Denver?" says I to the Missus, but she'd sank for the
third time.

"We're safe here," I says to Hatch. "Them French guns can't never reach
us. We'd ought to brought more bumbs."

"What did the seats cost?" I says to Hatch.

"One-fifty," he says.

"Very reasonable," says I. "One o' them aviators wouldn't take you more
than half this height for a five-spot."

The Hatches had their overcoats off by this time and I got a look at
their full costume. Hatch had went without his vest durin' the hot
months and when it was alongside his coat and pants it looked like two
different families. He had a pink shirt with prune-colored horizontal
bars, and a tie to match his neck, and a collar that would of took care
of him and I both, and them shoes I told you about, and burlap hosiery.
They wasn't nothin' the matter with Mrs. Hatch except she must of
thought that, instead o' dressin' for the op'ra, she was gettin' ready
for Kenneth's bath.

And there was my Missus, just within the law, and me all spicked and
spanned with my soup and fish and gravy!

Well, we all set there and tried to get the focus till about a half-hour
after the show was billed to commence, and finally a Lilliputhian with a
match in his hand come out and started up the orchestry and they played
a few o' the hits and then the lights was turned out and up went the
curtain.

Well, sir, you'd be surprised at how good we could hear and see after we
got used to it. But the hearin' didn't do us no good--that is, the words
part of it. All the actors had been smuggled in from Europe and they
wasn't none o' them that could talk English. So all their songs was gave
in different languages and I wouldn't of never knew what was goin' on
only for Hatch havin' all the nerve in the world.

After the first act a lady that was settin' in front of us dropped
somethin' and Hatch stooped over and picked it up, and it was one o'
these here books they call a liberetto, and it's got all the words
they're singin' on the stage wrote out in English.

So the lady begin lookin' all over for it and Hatch was goin' to give it
back because he thought it was a shoe catalogue, but he happened to see
at the top of it where it says "Price 25 Cents," so he tossed it in his
lap and stuck his hat over it. And the lady kept lookin' and lookin' and
finally she turned round and looked Hatch right in the eye, but he
dropped down inside his collar and left her wear herself out. So when
she'd gave up I says somethin' about I'd like to have a drink.

"Let's go," says Hatch.

"No," I says. "I don't want it bad enough to go back to town after it. I
thought maybe we could get it sent up to the room."

"I'm goin' alone then," says Hatch.

"You're liable to miss the second act," I says.

"I'd never miss it," says Hatch.

"All right," says I. "I hope you have good weather."

So he slipped me the book to keep for him and beat it. So I seen the
lady had forgot us, and I opened up the book and that's how I come to
find out what the show was about. I read her all through, the part that
was in English, before the curtain went up again, so when the second act
begin I knowed what had came off and what was comin' off, and Hatch and
Mrs. Hatch hadn't no idear if the show was comical or dry. My Missus
hadn't, neither, till we got home and I told her the plot.

       *       *       *       *       *

_Carmen_ ain't no regular musical show where a couple o' Yids comes out
and pulls a few lines o' dialogue and then a girl and a he-flirt sings a
song that ain't got nothin' to do with it. _Carmen's_ a regular play,
only instead o' them sayin' the lines, they sing them, and in for'n
languages so's the actors can pick up some loose change offen the sale
o' the liberettos. The music was wrote by George S. Busy, and it must of
kept him that way about two mont's. The words was either throwed
together by the stage carpenter or else took down by a stenographer
outdoors durin' a drizzle. Anyway, they ain't nobody claims them. Every
oncet in three or four pages they forget themself and rhyme. You got to
read each verse over two or three times before you learn what they're
hintin' at, but the management gives you plenty o' time to do it between
acts and still sneak a couple o' hours' sleep.

The first act opens up somewheres in Spain, about the corner o' Chicago
Avenue and Wells. On one side o' the stage they's a pill mill where the
employees is all girls, or was girls a few years ago. On the other side
they's a soldiers' garage where they keep the militia in case of a
strike. In the back o' the stage they's a bridge, but it ain't over no
water or no railroad tracks or nothin'. It's prob'ly somethin' the cat
dragged in.

Well, the soldiers stands out in front o' the garage hittin' up some
barber shops, and pretty soon a girl blows in from the hero's home town,
Janesville or somewheres. She runs a few steps every little w'ile and
then stops, like the rails was slippery. The soldiers sings at her and
she tells them she's came to look for Don Joss that run the chop-suey
dump up to Janesville, but when they shet down on him servin' beer he
quit and joined the army. So the soldiers never heard o' the bird, but
they all ask her if they won't do just as good, but she says nothin'
doin' and skids off the stage. She ain't no sooner gone when the
Chinaman from Janesville and some more soldiers and some alley rats
comes in to help out the singin'. The book says that this new gang o'
soldiers was sent on to relieve the others, but if anything happened to
wear out the first ones it must of took place at rehearsal. Well, one o'
the boys tells Joss about the girl askin' for him and he says: "Oh, yes;
that must be the little Michaels girl from up in Wisconsin."

So pretty soon the whistle blows for noon and the girls comes out o' the
pill mill smokin' up the mornin' receipts and a crowd o' the unemployed
comes in to shoot the snipes. So the soldiers notices that Genevieve
Farr'r ain't on yet, so they ask where she's at, and that's her cue. She
puts on a song number and a Spanish dance, and then she slips her
bouquet to the Chink, though he ain't sang a note since the whistle
blowed. But now it's one o'clock and Genevieve and the rest o' the girls
beats it back to the coffin factory and the vags chases down to the Loop
to get the last home edition and look at the want ads to see if they's
any jobs open with fair pay and nothin' to do. And the soldiers mosey
into the garage for a well-earned rest and that leaves Don all alone on
the stage.

But he ain't no more than started on his next song when back comes the
Michaels girl. It oozes out here that she's in love with the Joss party,
but she stalls and pretends like his mother'd sent her to get the
receipt for makin' eggs _fo yung_. And she says his mother ast her to
kiss him and she slips him a dime, so he leaves her kiss him on the
scalp and he asks her if she can stay in town that evenin' and see a
nickel show, but they's a important meetin' o' the Maccabees at
Janesville that night, so away she goes to catch the two-ten and Don
starts in on another song number, but the rest o' the company don't like
his stuff and he ain't hardly past the vamp when they's a riot.

It seems like Genevieve and one o' the chorus girls has quarreled over a
second-hand stick o' gum and the chorus girl got the gum, but Genevieve
relieved her of part of a earlobe, so they pinch Genevieve and leave
Joss to watch her till the wagon comes, but the wagon's went out to the
night desk sergeant's house with a case o' quarts and before it gets
round to pick up Genevieve she's bunked the Chink into settin' her free.
So she makes a getaway, tellin' Don to meet her later on at Lily and
Pat's place acrost the Indiana line. So that winds up the first act.

Well, the next act's out to Lily and Pat's, and it ain't no Y.M.C.A.
headquarters, but it's a hang-out for dips and policemans. They's a
cabaret and Genevieve's one o' the performers, but she forgets the words
to her first song and winds up with tra-la-la, and she could of forgot
the whole song as far as I'm concerned, because it wasn't nothin' you'd
want to buy and take along home.

Finally Pat comes in and says it's one o'clock and he's got to close up,
but they won't none o' them make a move, and pretty soon they's a live
one blows into the joint and he's Eskimo Bill, one o' the butchers out
to the Yards. He's got paid that day and he ain't never goin' home. He
sings a song and it's the hit o' the show. Then he buys a drink and
starts flirtin' with Genevieve, but Pat chases everybody but the
performers and a couple o' dips that ain't got nowheres else to sleep.
The dips or stick-up guys, or whatever they are, tries to get Genevieve
to go along with them in the car w'ile they pull off somethin', but
she's still expectin' the Chinaman. So they pass her up and blow, and
along comes Don and she lets him in, and it seems like he'd been in jail
for two mont's, or ever since the end o' the first act. So he asks her
how everything has been goin' down to the pill mill and she tells him
that she's quit and became a entertainer. So he says, "What can you do?"
And she beats time with a pair o' chopsticks and dances the Chinese
Blues.

After a w'ile they's a bugle call somewhere outdoors and Don says that
means he's got to go back to the garage. So she gets sore and tries to
bean him with a Spanish onion. Then he reaches inside his coat and pulls
out the bouquet she give him in Atto First to show her he ain't changed
his clo'es, and then the sheriff comes in and tries to coax him with a
razor to go back to his job. They fight like it was the first time
either o' them ever tried it and the sheriff's leadin' on points when
Genevieve hollers for the dips, who dashes in with their gats pulled and
it's good night, Mister Sheriff! They put him in moth balls and they ask
Joss to join their tong. He says all right and they're all pretty well
lit by this time and they've reached the singin' stage, and Pat can't
get them to go home and he's scared some o' the Hammond people'll put in
a complaint, so he has the curtain rang down.

Then they's a relapse of it don't say how long, and Don and Genevieve
and the yeggs and their lady friends is all out in the country
somewheres attendin' a Bohunk Sokol Verein picnic and Don starts whinin'
about his old lady that he'd left up to Janesville.

"I wisht I was back there," he says.

"You got nothin' on me," says Genevieve. "Only Janesville ain't far
enough. I wisht you was back in Hongkong."

So w'ile they're flatterin' each other back and forth, a couple o' the
girls is monkeyin' with the pasteboards and tellin' their fortunes, and
one o' them turns up a two-spot and that's a sign they're goin' to sing
a duet. So it comes true and then Genevieve horns into the game and they
play three-handed rummy, singin' all the w'ile to bother each other, but
finally the fellas that's runnin' the picnic says it's time for the fat
man's one-legged race and everybody goes offen the stage. So the
Michaels girl comes on and is gettin' by pretty good with a song when
she's scared by the noise o' the gun that's fired to start the race for
the bay-window championship. So she trips back to her dressin'-room and
then Don and Eskimo Bill put on a little slap-stick stuff.

When they first meet they're pals, but as soon as they get wise that the
both o' them's bugs over the same girl their relations to'rds each other
becomes strange. Here's the talk they spill:

"Where do you tend bar?" says Don.

"You got me guessed wrong," says Bill. "I work out to the Yards."

"Got anything on the hip?" says Don.

"You took the words out o' my mouth," says Bill. "I'm drier than St.
Petersgrad."

"Stick round a w'ile and maybe we can scare up somethin'," says Don.

"I'll stick all right," says Bill. "They's a Jane in your party that's
knocked me dead."

"What's her name?" says Don.

"Carmen," says Bill, Carmen bein' the girl's name in the show that
Genevieve was takin' that part.

"Carmen!" says Joss. "Get offen that stuff! I and Carmen's just like two
pavin' bricks."

"I should worry!" says Bill. "I ain't goin' to run away from no
rat-eater."

"You're a rat-eater yourself, you rat-eater!" says Don.

"I'll rat-eat you!" says Bill.

And they go to it with a carvin' set, but they couldn't neither one o'
them handle their utensils.

Don may of been all right slicin' toadstools for the suey and Bill
prob'ly could of massacreed a flock o' sheep with one stab, but they was
all up in the air when it come to stickin' each other. They'd of did it
better with dice.

Pretty soon the other actors can't stand it no longer and they come on
yellin' "Fake!" So Don and Bill fold up their razors and Bill invites
the whole bunch to come out and go through the Yards some mornin' and
then he beats it, and the Michaels girl ain't did nothin' for fifteen
minutes, so the management shoots her out for another song and she sings
to Don about how he should ought to go home on account of his old lady
bein' sick, so he asks Genevieve if she cares if he goes back to
Janesville.

"Sure, I care," says Genevieve. "Go ahead!"

So the act winds up with everybody satisfied.

The last act's outside the Yards on the Halsted Street end. Bill's ast
the entire company to come in and watch him croak a steer. The scene
opens up with the crowd buyin' perfume and smellin' salts from the guys
that's got the concessions. Pretty soon Eskimo Bill and Carmen drive in,
all dressed up like a horse. Don's came in from Wisconsin and is hidin'
in the bunch. He's sore at Carmen for not meetin' him on the Elevated
platform.

He lays low till everybody's went inside, only Carmen. Then he braces
her. He tells her his old lady's died and left him the laundry, and he
wants her to go in with him and do the ironin'.

"Not me!" she says.

"What do you mean--'Not me'?" says Don.

"I and Bill's goin' to run a kosher market," she says.

Just about now you can hear noises behind the scenes like the cattle's
gettin' theirs, so Carmen don't want to miss none of it, so she makes a
break for the gate.

"Where you goin'?" says Joss.

"I want to see the butcherin'," she says.

"Stick round and I'll show you how it's done," says Joss.

So he pulls his knife and makes a pass at her, just foolin'. He misses
her as far as from here to Des Moines. But she don't know he's kiddin'
and she's scared to death. Yes, sir, she topples over as dead as the
Federal League.

It was prob'ly her heart.

So now the whole crowd comes dashin' out because they's been a report
that the place is infested with the hoof and mouth disease. They tell
Don about it, but he's all excited over Carmen dyin'. He's delirious and
gets himself mixed up with a Irish policeman.

"I yield me prisoner," he says.

Then the house doctor says the curtain's got to come down to prevent the
epidemic from spreadin' to the audience. So the show's over and the
company's quarantined.

       *       *       *       *       *

Well, Hatch was out all durin' the second act and part o' the third, and
when he finally come back he didn't have to tell nobody where he'd been.
And he dozed off the minute he hit his seat. I was for lettin' him sleep
so's the rest o' the audience'd think we had one o' the op'ra bass
singers in our party. But Mrs. Hatch wasn't lookin' for no publicity, on
account of her costume, so she reached over and prodded him with a
hatpin every time he begin a new aria.

Goin' out, I says to him:

"How'd you like it?"

"Pretty good," he says, "only they was too much gin in the last one."

"I mean the op'ra," I says.

"Don't ask him!" says Mrs. Hatch. "He didn't hear half of it and he
didn't understand none of it."

"Oh, I wouldn't say that," says I. "Jim here ain't no boob, and they
wasn't nothin' hard about it to understand."

"Not if you know the plot," says Mrs. Hatch.

"And somethin' about music," says my Missus.

"And got a little knowledge o' French," says Mrs. Hatch.

"Was that French they was singin'?" says Hatch. "I thought it was Wop or
ostrich."

"That shows you up," says his Frau.

Well, when we got on the car for home they wasn't only one vacant seat
and, o' course, Hatch had to have that. So I and my Missus and Mrs.
Hatch clubbed together on the straps and I got a earful o' the real
dope.

"What do you think o' Farr'r's costumes?" says Mrs. Hatch.

"Heavenly!" says my Missus. "Specially the one in the second act. It was
all colors o' the rainbow."

"Hatch is right in style then," I says.

"And her actin' is perfect," says Mrs. Hatch.

"Her voice too," says the Wife.

"I liked her actin' better," says Mrs. H. "I thought her voice yodeled
in the up-stairs registers."

"What do you suppose killed her?" I says.

"She was stabbed by her lover," says the Missus.

"You wasn't lookin'," I says. "He never touched her. It was prob'ly
tobacco heart."

"He stabs her in the book," says Mrs. Hatch.

"It never went through the bindin'," I says.

"And wasn't Mooratory grand?" says the Wife.

"Splendid!" says Mrs. Hatch. "His actin' and singin' was both grand."

"I preferred his actin'," I says. "I thought his voice hissed in the
down-stairs radiators."

This give them a good laugh, but they was soon at it again.

"And how sweet Alda was!" my Missus remarks.

"Which was her?" I ast them.

"The good girl," says Mrs. Hatch. "The girl that sung that beautiful
aria in Atto Three."

"Atto girl!" I says. "I liked her too; the little Michaels girl. She
came from Janesville."

"She did!" says Mrs. Hatch. "How do you know?"

So I thought I'd kid them along.

"My uncle told me," I says. "He used to be postmaster up there."

"What uncle was that?" says my wife.

"He ain't really my uncle," I says. "We all used to call him our uncle
just like all these here singers calls the one o' them Daddy."

"They was a lady in back o' me," says Mrs. Hatch, "that says Daddy
didn't appear to-night."

"Prob'ly the Missus' night out," I says.

"How'd you like the Tor'ador?" says Mrs. Hatch.

"I thought she moaned in the chimney," says I.

"It wasn't no 'she'," says the Missus. "We're talkin' about the
bull-fighter."

"I didn't see no bull-fight," I says.

"It come off behind the scenes," says the Missus.

"When was you behind the scenes?" I says.

"I wasn't never," says my Missus. "But that's where it's supposed to
come off."

"Well," I says, "you can take it from me that it wasn't pulled. Do you
think the mayor'd stand for that stuff when he won't even leave them
stage a box fight? You two girls has got a fine idear o' this here
op'ra!"

"You know all about it, I guess," says the Missus. "You talk French so
good!"

"I talk as much French as you do," I says. "But not nowheres near as
much English, if you could call it that."

That kept her quiet, but Mrs. Hatch buzzed all the way home, and she was
scared to death that the motorman wouldn't know where she'd been
spendin' the evenin'. And if there was anybody in the car besides me
that knowed _Carmen_ it must of been a joke to them hearin' her chatter.
It wasn't no joke to me though. Hatch's berth was way off from us and
they didn't nobody suspect him o' bein' in our party. I was standin'
right up there with her where people couldn't help seein' that we was
together.

I didn't want them to think she was my wife. So I kept smilin' at her.
And when it finally come time to get off I hollered out loud at Hatch
and says:

"All right, Hatch! Here's our street. Your Missus'll keep you awake the
rest o' the way with her liberetto."

"It can't hurt no more than them hatpins," he says.

Well, when the paper come the next mornin' my Missus had to grab it up
and turn right away to the place where the op'ras is wrote up. Under the
article they was a list o' the ladies and gents in the boxes and what
they wore, but it didn't say nothin' about what the gents wore, only the
ladies. Prob'ly the ladies happened to have the most comical costumes
that night, but I bet if the reporters could of saw Hatch they would of
gave him a page to himself.

"Is your name there?" I says to the Missus.

"O' course not," she says. "They wasn't none o' them reporters tall
enough to see us. You got to set in a box to be mentioned."

"Well," I says, "you don't care nothin' about bein' mentioned, do you?"

"O' course not," she says; but I could tell from how she said it that
she wouldn't run down-town and horsewhip the editor if he made a mistake
and printed about she and her costume; her costume wouldn't of et up all
the space he had neither.

"How much does box seats cost?" I ast her.

"About six or seven dollars," she says.

"Well," I says, "let's I and you show Hatch up."

"What do you mean?" she says.

"I mean we should ought to return the compliment," says I. "We should
ought to give them a party right back."

"We'd be broke for six weeks," she says.

"Oh, we'd do it with their money like they done it with ours," I says.

"Yes," she says; "but if you can ever win enough from the Hatches to buy
four box seats to the op'ra I'd rather spend the money on a dress."

"Who said anything about four box seats?" I ast her.

"You did," she says.

"You're delirious!" I says. "Two box seats will be a plenty."

"Who's to set in them?" ast the Missus.

"Who do you think?" I says. "I and you is to set in them."

"But what about the Hatches?" she says.

"They'll set up where they was," says I. "Hatch picked out the seats
before, and if he hadn't of wanted that altitude he'd of bought
somewheres else."

"Yes," says the Missus, "but Mrs. Hatch won't think we're very polite to
plant our guests in the Alps and we set down in a box."

"But they won't know where we're settin'," I says. "We'll tell them we
couldn't get four seats together, so for them to set where they was the
last time and we're goin' elsewheres."

"It don't seem fair," says my wife.

"I should worry about bein' fair with Hatch," I says. "If he's ever left
with more than a dime's worth o' cards you got to look under the table
for his hand."

"It don't seem fair," says the Missus.

"You should worry!" I says.

So we ast them over the followin' night and it looked for a minute like
we was goin' to clean up. But after that one minute my Missus began
collectin' pitcher cards again and every card Hatch drawed seemed like
it was made to his measure. Well, sir, when we was through the lucky
stiff was eight dollars to the good and Mrs. Hatch had about broke even.

"Do you suppose you can get them same seats?" I says.

"What seats?" says Hatch.

"For the op'ra," I says.

"You won't get me to no more op'ra," says Hatch. "I don't never go to
the same show twicet."

"It ain't the same show, you goof!" I says. "They change the bill every
day."

"They ain't goin' to change this eight-dollar bill o' mine," he says.

"You're a fine stiff!" I says.

"Call me anything you want to," says Hatch, "as long as you don't go
over eight bucks' worth."

"Jim don't enjoy op'ra," says Mrs. Hatch.

"He don't enjoy nothin' that's more than a nickel," I says. "But as long
as he's goin' to welsh on us I hope he lavishes the eight-spot where
it'll do him some good."

"I'll do what I want to with it," says Hatch.

"Sure you will!" I says. "You'll bury it. But what you should ought to
do is buy two suits o' clo'es."

So I went out in the kitchen and split a pint one way.

But don't think for a minute that I and the Missus ain't goin' to hear
no more op'ra just because of a cheap stiff like him welshin'. I don't
have to win in no rummy game before I spend.

We're goin' next Tuesday night, I and the Missus, and we're goin' to set
somewheres near Congress Street. The show's _Armour's Do Re Me_, a new
one that's bein' gave for the first time. It's prob'ly named after some
soap.



THREE KINGS AND A PAIR


Accordin' to some authorities, a person, before they get married, should
ought to look up your opponent's family tree and find out what all her
relatives died of. But the way I got it figured out, if you're sure they
did die, the rest of it don't make no difference. In exceptionable cases
it may be all right to take a girl that part of her family is still
livin', but not under no circumstances if the part happens to be a
unmarried sister named Bessie.

We was expectin' her in about two weeks, but we got a card Saturday
mornin' which she says on it that she'd come right away if it was all
the same to us, because it was the dull season in Wabash society and she
could tear loose better at the present time than later on. Well, I guess
they ain't no time in the year when society in Wabash would collapse for
she not bein' there, but if she had to come at all, the sooner it was
over the better. And besides, it wouldn't of did us no good to say aye,
yes or no, because the postcard only beat her here by a few hours.

Not havin' no idear she was comin' so soon I didn't meet the train, but
it seems like she brought her escort right along with her. It was a guy
named Bishop and she'd met him on the trip up. The news butcher
introduced them, I guess. He seen her safe to the house and she was
there when I got home. Her and my Missus was full of him.

"Just think!" the Missus says. "He writes motion-pitcher plays."

"And gets ten thousand a year," says Bess.

"Did you find out from the firm?" I ast her.

"He told me himself," says Bessie.

"That's the right kind o' fella," says I, "open and above the board."

"Oh, you'll like Mr. Bishop," says Bess. "He says such funny things."

"Yes," I says, "that's a pretty good one about the ten thousand a year.
But I suppose it's funnier when he tells it himself. I wisht I could
meet him."

"They won't be no trouble about that," says the Missus. "He's comin' to
dinner to-morrow and he's comin' to play cards some evenin' next week."

"What evenin'?" I says.

"Any evenin' that's convenient for you," says Bessie.

"Well," I says, "I'm sorry, but I got engagements every night except
Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday."

"What about Tuesday?" ast Bessie.

"We're goin' to the op'ra," I says.

"Oh, won't that be grand!" says Bessie. "I wonder what I can wear."

"A kimono'll be all right," I says. "If the door-bell rings, you don't
have to answer it."

"What do you mean?" says the Missus. "I guess if we go, Bess'll go with
us."

"You'd starve to death if you guessed for a livin'," I says.

"Never mind that kind o' talk," says the Missus. "When we got a visitor
we're not goin' out places nights and leave her here alone."

"What's the matter with Bishop?" I says. "They's lots o' two-handed card
games."

"I ain't goin' to force myself on to you," says Bessie. "You don't have
to take me nowheres if you don't want to."

"I wisht you'd put that in writin' in case of a lawsuit," I says.

"Listen here," says the Frau. "Get this straight: Either Bess goes or I
don't go."

"You can both stay home," says I. "I don't anticipate no trouble findin'
a partner."

"All right, that's settled," says the Missus. "We'll have a party of our
own."

And it must of been goin' to be a dandy, because just speakin' about it
made her cry. So I says:

"You win! But I'll prob'ly have to change the tickets."

"What kind o' tickets have you got?" ast the Missus.

"Cheap ones," I says. "Down-stairs, five per."

