Aunt Jane's Nieces/Chapter 25
UNCLE JOHN ACTS QUEERLY
When Patsy and the Major had both departed for work on Monday morning Uncle John boarded a car and rode downtown also. He might have accompanied them part of the way, but fearedmight think him extravagant if she found him so soon breaking into the working fund of forty-two cents, which she charged him to be careful of.
He seemed to be in no hurry, for it was early yet, and few of the lower Broadway establishments were open. To pass the time he turned into a small restaurant and had coffee and a plate of cakes, in spite of the fact that Patsy had so recently prepared coffee over the sheet-iron stove and brought some hot buns from a near-by bakery. He was not especially hungry; but in sipping the coffee and nibbling the cakes he passed the best part of an hour.
He smiled when he paid out twenty-five cents of his slender store for the refreshment. With five cents for car-fare he had now but twelve cents left of the forty-two Patsy had given him! Talk about the Major's extravagance: it could not be compared to Uncle John's.
Another hour was spent in looking in at the shop windows. Then, suddenly noting the time. Uncle John started down the street at a swinging pace, and presently paused before a building upon which was a sign, reading: "Isham, Marvin & Co., Bankers and Brokers." A prosperous looking place, it seemed, with a host of clerks busily working in the various departments. Uncle John walked in, although the uniformed official at the door eyed him suspiciously.
"Mr. Marvin in?" he inquired, pleasantly.
"Not arrived yet," said the official, who wore a big star upon his breast.
"I'll wait," announced Uncle John, and sat down upon a leather-covered bench.
The official strutted up and down, watching the customers who entered the bank or departed, and keeping a sharp watch on the little man upon the bench.
Another hour passed.
Presently Uncle John jumped up and approached the official.
"Hasn't Mr. Marvin arrived yet?" he enquired, sharply.
"An hour ago," was the reply.
"Then why didn't you let me know? I want to see him."
"He's busy mornings. Has to look over the mail. He can't see you yet."
"Well, he will see me, and right away. Tell him John Merrick is here."
"Your card, sir."
"I haven't any. My name will do."
The official hesitated, and glanced at the little man's seedy garb and countryfied air. But something in the angry glance of the shrewd eye made him fear he had made a mistake. He opened a small door and disappeared.
In a moment the door burst open to allow egress to a big, red-bearded man in his shirtsleeves, who glanced around briefly and then rushed at Uncle John and shook both his hands cordially.
"My dear Mr. Merrick!" he exclaimed, "I'm delighted and honored to see you here. Come to my room at once. A great surprise and pleasure, sir! Thomas, I'm engaged!"
This last was directed at the head of the amazed porter, who, as the door slammed in his face, nodded solemnly and remarked:
"Fooled ag'in, and I might 'a' known it. Drat these 'ere billionaires! Why don't they dress like decent people?"
Uncle John had been advised by Patsy where to go for a good cheap luncheon; but he did not heed her admonition. Instead, he rode in a carriage beside the banker to a splendid club, where he was served with the finest dishes the chef could provide on short notice. Moreover, Mr. Marvin introduced him to several substantial gentlemen as "Mr. John Merrick, of Portland"; and each one bowed profoundly and declared he was "highly honored."
Yet Uncle John seemed in no way elated by this reception. He retained his simple manner, although his face was more grave than Patsy had often seen it; and he talked with easy familiarity of preferred stocks and amalgamated interests and invested, securities and many other queer things that the banker seemed to understand fully and to listen to with respectful deference.
Then they returned to the bank for another long session together, and there was quite an eager bustle among the clerks as they stretched their necks to get a glimpse of Mr. Marvin's companion.
"It's John Merrick" passed from mouth to mouth, and the uniformed official strutted from one window to another, saying:
"I showed him in myself. And he came into the bank as quiet like as anyone else would."
But he didn't go away quietly, you may be sure. Mr. Marvin and Mr. Isham both escorted their famous client to the door, where the Marvin carriage had been ordered to be in readiness for Mr. Merrick's service.
But Uncle Johnit aside disdainfully.
"I'll walk," he said. "There are some other errands to attend to."
So they shook his hand and reminded him of a future appointment and let him go his way. In a moment the great Broadway crowd had swallowed up John Merrick, and five minutes later he was thoughtfully gazing into a shop window again.
By and bye he bethought himself of the time, and took a cab uptown. He had more than the twelve cents in his pocket, now, besides the check book which was carefully hidden away in an inside pocket; so the cost of the cab did not worry him. He dismissed the vehicle near an uptown corner and started to walk hastily toward Danny Reeves's restaurant, a block away. Patsy was standing in the doorway, anxiously watching for him.
"Oh, Uncle John," she cried, as he strolled "I've been really worried about you; it's such a big city, and you a stranger. Do you know you're ten minutes late?"
"I'm sorry," he said, humbly; "but it's a long way here from downtown."
"Didn't you take a car?"
"No, my dear."
"Why, you foolish old Uncle! Come in at once. The Major has been terribly excited over you, and swore you should not be allowed to wander through the streets without someone to look after you. But what could we do?"
"I'm all right," declared Uncle John, cordially shaking hands with Patsy's father. "Have you had a good day?"
"Fine," said the Major. "They'd missed me at the office, and were glad to have me back. And what do you think? I've