"How grand!" says Bessie.

"Yes," I says, "but I'm afraid I got the last two they had. I'll prob'ly
have to give them back and take three balcony seats."

"That's all right, just so's Bess goes," says the Wife.

"Mr. Bishop's wild about music," says Bessie.

"Well," I says, "he prob'ly gets passes to the pitcher houses."

"He don't hear no real music there," says Bessie.

"Well," says I, "suppose when he comes to-morrow, I mention somethin'
about I and the Missus havin' tickets to the op'ra Tuesday night. Then,
if he's so wild about music, he'll maybe try to horn into the party and
split the expenses fifty-fifty."

"That'd be a fine thing!" says the Frau. "He'd think we was a bunch o'
cheap skates. Come right out and ask him to go at your expense, or else
don't ask him at all."

"I won't ask him at all," I says. "It was a mistake for me to ever
suggest it."

"Yes," says Bessie, "but after makin' the suggestion it would be a mean
trick to not go through with it."

"Why?" I ast her. "He won't never know the difference."

"But I will," says Bessie.

"Course you would, dear," says the Missus. "After thinkin' you was goin'
to have a man of your own, the party wouldn't seem like no party if you
just went along with us."

"All right, all right," I says. "Let's not argue no more. Every time I
open my head it costs three dollars."

"No such a thing," says the Missus. "The whole business won't only be
two dollars more than you figured on. The tickets you had for the two of
us would come to ten dollars, and with Bess and Mr. Bishop goin' it's
only twelve, if you get balcony seats."

"I wonder," says Bessie, "if Mr. Bishop wouldn't object to settin' in
the balcony."

"Maybe he would," says the Missus.

"Well," I says, "if he gets dizzy and falls over the railin' they's
plenty of ushers to point out where he come from."

"They ain't no danger of him gettin' dizzy," says Bessie. "The only
thing is that he's prob'ly used to settin' in the high-priced seats and
would be embarrassed amongst the riff and raff."

"He can wear a false mustache for a disguise."

"He's got a real one," says Bessie.

"He can shave it off, then," says I.

"I wouldn't have him do that for the world," says Bessie. "It's too nice
a one."

"You can't judge a mustache by seein' it oncet," I says. "It may be a
crook at heart."

"This ain't gettin' us nowheres," says the Missus. "They's still a
question before the house."

"It's up to Bess to give the answer," I says. "Bishop and his lip shield
are invited if they'll set in a three-dollar seat."

"It's off, then," says Bessie, and beats it in the guest room and slams
the door.

"What's the matter with you?" says the Missus.

"Nothin' at all," I says, "except that I ain't no millionaire scenario
writer. Twenty dollars is twenty dollars."

"Yes," the Missus says, "but how many times have you lost more than that
playin' cards and not thought nothin' of it?"

"That's different," I says. "When I spend money in a card game it's more
like a investment. I got a chance to make somethin' by it."

"And this would be a investment, too," says the Wife, "and a whole lot
better chance o' winnin' than in one o' them crooked card games."

"What are you gettin' at?" I ast her.

"This is what I'm gettin' at," she says, "though you'd ought to see it
without me tellin' you. This here Bishop's made a big hit with Bess."

"It's been done before," says I.

"Listen to me," says the Frau. "It's high time she was gettin' married,
and I don't want her marryin' none o' them Hoosier hicks."

"They'll see to that," I says. "They ain't such hicks."

"She could do a lot worse than take this here Bishop," the Missus says.
"Ten thousand a year ain't no small change. And she'd be here in Chi;
maybe they could find a flat right in this buildin'."

"That's all right," I says. "We could move."

"Don't be so smart," says the Missus. "It would be mighty nice for me to
have her so near and it would be nice for you and I both to have a rich
brother-in-law."

"I don't know about that," says I. "Somebody might do us a mischief in a
fit o' jealous rage."

"He'd show us enough good times to make up for whatever they done," says
the Wife. "We're foolish if we don't make no play for him and it'd be
startin' off right to take him along to this here op'ra and set him in
the best seats. He likes good music and you can see he's used to doin'
things in style. And besides, sis looks her best when she's dressed up."

Well, I finally give in and the Missus called Bessie out o' the
despondents' ward and they was all smiles and pep, but they acted like I
wasn't in the house; so, to make it realistical, I blowed down to Andy's
and looked after some o' my other investments.

       *       *       *       *       *

We always have dinner Sundays at one o'clock, but o' course Bishop
didn't know that and showed up prompt at ten bells, before I was
half-way through the comical section. I had to go to the door because
the Missus don't never put on her shoes till she's positive the family
on the first floor is all awake, and Bessie was baskin' in the kind o'
water that don't come in your lease at Wabash.

"Mr. Bishop, ain't it?" I says, lookin' him straight in the upper lip.

"How'd you know?" he says, smilin'.

"The girls told me to be expectin' a handsome man o' that name," I says.
"And they told me about the mustache."

"Wouldn't be much to tell," says Bishop.

"It's young yet," I says. "Come in and take a weight off your feet."

So he picked out the only chair we got that ain't upholstered with
flatirons and we set down and was tryin' to think o' somethin' more to
say when Bessie hollered to us from mid-channel.

"Is that Mr. Bishop?" she yelped.

"It's me, Miss Gorton," says Bishop.

"I'll be right out," says Bess.

"Take it easy," I says. "You mightn't catch cold, but they's no use
riskin' it."

So then I and Bishop knocked the street-car service and President Wilson
and give each other the double O. He wasn't what you could call ugly
lookin', but if you'd come out in print and say he was handsome, a good
lawyer'd have you at his mercy. His dimensions, what they was of them,
all run perpendicular. He didn't have no latitude. If his collar slipped
over his shoulders he could step out of it. If they hadn't been payin'
him all them millions for pitcher plays, he could of got a job in a wire
wheel. They wouldn't of been no difference in his photograph if you took
it with a X-ray or a camera. But he had hair and two eyes and a mouth
and all the rest of it, and his clo'es was certainly class. Why wouldn't
they be? He could pick out cloth that was thirty bucks a yard and get a
suit and overcoat for fifteen bucks. A umbrella cover would of made him
a year's pyjamas.

Well, I seen the Missus sneak from the kitchen to her room to don the
shoe leather, so I got right down to business.

"The girls tells me you're fond o' good music," I says.

"I love it," says Bishop.

"Do you ever take in the op'ra?" I ast him.

"I eat it up," he says.

"Have you been this year?" I says.

"Pretty near every night," says Bishop.

"I should think you'd be sick of it," says I.

"Oh, no," he says, "no more'n I get tired o' food."

"A man could easy get tired o' the same kind o' food," I says.

"But the op'ras is all different," says Bishop.

"Different languages, maybe," I says. "But they're all music and
singin'."

"Yes," says Bishop, "but the music and singin' in the different op'ras
is no more alike than lumbago and hives. They couldn't be nothin'
differenter, for instance, than _Faust_ and _Madame Buttermilk_."

"Unlest it was Scotch and chocolate soda," I says.

"They's good op'ras and bad op'ras," says Bishop.

"Which is the good ones?" I ast him.

"Oh," he says, "_Carmen_ and _La Bohemian Girl_ and _Ill Toreador_."

"_Carmen's_ a bear cat," I says. "If they was all as good as _Carmen_,
I'd go every night. But lots o' them is flivvers. They say they couldn't
nothin' be worse than this _Armour's Dee Tree Ree_."

"It is pretty bad," says Bishop. "I seen it a year ago."

Well, I'd just been readin' in the paper where it was bran'-new and
hadn't never been gave prev'ous to this season. So I thought I'd have a
little sport with Mr. Smartenstein.

"What's it about?" I says.

He stalled a w'ile.

"It ain't about much of anything," he says.

"It must be about somethin'," says I.

"They got it all balled up the night I seen it," says Bishop. "The
actors forgot their lines and a man couldn't make heads or tails of it."

"Did they sing in English?" I ast him.

"No; Latin," says Bishop.

"Can you understand Latin?" I says.

"Sure," says he. "I'd ought to. I studied it two years."

"What's the name of it mean in English?" I ast.

"You pronounce the Latin wrong," he says. "I can't parse it from how you
say it. If I seen it wrote out I could tell."

So I handed him the paper where they give the op'ra schedule.

"That's her," I says, pointin' to the one that was billed for Tuesday
night.

"Oh, yes," says Bishop. "Yes, that's the one."

"No question about that," says I. "But what does it mean?"

"I knowed you said it wrong," says Bishop. "The right pronouncement
would be: _L. Armour's Day Trey Ray_. No wonder I was puzzled."

"Now the puzzle's solved," I says. "What do them last three words mean?
Louie Armour's what?"

"It ain't nothin' to do with Armour," says Bishop. "The first word is
the Latin for love. And _Day_ means of God, and _Trey_ means three, and
_Ray_ means Kings."

"Oh," I says, "it's a poker game. The fella's just called and the other
fella shows down his hand and the first fella had a straight and thought
it wasn't no good. So he's su'prised to see what the other fella's got.
So he says: 'Well, for the love o' Mike, three kings!' Only he makes it
stronger. Is that the dope?"

"I don't think it's anything about poker," says Bishop.

"You'd ought to know," I says. "You seen it."

"But it was all jumbled up," says Bishop. "I couldn't get the plot."

"Do you suppose you could get it if you seen it again?" I says.

"I wouldn't set through it," he says. "It's no good."

Well, sir, I thought at the time that that little speech meant a savin'
of eight dollars, because if he didn't go along, us three could set
amongst the riff and raff. I dropped the subject right there and was
goin' to tell the girls about it when he'd went home. But the Missus
crabbed it a few minutes after her and Bess come in the room.

"Did you get your invitation?" says she to Bishop.

"What invitation?" he says.

"My husban' was goin' to ask you to go with us Tuesday night," she says.
"Grand op'ra."

"Bishop won't go," I says. "He's already saw the play and says it ain't
no good and he wouldn't feel like settin' through it again."

"Why, Mr. Bishop! That's a terrible disappointment," says the Missus.

"We was countin' on you," says Bessie, chokin' up.

"It's tough luck," I says, "but you can't expect things to break right
all the w'ile."

"Wouldn't you change your mind?" says the Missus.

"That's up to your husban'," says Bishop. "I didn't understand that I
was invited. I should certainly hate to break up a party, and if I'd
knew I was goin' to be ast I would of spoke different about the op'ra.
It's prob'ly a whole lot better than when I seen it. And, besides, I
surely would enjoy your company."

"You can enjoy ourn most any night for nothin'," I says. "But if you
don't enjoy the one down to the Auditorium, they's no use o' me payin'
five iron men to have you bored to death."

"You got me wrong," says Bishop. "The piece was gave by a bunch o'
supers the time I went. I'd like to see it with a real cast. They say
it's a whiz when it's acted right."

"There!" says the Missus. "That settles it. You can change the tickets
to-morrow."

So I was stopped and they wasn't no more to say, and after a w'ile we
had dinner and then I seen why Bishop was so skinny. 'Parently he hadn't
tasted fodder before for a couple o' mont's.

"It must keep you busy writin' them scenarios," I says. "No time to eat
or nothin'."

"Oh, I eat oncet in a w'ile even if I don't look it," he says. "I don't
often get a chance at food that's cooked like this. Your wife's some
dandy little cook!"

"It runs in the family, I guess," says Bessie. "You'd ought to taste my
cookin'."

"Maybe he will some day," says the Missus, and then her and Bessie
pretended like they'd made a break and was embarrassed.

So when he was through I says:

"Leave Bess take Bishop out in the kitchen and show him how she can wash
dishes."

"Nothin' doin'," says the Wife. "I'm goin' to stack them and then I and
you's got to hurry and keep our date."

"What date?" I says.

"Over to Hatch's," says the Missus. "You hadn't forgotten, had you?"

"I hadn't forgot that the Hatches was in Benton Harbor," I says.

"Yes," says the Frau, winkin' at me, "but I promised Mrs. Hatch I'd run
over there and see that everything was O. K."

So I wasn't even allowed to set down and smoke, but had to help unload
the table and then go out in the cold. And it was rotten weather and
Sunday and nothin' but water, water everywhere.

"What's the idear?" I ast the Missus when we was out.

"Can't you see nothin'?" she says. "I want to give Bess a chance."

"Chance to what?" I says.

"A chance to talk to him," says the Wife.

"Oh!" says I. "I thought you wanted him to get stuck on her."

"What do you think of him?" says she. "Wouldn't he fit fine in the
family?"

"He'd fit in a flute," I says. "He's the skinniest thing I ever seen. It
seems like a shame to pay five dollars for a seat for him when him and
Bessie could sit in the same seat without contact."

"He is slender," says the Missus. "Prob'ly they been starvin' him where
he boards at."

"I bet they wouldn't starve me on ten thousand a year," I says. "But
maybe they don't know he's at the table or think he's just one o' the
macaroni."

"It's all right for you to make jokes about him," says she, "but if you
had his brains we'd be better off."

"If I had his brains," I says, "he'd go up like a balloon. If he lost an
ounce, gravity wouldn't have no effect on him."

"You don't have to bulge out to be a man," says the Missus. "He's smart
and he's rich and he's a swell dresser and I don't think we could find a
better match for Bess."

"Match just describes him," says I.

"You're too cute to live," says the Wife. "But no matter what you say,
him and Bess is goin' to hit it off. They're just suited to each other.
They're a ideal pair."

"You win that argument," I says. "They're a pair all right, and they'd
make a great hand if you was playin' deuces wild."

Well, we walked round till our feet was froze and then we went home, and
Bishop says he would have to go, but the Missus ast him to stay to
supper, and when he made the remark about havin' to go, he was referrin'
to one o'clock the next mornin'. And right after supper I was gave the
choice o' takin' another walk or hittin' the hay.

"Why don't we play cards?" I says.

"It's Sunday," says the Missus.

"Has the mayor stopped that, too?" I says.

But she winked at me again, the old flirt, so I stuck round the kitchen
till it was pretty near time to wipe the dishes, and then I went to bed.

Monday noon I chased over to the Auditorium and they was only about
eighty in line ahead o' me, and I was hopin' the house would be sold out
for a week before I got up to the window. While I was markin' time I
looked at the pitchers o' the different actors, hung up on the posts to
advertise some kind o' hair tonic. I wisht I had Bishop along to tell me
what the different names meant in English. I suppose most o' them meant
Goatee or Spinach or Brush or Hedge or Thicket or somethin'. Then they
was the girls' pitchers, too; Genevieve Farr'r that died in the
Stockyards scene in _Carmen_, and Fanny Alda that took the part o' the
Michaels girl from Janesville, and Mary Gardner, and Louise Edviney that
was goin' to warble for us, and a lot more of all ages and one size.

Finally I got up to the ticket agent's cage and then I didn't only have
to wait till the three women behind me done their shoppin', and then I
hauled out my two tickets and ast the agent what would he give me for
them.

"Do you want to exchange them?" he says.

"I did," says I, "but I heard you was sold out for to-morrow night."

"Oh, no," he says "we got plenty o' seats."

"But nothin' down-stairs, is they?" I says.

"Yes," he says "anywheres you want."

"Well," I says, "if you're sure you can spare them I want four in the
place o' these two."

"Here's four nice ones in the seventh row," says he. "It'll be ten
dollars more."

"I ain't partic'lar to have them nice," I says.

"It don't make no difference," says he. "The whole down-stairs is five a
wallop."

"Yes," I says, "but one o' the four that's goin' is a little skinny
fella and another's a refuge from Wabash."

"I don't care if they're all escapades from Milford Junction," he says.
"We ain't runnin' no Hoosier Welfare League."

"You're smart, ain't you?" I says.

"I got to be," says the agent.

"But if you was a little smarter you'd be this side o' the cage instead
o' that side," says I.

"Do you want these tickets or don't you?" he says.

So I seen he didn't care for no more verbal collisions with me, so I
give him the two tickets and a bonus o' ten bucks and he give me back
four pasteboards and throwed in a envelope free for nothin'.

I passed up lunch Tuesday because I wanted to get home early and have
plenty o' time to dress. That was the idear and it worked out every bit
as successful as the Peace Ship. In the first place, I couldn't get in
my room because that's where the Missus and Bess was makin' up. In the
second place, I didn't need to of allowed any time for supper because
there wasn't none. The Wife said her and Bessie'd been so busy with
their clo'es that they'd forgot a little thing like supper.

"But I didn't have no lunch," I says.

"That ain't my fault," says the Missus. "Besides, we can all go
somewheres and eat after the show."

"On who?" I says.

"You're givin' the party," says she.

"The invitations didn't contain no clause about the inner man," says I.
"Furthermore, if I had the ten dollars back that I spent to-day for
tickets, I'd have eleven dollars altogether."

"Well," says the Missus, "maybe Mr. Bishop will have the hunch."

"He will if his hearin' 's good," says I.

Bishop showed up at six-thirty, lookin' mighty cute in his waiter
uniform. After he'd came, it didn't take Bess long to finish her toilet.
I'd like to fell over when I seen her. Some doll she was, too, in a
fifty-meg evenin' dress marked down to thirty-seven. I know, because I
had helped pick it out for the Missus.

"My, you look sweet!" says Bishop. "That's a beautiful gown."

"It's my favoright," says Bessie.

"It don't take a person long to get attached to a pretty dress," I says.

The Missus hollered for me to come in and help her.

"I don't need no help," she says, "but I didn't want you givin' no
secrets away."

"What are you goin' to wear?" says I.

"Bess had one that just fits me," she says. "She's loanin' it to me."

"Her middle name's Generous," I says.

"Don't be sarcastical," says the Missus. "I want sis to look her best
this oncet."

"And I suppose it don't make no difference how you look," says I, "as
long as you only got me to please. If Bishop's friends sees him with
Bessie they'll say: 'My! he's copped out a big-leaguer.' But if I run
into any o' my pals they'll think I married the hired girl."

"You should worry," says the Missus.

"And besides that," I says, "if you succeed in tyin' Bishop up to a
long-term lease he's bound to see that there dress on you some time and
then what'll he think?"

"Bess can keep the gown," says the Missus. "I'll make her give me one of
her'n for it."

"With your tradin' ability," I says, "you'd ought to be the Cincinnati
Reds' manager. But if you do give the dress to her," I says, "warn her
not to wear it in Wabash--except when the marshal's over on the other
street."

Well, we was ready in a few minutes, because I'm gettin' used to the
soup and fish, and everything went on easy owin' to my vacuum, and I was
too weak to shave; and the Missus didn't have no trouble with Bessie's
creation, which was built like the Cottage Grove cars, enter at front.

"I don't think I'm so bad," says the Missus, lookin' in the glass.

"You'd be just right," I says, "if we was goin' to the annual meetin' o'
the Woman's Guild."

I and Bishop had a race gettin' on the street-car. I was first and he
won.

"I just got paid to-day," he says, "and I didn't have time to get
change."

They wasn't only one seat. Bess took it first and then offered it to the
Missus.

"I'll be mad at you if you don't take it," says Bess.

But the wife remained standin' and Bessie by a great effort kept her
temper.

Goin' into the theayter we passed a fella that was sellin' liberettos.

"I bet this guy's got lots o' change," I says.

"Them things is for people that ain't never saw no op'ra," says Bishop.

"I'm goin' to have one," I says.

"Don't buy none for me," says Bishop.

"You just spoke in time," I says.

I laid down a quarter and grabbed one o' the books.

"It's thirty-five cents," says the guy.

"_Carmen_ wasn't only a quarter," I says. "Is this show better'n
_Carmen_?"

"This is a new one," the guy says.

"This fella," I says, pointin' to Bishop, "seen it a year ago."

"He must have a good imagination," says the guy.

"No," I says, "he writes movin'-pitcher plays."

I give up a extra dime, because they didn't seem to be nothin' else to
do. Then I handed over my tickets to the fella at the door and we was
took right down amongst the high polloi. Say, I thought the dress Bess
was wearin' was low; ought to been, seein' it was cut down from fifty
bucks to thirty-seven. But the rest o' the gowns round us must of been
sixty per cent. off.

I says to the Missus:

"I bet you wisht now you hadn't swapped costumes."

"Oh, I don't know," she says. "It's chilly in here."

Well, it may of been chilly then, but not after the op'ra got goin'
good. Carmen was a human refrigerator compared to the leadin' lady in
this show. Set through two acts and you couldn't hardly believe it was
December.

But the curtain was supposed to go up at eight-ten, and it wasn't only
about that time when we got there, so they was over half a hour to kill
before the show begin. I looked in my program and seen the real
translation o' the title. _The Love o' Three Kings_, it says, and no "of
God" to it. I'd of knew anyway, when I'd read the plot, that He didn't
have nothin' to do with it.

I listened a w'ile to Bishop and Bess.

"And you've saw all the op'ras?" she ast him.

"Most o' them," he says.

"How grand!" says Bessie. "I wisht I could see a lot o' them."

"Well," he says, "you're goin' to be here for some time."

"Oh, Mr. Bishop, I don't want you throwin' all your money away on me,"
she says.

"I don't call it throwin' money away," says Bishop.

"I wouldn't neither," I says. "I'd say Bishop was muscle-bound."

They didn't pay no attention to me.

"What ones would you like to see?" he ast her.

"What are your favorights?" says Bess.

"Oh," says Bishop, "I've saw them all so many times that it don't really
make no difference to me. Sometimes they give two the same night, two
short ones, and then you ain't so liable to get bored."

Saturday nights is when they usually give the two, and Saturday nights
they cut the prices. This here Bishop wasn't no boob.

"One good combination," he says, "is _Polly Archer_ and _Cavalier
Rusticana_. They're both awful pretty."

"Oh, I'd love to see them," says Bessie. "What are they like?"

So he says Polly Archer was a leadin' lady in a stock company and the
leadin' man and another fella was both stuck on her and she loved one o'
them--I forget which one; whichever wasn't her husbun'--and they was a
place in one o' their shows where the one that was her husbun' was
supposed to get jealous and stab she and her lover, just actin', but,
instead o' just pretendin', this one night he played a joke on them and
done the stabbin' in earnest, and they was both killed. Well, that'd be
a good one to see if you happened to be there the night he really kills
them; otherwise, it sounds pretty tame. And Bishop also told her about
_Cavalier Rusticana_ that means Rural Free Delivery in English, and I
didn't get the plot only that the mail carrier flirts with one o' the
farmers' wives and o' course the rube spears him with a pitchfork. The
state's attorneys must of been on the jump all the w'ile in them days.

Finally the orchestra was all in their places and an old guy with a
beard come out in front o' them.

"That's the conductor," says Bishop.

"He looks like he'd been a long time with the road," I says.

Then up went the curtain and the thermometer.

       *       *       *       *       *

The scene's laid in Little Italy, but you can't see nothin' when it
starts off because it's supposed to be just before mornin'. Pretty soon
one o' the three kings comes in with a grouch. He's old and blind as a
bat and he ain't slept good and he's sore at the conductor on account o'
the train bein' a half-hour late, and the conductor's jealous of him
because his beard's longer, and Archibald, that's the old king's name,
won't sing what the orchestra's playin', but just snarls and growls, and
the orchestra can't locate what key he's snarlin' in, so they don't get
along at all, and finally Flamingo, that's the old king's chauffeur,
steers him off'n the stage.

Acrost on the other side o' the stage from where they go off they's a
bungalow, and out of it comes Flora and another o' the kings, a young
fella with a tenor voice named Veto. They sing about what a fine mornin'
it is in Wop and she tells him he'd better fly his kite before Archibald
catches him.

It seems like she's married to Archibald's son, Fred, but o' course she
likes Veto better or it wouldn't be no op'ra. Her and Veto was raised in
the same ward and they was oncet engaged to be married, but Archibald's
gang trimmed Veto's in a big roughhouse one night and Flora was part o'
the spoils. When Archibald seen how good she could fix spaghett' he was
bound she'd stick in the family, so he give her the choice o' bein'
killed or marryin' his boy, so she took Fred but didn't really mean it
in earnest. So Veto hangs round the house a lot, because old Archibald's
blind and Fred's generally always on the road with the Erie section
gang.

But old Archibald's eyes bein' no good, his ears is so much the better,
even if he don't sometimes keep with the orchestra, so he comes back on
the stage just after Veto's went and he hears Flora tryin' to snoop back
in her bungalow.

"Who was you talkin' to?" he says.

"Myself," says Flora.

"Great stuff!" says Archibald. "Up and outdoors at five A.M. to talk to
yourself! Feed that to the goldfish!"

So she ain't got him fooled for a minute, but w'ile they're arguin' Fred
blows in. So Archibald don't say nothin' about his superstition because
he ain't sure, so Fred and his Missus goes in the bungalow to have
breakfast and Archibald stays on the stage quarrelin' with the
conductor.

If Fred was eatin' all through the intermission, he must of been as
hungry as me, because it was plain forty minutes before the second act
begin. Him and Flora comes out o' their house and Fred says he's got to
go right away again because they's a bad wash-out this side o'
Huntington. He ain't no sooner gone than Veto's back on the job, but
Flora's kind o' sorry for her husbun', and Veto don't get the reception
that a star ought to expect.

"Why don't you smile at me?" he says.

So she says:

"It don't seem proper, dearie, with a husbun' on the Erie."

But before long she can't resist his high notes and the next five or ten
minutes is a love scene between the two, and they was a couple o' times
when I thought the management would ring down the asbestos curtain.
Finally old Archibald snoops back on the stage with Flamingo, and Veto
runs, but Archie hears him and it's good night. The old boy gives Flora
the third degree and she owns up, and then Flamingo says that Fred's
comin' back to get his dinner pail. So Archibald insists on knowin' the
fella's name that he heard him runnin' away, but Flora's either forgot
it or else she's stubborn, so Archie looses his temper and wrings her
neck. So when Fred arrives he gets the su'prise of his life and finds
out he's a widow.

"I slayed her," says Archibald. "She wasn't no good."

"She was the best cook we ever had," says Fred. "What was the matter
with her?"

"She had a gentleman friend," says his old man.

Well, so far, they's only one dead and nothin' original about how it was
pulled. You can go over to the Victoria and see any number o'
throttlin's at fifty cents for the best seats. So it was up to the
management to get a wallop into the last act. It took them pretty near
forty minutes to think of it, but it was good when it come.

The scene is Colosimo's undertakin' rooms and Flora's ruins is laid out
on the counter. All the Wops from her ward stand round singin' gospel
hymns.

When they've beat it Veto approaches the bier bar and wastes some pretty
fair singin' on the late Flora. Then all of a sudden he leans over and
gives her a kiss. That's all for Veto. You see, Old Fox Archibald had
figured that the bird that loved her would pull somethin' like this and
he'd doped out a way to learn who he was and make him regret it at the
same time, besides springin' some bran'-new stuff in the killin' line.
So he's mixed up some rat poison and garlic and spread it on the lips of
his fair daughter-in-law.

W'ile Veto's dyin' Fred comes in and finds him.

"So it was you, was it?" he says.

"I'm the guy," says Veto.

"Well," says Fred, "this'll learn you a lesson, you old masher, you!"

"I'll mash you in a minute," says Veto, but the way he was now, he
couldn't of mashed turnips.

"I kissed her last, anyway," says Veto.

"You think you did!" says Fred, and helps himself to the garlic.

So Veto's dead and Fred's leanin' over the counter, dyin', when
Archibald wabbles in. He finds his way up to Fred and grabs a hold of
him, thinkin' it's the stranger.

"Lay off'n me, pa," says Fred. "This ain't the other bird. He's dead and
it's got me, too."

"Well," says the old man, "that'd ought to satisfy them. But it's pretty
tough on the Erie."

       *       *       *       *       *

"How grand!" says Bess when it was over.

"But it leaves you with a bad taste," says Bishop.

"And a big appetite," I says.

"Did that old man kill them all?" ast the Missus.

"All but hisself and Flamingo," says I.

"What was he mad at?" says she.

"He was drove crazy by hunger," I says. "His wife and his sister-in-law
and her fella was starvin' him to death."

"Bein' blind, he prob'ly spilled things at table," says the Missus.
"Blind men sometimes has trouble gettin' their food."

"The trouble ain't confined to the blind," says I.

When we got outside I left Bess and Bishop lead the way, hopin' they'd
head to'rds a steak garage.

"No hurry about gettin' home," I hollered to them. "The night's still
young yet."

Bishop turned round.

"Is they any good eatin' places out by your place?" he says.

I thought I had him.

"Not as good as down-town," says I, and I named the Loop restaurants.

"How's the car service after midnight?" he says.

"Grand!" says I. "All night long."

I wondered where he would take us. Him and Bess crossed the avenue and
stopped where the crowd was waitin' for south-bound cars.

"He's got some favorite place a ways south," says the Missus.

A car come and I and her clumb aboard. We looked back just in time to
see Bessie and Bishop wavin' us farewell.

"They missed the car," says the Missus.

"Yes," I says, "and they was just as anxious to catch it as if it'd been
the leprosy."

"Never mind," says the Missus. "If he wants to be alone with her it's a
good sign."

"I can't eat a sign," says I.

"We'll stop at The Ideal and have a little supper of our own," she says.

"We won't," says I.

"Why not?" says the Missus.

"Because," I says, "they's exactly thirty-five cents in my pocket. And
offerin' my stomach seventeen and a half cents' worth o' food now would
be just about like sendin' one blank cartridge to the Russian army."

"I think they's some crackers in the house," she says.

"Prob'ly," says I. "We're usually that way--overstocked. You don't seem
to realize that our household goods is only insured for a thousand."

       *       *       *       *       *

About one o'clock I went to sleep from sheer weakness. About one-thirty
the Missus shook me and woke me up.

"We win, Joe!" she says, all excited. "I think Bishop and Bess is
engaged!"

"Win!" says I. "Say, if you was a Frenchman you'd have a big celebration
every anniversary o' the Battle o' Waterloo."

"I was goin' out in the kitchen to get a drink," she says. "Bess was
home, but I didn't know it. And when I was comin' back from the kitchen
I happened to glance in the livin'-room. And I seen Bishop kiss her!
Isn't it great!"

"Yes," I says. "But I wisht she'd of had Archibald fix up her lips."



GULLIBLE'S TRAVELS


I

I promised the Wife that if anybody ast me what kind of a time did I
have at Palm Beach I'd say I had a swell time. And if they ast me who
did we meet I'd tell 'em everybody that was worth meetin'. And if they
ast me didn't the trip cost a lot I'd say Yes; but it was worth the
money. I promised her I wouldn't spill none o' the real details. But if
you can't break a promise you made to your own wife what kind of a
promise can you break? Answer me that, Edgar.

I'm not one o' these kind o' people that'd keep a joke to themself just
because the joke was on them. But they's plenty of our friends that I
wouldn't have 'em hear about it for the world. I wouldn't tell you, only
I know you're not the village gossip and won't crack it to anybody. Not
even to your own Missus, see? I don't trust no women.

It was along last January when I and the Wife was both hit by the
society bacillus. I think it was at the opera. You remember me tellin'
you about us and the Hatches goin' to _Carmen_ and then me takin' my
Missus and her sister, Bess, and four of one suit named Bishop to see
_The Three Kings_? Well, I'll own up that I enjoyed wearin' the soup and
fish and minglin' amongst the high polloi and pretendin' we really was
somebody. And I know my wife enjoyed it, too, though they was nothin'
said between us at the time.

The next stage was where our friends wasn't good enough for us no more.
We used to be tickled to death to spend an evenin' playin' rummy with
the Hatches. But all of a sudden they didn't seem to be no fun in it and
when Hatch'd call up we'd stall out of it. From the number o' times I
told him that I or the Missus was tired out and goin' right to bed, he
must of thought we'd got jobs as telephone linemen.

We quit attendin' pitcher shows because the rest o' the audience wasn't
the kind o' people you'd care to mix with. We didn't go over to Ben's
and dance because they wasn't no class to the crowd there. About once a
week we'd beat it to one o' the good hotels down-town, all dressed up
like a horse, and have our dinner with the rest o' the E-light. They
wasn't nobody talked to us only the waiters, but we could look as much
as we liked and it was sport tryin' to guess the names o' the gang at
the next table.

Then we took to readin' the society news at breakfast. It used to be
that I didn't waste time on nothin' but the market and sportin' pages,
but now I pass 'em up and listen w'ile the Missus rattled off what was
doin' on the Lake Shore Drive.

Every little w'ile we'd see where So-and-So was at Palm Beach or just
goin' there or just comin' back'. We got to kiddin' about it.

"Well," I'd say, "we'd better be startin' pretty soon or we'll miss the
best part o' the season."

"Yes," the Wife'd say back, "we'd go right now if it wasn't for all them
engagements next week."

We kidded and kidded till finally, one night, she forgot we was just
kiddin'.

"You didn't take no vacation last summer," she says.

"No," says I. "They wasn't no chance to get away."

"But you promised me," she says, "that you'd take one this winter to
make up for it."

"I know I did," I says; "but it'd be a sucker play to take a vacation in
weather like this."

"The weather ain't like this everywheres," she says.

"You must of been goin' to night school," I says.

"Another thing you promised me," says she, "was that when you could
afford it you'd take me on a real honeymoon trip to make up for the
dinky one we had."

"That still goes," I says, "when I can afford it."

"You can afford it now," says she. "We don't owe nothin' and we got
money in the bank."

"Yes," I says. "Pretty close to three hundred bucks."

"You forgot somethin'," she says. "You forgot them war babies."

Did I tell you about that? Last fall I done a little dabblin' in Crucial
Steel and at this time I'm tellin' you about I still had a hold of it,
but stood to pull down six hundred. Not bad, eh?

"It'd be a mistake to let loose now," I says.

"All right," she says. "Hold on, and I hope you lose every cent. You
never did care nothin' for me."

Then we done a little spoonin' and then I ast her what was the big
idear.

"We ain't swelled on ourself," she says; "but I know and you know that
the friends we been associatin' with ain't in our class. They don't know
how to dress and they can't talk about nothin' but their goldfish and
their meat bills. They don't try to get nowheres, but all they do is
play rummy and take in the Majestic. I and you like nice people and good
music and things that's worth w'ile. It's a crime for us to be wastin'
our time with riff and raff that'd run round barefooted if it wasn't for
the police."

"I wouldn't say we'd wasted much time on 'em lately," I says.

"No," says she, "and I've had a better time these last three weeks than
I ever had in my life."

"And you can keep right on havin' it," I says.

"I could have a whole lot better time, and you could, too," she says,
"if we could get acquainted with some congenial people to go round with;
people that's tastes is the same as ourn."

"If any o' them people calls up on the phone," I says, "I'll be as
pleasant to 'em as I can."

"You're always too smart," says the Wife. "You don't never pay attention
to no schemes o' mine."

"What's the scheme now?"

"You'll find fault with it because I thought it up," she says. "If it
was your scheme you'd think it was grand."

"If it really was good you wouldn't be scared to spring it," I says.

"Will you promise to go through with it?" says she.

"If it ain't too ridic'lous," I told her.

"See! I knowed that'd be the way," she says.

"Don't talk crazy," I says. "Where'd we be if we'd went through with
every plan you ever sprang?"

"Will you promise to listen to my side of it without actin' cute?" she
says.

So I didn't see no harm in goin' that far.

"I want you to take me to Palm Beach," says she. "I want you to take a
vacation, and that's where we'll spend it."

"And that ain't all we'd spend," I says.

"Remember your promise," says she.

So I shut up and listened.

The dope she give me was along these lines: We could get special
round-trip rates on any o' the railroads and that part of it wouldn't
cost nowheres near as much as a man'd naturally think. The hotel rates
was pretty steep, but the meals was throwed in, and just imagine what
them meals would be! And we'd be stayin' under the same roof with the
Vanderbilts and Goulds, and eatin' at the same table, and probably,
before we was there a week, callin' 'em Steve and Gus. They was dancin'
every night and all the guests danced with each other, and how would it
feel fox-trottin' with the president o' the B. & O., or the Delmonico
girls from New York! And all Chicago society was down there, and when we
met 'em we'd know 'em for life and have some real friends amongst 'em
when we got back home.

That's how she had it figured and she must of been practisin' her
speech, because it certainly did sound good to me. To make it short, I
fell, and dated her up to meet me down-town the next day and call on the
railroad bandits. The first one we seen admitted that his was the best
route and that he wouldn't only soak us one hundred and forty-seven
dollars and seventy cents to and from Palm Beach and back, includin' an
apartment from here to Jacksonville and as many stop-overs as we wanted
to make. He told us we wouldn't have to write for no hotel
accommodations because the hotels had an agent right over on Madison
Street that'd be glad to do everything to us.

So we says we'd be back later and then we beat it over to the Florida
East Coast's local studio.

"How much for a double room by the week?" I ast the man.

"They ain't no weekly rates," he says. "By the day it'd be twelve
dollars and up for two at the Breakers, and fourteen dollars and up at
the Poinciana."

"I like the Breakers better," says I.

"You can't get in there," he says. "They're full for the season."

"That's a long spree," I says.

"Can we get in the other hotel?" ast the Wife.

"I can find out," says the man.

"We want a room with bath," says she.

"That'd be more," says he. "That'd be fifteen dollars or sixteen dollars
and up."

"What do we want of a bath," I says, "with the whole Atlantic Ocean in
the front yard?"

"I'm afraid you'd have trouble gettin' a bath," says the man. "The
hotels is both o' them pretty well filled up on account o' the war in
Europe."

"What's that got to do with it?" I ast him.

"A whole lot," he says. "The people that usually goes abroad is all down
to Palm Beach this winter."

"I don't see why," I says. "If one o' them U-boats hit 'em they'd at
least be gettin' their bath for nothin'."

We left him with the understandin' that he was to wire down there and
find out what was the best they could give us. We called him up in a
couple o' days and he told us we could have a double room, without no
bath, at the Poinciana, beginnin' the fifteenth o' February. He didn't
know just what the price would be.

Well, I fixed it up to take my vacation startin' the tenth, and sold out
my Crucial Steel, and divided the spoils with the railroad company. We
decided we'd stop off in St. Augustine two days, because the Missus
found out somewheres that they might be two or three o' the Four Hundred
lingerin' there, and we didn't want to miss nobody.

"Now," I says, "all we got to do is set round and wait for the tenth o'
the month."

"Is that so!" says the Wife. "I suppose you're perfectly satisfied with
your clo'es."

"I've got to be," I says, "unless the Salvation Army has somethin'
that'll fit me."

"What's the matter with our charge account?" she says.

"I don't like to charge nothin'," I says, "when I know they ain't no
chance of ever payin' for it."

"All right," she says, "then we're not goin' to Palm Beach. I'd rather
stay home than go down there lookin' like general housework."

"Do you need clo'es yourself?" I ast her.

"I certainly do," she says. "About two hundred dollars' worth. But I got
one hundred and fifty dollars o' my own."

"All right," I says. "I'll stand for the other fifty and then we're all
set."

"No, we're not," she says. "That just fixes me. But I want you to look
as good as I do."

"Nature'll see to that," I says.

But they was no arguin' with her. Our trip, she says, was an investment;
it was goin' to get us in right with people worth w'ile. And we wouldn't
have a chance in the world unless we looked the part.

So before the tenth come round, we was long two new evenin' gowns, two
female sport suits, four or five pairs o' shoes, all colors, one Tuxedo
dinner coat, three dress shirts, half a dozen other kinds o' shirts, two
pairs o' transparent white trousers, one new business suit and Lord
knows how much underwear and how many hats and stockin's. And I had till
the fifteenth o' March to pay off the mortgage on the old homestead.

Just as we was gettin' ready to leave for the train the phone rung. It
was Mrs. Hatch and she wanted us to come over for a little rummy. I was
shavin' and the Missus done the talkin'.

"What did you tell her?" I ast.

"I told her we was goin' away," says the Wife.

"I bet you forgot to mention where we was goin'," I says.

"Pay me," says she.


II

I thought we was in Venice when we woke up next mornin', but the porter
says it was just Cairo, Illinois. The river'd went crazy and I bet they
wasn't a room without a bath in that old burg.

As we set down in the diner for breakfast the train was goin' acrost the
longest bridge I ever seen, and it looked like we was so near the water
that you could reach right out and grab a handful. The Wife was a little
wabbly.

"I wonder if it's really safe," she says.

"If the bridge stays up we're all right," says I.

"But the question is, Will it stay up?" she says.

"I wouldn't bet a nickel either way on a bridge," I says. "They're
treacherous little devils. They'd cross you as quick as they'd cross
this river."

"The trainmen must be nervous," she says. "Just see how we're draggin'
along."

"They're givin' the fish a chance to get off en the track," I says.
"It's against the law to spear fish with a cowcatcher this time o'
year."

Well, the Wife was so nervous she couldn't eat nothin' but toast and
coffee, so I figured I was justified in goin' to the prunes and steak
and eggs.

After breakfast we went out in what they call the sun parlor. It was a
glassed-in room on the tail-end o' the rear coach and it must of been a
pleasant place to set and watch the scenery. But they was a gang o'
missionaries or somethin' had all the seats and they never budged out o'
them all day. Every time they'd come to a crossroads they'd toss a stack
o' Bible studies out o' the back window for the southern heathen to pick
up and read. I suppose they thought they was doin' a lot o' good for
their fellow men, but their fellow passengers meanw'ile was gettin' the
worst of it.

Speakin' o' the scenery, it certainly was somethin' grand. First we'd
pass a few pine trees with fuzz on 'em and then a couple o' acres o'
yellow mud. Then they'd be more pine trees and more fuzz and then more
yellow mud. And after a w'ile we'd come to some pine trees with fuzz on
'em and then, if we watched close, we'd see some yellow mud.

Every few minutes the train'd stop and then start up again on low. That
meant the engineer suspected he was comin' to a station and was scared
that if he run too fast he wouldn't see it, and if he run past it
without stoppin' the inhabitants wouldn't never forgive him. You see,
they's a regular schedule o' duties that's followed out by the more
prominent citizens down those parts. After their wife's attended to the
chores and got the breakfast they roll out o' bed and put on their
overalls and eat. Then they get on their horse or mule or cow or dog and
ride down to the station and wait for the next train. When it comes they
have a contest to see which can count the passengers first. The losers
has to promise to work one day the followin' month. If one fella loses
three times in the same month he generally always kills himself.

All the towns has got five or six private residences and seven or eight
two-apartment buildin's and a grocery and a post-office. They told me
that somebody in one o' them burgs, I forget which one, got a letter the
day before we come through. It was misdirected, I guess.

The two-apartment buildin's is constructed on the ground floor, with a
porch to divide one flat from the other. One's the housekeepin' side and
the other's just a place for the husband and father to lay round in so's
they won't be disturbed by watchin' the women work.

It was a blessin' to them boys when their states went dry. Just think
what a strain it must of been to keep liftin' glasses and huntin' in
their overalls for a dime!

In the afternoon the Missus went into our apartment and took a nap and I
moseyed into the readin'-room and looked over some o' the comical
magazines. They was a fat guy come in and set next to me. I'd heard him,
in at lunch, tellin' the dinin'-car conductor what Wilson should of
done, so I wasn't su'prised when he opened up on me.

"Tiresome trip," he says.

I didn't think it was worth w'ile arguin' with him.

"Must of been a lot o' rain through here," he says.

"Either that," says I, "or else the sprinklin' wagon run shy o'
streets."

He laughed as much as it was worth.

"Where do you come from?" he ast me.

"Dear old Chicago," I says.

"I'm from St. Louis," he says.

"You're frank," says I.

"I'm really as much at home one place as another," he says. "The Wife
likes to travel and why shouldn't I humor her?"

"I don't know," I says. "I haven't the pleasure."

"Seems like we're goin' all the w'ile," says he. "It's Hot Springs or
New Orleans or Florida or Atlantic City or California or somewheres."

"Do you get passes?" I ast him.

"I guess I could if I wanted to," he says. "Some o' my best friends is
way up in the railroad business."

"I got one like that," I says. "He generally stands on the fourth or
fifth car behind the engine."

"Do you travel much?" he ast me.

"I don't live in St. Louis," says I.

"Is this your first trip south?" he ast.

"Oh, no," I says. "I live on Sixty-fifth Street."

"I meant, have you ever been down this way before?"

"Oh, yes," says I. "I come down every winter."

"Where do you go?" he ast.

That's what I was layin' for.

"Palm Beach," says I.

"I used to go there," he says. "But I've cut it out. It ain't like it
used to be. They leave everybody in now."

"Yes," I says; "but a man don't have to mix up with 'em."

"You can't just ignore people that comes up and talks to you," he says.

"Are you bothered that way much?" I ast.

"It's what drove me away from Palm Beach," he says.

"How long since you been there?" I ast him.

"How long you been goin' there?" he says.

"Me?" says I. "Five years."

"We just missed each other," says he. "I quit six years ago this
winter."

"Then it couldn't of been there I seen you," says I. "But I know I seen
you somewheres before."

"It might of been most anywheres," he says. "They's few places I haven't
been at."

"Maybe it was acrost the pond," says I.

"Very likely," he says. "But not since the war started. I been steerin'
clear of Europe for two years."

"So have I, for longer'n that," I says.

"It's certainly an awful thing, this war," says he.

"I believe you're right," says I; "but I haven't heard nobody express it
just that way before."

"I only hope," he says, "that we succeed in keepin' out of it."

"If we got in, would you go?" I ast him.

"Yes, sir," he says.

"You wouldn't beat me," says I. "I bet I'd reach Brazil as quick as
you."

"Oh, I don't think they'd be any action in South America," he says.
"We'd fight defensive at first and most of it would be along the
Atlantic Coast."

"Then maybe we could get accommodations in Yellowstone Park," says I.

"They's no sense in this country gettin' involved," he says. "Wilson
hasn't handled it right. He either ought to of went stronger or not so
strong. He's wrote too many notes."

"You certainly get right to the root of a thing," says I. "You must of
thought a good deal about it."

"I know the conditions pretty well," he says. "I know how far you can go
with them people over there. I been amongst 'em a good part o' the
time."

"I suppose," says I, "that a fella just naturally don't like to butt in.
But if I was you I'd consider it my duty to romp down to Washington and
give 'em all the information I had."

"Wilson picked his own advisers," says he. "Let him learn his lesson."

"That ain't hardly fair," I says. "Maybe you was out o' town, or your
phone was busy or somethin'."

"I don't know Wilson nor he don't know me," he says.

"That oughtn't to stop you from helpin' him out," says I. "If you seen a
man drownin' would you wait for some friend o' the both o' you to come
along and make the introduction?"

"They ain't no comparison in them two cases," he says. "Wilson ain't
never called on me for help."

"You don't know if he has or not," I says. "You don't stick in one place
long enough for a man to reach you."

"My office in St. Louis always knows where I'm at," says he. "My
stenographer can reach me any time within ten to twelve hours."

"I don't think it's right to have this country's whole future dependin'
on a St. Louis stenographer," I says.

"That's nonsense!" says he. "I ain't makin' no claim that I could save
or not save this country. But if I and Wilson was acquainted I might
tell him some facts that'd help him out in his foreign policy."

"Well, then," I says, "it's up to you to get acquainted. I'd introduce
you myself only I don't know your name."

"My name's Gould," says he; "but you're not acquainted with Wilson."

"I could be, easy," says I. "I could get on a train he was goin'
somewheres on and then go and set beside him and begin to talk. Lots o'
people make friends that way."

It was gettin' along to'rd supper-time, so I excused myself and went
back to the apartment. The Missus had woke up and wasn't feelin' good.

"What's the matter?" I ast her.

"This old train," she says. "I'll die if it don't stop goin' round them
curves."

"As long as the track curves, the best thing the train can do is curve
with it," I says. "You may die if it keeps curvin', but you'd die a
whole lot sooner if it left the rails and went straight ahead."

"What you been doin'?" she ast me.

"Just talkin' to one o' the Goulds," I says.

"Gould!" she says. "What Gould?"

"Well," I says, "I didn't ask him his first name, but he's from St.
Louis, so I suppose it's Ludwig or Heinie."

"Oh," she says, disgusted. "I thought you meant one o' the real ones."

"He's a real one, all right," says I. "He's so classy that he's passed
up Palm Beach. He says it's gettin' too common."

"I don't believe it," says the Wife. "And besides, we don't have to mix
up with everybody."

"He says they butt right in on you," I told her.

"They'll get a cold reception from me," she says.

But between the curves and the fear o' Palm Beach not bein' so exclusive
as it used to be, she couldn't eat no supper, and I had another big
meal.

The next mornin' we landed in Jacksonville three hours behind time and
narrowly missed connections for St. Augustine by over an hour and a
half. They wasn't another train till one-thirty in the afternoon, so we
had some time to kill. I went shoppin' and bought a shave and five or
six rickeys. The Wife helped herself to a chair in the writin'-room of
one o' the hotels and told pretty near everybody in Chicago that she
wished they was along with us, accompanied by a pitcher o' the Elks'
Home or the Germania Club, or Trout Fishin' at Atlantic Beach.

W'ile I was gettin' my dime's worth in the tonsorial parlors, I happened
to look up at a calendar on the wall, and noticed it was the twelfth o'
February.

"How does it come that everything's open here to-day?" I says to the
barber. "Don't you-all know it's Lincoln's birthday?"

"Is that so?" he says. "How old is he?"


III

We'd wired ahead for rooms at the Alcazar, and when we landed in St.
Augustine they was a motor-bus from the hotel to meet us at the station.

"Southern hospitality," I says to the Wife, and we was both pleased till
they relieved us o' four bits apiece for the ride.

Well, they hadn't neither one of us slept good the night before, w'ile
we was joltin' through Georgia; so when I suggested a nap they wasn't no
argument.

"But our clo'es ought to be pressed," says the Missus. "Call up the
valet and have it done w'ile we sleep."

So I called up the valet, and sure enough, he come.

"Hello, George!" I says. "You see, we're goin' to lay down and take a
nap, and we was wonderin' if you could crease up these two suits and
have 'em back here by the time we want 'em."

"Certainly, sir," says he.

"And how much will it cost?" I ast him.

"One dollar a suit," he says.

"Are you on parole or haven't you never been caught?" says I.

"Yes, sir," he says, and smiled like it was a joke.

"Let's talk business, George," I says. "The tailor we go to on
Sixty-third walks two blocks to get our clo'es, and two blocks to take
'em to his joint, and two blocks to bring 'em back, and he only soaks us
thirty-five cents a suit."

"He gets poor pay and he does poor work," says the burglar. "When I
press clo'es I press 'em right."

"Well," I says, "the tailor on Sixty-third satisfies us. Suppose you
don't do your best this time, but just give us seventy cents' worth."

But they wasn't no chance for a bargain. He'd been in the business so
long he'd become hardened and lost all regard for his fellow men.

The Missus slept, but I didn't. Instead, I done a few problems in
arithmetic. Outside o' what she'd gave up for postcards and stamps in
Jacksonville, I'd spent two bucks for our lunch, about two more for my
shave and my refreshments, one for a rough ride in a bus, one more for
gettin' our trunk and grips carried round, two for havin' the clo'es
pressed, and about half a buck in tips to people that I wouldn't never
see again. Somewheres near nine dollars a day, not countin' no hotel
bill, and over two weeks of it yet to come!

Oh, you rummy game at home, at half a cent a point!

When our clo'es come back I woke her up and give her the figures.

"But to-day's an exception," she says. "After this our meals will be
included in the hotel bill and we won't need to get our suits pressed
only once a week and you'll be shavin' yourself and they won't be no bus
fare when we're stayin' in one place. Besides, we can practise economy
all spring and all summer."

"I guess we need the practise," I says.

"And if you're goin' to crab all the time about expenses," says she,
"I'll wish we had of stayed home."

"That'll make it unanimous," says I.

Then she begin sobbin' about how I'd spoiled the trip and I had to
promise I wouldn't think no more o' what we were spendin'. I might just
as well of promised to not worry when the White Sox lost or when I'd
forgot to come home to supper.

We went in the dinin'-room about six-thirty and was showed to a table
where they was another couple settin'. They was husband and wife, I
guess, but I don't know which was which. She was wieldin' the pencil and
writin' down their order.

"I guess I'll have clams," he says.

"They disagreed with you last night," says she.

"All right," he says. "I won't try 'em. Give me cream-o'-tomato soup."

"You don't like tomatoes," she says.

"Well, I won't have no soup," says he. "A little o' the blue-fish."

"The blue-fish wasn't no good at noon," she says. "You better try the
bass."

"All right, make it bass," he says. "And them sweet-breads and a little
roast beef and sweet potatoes and peas and vanilla ice-cream and
coffee."

"You wouldn't touch sweet-breads at home," says she, "and you can't tell
what they'll be in a hotel."

"All right, cut out the sweet-breads," he says.

"I should think you'd have the stewed chicken," she says, "and leave out
the roast beef."

"Stewed chicken it is," says he.

"Stewed chicken and mashed potatoes and string beans and buttered toast
and coffee. Will that suit you?"

"Sure!" he says, and she give the slip to the waiter.

George looked at it long enough to of read it three times if he could of
read it once and then went out in the kitchen and got a trayful o'
whatever was handy.

But the poor guy didn't get more'n a taste of anything. She was watchin'
him like a hawk, and no sooner would he delve into one victual than
she'd yank the dish away from him and tell him to remember that health
was more important than temporary happiness. I felt so sorry for him
that I couldn't enjoy my own repast and I told the Wife that we'd have
our breakfast apart from that stricken soul if I had to carry the case
to old Al Cazar himself.

In the evenin' we strolled acrost the street to the Ponce--that's
supposed to be even sweller yet than where we were stoppin' at. We
walked all over the place without recognizin' nobody from our set. I
finally warned the Missus that if we didn't duck back to our room I'd
probably have a heart attack from excitement; but she'd read in her
Florida guide that the decorations and pitchers was worth goin' miles to
see, so we had to stand in front o' them for a couple hours and try to
keep awake. Four or five o' them was thrillers, at that. Their names was
Adventure, Discovery, Contest, and so on, but what they all should of
been called was Lady Who Had Mislaid Her Clo'es.

The hotel's named after the fella that built it. He come from Spain and
they say he was huntin' for some water that if he'd drunk it he'd feel
young. I don't see myself how you could expect to feel young on water.
But, anyway, he'd heard that this here kind o' water could be found in
St. Augustine, and when he couldn't find it he went into the hotel
business and got even with the United States by chargin' five dollars a
day and up for a room.

Sunday mornin' we went in to breakfast early and I ast the head waiter
if we could set at another table where they wasn't no convalescent and
his mate. At the same time I give the said head waiter somethin' that
spoke louder than words. We was showed to a place way acrost the room
from where we'd been the night before. It was a table for six, but the
other four didn't come into our life till that night at supper.

Meanw'ile we went sight-seein'. We visited Fort Marion, that'd be a
great protection against the Germans, provided they fought with paper
wads. We seen the city gate and the cathedral and the slave market, and
then we took the boat over to Anastasia Island, that the ocean's on the
other side of it. This trip made me homesick, because the people that
was along with us on the boat looked just like the ones we'd often went
with to Michigan City on the Fourth o' July. The boat landed on the bay
side o' the island and from there we was drug over to the ocean side on
a horse car, the horse walkin' to one side o' the car instead of in
front, so's he wouldn't get ran over.

We stuck on the beach till dinner-time and then took the chariot back to
the pavilion on the bay side, where a whole family served the meal and
their pigs put on a cabaret. It was the best meal I had in dear old
Dixie--fresh oysters and chicken and mashed potatoes and gravy and fish
and pie. And they charged two bits a plate.

"Goodness gracious!" says the Missus, when I told her the price. "This
is certainly reasonable. I wonder how it happens."

"Well," I says, "the family was probably washed up here by the tide and
don't know they're in Florida."

When we got back to the hotel they was only just time to clean up and go
down to supper. We hadn't no sooner got seated when our table companions
breezed in. It was a man about forty-five, that looked like he'd made
his money in express and general haulin', and he had his wife along and
both their mother-in-laws. The shirt he had on was the one he'd started
from home with, if he lived in Yokohama. His womenfolks wore mournin'
with a touch o' gravy here and there.

"You order for us, Jake," says one o' the ladies.

So Jake grabbed the bill o' fare and his wife took the slip and pencil
and waited for the dictation.

"Let's see," he says. "How about oyster cocktail?"

"Yes," says the three Mrs. Black.

"Four oyster cocktails, then," says Jake, "and four orders o'
blue-points."

"The oysters is nice, too," says I.

They all give me a cordial smile and the ice was broke.

"Everything's good here," says Jake.

"I bet you know," I says.

He seemed pleased at the compliment and went on dictatin'.

"Four chicken soups with rice," he says, "and four o' the blue-fish and
four veal chops breaded and four roast chicken and four boiled
potatoes--"

But it seemed his wife would rather have sweet potatoes.

"All right," says Jake; "four boiled potatoes and four sweets. And
chicken salad and some o' that tapioca puddin' and ice-cream and tea. Is
that satisfactory?"

"Fine!" says one o' the mother-in-laws.

"Are you goin' to stay long?" says Mrs. Jake to my Missus.

The party addressed didn't look very clubby, but she was too polite to
pull the cut direct.

"We leave to-morrow night," she says.

Nobody ast her where we was goin'.

"We leave for Palm Beach," she says.

"That's a nice place, I guess," says one o' the old ones. "More people
goes there than comes here. It ain't so expensive there, I guess."

"You're some guesser," says the Missus and freezes up.

I ast Jake if he'd been to Florida before.

"No," he says; "this is our first trip, but we're makin' up for lost
time. We're seein' all they is to see and havin' everything the best."

"You're havin' everything, all right," I says, "but I don't know if it's
the best or not. How long have you been here?"

"A week to-morrow," says he. "And we stay another week and then go to
Ormond."

"Are you standin' the trip O. K.?" I ast him.

"Well," he says, "I don't feel quite as good as when we first come."

"Kind o' logy?" I says.

"Yes; kind o' heavy," says Jake.

"I know what you ought to do," says I. "You ought to go to a European
plan hotel."

"Not w'ile this war's on," he says, "and besides, my mother's a poor
sailor."

"Yes," says his mother; "I'm a very poor sailor."

"Jake's mother can't stand the water," says Mrs. Jake.

So I begun to believe that Jake's wife's mother-in-law was a total
failure as a jolly tar.

Social intercourse was put an end to when the waiter staggered in with
their order and our'n. The Missus seemed to of lost her appetite and
just set there lookin' grouchy and tappin' her fingers on the
table-cloth and actin' like she was in a hurry to get away. I didn't eat
much, neither. It was more fun watchin'.

"Well," I says, when we was out in the lobby, "we finally got acquainted
with some real people."

"Real people!" says the Missus, curlin' her lip. "What did you talk to
'em for?"

"I couldn't resist," I says. "Anybody that'd order four oyster cocktails
and four rounds o' blue-points is worth knowin'."

"Well," she says, "if they're there when we go in to-morrow mornin'
we'll get our table changed again or you can eat with 'em alone."

But they was absent from the breakfast board.

"They're probably stayin' in bed to-day to get their clo'es washed,"
says the Missus.

"Or maybe they're sick," I says. "A change of oysters affects some
people."

I was for goin' over to the island again and gettin' another o' them
quarter banquets, but the program was for us to walk round town all
mornin' and take a ride in the afternoon.

First, we went to St. George Street and visited the oldest house in the
United States. Then we went to Hospital Street and seen the oldest house
in the United States. Then we turned the corner and went down St.
Francis Street and inspected the oldest house in the United States. Then
we dropped into a soda fountain and I had an egg phosphate, made from
the oldest egg in the Western Hemisphere. We passed up lunch and got
into a carriage drawn by the oldest horse in Florida, and we rode
through the country all afternoon and the driver told us some o' the
oldest jokes in the book. He felt it was only fair to give his customers
a good time when he was chargin' a dollar an hour, and he had his gags
rehearsed so's he could tell the same one a thousand times and never
change a word. And the horse knowed where the point come in every one
and stopped to laugh.

We done our packin' before supper, and by the time we got to our table
Jake and the mourners was through and gone. We didn't have to ask the
waiter if they'd been there. He was perspirin' like an evangelist.

After supper we said good-by to the night clerk and twenty-two bucks.
Then we bought ourself another ride in the motor-bus and landed at the
station ten minutes before train-time; so we only had an hour to wait
for the train.

Say, I don't know how many stations they is between New York and San
Francisco, but they's twice as many between St. Augustine and Palm
Beach. And our train stopped twice and started twice at every one. I
give up tryin' to sleep and looked out the window, amusin' myself by
readin' the names o' the different stops. The only one that expressed my
sentiments was Eau Gallie. We was an hour and a half late pullin' out o'
that joint and I figured we'd be two hours to the bad gettin' into our
destination. But the guy that made out the time-table must of had the
engineer down pat, because when we went acrost the bridge over Lake
Worth and landed at the Poinciana depot, we was ten minutes ahead o'
time.

They was about two dozen uniformed Ephs on the job to meet us. And when
I seen 'em all grab for our baggage with one hand and hold the other
out, face up, I knowed why they called it Palm Beach.


IV

The Poinciana station's a couple hundred yards from one end o' the
hotel, and that means it's close to five miles from the clerk's desk. By
the time we'd registered and been gave our key and marathoned another
five miles or so to where our room was located at, I was about ready for
the inquest. But the Missus was full o' pep and wild to get down to
breakfast and look over our stable mates. She says we would eat without
changin' our clo'es; people'd forgive us for not dressin' up on account
o' just gettin' there. W'ile she was lookin' out the window at the royal
palms and buzzards, I moseyed round the room inspectin' where the
different doors led to. Pretty near the first one I opened went into a
private bath.

"Here," I says; "they've give us the wrong room."

Then my wife seen it and begin to squeal.

"Goody!" she says. "We've got a bath! We've got a bath!"

"But," says I, "they promised we wouldn't have none. It must be a
mistake."

"Never you mind about a mistake," she says. "This is our room and they
can't chase us out of it."

"We'll chase ourself out," says I. "Rooms with a bath is fifteen and
sixteen dollars and up. Rooms without no bath is bad enough."

"We'll keep this room or I won't stay here," she says.

"All right, you win," I says; but I didn't mean it.

I made her set in the lobby down-stairs w'ile I went to the clerk
pretendin' that I had to see about our trunk.

"Say," I says to him, "you've made a bad mistake. You told your man in
Chicago that we couldn't have no room with a bath, and now you've give
us one."

"You're lucky," he says. "A party who had a bath ordered for these two
weeks canceled their reservation and now you've got it."

"Lucky, am I?" I says. "And how much is the luck goin' to cost me?"

"It'll be seventeen dollars per day for that room," he says, and turned
away to hide a blush.

I went back to the Wife.

"Do you know what we're payin' for that room?" I says. "We're payin'
seventeen dollars."

"Well," she says, "our meals is throwed in."

"Yes," says I, "and the hotel furnishes a key."

"You promised in St. Augustine," she says, "that you wouldn't worry no
more about expenses."

Well, rather than make a scene in front o' the bellhops and the few
millionaires that was able to be about at that hour o' the mornin', I
just says "All right!" and led her into the dinin'-room.

The head waiter met us at the door and turned us over to his assistant.
Then some more assistants took hold of us one at a time and we was
relayed to a beautiful spot next door to the kitchen and bounded on all
sides by posts and pillars. It was all right for me, but a whole lot too
private for the Missus; so I had to call the fella that had been our
pacemaker on the last lap.

"We don't like this table," I says.

"It's the only one I can give you," he says.

I slipped him half a buck.

"Come to think of it," he says, "I believe they's one I forgot all
about."

And he moved us way up near the middle o' the place.

Say, you ought to seen that dinin'-room! From one end of it to the other
is a toll call, and if a man that was settin' at the table farthest from
the kitchen ordered roast lamb he'd get mutton. At that, they was
crowded for fair and it kept the head waiters hustlin' to find trough
space for one and all.

It was round nine o'clock when we put in our modest order for orange
juice, oatmeal, liver and bacon, and cakes and coffee, and a quarter to
ten or so when our waiter returned from the nearest orange grove with
Exhibit A. We amused ourself meanw'ile by givin' our neighbors the once
over and wonderin' which o' them was goin' to pal with us. As far as I
could tell from the glances we received, they wasn't no immediate danger
of us bein' annoyed by attentions.

They was only a few womenfolks on deck and they was dressed pretty
quiet; so quiet that the Missus was scared she'd shock 'em with the
sport skirt she'd bought in Chi. Later on in the day, when the girls
come out for their dress parade, the Missus' costume made about as much
noise as eatin' marshmallows in a foundry.

After breakfast we went to the room for a change o' raiment. I put on my
white trousers and wished to heaven that the sun'd go under a cloud till
I got used to tellin' people without words just where my linen began and
I left off. The rest o' my outfit was white shoes that hurt, and white
sox, and a two-dollar silk shirt that showed up a zebra, and a red tie
and a soft collar and a blue coat. The Missus wore a sport suit that I
won't try and describe--you'll probably see it on her sometime in the
next five years.

We went down-stairs again and out on the porch, where some o' the old
birds was takin' a sun bath.

"Where now?" I says.

"The beach, o' course," says the Missus.

"Where is it at?" I ast her.

"I suppose," she says, "that we'll find it somewheres near the ocean."

"I don't believe you can stand this climate," says I.

"The ocean," she says, "must be down at the end o' that avenue, where
most everybody seems to be headed."

"Havin' went to our room and back twice, I don't feel like another
five-mile hike," I says.

"It ain't no five miles," she says; "but let's ride, anyway."

"Come on," says I, pointin' to a street-car that was standin' in the
middle o' the avenue.

"Oh, no," she says. "I've watched and found out that the real people
takes them funny-lookin' wheel chairs."

I was wonderin' what she meant when one o' them pretty near run over us.
It was part bicycle, part go-cart and part African. In the one we dodged
they was room for one passenger, but some o' them carried two.

"I wonder what they'd soak us for the trip," I says.

"Not more'n a dime, I don't believe," says the Missus.

But when we'd hired one and been w'isked down under the palms and past
the golf field to the bath-house, we was obliged to part with fifty
cents legal and tender.

"I feel much refreshed," I says. "I believe when it comes time to go
back I'll be able to walk."

The bath-house is acrost the street from the other hotel, the Breakers,
that the man had told us was full for the season. Both buildin's fronts
on the ocean; and, boy, it's some ocean! I bet they's fish in there that
never seen each other!

"Oh, let's go bathin' right away!" says the Missus.

"Our suits is up to the other beanery," says I, and I was glad of it.
They wasn't nothin' temptin' to me about them man-eatin' waves.

But the Wife's a persistent cuss.

"We won't go to-day," she says, "but we'll go in the bath-house and get
some rooms for to-morrow."

The bath-house porch was a ringer for the _Follies_. Here and down on
the beach was where you seen the costumes at this time o' day. I was so
busy rubberin' that I passed the entrance door three times without
noticin' it. From the top o' their heads to the bottom o' their feet the
girls was a mess o' colors. They wasn't no two dressed alike and if any
one o' them had of walked down State Street we'd of had an epidemic o'
stiff neck to contend with in Chi. Finally the Missus grabbed me and
hauled me into the office.

"Two private rooms," she says to the clerk. "One lady and one gent."

"Five dollars a week apiece," he says. "But we're all filled up."

"You ought to be all locked up!" I says.

"Will you have anything open to-morrow?" ast the Missus.

"I think I can fix you then," he says.

"What do we get for the five?" I ast him.

"Private room and we take care o' your bathin' suit," says he.

"How much if you don't take care o' the suit?" I ast him. "My suit's
been gettin' along fine with very little care."

"Five dollars a week apiece," he says, "and if you want the rooms you
better take 'em, because they're in big demand."

By the time we'd closed this grand bargain, everybody'd moved offen the
porch and down to the water, where a couple dozen o' them went in for a
swim and the rest set and watched. They was a long row o' chairs on the
beach for spectators and we was just goin' to flop into two o' them when
another bandit come up and told us it'd cost a dime apiece per hour.

"We're goin' to be here two weeks," I says. "Will you sell us two
chairs?"

He wasn't in no comical mood, so we sunk down on the sand and seen the
show from there. We had plenty o' company that preferred these kind o'
seats free to the chairs at ten cents a whack.

Besides the people that was in the water gettin' knocked down by the
waves and pretendin' like they enjoyed it, about half o' the gang on the
sand was wearin' bathin' suits just to be clubby. You could tell by
lookin' at the suits that they hadn't never been wet and wasn't intended
for no such ridic'lous purpose. I wisht I could describe 'em to you, but
it'd take a female to do it right.

One little girl, either fourteen or twenty-four, had white silk slippers
and sox that come pretty near up to her ankles, and from there to her
knees it was just plain Nature. Northbound from her knees was a pair o'
bicycle trousers that disappeared when they come to the bottom of her
Mother Hubbard. This here garment was a thing without no neck or sleeves
that begin bulgin' at the top and spread out gradual all the way down,
like a croquette. To top her off, she had a jockey cap; and--believe
me--I'd of played her mount acrost the board. They was plenty o' class
in the field with her, but nothin' that approached her speed. Later on I
seen her several times round the hotel, wearin' somethin' near the same
outfit, without the jockey cap and with longer croquettes.

We set there in the sand till people begun to get up and leave. Then we
trailed along back o' them to the Breakers' porch, where they was music
to dance and stuff to inhale.

"We'll grab a table," I says to the Missus. "I'm dyin' o' thirst."

But I was allowed to keep on dyin'.

"I can serve you somethin' soft," says the waiter.

"I'll bet you can't!" I says.

"You ain't got no locker here?" he says.

"What do you mean--locker?" I ast him.

"It's the locker liquor law," he says. "We can serve you a drink if you
own your own bottles."

"I'd just as soon own a bottle," I says. "I'll become the proprietor of
a bottle o' beer."

"It'll take three or four hours to get it for you," he says, "and you'd
have to order it through the order desk. If you're stoppin' at one o'
the hotels and want a drink once in a w'ile, you better get busy and put
in an order."

So I had to watch the Missus put away a glass of orange juice that cost
forty cents and was just the same size as they give us for breakfast
free for nothin'. And, not havin' had nothin' to make me forget that my
feet hurt, I was obliged to pay another four bits for an Afromobile to
cart us back to our own boardin' house.

"Well," says the Missus when we got there, "it's time to wash up and go
to lunch."

"Wash up and go to lunch, then," I says; "but I'm goin' to investigate
this here locker liquor or liquor locker law."

So she got her key and beat it, and I limped to the bar.

"I want a highball," I says to the boy.

"What's your number?" says he.

"It varies," I says. "Sometimes I can hold twenty and sometimes four or
five makes me sing."

"I mean, have you got a locker here?" he says.

"No; but I want to get one," says I.

"The gent over there to the desk will fix you," says he.

So over to the desk I went and ast for a locker.

"What do you drink?" ast the gent.

"I'm from Chicago," I says. "I drink bourbon."

"What's your name and room number?" he says, and I told him.

Then he ast me how often did I shave and what did I think o' the Kaiser
and what my name was before I got married, and if I had any intentions
of ever running an elevator. Finally he says I was all right.

"I'll order you some bourbon," he says. "Anything else?"

I was goin' to say no, but I happened to remember that the Wife
generally always wants a bronix before dinner. So I had to also put in a
bid for a bottle o' gin and bottles o' the Vermouth brothers, Tony and
Pierre. It wasn't till later that I appreciated what a grand law this
here law was. When I got my drinks I paid ten cents apiece for 'em for
service, besides payin' for the bottles o' stuff to drink. And, besides
that, about every third highball or bronix I ordered, the waiter'd bring
back word that I was just out of ingredients and then they'd be another
delay w'ile they sent to the garage for more. If they had that law all
over the country they'd soon be an end o' drinkin', because everybody'd
get so mad they'd kill each other.

My cross-examination had took quite a long time, but when I got to my
room the Wife wasn't back from lunch yet and I had to cover the Marathon
route all over again and look her up. We only had the one key to the
room, and o' course couldn't expect no more'n that at the price.

The Missus had bought one o' the daily programs they get out and she
knowed just what we had to do the rest o' the day.

"For the next couple hours," she says, "we can suit ourself."

"All right," says I. "It suits me to take off my shoes and lay down."

"I'll rest, too," she says; "but at half past four we have to be in the
Cocoanut Grove for tea and dancin'. And then we come back to the room
and dress for dinner. Then we eat and then we set around till the
evenin' dance starts. Then we dance till we're ready for bed."

"Who do we dance all these dances with?" I ast her.

"With whoever we get acquainted with," she says.

"All right," says I; "but let's be careful."

Well, we took our nap and then we followed schedule and had our tea in
the Cocoanut Grove. You know how I love tea! My feet was still achin'
and the Missus couldn't talk me into no dance.

When we'd set there an hour and was saturated with tea, the Wife says it
was time to go up and change into our Tuxedos. I was all in when we
reached the room and willin' to even pass up supper and nestle in the
hay, but I was informed that the biggest part o' the day's doin's was
yet to come. So from six o'clock till after seven I wrestled with studs,
and hooks and eyes that didn't act like they'd ever met before and
wasn't anxious to get acquainted, and then down we went again to the
dinin'-room.

"How about a little bronix before the feed?" I says.

"It would taste good," says the Missus.

So I called Eph and give him the order. In somethin' less than half an
hour he come back empty-handed.

"You ain't got no cocktail stuff," he says.

"I certainly have," says I. "I ordered it early this afternoon."

"Where at?" he ast me.

"Over in the bar," I says.

"Oh, the regular bar!" he says. "That don't count. You got to have stuff
at the service bar to get it served in here."

"I ain't as thirsty as I thought I was," says I.

"Me, neither," says the Missus.

So we went ahead and ordered our meal, and w'ile we was waitin' for it a
young couple come and took the other two chairs at our table. They
didn't have to announce through a megaphone that they was honeymooners.
It was wrote all over 'em. They was reachin' under the table for each
other's hand every other minute, and when they wasn't doin' that they
was smilin' at each other or gigglin' at nothin'. You couldn't feel that
good and be payin' seventeen dollars a day for room and board unless you
was just married or somethin'.

I thought at first their company'd be fun, but after a few meals it got
like the southern cookin' and begun to undermine the health.

The conversation between they and us was what you could call limited. It
took place the next day at lunch. The young husband thought he was about
to take a bite o' the entry, which happened to be roast mutton with
sirup; but he couldn't help from lookin' at her at the same time and his
empty fork started for his face prongs up.

"Look out for your eye," I says.

He dropped the fork and they both blushed till you could see it right
through the sunburn. Then they give me a Mexican look and our
acquaintance was at an end.

This first night, when we was through eatin', we wandered out in the
lobby and took seats where we could watch the passin' show. The men was
all dressed like me, except I was up to date and had on a mushroom
shirt, w'ile they was sportin' the old-fashioned concrete bosom. The
women's dresses begun at the top with a belt, and some o' them stopped
at the mezzanine floor, w'ile others went clear down to the basement and
helped keep the rugs clean. They was one that must of thought it was the
Fourth o' July. From the top of her head to where the top of her bathin'
suit had left off, she was a red, red rose. From there to the top of her
gown was white, and her gown, what they was of it--was blue.

"My!" says the Missus. "What stunnin' gowns!"

"Yes," I says; "and you could have one just like 'em if you'd take the
shade offen the piano lamp at home and cut it down to the right size."

Round ten o'clock we wandered in the Palm Garden, where the dancin' had
been renewed. The Wife wanted to plunge right in the mazes o' the foxy
trot.

"I'll take some courage first," says I. And then was when I found out
that it cost you ten cents extra besides the tip to pay for a drink that
you already owned in fee simple.

Well, I guess we must of danced about six dances together and had that
many quarrels before she was ready to go to bed. And oh, how grand that
old hay-pile felt when I finally bounced into it!

The next day we went to the ocean at the legal hour--half past eleven. I
never had so much fun in my life. The surf was runnin' high, I heard 'em
say; and I don't know which I'd rather do, go bathin' in the ocean at
Palm Beach when the surf is runnin' high, or have a dentist get one o'
my molars ready for a big inlay at a big outlay. Once in a w'ile I
managed to not get throwed on my head when a wave hit me. As for
swimmin', you had just as much chance as if you was at State and Madison
at the noon hour. And before I'd been in a minute they was enough salt
in my different features to keep the Blackstone hotel runnin' all
through the onion season.

The Missus enjoyed it just as much as me. She tried to pretend at first,
and when she got floored she'd give a squeal that was supposed to mean
heavenly bliss. But after she'd been bruised from head to feet and her
hair looked and felt like spinach with French dressin', and she'd drank
all she could hold o' the Gulf Stream, she didn't resist none when I
drug her in to shore and staggered with her up to our private rooms at
five a week per each.

Without consultin' her, I went to the desk at the Casino and told 'em
they could have them rooms back.

"All right," says the clerk, and turned our keys over to the next in
line.

"How about a refund?" I ast him; but he was waitin' on somebody else.

After that we done our bathin' in the tub. But we was down to the beach
every morning at eleven-thirty to watch the rest o' them get batted
round.

And at half past twelve every day we'd follow the crowd to the Breakers'
porch and dance together, the Missus and I. Then it'd be back to the
other hostelry, sometimes limpin' and sometimes in an Afromobile, and a
drink or two in the Palm Garden before lunch. And after lunch we'd lay
down; or we'd pay some Eph two or three dollars to pedal us through the
windin' jungle trail, that was every bit as wild as the Art Institute;
or we'd ferry acrost Lake Worth to West Palm Beach and take in a movie,
or we'd stand in front o' the portable Fifth Avenue stores w'ile the
Missus wished she could have this dress or that hat, or somethin' else
that she wouldn't of looked at if she'd been home and in her right mind.
But always at half past four we had to live up to the rules and be in
the Cocoanut Grove for tea and some more foxy trottin'. And then it was
dress for dinner, eat dinner, watch the parade and wind up the glorious
day with more dancin'.

I bet you any amount you name that the Castles in their whole life
haven't danced together as much as I and the Missus did at Palm Beach.
I'd of gave five dollars if even one o' the waiters had took her offen
my hands for one dance. But I knowed that if I made the offer public
they'd of been a really serious quarrel between us instead o' just the
minor brawls occasioned by steppin' on each other's feet.

She made a discovery one night. She found out that they was a place
called the Beach Club where most o' the real people disappeared to every
evenin' after dinner. She says we would have to go there too.

"But I ain't a member," I says.

"Then find out how you get to be one," she says.

So to the Beach Club I went and made inquiries.

"You'll have to be introduced by a guy that already belongs," says the
man at the door.

"Who belongs?" I ast him.

"Hundreds o' people," he says. "Who do you know?"

"Two waiters, two barkeepers and one elevator boy," I says.

He laughed, but his laugh didn't get me no membership card and I had to
dance three or four extra times the next day to square myself with the
Missus.

She made another discovery and it cost me six bucks. She found out that,
though the meals in the regular dinin'-room was included in the triflin'
rates per day, the real people had at least two o' their meals in the
garden grill and paid extra for 'em. We tried it for one meal and I must
say I enjoyed it--all but the check.

"We can't keep up that clip," I says to her.

"We could," says she, "if you wasn't spendin' so much on your locker."

"The locker's a matter o' life and death," I says. "They ain't no man in
the world that could dance as much with their own wife as I do and live
without liquid stimulus."

When we'd been there four days she got to be on speakin' terms with the
ladies' maid that hung round the lobby and helped put the costumes back
on when they slipped off. From this here maid the Missus learned who was
who, and the information was relayed to me as soon as they was a chance.
We'd be settin' on the porch when I'd feel an elbow in my ribs all of a
sudden. I'd look up at who was passin' and then try and pretend I was
excited.

"Who is it?" I'd whisper.

"That's Mrs. Vandeventer," the Wife'd say. "Her husband's the biggest
street-car conductor in Philadelphia."

Or somebody'd set beside us at the beach or in the Palm Garden and my
ribs would be all battered up before the Missus was calm enough to tip
me off.

"The Vincents," she'd say; "the canned prune people."

It was a little bit thrillin' at first to be rubbin' elbows with all
them celeb's; but it got so finally that I could walk out o' the
dinin'-room right behind Scotti, the opera singer, without forgettin'
that my feet hurt.

The Washington's Birthday Ball brought 'em all together at once, and the
Missus pointed out eight and nine at a time and got me so mixed up that
I didn't know Pat Vanderbilt from Maggie Rockefeller. The only one you
couldn't make no mistake about was a Russian count that you couldn't
pronounce. He was buyin' bay mules or somethin' for the Russian
government, and he was in ambush.

"They say he can't hardly speak a word of English," says the Missus.

"If I knowed the word for barber shop in Russia," says I, "I'd tell him
they was one in this hotel."


V

In our mail box the next mornin' they was a notice that our first week
was up and all we owed was one hundred and forty-six dollars and fifty
cents. The bill for room and meals was one hundred and nineteen dollars.
The rest was for gettin' clo'es pressed and keepin' the locker damp.

I didn't have no appetite for breakfast. I told the Wife I'd wait up in
the room and for her to come when she got through. When she blew in I
had my speech prepared.

"Look here," I says; "this is our eighth day in Palm Beach society.
You're on speakin' terms with a maid and I've got acquainted with half a
dozen o' the male hired help. It's cost us about a hundred and
sixty-five dollars, includin' them private rooms down to the Casino and
our Afromobile trips, and this and that. You know a whole lot o' swell
people by sight, but you can't talk to 'em. It'd be just as much
satisfaction and hundreds o' dollars cheaper to look up their names in
the telephone directory at home; then phone to 'em and, when you got
'em, tell 'em it was the wrong number. That way, you'd get 'em to speak
to you at least.

"As for sport," I says, "we don't play golf and we don't play tennis and
we don't swim. We go through the same program o' doin' nothin' every
day. We dance, but we don't never change partners. For twelve dollars I
could buy a phonograph up home and I and you could trot round the
livin'-room all evenin' without no danger o' havin' some o' them fancy
birds cave our shins in. And we could have twice as much liquid
refreshments up there at about a twentieth the cost.

"That Gould I met on the train comin' down," I says, "was a even bigger
liar than I give him credit for. He says that when he was here people
pestered him to death by comin' up and speakin' to him. We ain't had to
dodge nobody or hide behind a cocoanut tree to remain exclusive. He says
Palm Beach was too common for him. What he should of said was that it
was too lonesome. If they was just one white man here that'd listen to
my stuff I wouldn't have no kick. But it ain't no pleasure tellin'
stories to the Ephs. They laugh whether it's good or not, and then want
a dime for laughin'.

"As for our clo'es," I says, "they would be all right for a couple o'
days' stay. But the dames round here, and the men, too, has somethin'
different to put on for every mornin', afternoon and night. You've wore
your two evenin' gowns so much that I just have to snap my finger at the
hooks and they go and grab the right eyes.

"The meals would be grand," I says, "if the cook didn't keep gettin'
mixed up and puttin' puddin' sauce on the meat and gravy on the pie.

"I'm glad we've been to Palm Beach," I says. "I wouldn't of missed it
for nothin'. But the ocean won't be no different to-morrow than it was
yesterday, and the same for the daily program. It don't even rain here,
to give us a little variety.

"Now what do you say," I says, "to us just settlin' this bill, and
whatever we owe since then, and beatin' it out o' here just as fast as
we can go?"

The Missus didn't say nothin' for a w'ile. She was too busy cryin'. She
knowed that what I'd said was the truth, but she wouldn't give up
without a struggle.

"Just three more days," she says finally. "If we don't meet somebody
worth meetin' in the next three days I'll go wherever you want to take
me."

"All right," I says; "three more days it is. What's a little matter o'
sixty dollars?"

Well, in them next two days and a half she done some desperate flirtin',
but as it was all with women I didn't get jealous. She picked out some
o' the E-light o' Chicago and tried every trick she could think up. She
told 'em their noses was shiny and offered 'em her powder. She stepped
on their white shoes just so's to get a chance to beg their pardon. She
told 'em their clo'es was unhooked, and then unhooked 'em so's she could
hook 'em up again. She tried to loan 'em her finger-nail tools. When she
seen one fannin' herself she'd say: "Excuse me, Mrs. So-and-So; but we
got the coolest room in the hotel, and I'd be glad to have you go up
there and quit perspirin'." But not a rise did she get.

Not till the afternoon o' the third day o' grace. And I don't know if I
ought to tell you this or not--only I'm sure you won't spill it
nowheres.

We'd went up in our room after lunch. I was tired out and she was
discouraged. We'd set round for over an hour, not sayin' or doin'
nothin'.

I wanted to talk about the chance of us gettin' away the next mornin',
but I didn't dast bring up the subject.

The Missus complained of it bein' hot and opened the door to leave the
breeze go through. She was settin' in a chair near the doorway,
pretendin' to read the _Palm Beach News_. All of a sudden she jumped up
and kind o' hissed at me.

"What's the matter?" I says, springin' from the lounge.

"Come here!" she says, and went out the door into the hall.

I got there as fast as I could, thinkin' it was a rat or a fire. But the
Missus just pointed to a lady walkin' away from us, six or seven doors
down.

"It's Mrs. Potter," she says; "_the_ Mrs. Potter from Chicago!"

"Oh!" I says, puttin' all the excitement I could into my voice.

And I was just startin' back into the room when I seen Mrs. Potter stop
and turn round and come to'rd us. She stopped again maybe twenty feet
from where the Missus was standin'.

"Are you on this floor?" she says.

The Missus shook like a leaf.

"Yes," says she, so low you couldn't hardly hear her.

"Please see that they's some towels put in 559," says _the_ Mrs. Potter
from Chicago.


VI

About five o'clock the Wife quieted down and I thought it was safe to
talk to her. "I've been readin' in the guide about a pretty river trip,"
I says. "We can start from here on the boat to-morrow mornin'. They run
to Fort Pierce to-morrow and stay there to-morrow night. The next day
they go from Fort Pierce to Rockledge, and the day after that from
Rockledge to Daytona. The fare's only five dollars apiece. And we can
catch a north-bound train at Daytona."

"All right, I don't care," says the Missus.

So I left her and went down-stairs and acrost the street to ask Mr.
Foster. Ask Mr. Foster happened to be a girl. She sold me the boat
tickets and promised she would reserve a room with bath for us at Fort
Pierce, where we was to spend the followin' night. I bet she knowed all
the w'ile that rooms with a bath in Fort Pierce is scarcer than toes on
a sturgeon.

I went back to the room and helped with the packin' in an advisory
capacity. Neither one of us had the heart to dress for dinner. We
ordered somethin' sent up and got soaked an extra dollar for service.
But we was past carin' for a little thing like that.

At nine o'clock next mornin' the good ship _Constitution_ stopped at the
Poinciana dock w'ile we piled aboard. One bellhop was down to see us off
and it cost me a quarter to get that much attention. Mrs. Potter must of
over-slept herself.

The boat was loaded to the guards and I ain't braggin' when I say that
we was the best-lookin' people aboard. And as for manners, why, say, old
Bill Sykes could of passed off for Henry Chesterfield in that gang! Each
one o' them occupied three o' the deck chairs and sprayed orange juice
all over their neighbors. We could of talked to plenty o' people here,
all right; they were as clubby a gang as I ever seen. But I was afraid
if I said somethin' they'd have to answer; and, with their mouths as
full o' citrus fruit as they was, the results might of been fatal to my
light suit.

We went up the lake to a canal and then through it to Indian River. The
boat run aground every few minutes and had to be pried loose. About
twelve o'clock a cullud gemman come up on deck and told us lunch was
ready. At half past one he served it at a long family table in the
cabin. As far as I was concerned, he might as well of left it on the
stove. Even if you could of bit into the food, a glimpse of your fellow
diners would of strangled your appetite.

After the repast I called the Missus aside.

"Somethin' tells me we're not goin' to live through three days o' this,"
I says. "What about takin' the train from Fort Pierce and beatin' it for
Jacksonville, and then home?"

"But that'd get us to Chicago too quick," says she. "We told people how
long we was goin' to be gone and if we got back ahead o' time they'd
think they was somethin' queer."

"They's too much queer on this boat," I says. "But you're goin' to have
your own way from now on."

We landed in Fort Pierce about six. It was only two or three blocks to
the hotel, but when they laid out that part o' town they overlooked some
o' the modern conveniences, includin' sidewalks. We staggered through
the sand with our grips and sure had worked up a hunger by the time we
reached Ye Inn.

"Got reservations for us here?" I ast the clerk.

"Yes," he says, and led us to 'em in person.

The room he showed us didn't have no bath, or even a chair that you
could set on w'ile you pulled off your socks.

"Where's the bath?" I ast him.

"This way," he says, and I followed him down the hall, outdoors and up
an alley.

Finally we come to a bathroom complete in all details, except that it
didn't have no door. I went back to the room, got the Missus and went
down to supper. Well, sir, I wish you could of been present at that
supper. The choice o' meats was calves' liver and onions or calves'
liver and onions. And I bet if them calves had of been still livin' yet
they could of gave us some personal reminiscences about Garfield.

The Missus give the banquet one look and then laughed for the first time
in several days.

"The guy that named this burg got the capitals mixed," I says. "It
should of been Port Fierce."

And she laughed still heartier. Takin' advantage, I says:

"How about the train from here to Jacksonville?"

"You win!" says she. "We can't get home too soon to suit me."


VII

The mornin' we landed in Chicago it was about eight above and a wind was
comin' offen the Lake a mile a minute. But it didn't feaze us.

"Lord!" says the Missus. "Ain't it grand to be home!"

"You said somethin'," says I. "But wouldn't it of been grander if we
hadn't never left?"

"I don't know about that," she says. "I think we both of us learned a
lesson."

"Yes," I says; "and the tuition wasn't only a matter o' close to seven
hundred bucks!"

"Oh," says she, "we'll get that back easy!"

"How?" I ast her. "Do you expect some tips on the market from Mrs.
Potter and the rest o' your new friends?"

"No," she says. "We'll win it. We'll win it in the rummy game with the
Hatches."



THE WATER CURE


When it comes to makin' matches I hand it to the women. When it comes to
breakin' 'em leave it to the handsomer sex.

The thirteenth o' June didn't light on a Friday, but old Tuesday come
through in the pinch with just as good results. Dear little
Sister-in-law Bess blew in on the afternoon train from Wabash. She says
she was makin' us a surprise visit. The surprise affected me a good deal
like the one that was pulled on Napoleon at Waterloo, Ia.

"How long are you goin' to light up our home?" I ast her at the supper
table.

"I haven't made up my mind," says she.

"That's all you've missed, then," I says.

"Don't mind him!" says my Missus. "He's just a tease. You look grand and
we're both tickled to death to have you here. You may stay with us all
summer."

"No question about that," I says. "Not only may, but li'ble to."

"If I do," says Bess, "it'll be on my sister's account, not yourn."

"But I'm the baby that settles your sister's account," I says; "and it
was some account after you left us last winter. With your visit and our
cute little trip to Palm Beach, I'm not what you'd call cramped for
pocket space."

"I guess I can pay my board," says Bess.

"I guess you won't!" says the Wife.

"The second guess is always better," says I.

"As for you entertainin' me, I don't expect nothin' like that," says
Bess.

"If you was lookin' for a quiet time," I says, "you made a big mistake
by leavin' Wabash."

"And I'm not lookin' for no quiet time, neither," Bess says right back
at me.

"Well," says I, "about the cheapest noisy time I can recommend is to go
over and set under the elevated."

"Maybe Bess has somethin' up in her sleeve," the Missus says, smilin'.
"You ain't the only man in Chicago."

"I'm the only one she knows," says I, "outside o' that millionaire
scenario writer that had us all in misery last winter. And I wouldn't
say he was over-ardent after he'd knew her a week."

Then the Wife winked at me to close up and I didn't get the dope till we
was alone together.

"They correspond," she told me.

"Absolutely," says I.

"I mean they been writin' letters to each other," says the Missus.

"Who's been buyin' Bishop's stamps?" I ast her.

"I guess a man can buy his own stamps when he gets ten thousand a year,"
says she. "Anyway, the reason Bess is here is to see him."

"Is it illegal for him to go to Wabash and see her?" I says.

"He's too busy to go to Wabash," the Wife says.

"I don't see how a man could be too busy for that," says I.

"She phoned him this noon," says the Missus. "He couldn't come over here
to-night, but to-morrow he's goin' to take her to the ball game."

"Where all the rest o' the busy guys hangs out," I says. "Aren't the
White Sox havin' enough bad luck without him?"

That reminded me that I'd came home before the final extras was out; so
I put on my hat and went over to Tim's to look at the score-board. It
took me till one A. M. to memorize the batteries and everything. The
Wife was still awake yet when I got home and I had enough courage to
resume hostilities.

"If what you told me about Bishop and Bess is true," I says, "I guess
I'll pack up and go fishin' for the rest o' the summer."

"And leave me to starve, I suppose!" says she.

"Bishop'll take care of the both o' you," I says. "If he don't I'll send
you home a couple o' carp."

"If you go and leave me it's the last time!" she says. "And it shows you
don't care nothin' about me."

"I care about you, all right," I says; "but not enough to be drove crazy
in my own house."

"They's nothin' for you to go crazy about," she says. "If Bess and Mr.
Bishop wants to tie up leave 'em alone and forget about 'em."

"I'd like nothin' better," I says; "but you know they'll give us no
chance to forget about 'em."

"Why not?" she ast me.

"Because they'd starve to death without us," I says.

"Starve to death!" she says. "On ten thousand a year!"

"Now here!" I says. "Who told you he got that trifle?"

"He did," says the Wife.

"And how do you know he wasn't overestimatin'?" I ast her.

"You mean how do I know he wasn't lyin'?" she says.

"Yes," says I.

"Because he's a gentleman," she says.

"And he told you that, too?" I ast.

"No," she says. "I could tell that by lookin' at him."

"All right, Clara Voyant!" I says. "And maybe you can tell by lookin' at
me how much money he borrowed off'n me and never give back."

"When? How much?" she says.

"One at a time, please," says I. "The amount o' the cash transaction was
a twenty-dollar gold certificate. And the time he shook me down was the
evenin' he took us to hear _Ada_, and was supposed to be payin' for it."

"I can't believe it," says the Missus.

"All right," I says. "When he brings Bessie home from the ball game
to-morrow I'll put it up to him right in front o' you."

"No! You mustn't do that!" she says. "I won't have him insulted."

"You would have him insulted if I knowed how to go about it," I says.

"You stayed over to Tim's too long," says the Wife.

"Yes," says I, "and I made arrangements to stay over there every time
Bishop comes here."

"Suit yourself," she says, and pretended like she was asleep.

Well, the next mornin' I got to thinkin' over what I'd said and
wonderin' if I'd went too strong. But I couldn't see where. This bird
was a dude that had got acquainted with Bessie on the train when she was
on her way here to visit us last winter. He'd infested the house all the
while she was with us. He'd gave us that ten-thousand-dollar yarn and
told us he made it by writin' movin'-pitcher plays, but we never seen
none o' them advertised and never run into anybody that had heard of
him.

The Missus had picked him out for Bess the minute she seen him. Bessie
herself had fell for him strong. To keep 'em both from droppin' cyanide
in my gruel, I'd took him along with us to see _The Love o' Three
Kings_, besides buyin' his groceries and provisions for pretty near a
week and standin' for the upkeep on the davenport where him and Bess
held hands. Finally, after he'd went six days without submittin' even
circumstantial evidence that he'd ever had a dime, I bullied him into
sayin' he'd give us a party.

Then they'd been an argument over where he'd take us. He'd suggested a
vaudeville show, but I jumped on that with both feet. Bessie held out
for a play, but I told her they wasn't none that I'd leave a young
unmarried sister-in-law o' mine go to.

"Oh," Bess had said, "they must be some that's perfectly genteel."

"Yes," I told her, "there is some; but they're not worth seein'."

So they'd ast what was left and I'd mentioned grand opera.

"They're worse than plays, the most o' them," was the Wife's cut-in.

"But all the risky parts is sang in Latin and Greek," I'd said.

Well, Bishop put up a great fight, but I wouldn't break ground, and
finally he says he would take us to opera if he could get tickets.

"I'm down-town every day," I'd told him. "I'll have 'em reserved for
you."

But no; he wouldn't see me put to all that trouble for the world; he'd
do the buyin' himself.

So _Ada_ was what he took us to on a Sunday night, when the seats was
cut to half price. And when I and him went out between acts to try the
limes he catched me with my guard down and frisked the twenty.

Now Bess had tipped off the Wife that her and Bishop was practically
engaged, but the night after _Ada_ was the last night of her visit and
Bishop hadn't never came round. So Bessie'd cried all night and tried to
get him by phone before she left next day; but neither o' them two acts
done her any good. It looked like he was all through. On the way to the
train Bess and the Missus had ruined three or four handkerchiefs and
called the bird every low-down flirt they could think of. I didn't say a
word; nor did I perfume my linen with brine.

       *       *       *       *       *

Here, though, was Bess back in town and Old Man Short makin' up to her
again. And they'd been correspondin'. The second time was li'ble to
take, unless outside brains come to the rescue.

If I'd thought for a minute that they'd leave us out of it and go away
somewhere by themself and live--the North Side, or one o' the suburbs,
or Wabash--I wouldn't of cared how many times they married each other.
But I had him spotted for a loafer that couldn't earn a livin', and I
knowed what the maritile nuptials between Bess and he meant--it meant
that I and the Missus would have all the pleasures o' conductin' a
family hotel without the pain o' makin' out receipts.

Now I always wanted a boy and a girl, but I wanted 'em to be kind o'
youngish when I got 'em. I never craved addin' a married couple to my
family--not even if they was crazy about rummy and paid all their bills.
And when it come to Bishop and Bess, well, they was just as welcome to
my home as Villa and all the little Villains.

It wasn't just Bishop, with his quaint habit o' never havin' car fare.
Bess, in her way, was as much of a liability. You couldn't look at her
without a slight relapse. She had two complexions--A.M. and P.M. The
P.M. wasn't so bad, but she could of put the other in her vanity box for
a mirror. Her nose curved a little away from the batsman and wasn't no
wider than a Julienne potato, and yet it had to draw in to get between
her eyes. Her teeth was real pretty and she always kept her lips ajar.
But the baseball reporters named Matty's favorite delivery after her
chin, and from there down the curves was taboo.

Where she made a hit with Bishop was laughin' at everything he
pulled--that is, he thought she was laughin'. The fact was that she was
snatchin' the chance to show more o' them teeth. They wasn't no use
showin' 'em to me; so I didn't get laughs from her on my stuff, only
when he or some other stranger was round. And if my stuff wasn't funnier
than Bishop's I'll lay down my life for Austria.

As a general rule, I don't think a man is justified in interferin' with
other people's hymeneal intentions, but it's different when the said
intentions is goin' to make your own home a hell.

It was up to me to institute proceedin's that would check the flight o'
these two cooin' doves before their wings took 'em to Crown Point in a
yellow flivver.

And I seen my duty all the more clear when the pair come home from the
ball game the day after Bessie's arrival, and not only told me that the
White Sox got another trimmin' but laughed when they said it.

"Well, Bishop," I says when we set down to supper, "how many six-reelers
are you turnin' out a day?"

"About one every two weeks is the limit," says Bishop.

"I'll bet it is," I says. "And who are you workin' for now?"

"The Western Film Corporation," he says. "But I'm goin' to quit 'em the
first o' the month."

"What for?" I ast him.

"Better offer from the Criterion," he says.

"Better'n ten thousand a year?" says I.

"Sure!" he says.

"Twenty dollars better?" I says.

He blushed and the Wife sunk my shin with a patent-leather torpedo. Then
Bishop says:

"The raise I'm gettin' would make twenty dollars look sick."

"If you'd give it to me," I says, "I'd try and nurse it back to health."

After supper the Missus called me out in the kitchen to bawl me out.

"It's rough stuff to embarrass a guest," she says.

"He's always embarrassed," says I. "But you admit now, don't you, that I
was tellin' the truth about him touchin' me?"

"Yes," she says.

"Well," says I, "if he's so soiled with money, why don't he pay a little
puny debt?"

"He's probably forgot it," says she.

"Did he look like he'd forgot it?" I ast her. And she had no come-back.

But when my Missus can overlook a guy stingin' me for legal tender, it
means he's in pretty strong with her. And I couldn't count on no help
from her, even if Bishop was a murderer, so long as Bess wanted him.

The next mornin', just to amuse myself, I called up the Criterion people
and ast them if they was goin' to hire a scenario writer name Elmer
Bishop.

"Never heard of him," was what they told me.

So I called up the Western.

"Elmer Bishop?" they says. "He ain't no scenario writer. He's what we
call an extra. He plays small parts sometimes."

"And what pay do them extras drag down?" I ast.

"Five dollars a day, but nothin' when they don't work," was the
thrillin' response.

My first idea was to slip this dope to the Wife and Bess both. But
what'd be the use? They wouldn't believe it even if they called up and
found out for themself; and if they did believe it, Bessie'd say a man's
pay didn't make no difference where true love was concerned, and the
Missus would take her part, and they'd cry a little, and wind up by
sendin' for Bishop and a minister to make sure o' the ceremony comin'
off before Bishop lost his five-dollar job and croaked himself.

Then I thought o' forbiddin' him the hospitality o' my abode. But that'd
be just as useless. They'd meet somewheres else, and if I threatened to
lock Bess out, the Wife'd come back with a counter-proposition to not
give me no more stewed beets or banana soufflés. Besides that,
strong-arm methods don't never kill sweet love, but act just the
opposite and make the infected parties more set on gettin' each other.
This here case was somethin' delicate, and if a man didn't handle it
exactly right you wouldn't never get over bein' sorry.

So, instead o' me quarrelin' with the Wife and Bess, and raisin' a fuss
at Bishop spendin' eight evenin's a week with us, I kept my clam closed
and tried to be pleasant, even when I'd win a hand o' rummy and see this
guy carelessly lose a few of his remainin' face cards under the table.

We had an awful spell o' heat in July and it wasn't no fun playin' cards
or goin' to pitcher shows, or nothin'. Saturday afternoons and Sundays,
I and the Missus would go over to the lake and splash. Bess only went
with us a couple o' times; that was because she couldn't get Bishop to
come along. He'd always say he was busy, or he had a cold and was afraid
o' makin' it worse. So far as I was concerned, I managed to enjoy my
baths just as much with them two stayin' away. The sight o' Bessie in a
bathin' suit crabbed the exhilaratin' effects o' the swim. When she
stood up in the water the minnows must of thought two people was
still-fishin'.

It was one night at supper, after Bessie'd been with us about a month,
when the idear come to me. Bishop was there, and I'd been lookin' at he
and Bess, and wonderin' what they'd seen in each other. The Missus ast
'em if they was goin' out some place.

"No," says Bessie. "It's too hot and they ain't no place to go."

"They's lots o' places to go," says the Wife. "For one thing, they're
havin' grand opera out to Ravinia Park."

"I wouldn't give a nickel to see a grand opera," says Bess, "unless it
was _Ada_, that Elmer took us to last winter."

So they went on talkin' about somethin' else. I don't know what, because
the minute she mentioned _Ada_ I was all set.

I guess maybe I'd better tell you a little about this here opera, so's
you'll see how it helped me out. A fella named Gus Verdi wrote it, and
the scenes is laid along the Illinois Central, round Memphis and Cairo.
Ada's a big wench, with a pretty voice, and she's the hired girl in the
mayor's family. The mayor's daughter gets stuck on a fat little tenor
that you can't pronounce and that should of had a lawn mower ran over
his chin. The tenor likes the colored girl better than the mayor's
daughter, and the mayor's daughter tries every way she can think of to
bust it up and grab off the tenor for herself; but nothin' doin'!
Finally the mayor has the tenor pinched for keepin' open after one
o'clock, and the law's pretty strict; so, instead o' just finin' him,
they lock him up in a safety-deposit vault. Well, the wench is down in
the vault, too, dustin' off the papers and cleanin' the silver, and they
don't know she's there; so the two o' them's locked up together and
can't get out. And when they can't get away and haven't got nobody else
to look at or talk to, they get so's they hate each other; and finally
they can't stand it no longer and they both die. They's pretty music in
it, but if old Gus had of seen the men that was goin' to be in the show
he'd of laid the scenes in Beardstown instead o' Memphis.

Well, do you get the idear? If the mayor's daughter had of been smart,
instead o' tryin' to keep the tenor and Ada from bein' with each other
she'd of locked 'em up together a long while ago, and, first thing you
know, they'd of been sick o' one another; and just before they died she
could of let 'em out and had the tenor for herself without no argument.

And the same thing would work with Bishop and Bess. In all the time o'
their mutual courtship they hadn't been together for more'n five or six
hours at a time, and never where one o' them couldn't make a quick duck
when they got tired. Make 'em stick round with each other for a day, or
for two days, without no chance to separate, and it was a cinch that the
alarm clock would break in on Love's Young Dream.

But, for some reason or other, I didn't have no safety-deposit vault and
they wasn't no room in the flat that they couldn't get out of by jumpin'
from the window.

How was I goin' to work it? I thought and thought; and figured and
figured; and it wasn't till after I'd went to bed that the solution
come.

A boat trip to St. Joe! I and the Missus and the two love birds. And I'd
see to it that the chaperons kept their distance and let Nature take its
course. We'd go over some Saturday afternoon and come back the next
night. That'd give 'em eight or nine hours Saturday and from twelve to
sixteen hours Sunday to get really acquainted with each other. And if
they was still on speakin' terms at the end o' that time I'd pass up the
case as incurable.

You see, I had it doped that Bishop was afraid o' water or else he
wouldn't of turned down all our swimmin' parties. I wouldn't leave him a
chance to duck out o' this because I wouldn't tell nobody where we was
goin'. It'd be a surprise trip. And they was a good chance that they'd
both be sick if it was the least bit rough, and that'd help a lot. I
thought of Milwaukee first, but picked St. Joe because it's dry. A man
might stand for Bess a whole day and more if he was a little blear-eyed
from Milwaukee's favorite food.

The trip would cost me some money, but it was an investment with a good
chance o' big returns. I'd of been willin' to take 'em to Palm Beach for
a month if that'd been the only way to save my home.

When Bishop blew in the next evenin' I pulled it on 'em.

"Bishop," I says, "a man that does as much brain work as you ought to
get more recreation."

"I guess I do work too hard," he says modestly.

"I should think," I says, "that you'd give yourself Saturday afternoons
and Sundays off."

"I do, in summer," he says.

"That's good," I says. "I was thinkin' about givin' a little party this
comin' week-end; and, o' course, I wanted you to be in on it."

The two girls got all excited.

"Party!" says the Missus. "What kind of a party?"

"Well," I says, "I was thinkin' about takin' you and Bishop and Bess out
o' town for a little trip."

"Where to?" ast the Wife.

"That's a secret," I says. "You won't know where we're goin' till we
start. All I'll tell you is that we'll be gone from Saturday afternoon
till Monday mornin'."

"Oh, how grand!" says Bessie. "And think how romantic it'll be, not
knowin' where we're headed!"

"I don't know if I can get away or not," says Bishop.

"I pay all expenses," says I.

"Oh, Elmer, you've just got to go!" says Bess.

"The trip's off if you don't," I says.

"If you don't say yes I'll never speak to you again," says Bessie.

For a minute I hoped he wouldn't say yes; but he did. Then I told 'em
that the start would be from our house at a quarter to one Saturday, and
to pack up their sporty clothes. The rest o' the evenin' was spent in
them tryin' to guess where we was goin'. It got 'em nothin', because I
wouldn't say aye, yes or no to none o' their guesses.

When I and the Missus was alone, she says:

"Well, what's the idear?"

"No idear at all," I says, "except that our honeymoon trip to Palm Beach
was a flivver and I feel like as if I ought to make up to you for it.
And besides that, Bessie's our guest and I ought to do somethin' nice
for she and her friend."

"I'd think you must of been drinkin' if I didn't know better," she says.

"You never do give me credit for nothin'," says I. "To tell the truth,
I'm kind of ashamed o' myself for the way I been actin' to'rd Bishop and
Bess; but I'm willin' to make amends before it's too late. If Bishop's
goin' to be one o' the family I and him should ought to be good
friends."

"That's the way I like to hear you talk," says the Wife.

"But remember," I says, "this trip ain't only for their benefit, but for
our'n too. And from the minute we start till we get home us two'll pal
round together just like we was alone. We don't want them buttin' in on
us and we don't want to be buttin' in on them."

"That suits me fine!" says she. "And now maybe you'll tell me where
we're goin'."

"You promise not to tell?" I ast her.

"Sure!" she says.

"Well," I says, "that's one promise you'll keep."

And I buried my good ear in the feathers.

       *       *       *       *       *

At twenty minutes to two, Saturday afternoon, I landed my entire party
at the dock, foot o' Wabash Avenue.

"Goody!" says Bess. "We're goin' acrost the lake."

"If the boat stays up."

"I don't know if I ought to go or not," says Bishop. "I'd ought to be
where I can keep in touch with the Criterion people."

"They got a wireless aboard," I says.

"Yes," says Bishop; "but they wouldn't know where to reach me."

"You got time to phone 'em before we sail," says I.

"No, he hasn't," says Bessie. "He ain't goin' to take no chance o'
missin' this boat. He can send 'em a wireless after we start."

So that settled Bishop, and he had to walk up the gangplank with the
rest of us. He looked just as pleased as if they'd lost his laundry.

I checked the baggage and sent the three o' them up on deck, sayin' I'd
join 'em later. Then I ast a boy where the bar was.

"Right in there," he says, pointin'. "But you can't get nothin' till
we're three miles out."

So I went back to the gangplank and started off the boat. A man about
four years old, with an addin' machine in his hand, stopped me.

"Are you goin' to make the trip?" he ast me.

"What do you think I'm on here for--to borrow a match?" says I.

"Well," he says, "you can't get off."

"You're cross!" I says. "I bet your milk don't agree with you."

I started past him again, but he got in front o' me.

"You can get off, o' course," he says; "but you can't get back on.
That's the rules."

"What sense is they in that?" I ast him.

"If I let people off, and on again, my count would get mixed up," he
says.

"Who are you?" says I.

"I'm the government checker," he says.

"Chess?" says I. "And you count all the people that gets on?"

"That's me," he says.

"How many's on now?" I ast him.

"Eight hundred-odd," he says.

"I ast you for the number, not the description," I says. "How many's the
limit?" I ast him.

"Thirteen hundred," he says.

"And would the boat sink if they was more'n that?" says I.

"I don't know if it would or wouldn't," he says, "but that's all the law
allows."

For a minute I felt like offerin' him a lump sum to let seven or eight
hundred more on the boat and be sure that she went down; meantime I'd be
over gettin' a drink. But then I happened to think that the Missus would
be among those lost; and though a man might do a whole lot better the
second time, the chances was that he'd do a whole lot worse. So I passed
up the idear and stayed aboard, prayin' for the time when we'd be three
miles out on Lake Michigan.

It was the shortest three miles you ever seen. We hadn't got out past
the Municipal Pier when I seen a steady influx goin' past the
engine-room and into the great beyond. I followed 'em and got what I was
after. Then I went up on deck, lookin' for my guests.

I found 'em standin' in front o' one o' the lifeboats.

"Why don't you get comfortable?" I says to Bishop. "Why don't you get
chairs and enjoy the breeze?"

"That's what I been tellin' 'em," says the Missus; "but Mr. Bishop acts
like he was married to this spot."

"I'm only thinkin' of your wife and Bessie," says Bishop. "If anything
happened, I'd want 'em to be near a lifeboat."

"Nothin's goin' to happen," I says. "They hasn't been a wreck on this
lake for over a month. And this here boat, the _City o' Benton Harbor_,
ain't never sank in her life."

"No," says Bishop; "and the _Chicora_ and _Eastland_ never sank till
they sunk."

"The boats that sinks," I says, "is the boats that's overloaded. I was
talkin' to the government checker-player down-stairs and he tells me
that you put thirteen hundred on this boat and she's perfectly safe; and
they's only eight hundred aboard now."

"Then why do they have the lifeboats?" ast Bishop.

"So's you can go back if you get tired o' the trip," I says.

"I ought to be back now," says Bishop, "where the firm can reach me."

"We ain't more'n two miles out," I says. "If your firm's any good
they'll drag the bottom farther out than this. Besides," I says, "if
trouble comes the lifeboats would handle us."

"Yes," says Bishop; "but it's women and children first."

"Sure!" I says. "That's the proper order for drownin'. The world
couldn't struggle along without us ten-thousand-dollar scenario
writers."

"They couldn't be no trouble on such a lovely day as this," says Bess.

"That's where you make a big mistake," I says. "That shows you don't
know nothin' about the history o' Lake Michigan."

"What do you mean?" ast Bishop.

"All the wrecks that's took place on this lake," I says, "has happened
in calm weather like to-day. It's just three years ago this July," I
says, "when the _City of Ypsilanti_ left Grand Haven with about as many
passengers as we got to-day. The lake was just like a billiard table and
no thought o' danger. Well, it seems like they's a submerged water oak
about three miles from shore that you're supposed to steer round it. But
this pilot hadn't never made the trip before, and, besides that, he'd
been drinkin' pretty heavy; so what does he do but run right plump into
the tree, and the boat turned a turtle and all the passengers was lost
except a tailor named Swanson."

"But that was just an unreliable officer," says Bessie. "He must of been
crazy."

"Crazy!" says I. "They wouldn't nobody work on these boats unless they
was crazy. It's bound to get 'em."

"I hope we got a reliable pilot to-day," says Bishop.

"He's only just a kid," I says; "and I noticed him staggerin' when he
come aboard. But, anyway, you couldn't ask for a better bottom than they
is right along in here; nice clean sand and hardly any weeds."

"What time do we get to St. Joe?" ast Bishop.

"About seven if we don't run into a squall," I says.

Then I and the Wife left 'em and went round to another part o' the deck
and run into squalls of all nationalities. Their mothers had made a big
mistake in bringin' 'em, because you could tell from their faces and
hands that they didn't have no use for water.

"They all look just alike," says the Missus. "I don't see how the
different mothers can tell which is their baby."

"It's fifty-fifty," I says. "The babies don't look no more alike than
the mothers. The mothers is all named Jennie, and all perfect cubes and
fond of apples, and ought to go to a dentist. Besides," I says, "suppose
they did get mixed up and swap kids, none o' the parties concerned would
have reasons to gloat. And the babies certainly couldn't look no more
miserable under different auspices than they do now."

We walked all round the deck, threadin' our way among the banana
peelin's, and lookin' our shipmates over.

"Pick out somebody you think you'd like to meet," I told the Wife, "and
I'll see if I can arrange it."

"Thanks," she says; "but I'll try and not get lonesome, with my husband
and my sister and my sister's beau along."

"It's nice for you to say it," says I; "but you want to remember that
we're leavin' Bess and Bishop to themself, and that leaves you and I to
ourself, and they ain't no two people in the world that can spend two
days alone together without gettin' bored stiff. Besides, you don't want
to never overlook a chance to meet high-class people."

"When I get desperately anxious to meet high-class people," she says,
"I'll be sure and pick out the Saturday afternoon boat from Chicago to
St. Joe."

"You can't judge people by their looks," says I. "You haven't heard 'em
talk."

"No; and couldn't understand 'em if I did," she says.

"I'll bet some o' them's just as bright as we are," I says.

"I'm not lookin' for bright companionship," she says. "I want a change."

"That's just like I told you," says I. "You're bound to get tired o' one
person, no matter how much they sparkle, if you live with 'em long
enough."

We left the deck and went down-stairs. They was two or three people
peerin' in the engine-room and the Missus made me stop there a minute.

"What for?" I ast her.

"I want to see how it works," she says.

"Well," says I, when we'd started on again, "I can drop my insurance
now."

"Why?" says the Missus.

"I don't never need to worry about you starvin'," I says. "With the
knowledge you just picked up there, I bet you could easy land a job as
engineer on one o' these boats."

"I'd do about as good as you would at it," she says.

"Sure; because I didn't study it," I says. "What makes the boat run?" I
ast her.

"Why, the wheel," she says.

"And who runs the wheel?" I ast her.

"The pilot," says she.

"And what does the engineer do?" I says.

"Why, I suppose he keeps the fire burnin'," she says.

"But in weather like this what do they want of a fire?"

"I suppose it gets colder out in the middle o' the lake," she says.

"No," says I; "but on Saturdays they got to keep a fire goin' to heat
the babies' bottles."

We went in the room next to the bar. A boy set at the piano playin'
_Sweet Cider Time in Moonshine Valley_ and some Hawaiian native melodies
composed by a Hungarian waiter that was too proud to fight. Three or
four couple was dancin', but none o' them was wry-necked enough to get
the proper pose. The girls looked pretty good and was probably members
o' the Four Hundred employed in the Fair. The boys would of been
handsomer if the laundry hadn't failed to bring back their other shirt
in time.

A big guy in a uniform come by and went into the next room. "Is that the
captain?" ast the Wife.

"No," I says, "that's the steward."

"And what does he do?" she ast me.

"He hangs round the bar," I says, "and looks after the stews."

"Have they really got a bar?" she says.

"I'll find out for sure if you'll wait here a minute," says I, and led
her to a chair where she could watch 'em wrestle.

In the other room I stood next to a Greek that charged ten cents on
Sundays and holidays. He was all lit up like the Municipal Pier.

"Enjoyin' the trip?" I ast him.

"Too rough; too rough!" he says, only I don't do the dialect very good.

"I bet you never got that shine at your own stand," says I.

"Too hot to work!" says he. "I don't have to work. I got the mon'."

"Yes," I says; "and the bun."

A little way off from us was four other political enemies o' J. Frank
Hanly, tellin' my Greek friend in tonsorial tones that if he didn't like
his Uncle Sammy he knowed what he could do.

"Don't you like your Uncle Sammy?" I ast him.

"I don't have to work," he says. "I got the mon'."

"Then why don't you take them boys' advice," I says, "and go back to your
home o'er the sea?"

"Too rough; too rough!" he says; and in the twenty minutes I stood there
with him, findin' out whether they was really a bar, he didn't say
nothin' except that he had the mon', and he didn't have to work, and
somethin' was too rough.

I and the Missus went back up on deck. I steered for the end o' the boat
that was farthest from where we'd left Bess and Bishop, but they'd began
to get restless, and we run into them takin' a walk.

"Where you been?" ast Bessie.

"Down watchin' 'em dance," says the Missus.

"Is they a place to dance aboard?" ast Bishop.

But I didn't want 'em to dance, because that'd be an excuse not to say
nothin' to each other for a w'ile. So I says:

"They's a place, all right; but five or six couple's already on the
floor, and when you get more'n that trottin' round at once it's li'ble
to rock the boat and be disastrous."

I took the Wife's arm and started to move on.

"Where you goin'?" says Bishop.

"Just for a stroll round the decks," says I.

"We'll go along," he says.

I seen the treatment was beginnin' to work. "Nothin' doin'!" I says.
"This is one of our semi-annual honeymoons and we can't use no outside
help."

A few minutes before we hit St. Joe we seen 'em again, settin' down
below, afraid to dance and entirely out o' conversation. They was havin'
just as good a time as Jennie's babies.

"We're pretty near in," I says, "and 'twas one o' the smoothest
crossin's I ever made."

"They couldn't nobody get sick in weather like this," says Bess.

"No," I says, "but you take a smooth Saturday afternoon and it generally
always means a rough Sunday night."

"Ain't they no railroad between here and Chi?" ast Bishop.

"Not direct," I says. "You have to go to Lansing and then cut across to
Fort Wayne. If you make good connections you can do it in a day and two
nights, but most o' the way is through the copper ranges and the trains
keeps gettin' later and later, and when they try to make up time they
generally always slip offen the track and spill their contents."

"If it looks like a storm to-morrow night," says Bess, "we might wait
over and go home Monday."

That idear scared Bishop more'n the thought of a wreck.

"Oh, no!" he says. "I got to be back on the job Monday mornin'."

"If it's as rough as I think it's goin' to be," says I, "you won't feel
like rippin' off no scenarios Monday."

We landed and walked up the highest hill in Michigan to the hotel. I
noticed that Miss Bessie carried her own suit-case.

"Well," I says, "I suppose you two kids would rather eat your supper by
yourself, and I and the Missus will set at another table."

"No, no!" says Bess. "It'll be pleasanter to all eat together."

So for about half an hour we had 'em with us; and they'd of stuck the
rest o' the evenin' if I'd gave 'em a chance.

"What about a little game o' cards?" says Bishop, when we was through
eatin'.

"It's mighty nice o' you to suggest it," I says; "but I know you're only
doin' it for my sake and the Wife's. We'll find some way to amuse
ourself, and you and Bess can take a stroll down on the beach."

"The wind made me sleepy," says Bishop. "I believe I'll go up to my room
and turn in."

"The rooms is not ready," I says. "The clerk'll let us know as soon as
we can have 'em."

But he didn't take my word; and when he'd talked to the clerk himself,
and found out that he could have his room right away, they wasn't no
arguin' with him. Off he went to bed at eight P. M., leavin' the Missus
and I to entertain the Belle o' Wabash.

Sunday mornin' I added to my investment by hirin' a flivver to take us
out to the Edgewater Club.

"Now," I says, "we'll rent some bathin' suits and cool off."

"I don't dast go in," says Bishop. "I'd take more cold. I'll watch the
rest o' you."

Well, I didn't care whether he went in or not, the water bein' too
shallow along there to drownd him; but I did want him to watch the rest
of us--one in particular.

The suit they gave her was an Annette. I wouldn't make no attempt to
describe what she looked like in it, unless it'd be a capital Y that had
got turned upside down. She didn't have no displacement and she could of
stayed in all day without the lake ever findin' out she was there.

But I cut the film short so's I could get 'em back to the hotel and
leave the pair together again.

"You're goin' to have all the rest o' the day to yourself," I told 'em.
"We won't eat dinner with you. I and the Missus will just disappear and
meet you here in the hotel at seven o'clock to-night."

"Where are you goin'?" ast Bishop.

"Never you mind," I says.

"Maybe we'd like to go along with you," he says.

"Yes, you would!" says I. "Remember, boy, I was in love once myself, and
I know I didn't want no third parties hangin' round."

"But what can we do all day in this burg?" he says.

"They's plenty to do," I says. "You can go over there and set on them
benches and watch the interurbans come in from South Bend and Niles, or
you can hire a boat and go out for a sail, or you can fish for tarpons;
or you can take a trolley over to Benton Harbor; or you can set on the
beach and spoon. Nobody minds here--only be sure you don't set in
somebody's lunch basket, because they say a garlic stain's almost
impossible to get out. And they's another thing you might do," I says:
"this town's one o' these here Gretna Greens. You can get a marriage
license in any delicatessen and the street-car conductors is authorized
to perform the ceremony."

They didn't blush when I pulled that; they turned pale, both o' them,
and I seen that I was goin' to win, sure.

"Come on!" I says to the Missus. "We must be on our way."

We left 'em before they could stop us and walked acrost the street and
along through the park.

"Where are we headed?" ast the Wife.

"I don't know," I says; "but I don't want to spoil their good time."

"I don't believe they're havin' a good time," she says.

"How could they help it?" says I. "When two true lovers is left alone
together, what more could they ast for?"

"They's somethin' wrong with 'em," says the Missus. "They act like they
was mad at each other. And Bess told me when we was out to the Edgewater
Club that she wished we was home."

"That's a fine way for her to talk," I says, "when I'm tryin' to show
her a good time!"

"And I overheard Elmer," says the Missus, "askin' one o' the bell boys
where he could get somethin' to drink; and the bell boy ast him what
kind of a drink, and he says, whisky or poison--it didn't make no
difference."

"If I was sure he'd take the poison I'd try to get it for him," I says.

On the grass and the benches in the park we seen some o' the gang that'd
came over on the boat with us. They looked like they'd laid there all
night and the kids was cryin' louder'n ever. Besides them we seen dozens
o' young couples that was still on speakin' terms, because they'd only
been together an hour or two. The girls was wearin' nice, clean, white
dresses and white shoes, and was all prettied up. They seemed to be
havin' the time o' their life. And by four o'clock in the afternoon
their fingers would be stuck together with crackerjack and their dresses
decorated with chocolate sirup, and their escorts talkin' to 'em like a
section boss to a gang o' hunkies.

We wandered round till dinner-time, and then dropped into a little
restaurant where they give you a whole meal for thirty-five cents and
make a profit of thirty-five cents. When we'd staggered out under the
weight o' this repast, a street-car was standin' there that said it
would take us to the House o' David.

"Come on!" I says, and led the Missus aboard.

"Where to?" she ast me.

"I don't know," I says; "but it sounds like a road house."

It was even better'n that. You couldn't get nothin' to drink, but they
was plenty to see and hear--band concerts, male and female; movin'
pitchers; a zoo; a bowlin' alley; and more funny-lookin' people than I
ever seen in an amusement park before.

It ain't a regular amusement park, but fifty-fifty between that and a
kind of religious sex that calls themself the Holy Roller Skaters or
somethin'. All the men that was old enough to keep a beard had one; and
for a minute I thought we'd bumped into the summer home o' the people
that took part in _Ada_.

They wouldn't nobody of ever mistook the women for _Follies_ chorus
girls. They looked like they was havin' a prize contest to see which
could dress the homeliest; and if I'd been one o' the judges I'd of
split the first prize as many ways as they was women.

"I'm goin' to talk to some o' these people," I told the Wife.

"What for?" she says.

"Well, for one thing," I says, "I been talkin' to one person so long I'm
tired of it; and, for another thing, I want to find out what the idear
o' the whole concern is."

So we walked up to one o' the most flourishin' beards and I braced him.

"Who owns this joint?" I says.

"All who have the faith," he says.

"What do they charge a man to join?" I ast him.

"Many's called and few chosen," he says.

"How long have you been here?" I ast him.

"Prove all things and hold fast to what's good," he says. "Why don't you
get some of our books and study 'em?"

He led us over to where they had the books and I looked at some o' them.
One was the _Flyin' Roll_, and another was the _Livin' Roll o' Life_,
and another was the _Rollin' Ball o' Fire_.

"If you had some books about coffee you could make a breakfast on 'em,"
I says.

Well, we stuck round there till pretty near six o'clock and talked to a
lot o' different ones and ast 'em all kinds o' questions; and they
answered 'em all with verses from Scripture that had nothin' to do with
what we'd ast.

"We got a lot of information," says the Wife on the way back to St. Joe.
"We don't know no more about 'em now than before we come."

"We know their politics," I says.

"How?" she ast me.

"From the looks of 'em," I says. "They're unanimous for Hughes."

We found Bess all alone, settin' in the lobby o' the hotel.

"Where's your honey man?" I ast her.

She turned up her nose.

"Don't call him my honey man or my anything else," she says.

"Why, what's the matter?" ast the Missus.

"Nothin' at all's the matter," she says.

"Maybe just a lovers' quarrel," says I.

"No, and no lovers' quarrel, neither," says Bess. "They couldn't be no
lovers' quarrel, because they ain't no lovers."

"You had me fooled, then," I says. "I'd of swore that you and Bishop was
just like that."

"You made a big mistake," says Bessie. "I never cared nothin' for him
and he never cared nothin' for me, because he's incapable o' carin' for
anything--only himself."

"Why, Bess," says the Missus, "you told me just yesterday mornin' that
you was practically engaged!"

"I don't care what I told you," she says; "but I'm tellin' you somethin'
now: I don't never want to hear of him or see him again. And you'll do
me a favor if you'll drop the subject."

"But where is he?" I ast her.

"I don't know and I don't care!" she says.

"But I got to find him," I says. "He's my guest."

"You can have him," she says.

I found him up in his room. The bell boy had got him somethin', and it
wasn't poison, neither. At least I haven't never died of it.

"Well, Bishop," I says, "finish it up and come down-stairs. Bess and the
Wife'll want some supper."

"You'll have to excuse me," he says. "I don't feel like eatin' a thing."

"But you can come down and set with us," I says. "Bess will be sore if
you don't."

"Listen here!" he says. "You've took too much for granted. They's
nothin' between your sister-in-law and I. If you've set your heart on us
bein' somethin' more'n friends, I'm sorry. But they's not a chance."

"Bishop," I says, "this is a blow to me. It comes like a shock."

And to keep myself from faintin' I took the bottle from his dresser and
completed its ruin.

"You won't even come down and set with us?" I says.

"No," says Bishop. "And, if you don't mind, you can give me my ticket
back home and I'll stroll down to the dock and meet you on the boat."

"Here's your ticket," says I.

"And where am I goin' to sleep?" he says.

"Well," I says, "I'll get you a stateroom if you really want it; but
it's goin' to be a bad night, and if you was in one o' them berths, and
somethin' happened, you wouldn't have a chance in the world!"

"You ain't goin' to have no berth, yourself?" he ast me.

"I should say not!" I says. "I'm goin' to get me a chair and sleep in
the water-tight compartments."

Boys, my prophecy come true. They was more roll on old Lake Michigan
that night than in all them books up to the Holy Roller Skaters' park.
And if the boat was filled to capacity just thirteen hundred of us was
fatally ill.

I don't think it was the rollin' that got me. It was one glimpse of all
the Jennies and their offsprings, and the wealthy Greek shoe shiners,
and the millionaire truck drivers, and the heiresses from the Lace
Department--layin' hither and thither in the cabins and on the decks,
breathin' their last. And how they must of felt to think that all their
outlay for crackerjack and apples was a total loss!

But Bishop wasn't sick. I searched the boat from the back to the stern
and he wasn't aboard. I guess probably he found out some way that they
was such an institution as the Père Marquette, which gets into Chicago
without touchin' them perilous copper ranges. But whether he arrived
safe or not I don't know, because I've never saw him from that day to
this, and I've lived happy ever afterward.

And my investment, amountin' all told to just about what he owes me,
turned out even better than I'd hoped for. Bess went back to Wabash that
Monday afternoon.

At supper Monday night, which was the first meal the Missus could face,
she says:

"I haven't got it figured out yet. Bess swears they didn't have no
quarrel; but I'll take an oath they was in love with each other. What
could of happened?"

"I know what happened," I says. "They got acquainted!"



THREE WITHOUT, DOUBLED


I

They ain't no immediate chance o' you gettin' ast out to our house to
dinner--not w'ile round steak and General Motors is sellin' at the same
price and common dog biscuit's ten cents a loaf. But you might have
nothin' decent to do some evenin' and happen to drop in on the Missus
and I for a call; so I feel like I ought to give you a little warnin' in
case that comes off.

You know they's lots o' words that's called fightin' words. Some o' them
starts a brawl, no matter who they're spoke to. You can't call nobody a
liar without expectin' to lose a couple o' milk teeth--that is, if the
party addressed has got somethin' besides lemon juice in his veins and
ain't had the misfortune to fall asleep on the Panhandle tracks and be
separated from his most prominent legs and arms. Then they's terms that
don't hit you so much yourself, but reflects on your ancestors and
prodigies, and you're supposed to resent 'em for the sake of honor and
fix the speaker's map so as when he goes home his wife'll say: "Oh,
kiddies! Come and look at the rainbow!"

Then they's other words and terms that you can call 'em to somebody and
not get no rise; but call 'em to somebody else and the insurance
companies could hold out on your widow by claimin' it was suicide. For
instance, they's young Harold Greiner, one o' the bookkeepers down to
the office. I could tell him he was an A. P. A., with a few adjectives,
and he'd just smile and say: "Quit your flirtin'!" But I wouldn't never
try that expression on Dan Cahill, the elevator starter, without bein'
well out of his earshots. And I don't know what it means, at that.

Well, if you do come out to the house they's a term that you want to lay
off of when the Missus is in the room. Don't say: "San Susie!"

It sounds harmless enough, don't it? They ain't nothin' to it even when
it's transferred over from the Latin, "Without no cares." But just leave
her hear it mentioned and watch her grab the two deadliest weapons
that's within reach, one to use on you or whoever said it, and the other
on me, on general principles.

You think I'm stringin' you, and I admit you got cause--that is, till
you've heard the details of our latest plunge in the cesspools o'
Society.


II

It was a Friday evenin' about three weeks ago when I come home and found
the Wife quaverin' with excitement.

"Who do you think called up?" she ast me.

"I got no idear," I says.

"Guess!" says she.

So I had to guess.

"Josephus Daniels," I says. "Or Henry Ford. Or maybe it was that guy
with the scar on his lip that you thought was smilin' at you the other
day."

"You couldn't never guess," she says. "It was Mrs. Messenger."

"Which one?" I ast her. "You can't mean Mrs. A. D. T. Messenger."

"If you're so cute I won't tell you nothin' about it," says she.

"Don't make no rash threats," I says. "You're goin' to tell me some time
and they's no use makin' yourself sick by tryin' to hold it in."

"You know very well what Mrs. Messenger I mean," she says. "It was Mrs.
Robert Messenger that's husband owns this buildin' and the one at the
corner, where they live at."

"Haven't you paid the rent?" I says.

"Do you think a woman like Mrs. Messenger would be buttin' into her
husband's business?" says the Missus.

"I don't know what kind of a woman Mrs. Messenger is," I says. "But if I
owned these here apartments and somebody fell behind in their rent, I
wouldn't be surprised to see the owner's wife goin' right over to their
flat and takin' it out o' their trousers pocket."

"Well," says the Wife, "we don't owe them no rent and that wasn't what
she called up about. It wasn't no business call."

"Go ahead and spill it," I says. "My heart's weak."

"Well," she says, "I was just gettin' through with the lunch dishes and
the phone rang."

"I bet you wondered who it was," says I.

"I thought it was Mrs. Hatch or somebody," says the Wife. "So I run to
the phone and it was Mrs. Messenger. So the first thing she says was to
explain who she was--just like I didn't know. And the next thing she ast
was did I play bridge."

"And what did you tell her?" says I.

"What do you think I'd tell her?" says the Missus. "I told her yes."

"Wasn't you triflin' a little with the truth?" I ast her.

"Certainly not!" she says. "Haven't I played twice over to Hatches'? So
then she ast me if my husband played bridge, too. And I told her yes, he
did."

"What was the idear?" I says. "You know I didn't never play it in my
life."

"I don't know no such a thing," she says. "For all as I know, you may
play all day down to the office."

"No," I says; "we spend all our time down there playin' post-office with
the scrubwomen."

"Well, anyway, I told her you did," says the Missus. "Don't you see they
wasn't nothin' else I could tell her, because if I told her you didn't,
that would of ended it."

"Ended what?" I says.

"We wouldn't of been ast to the party," says the Missus.

"Who told you they was goin' to be a party?" I says.

"I don't have to be told everything," says the Missus. "I got brains
enough to know that Mrs. Messenger ain't callin' me up and astin' me do
we play bridge just because she's got a headache or feels lonesome or
somethin'. But it ain't only one party after all, and that's the best
part of it. She ast us if we'd care to join the club."

"What club?" says I.

"Mrs. Messenger's club, the San Susie Club," says the Missus. "You've
heard me speak about it a hundred times, and it's been mentioned in the
papers once or twice, too--once, anyway, when the members give away them
Christmas dinners last year."

"We can get into the papers," I says, "without givin' away no Christmas
dinners."

"Who wants to get into the papers?" says the Wife. "I don't care nothin'
about that."

"No," I says; "I suppose if a reporter come out here and ast for your
pitcher to stick in the society columns, you'd pick up the carvin' knife
and run him ragged."

"I'd be polite to him, at least," she says.

"Yes," says I; "it wouldn't pay to treat him rude; it'd even be
justifiable to lock him in w'ile you was lookin' for the pitcher."

"If you'll kindly leave me talk you may find out what I got to say," she
says. "I've told you about this club, but I don't suppose you ever paid
any attention. It's a club that's made up from people that just lives in
this block, twenty o' them altogether; and all but one couple either
lives in this buildin' or in the buildin' the Messengers lives in. And
they're all nice people, people with real class to them; not no tramps
like most o' the ones we been runnin' round with. One o' them's Mr. and
Mrs. Arthur Collins that used to live on Sheridan Road and still goes
over to parties at some o' the most exclusive homes on the North Side.
And they don't have nobody in the club that isn't congenial with each
other, but all just a nice crowd o' real people that gets together once
a week at one o' the members' houses and have a good time."

"How did these pillows o' Society happen to light on to us?" I ast her.

"Well," she says, "it seems like the Baileys, who belonged to the club,
went to California last week to spend the winter. And they had to have a
couple to take their place. And Mrs. Messenger says they wouldn't take
nobody that didn't live in our block, and her and her husband looked
over the list and we was the ones they picked out."

"Probably," I says, "that's because we was the only eligibles that can
go out nights on account o' not havin' no children."

"The Pearsons ain't ast," she says, "and they ain't got no children."

"Well," I says, "what's the dues?"

"They ain't no dues," says the Missus. "But once in a w'ile, instead o'
playin' bridge, everybody puts in two dollars apiece and have a theater
party. But the regular program is for an evenin' o' bridge every Tuesday
night, at different members' houses, somebody different actin' as hosts
every week. And each couple puts up two dollars, makin' ten dollars for
a gent's prize and ten dollars for a lady's. And the prizes is picked
out by the lady that happens to be the hostess."

"That's a swell proposition for me," I says. "In the first place they
wouldn't be a chance in the world for me to win a prize, because I don't
know nothin' about the game. And, in the second place, suppose I had a
whole lot o' luck and did win the prize, and come to find out it was a
silver mustache cup that I wouldn't have no more use for than another
Adam's apple! If they paid in cash they might be somethin' to it."

"If you win a prize you can sell it, can't you?" says the Missus.
"Besides, the prizes don't count. It's gettin' in with the right kind o'
people that makes the difference."

"Another thing," I says: "When it come our turn to have the party, where
would we stick 'em all? We'd have to spread a sheet over the bathtub for
one table, and have one couple set on the edges and the other couple
toss up for the washbasin and the clothes-hamper. And another two
couple'd have to kneel round the bed, and another bunch could stand up
round the bureau. That'd leave the dinin'-room table for the fourth set;
and for a special treat the remainin' four could play in the parlor."

"We could hire chairs and tables," says the Missus. "We're goin' to have
to some time, anyway, when you or I die."

"You don't need to hire no tables for my funeral," I says. "If the
pallbearers or the quartet insists on shootin' craps they can use the
kitchen floor; or if they want beer and sandwiches you can slip 'em the
money to go down to the corner."

"They's no use worryin' about our end of it yet," says the Wife. "We'll
be new members and they won't expect us to give no party till everybody
else has had their turn."

"I only got one objection left," I says. "How am I goin' to get by at a
bridge party when I haven't no idear how many cards to deal?"

"I guess you can learn if I learnt," she says. "You're always talkin'
about what a swell card player you are. And besides, you've played
w'ist, and they ain't hardly any difference."

"And the next party is next Tuesday night?" I says.

"Yes," says the Missus, "at Mrs. Garrett's, the best player in the club,
and one o' the smartest women in Chicago, Mrs. Messenger says. She lives
in the same buildin' with the Messengers. And they's dinner first and
then we play bridge all evenin'."

"And maybe," I says, "before the evenin's over, I'll find out what's
trumps."

"You'll know all about the game before that," she says. "Right after
supper we'll get out the cards and I'll show you."

So right after supper she got out the cards and begun to show me. But
about all as I learnt was one thing, and that was that if I died without
no insurance, the Missus would stand a better show o' supportin' herself
by umpirin' baseball in the National League than by teachin' in a
bridge-w'ist university. She knew everything except how much the
different suits counted, and how many points was in a game, and what
honors meant, and who done the first biddin', and how much to bid on
what.

After about an hour of it I says:

"I can see you got this thing mastered, but you're like a whole lot of
other people that knows somethin' perfect themselves but can't learn it
to nobody else."

"No," she says; "I got to admit that I don't know as much as I thought I
did. I didn't have no trouble when I was playin' with Mrs. Hatch and
Mrs. Pearson and Mrs. Kramer; but it seems like I forgot all they learnt
me."

"It's a crime," I says, "that we should have to pass up this chance to
get in right just because we can't play a fool game o' cards. Why don't
you call up Mrs. Messenger and suggest that the San Susies switches to
pedro or five hundred or rummy, or somethin' that you don't need to take
no college course in?"

"You're full o' brilliant idears," says the Missus. "They's only just
the one game that Society plays, and that's bridge. Them other games is
jokes."

"I've noticed you always treated 'em that way," I says. "But they wasn't
so funny to me when it come time to settle."

"I'll tell you what we'll do," says the Missus: "We'll call up Mr. and
Mrs. Hatch and tell 'em to come over here to-morrow night and give us a
lesson."

"That'd be sweet," I says, "askin' them to learn us a game so as we
could join a club that's right here in their neighborhood, but they
ain't even been ast to join it!"

"Why, you rummy!" she says. "We don't have to tell 'em why we want to
learn. We'll just say that my two attempts over to their house has got
me interested and I and you want to master the game so as we can spend
many pleasant evenin's with them; because Mrs. Hatch has told me a
hundred times that her and her husband would rather play bridge than
eat."

So she called up Mrs. Hatch and sprung it on her; but it seemed like the
Hatches had an engagement for Saturday night, but would be tickled to
death to come over Monday evenin' and give us a work-out. After that was
fixed we both felt kind of ashamed of ourselves, deceivin' people that
was supposed to be our best friends.

"But, anyway," the Missus says, "the Hatches wouldn't never fit in with
that crowd. Jim always looks like he'd dressed on the elevated and Mrs.
Hatch can't talk about nothin' only shiropody."

On the Saturday I tried to slip one over by buyin' a book called
_Auction Bridge_, and I read it all the way home from town and then left
it on the car. It was a great book for a man that had learnt the
rudderments and wanted to find out how to play the game right. But for
me to try and get somethin' out of it was just like as though some kid'd
learn the baseball guide by heart in kindeygarden and then ask Hugh
Jennin's for the job in center-field. I did find out one thing from it
though: it says that in every deal one o' the players was a dummy and
just laid his cards down and left somebody else play 'em. So when I got
home I says:

"We won't need no help from Jim Hatch and his wife. We can just be
dummies all the evenin' and they won't nobody know if we're ignorant or
not."

"That's impossible, to be dummy all the time," says the Missus.

"Not for me," I says. "I know it'll be tough for you, but you can chew a
lot o' gum and you won't mind it so much."

"You don't understand," she says. "The dummy is the pardner o' the party
that gets the bid. Suppose one o' the people that was playin' against
you got the bid; then the other one'd be dummy and you'd have to play
your hand."

"But I don't need to leave 'em have the bid," I says. "I can take it
away from 'em."

"And if you take it away from 'em," she says, "then you got the bid
yourself, and your pardner's dummy, not you."

Well, the Hatches breezed in Monday night and Mrs. Hatch remarked how
tickled she was that we was goin' to learn, and what good times we
four'd have playin' together. And the Missus and I pretended like we
shared her raptures.

"Ain't you never played at all?" she ast me; and I told her no.

"The first thing," she says, "is how much the different suits counts;
and then they's the bids. And you got to pay attention to the
conventions."

"I'm through with 'em forever," I says, "since they turned down
Roosevelt."

Well, we started in and Hatch and the Missus played Mrs. Hatch and I. We
kept at it till pretty near midnight, with three or four intermissions
so as Hatch could relieve the strain on the ice-box. My w'ist education
kept me from bein' much of a flivver when it come to playin' the cards;
but, I don't care how bright a guy is, you can't learn everything about
biddin' in one evenin', and you can't remember half what you learnt. I
don't know what the score was when we got through, but the Hatches done
most o' the execution and held most o' the cards, which is their regular
habit.

"You'll get along all right," says Mrs. Hatch when they was ready to go.
"But, o' course, you can't expect to master a game like bridge in a few
hours. You want to keep at it."

"We're goin' to," says the Missus.

"Maybe it'd be a good idear," says Mrs. Hatch, "to play again soon
before you forget what we learnt you. Why don't you come over to our
house for another session to-morrow night?"

"Let's see; to-morrow night?" says the Missus, stallin'. "Why, no, we
can't. We got an engagement."

So Mrs. Hatch stood there like she was expectin' to hear what it was.

"We're goin' to a party," says the Wife.

"Oh, tell me about it!" says Mrs. Hatch.

"Well," says the Missus, "it ain't really a party; it's just a kind of a
party; some old friends that's visitin' in town."

"Maybe they'll play bridge with you," says Mrs. Hatch.

"Oh, no," says the Missus, blushin'. "It'll probably be rummy or pedro;
or maybe we'll just go to the pitchers."

"Why don't you go over to the Acme?" says Mrs. Hatch. "They got Chaplin
in _The Street Sweeper_. We're goin', and we could meet you and all go
together."

"N-no," says the Wife. "You see, one of our friends has just lost his
wife and I know he wouldn't feel like goin' to see somethin' funny."

"He's already laughed himself sick," I says.

Well, we wouldn't make no date with 'em and they finally blew with the
understandin' that we was to go to their house and play some night soon.
When they'd went the Missus says:

"I feel like a criminal, deceivin' 'em like that. But I just couldn't
tell 'em the truth. Bertha Hatch is the most jealous thing in the world
and it would just about kill her to know that we was in on somethin'
good without she and Jim."

"If you hadn't ast 'em over," I says, "we'd of been just as well off and
you wouldn't of had to make a perjure out o' yourself."

"What do you mean, we'd of been just as well off?" she says. "They done
what we expected of 'em, learnt us the game."

"Yes," I says; "and you could take all I remember o' the lesson and feed
it to a gnat and he'd say: 'Hurry up with the soup course!'"


III

Well, Mrs. Garrett had called up to say that the feed before the game
would begin at seven bells; so I and the Missus figured on bein' on hand
at half past six, so as to get acquainted with some of our fellow club
members and know what to call 'em when we wanted the gravy passed or
somethin'. But I had trouble with my studs and it wasn't till pretty
near twenty minutes to seven that we rung the Garretts' bell. The hired
girl let us in and left us standin' in the hall w'ile she went to tell
Mrs. Garrett we was there. Pretty soon the girl come back and says she
would take our wraps and that Mrs. Garrett would be with us in a few
minutes. So we was showed into the livin'-room.

The apartment was on the second floor and looked about twice as big as
our'n.

"What do you suppose this costs 'em?" ast the Missus.

"About fifty-five a month," I says.

"You're crazy!" says she. "They got this big livin'-room and two big
bedrooms, and a maid's room and a sun parlor, besides their dinin'-room
and kitchen and bath. They're lucky if they ain't stuck for seventy."

"I'll bet you!" I says. "I'll bet you it's nearer fifty-five than
seventy."

"How much'll you bet?" she says.

"Anything you say," says I.

"Well," she says, "I've got a cinch, and I need a pair o' black silk
stockin's. My others has begun to run."

"All right," I says. "A pair o' black silk stockin's to fifty cents
cash."

"You're on," she says. "And I'll call up the agent to-morrow and find
out."

Well, it must of been pretty near seven o'clock when Mrs. Garrett
finally showed up.

"Good evenin'," she says. "I suppose this must be our new members. I'm
awfully glad you could come and I'm sorry I wasn't quite ready."

"That's all right," I says. "I'm glad to know they's others has trouble
gettin' into their evenin' clo'es. I suppose people that does it often
enough finally get to be experts."

"I didn't have no trouble," says Mrs. Garrett; "only I didn't expect
nobody till seven o'clock. You must of misunderstood me and thought I
said half past six."

Then Mr. Garrett come in and shook hands with us, and then the rest o'
the folks begun to arrive and we was introduced to them all. I didn't
catch all their names, only Mr. and Mrs. Messenger and Mr. and Mrs.
Collins and a Mr. and Mrs. Sparks. Mrs. Garrett says dinner was ready
and I was glad to hear it.

They set me down between Mrs. Messenger and a lady that I didn't get her
name.

"Well," I says to Mrs. Messenger, "now we know you personally, we can
pay the rent direct without botherin' to go to the real-estate office."

"I'm afraid that wouldn't do," she says. "Our agent's entitled to his
commissions. And besides, I wouldn't know how much to take or nothin'
about it."

"We pay thirty-five," I says, "and that's all as you could ast for,
seein' we only got the four rooms and no sun parlor. Thirty-two and a
half would be about the right price."

"You'll have to argue that out with the agent," she says.

I was kind of expectin' a cocktail; but nothin' doin'. The hired girl
brought in some half sandwiches, made o' toast, with somethin' on 'em
that looked like BB shot and tasted like New Year's mornin'.

"Don't we get no liquid refreshments?" I ast Mrs. Messenger.

"No, indeed," she says. "The San Susie's a dry club."

"You should ought to call it the San Sousy, then," says I.

The Missus was settin' next to Mr. Garrett and I could hear 'em talkin'
about what a nice neighborhood it was and how they liked their flats. I
thought I and the Missus might as well settle our bet then and there, so
I spoke to Mr. Garrett acrost the table.

"Mr. Garrett," I says, "w'ile we was waitin' for you and your wife to
get dressed, I and the Missus made a little bet, a pair o' silk stockin'
against half a buck. I got to pay out two dollars here for the prize and
the Missus claims her other stockin's has begun to run; so you might say
we're both a little anxious."

"Is it somethin' I can settle?" he ast.

"Yes, sir," I says, "because we was bettin' on the rent you paid for
this apartment. The Missus says seventy a month and I says fifty-five."

"I never decide against a lady," he says. "You better buy the stockin's
before the others run so far that they can't find their way home."

"If I lose, I lose," says I. "But if you're stuck sixty-five or better,
the Missus must of steered me wrong about the number o' rooms you got.
I'll pay, though, because I don't never welsh on a bet. So this party's
really costin' me two and a half instead o' two."

"Maybe you'll win the prize," says Mr. Garrett.

"They ain't much chance," I says. "I ain't played this game for a long
w'ile."

"Why, your wife was just tellin' me you played last night," he says.

"I mean," says I, "that I didn't play for a long w'ile before last
night; not for thirty-six years," I says.

Well, when everybody'd got through chokin' down the shot, they brought
in some drowned toadstools, and then some little slices o' beef about
the size of a checker, and seven Saratoga chips apiece, and half a dozen
string beans. Those that was still able to set up under this load
finished up on sliced tomatoes that was caught too young and a nickel's
worth of ice-cream and an eyedropper full o' coffee.

"Before I forget it," says Mrs. Collins, w'ile we was staggerin' out o'
the dinin'-room, "you're all comin' to my house next Tuesday night."

I was walkin' right behind her.

"And I got a suggestion for you," I says, low enough so as they couldn't
nobody else hear: "Throw some o' the prize money into the dinner; and if
they's any skimpin' to be done, do it on the prizes."

She didn't say nothin' back, because Mrs. Garrett had started to hand us
the little cards that showed where we was to play.

"I suppose I better tell you our rules," she says to me. "Each table
plays four deals. Then the winners moves w'ile the losers sets still,
except at the first table, where the winners sets still and the losers
moves. You change pardners after every four deals. You count fifty for a
game and a hundred and fifty for a rubber."

"The way I been playin'," I says, "it was thirty for a game."

"I never heard o' that," she says; but I noticed when we got to playin'
that everybody that made thirty points called it a game.

"Don't we see the prizes before we start?" I ast her. "I want to know
whether to play my best or not."

"If you win the prize and don't like it," she says, "I guess you can get
it exchanged."

"They tell me you're the shark amongst the womenfolks," says I; "so it's
a safe bet that you didn't pick out no lady's prize that isn't O.K."

I noticed some o' the other men was slippin' her their ante; so I parted
with a two-spot. Then I found where I was to set at. It was Table Number
Three, Couple Number One. My pardner was a strappin' big woman with a
name somethin' like Rowley or Phillips. Our opponents was Mrs. Garrett
and Mr. Messenger. Mrs. Garrett looked like she'd been livin' on the
kind of a meal she'd gave us, and Mr. Messenger could of set in the back
seat of a flivver with two regular people without crowdin' nobody. So I
says to my pardner:

"Well, pardner, we got 'em outweighed, anyway."

They was two decks o' cards on the table. I grabbed one o' them and
begun to deal 'em face up.

"First jack," I says.

"If you don't mind, we'll cut for deal," says Mrs. Garrett.

So we cut the cards and it seemed like the low cut got the deal and that
was Mrs. Garrett herself.

"Which deck'll we play with?" I ast.

"Both o' them," says Mrs. Garrett. "Mr. Messenger'll make them red ones
for you."

"Make 'em!" I says. "Well, Messenger, I didn't know you was a card
factory."

Messenger laughed; but the two ladies didn't get it. Mrs. Garrett dealt
and it was her turn to bid.

"One without," she says.

"I'd feel better if I had one within," says I.

"Are you goin' to bid or not?" she ast me.

"I thought it was the dealer's turn first," I says.

"I've made my bid," she says. "I bid one without."

"One without lookin', or what?" I says.

"One no trump, if I got to explain it," she says.

"Oh, that's different," I says; but I found out that most all o' them
said "One without" when they meant one no trump.

I looked at my hand; but about all as I had was four hearts, with the
king and jack high.

"Pardner," I says, "I don't see nothin' I can bid, unless it'd be one
heart. Does that hit you?"

"No talkin' acrost the boards," says Mrs. Garrett. "And besides, one
heart ain't over my bid."

So I passed and Mr. Messenger bid two spades. Then my pardner passed and
Mrs. Garrett thought it over a w'ile and then bid two without. So I
passed again and the rest o' them passed, and it was my first lead.

Well, I didn't have only one spade--the eight-spot--and I knew it
wouldn't do my hand no good as long as I couldn't trump in with it; so I
led it out. Messenger was dummy, and he laid his hand down. He had about
eight spades, with the ace and queen high.

"I might as well take a chance," says Mrs. Garrett, and she throwed on
Messenger's ten-spot.

Out come my pardner with the king, and it was our trick.

"What kind of a lead was that?" says Mrs. Garrett to me.

"Pretty good one, I guess," says I. "It fooled you, anyway."

And she acted like she was sore as a boil. Come to find out, she'd
thought I was leadin' from the king and was goin' to catch it later on.

Well, her and Messenger took all the rest o' the tricks except my king
o' hearts, and they had a game on us, besides forty for their four aces.

"I could of made a little slam as well as not," she says when it was
over. "But I misunderstood our friend's lead. It's the first time I ever
seen a man lead from a sneak in no trump."

"I'll do a whole lot o' things you never seen before," I says.

"I don't doubt it," says she, still actin' like I'd spilled salad
dressin' on her skirt.

It was my first bid next time and hearts was my only suit again. I had
the ace, queen and three others.

"Pardner," I says, "I'm goin' to bid one heart and if you got somethin'
to help me out with, don't let 'em take it away from me."

"I'll double a heart," says Messenger.

"Oh, somebody else is gettin' cute!" says I. "Well, I'll double right
back at you."

"Will you just wait till it comes your turn?" says Mrs. Garrett. "And
besides, you can't redouble."

"I guess I can," says I. "I got five o' them."

"It's against our rules," she says.

So my partner done nothin', as usual, and Mrs. Garrett bid one without
again.

"I guess you want to play 'em all," I says; "but you'll have to come
higher'n that. I'm goin' to bid two hearts."

"Two no trump," says Messenger, and my pardner says "Pass" once more.

"You'll get a sore throat sayin' that," I told her. "Don't you never
hold nothin'?"

"It don't look like it," she says.

"Maybe you don't know what's worth biddin' on," I says.

"Maybe she'd better take a few lessons from you," says Mrs. Garrett.

"No," I says, kiddin' her. "You don't want no more female experts in the
club or you might have to buy some cut glass once in a w'ile instead o'
winnin' it."

Well, I bid three hearts; but Mrs. Garrett come up to three no trump and
I couldn't go no higher. This time I led out my ace o' hearts, hopin'
maybe to catch their king; but I didn't get it. And Mrs. Garrett copped
all the rest of 'em for a little slam.

"If your husband ever starts drinkin' hard," I says, "you can support
yourself by sellin' some o' your horseshoes to the Russian government."

It wasn't no lie, neither. I never seen such hands as that woman held,
and Messenger's was pretty near as good. In the four deals they grabbed
two rubbers and a couple o' little slams, and when they left our table
they had over nine hundred to our nothin'.

Mr. Collins and another woman was the next ones to set down with us. The
rules was to change pardners and Collins took the one I'd been playin'
with. And what does she do but get lucky and they give us another
trimmin', though nothin' near as bad as the first one. My pardner, this
time, was a woman about forty-eight, and she acted like it was way past
her bedtime. When it was her turn to say somethin' we always had to wait
about five minutes, and all the other tables was through a long w'ile
before us. Once she says:

"You'll have to excuse me to-night. I don't somehow seem to be able to
keep my mind on the game."

"No," I says; "but I bet you'd perk up if the lady's prize was a
mattress. When you're goin' to be up late you should ought to take a nap
in the afternoon."

Well, sir, my next pardner wasn't nobody else but the Missus. She'd
started at the fourth table and lost the first time, but win the second.
She come along with the husband o' the pardner I'd just had; so here we
was family against family, you might say.

"What kind o' luck you been havin'?" the fella ast me.

"No luck at all," I says. "But if you're anywheres near as sleepy as
your Missus, I and my wife should ought to clean up this time."

We didn't. They held all the cards except in one hand, and that was one
my Missus tried to play. I bid first and made it a no trump, as they was
three aces in my hand. Old Slumber began to talk in her sleep and says:
"Two diamonds." The Missus bid two hearts. Mr. Sleeper passed, and so
did I, as I didn't have a single heart in my hand and figured the Missus
probably had 'em all. She had six, with the king high and then the
nine-spot. Our female opponent had only two, and that left five for her
husband, includin' the ace, queen and jack. We was set three.

"Nice work!" I says to the Missus. "You're the Philadelphia Athletics of
auction bridge."

"What was you biddin' no trump on?" she says. "I thought, o' course,
you'd have one high heart and some suit."

"You don't want to start thinkin' at your age," I says. "You can't learn
an old dog new tricks."

Mrs. Nap's husband cut in.

"O' course," he says, "it's a man's privilege to call your wife anything
you feel like callin' her. But your Missus don't hardly look old to me."

"No, not comparatively speakin'," I says, and he shut up.

They moved on and along come Garrett and Mrs. Messenger. I and Mrs.
Messenger was pardners and I thought for a w'ile we was goin' to win.
But Garrett and the Missus had a bouquet o' four-leaf clovers in the
last two deals and licked us. Garrett wasn't supposed to be as smart as
his wife, but he was fox enough to keep biddin' over my Missus, so as
he'd do the playin' instead o' she.

It wasn't till pretty near the close o' the evenin's entertainment that
I got away from that table and moved to Number Two. When I set down
there it was I and Mrs. Collins against her husband and Mrs. Sleeper.

"Well, Mrs. Collins," I says, "I'll try and hold some good hands for you
and maybe I can have two helpin's o' the meat when we come to your
house."

The other lady opened her eyes long enough to ask who was winnin'.

"Oh, Mrs. Garrett's way ahead," says Mrs. Collins. "She's got a score o'
somethin' like three thousand. And Mr. Messenger is high amongst the
men."

"Who's next to the leadin' lady?" I ast her.

"I guess I am," she says. "But I'm three hundred behind Mrs. Garrett."

Well, the luck I'd just bumped into stayed with me and I and Mrs.
Collins won and moved to the head table. Waitin' there for us was our
darlin' hostess and Messenger, the two leaders in the pennant race. It
was give out that this was to be the last game.

When Mrs. Garrett realized who was goin' to be her pardner I wisht you
could of seen her face!

"This is an unexpected pleasure," she says to me. "I thought you liked
the third table so well you was goin' to stay there all evenin'."

"I did intend to," I says; "but I seen you up here and I heard you was
leadin' the league, so I thought I'd like to help you finish in front."

"I don't need no help," she says. "All I ast is for you to not overbid
your hands, and I'll do the rest."

"How many are you, Mrs. Garrett?" ast Mrs. Collins.

"Thirty-two hundred and sixty," she says.

"Oh, my!" says Mrs. Collins, "I'm hopeless. I'm only twenty-nine hundred
and forty-eight. And how about you, Mr. Messenger?"

"Round thirty-one hundred," he says.

"Yes," says Mrs. Garrett, "and I don't believe any o' the rest o' the
men is within five hundred o' that."

"Well, Messenger," I says, "if the men's prize happens to be a case o'
beer or a steak smothered in onions, don't forget that I'm payin' you
thirty-five a month for a thirty-dollar flat."

Now, I'd of gave my right eye to see Mrs. Collins beat Mrs. Garrett out.
But I was goin' to do my best for Mrs. Garrett just the same, because I
don't think it's square for a man to not try and play your hardest all
the time in any kind of a game, no matter where your sympathies lays. So
when it come my turn to bid on the first hand, and I seen the ace and
king and four other hearts in my hand, I raised Mrs. Collins' bid o' two
diamonds, and Mrs. Garrett made it two no trump and got away with it. On
the next two deals Messenger and Mrs. Collins made a game, and Mrs.
Garrett got set a trick once on a bid o' five clubs. The way the score
was when it come to the last deal, I figured that if Mrs. Collins and
Messenger made another game and rubber, the two women'd be mighty close
to even.

Mrs. Garrett dealt 'em, and says: "One without."

"Two spades," says Mrs. Collins.

Well, sir, they wasn't a spade in my hand, and I seen that if Mrs.
Collins got it we was ruined on account o' me not havin' a trump. And
w'ile I wanted Mrs. Collins to win I was goin' to do my best to not let
her. So I says:

"Two without."

"You know what you're doin', do you?" says Mrs. Garrett.

"What do you mean, know what I'm doin'?" I says.

"No talkin' acrost the boards," says Messenger.

"All right," I says; "but you can depend on me, pardner, not to throw
you down."

Well, Messenger passed and so did Mrs. Garrett; but Mrs. Collins wasn't
through.

"Three spades," she says.

"Three without," says I.

"I hope it's all right," says Mrs. Garrett.

"I'll tell you one thing," I says; "it's a whole lot all-righter than if
she played it in spades."

Messenger passed again and ditto for my pardner.

"I'll double," says Mrs. Collins, and we let it go at that.

Man, oh, man! You ought to seen our genial hostess when I laid down my
cards! And heard her, too! Her face turned all three colors o' Old
Glory. She slammed her hand down on the table, face up.

"I won't play it!" she hollers. "I won't be made a fool of! This poor
idiot deliberately told me he had spades stopped, and look at his hand!"

"You're mistaken, Mrs. Garrett," I says. "I didn't say nothin' about
spades."

"Shut your mouth!" she says. "That's what you ought to done all
evenin'."

"I might as well of," I says, "for all the good it done me to keep it
open at dinner."

Everybody in the room quit playin' and rubbered. Finally Garrett got up
from where he was settin' and come over.

"What seems to be the trouble?" he says. "This ain't no barroom."

"Nobody'd ever suspect it o' bein'," I says.

"Look what he done!" says Mrs. Garrett. "He raised my no-trump bid over
three spades without a spade in his hand."

"Well," says Mr. Garrett, "they's no use gettin' all fussed up over a
game o' cards. The thing to do is pick up your hand and play it out and
take your medicine."

"I can set her three," said Mrs. Collins. "I got seven spades, with the
ace, king and queen, and I'll catch her jack on the third lead."

"And I got the ace o' hearts," says Messenger. "Even if it didn't take a
trick it'd make aces easy; so our three hundred above the line gives
Mrs. Collins a score of about ten more'n Mrs. Garrett."

"All right, then," says Garrett. "Mrs. Collins is entitled to the lady's
prize."

"I don't want to take it," says Mrs. Collins.

"You got to take it," says Garrett.

And he give his wife a look that meant business. Anyway, she got up and
went out o' the room, and when she come back she was smilin'. She had
two packages in her hand, and she give one to Messenger and one to Mrs.
Collins.

"There's the prizes," she says; "and I hope you'll like 'em."

Messenger unwrapped his'n and it was one o' them round leather cases
that you use to carry extra collars in when you're travelin'. Messenger
had told me earlier in the evenin' that he hadn't been outside o'
Chicago in six years.

Mrs. Collins' prize was a chafin'-dish.

"I don't blame Mrs. Garrett for bein' so crazy to win it," I says to her
when they couldn't nobody hear. "Her and Garrett both must get hungry
along about nine or ten P.M."

"I hate to take it," says Mrs. Collins.

"I wouldn't feel that way," I says. "I guess Mrs. Garrett will chafe
enough without it."

When we was ready to go I shook hands with the host and hostess and says
I was sorry if I'd pulled a boner.

"It was to be expected," says Mrs. Garrett.

"Yes," I says; "a man's liable to do most anything when he's starvin' to
death."

The Messengers and Collinses was a little ways ahead of us on the stairs
and I wanted we should hurry and catch up with 'em.

"You let 'em go!" says the Missus. "You've spoiled everything now
without doin' nothin' more. Every time you talk you insult somebody."

"I ain't goin' to insult them," I says. "I'm just goin' to ask 'em to go
down to the corner and have a drink."

"You are not!" she says.

But she's just as good a prophet as she is a bridge player. They
wouldn't go along, though, sayin' it was late and they wanted to get to
bed.

"Well, if you won't, you won't," says I. "We'll see you all a week from
to-night. And don't forget, Mrs. Collins, that I'm responsible for you
winnin' that chafin'-dish, and I'm fond o' welsh rabbits."

I was glad that we didn't have to go far to our buildin'. The Missus was
pleasant company, just like a bloodhound with the rabies. I left her in
the vestibule and went down to help Mike close up. He likes to be
amongst friends at a sad hour like that.

At breakfast the next mornin' the Wife was more calm.

"Dearie," she says, "they don't neither one of us class as bridge
experts. I'll admit I got a lot to learn about the game. What we want to
do is play with the Hatches every evenin' this week, and maybe by next
Tuesday night we'll know somethin'."

"I'm willin'," I says.

"I'll call Mrs. Hatch up this forenoon," she says, "and see if they want
us to come over there this evenin'. But if we do go remember not to
mention our club or tell 'em anything about the party."

Well, she had news for me when I got home.

"The San Susies is busted up," she says. "Not forever, but for a few
months anyway. Mrs. Messenger called up to tell me."

"What's the idear?" I says.

"I don't know exactly," says the Missus. "Mrs. Messenger says that the
Collinses had boxes for the opera every Tuesday night and the rest
didn't feel like goin' on without the Collinses, and they couldn't all
o' them agree on another night."

"I don't see why they should bust it up on account o' one couple," I
says. "Why didn't you tell 'em about the Hatches? They're right here in
the neighborhood and can play bridge as good as anybody."

"I wouldn't think o' doin' it," says she. "They may play all right, but
think o' how they talk and how they dress!"

"Well," I says, "between you and I, I ain't goin' to take cyanide over a
piece o' news like this. Somehow it don't appeal to me to vote myself
dry every Tuesday night all winter--to say nothin' o' two dollars a week
annual dues to help buy a prize that I got no chance o' winnin' and
wouldn't know what to do with it if I had it."

"It'd of been nice, though," she says, "to make friends with them
people."

"Well," I says, "I'll feel a little more confident o' doin' that if I
see 'em once a year--or not at all."


IV

I can tell you the rest of it in about a minute. The Missus had became
resigned and everything was goin' along smooth till last Tuesday
evenin'. They was a new Chaplin show over to the Acme and we was on our
way to see it. At the entrance to the buildin' where the Messengers
lives we seen Mr. and Mrs. Hatch.

"Hello, there!" says the Wife. "Better come along with us to the Acme."

"Not to-night," says Mrs. Hatch. "We're tied up every Tuesday evenin'."

"Some club?" ast the Missus.

"Yes," says Mrs. Hatch. "It's a bridge club--the San Susie. The
Messengers and Collinses and Garretts and us and some other people's in
it. Two weeks ago we was to Collinses', and last week to Beardsleys';
and to-night the Messengers is the hosts."

The Missus tried to say somethin', and couldn't.

"I been awful lucky," says Mrs. Hatch. "I win the prize at Collinses'.
It was a silver pitcher--the prettiest you ever seen!"

The Missus found her voice.

"Do you have dinner, too?" she ast.

"I should say we do!" says Mrs. Hatch. "And simply grand stuff to eat!
It was nice last week at Beardsleys'; but you ought to been at
Collinses'! First, they was an old-fashioned beefsteak supper; and then,
when we was through playin', Mrs. Collins made us welsh rabbits in her
chafin'-dish."

"That don't tempt me," I says. "I'd just as soon try and eat a raw
mushrat as a welsh rabbit."

"Well, we got to be goin' in," says Hatch.

"Good night," says Mrs. Hatch; "and I wisht you was comin' with us."

The pitcher we seen was called _The Fly Cop_. Don't never waste a dime
on it. They ain't a laugh in the whole show!


THE END





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Gullible's Travels, Etc." ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



Home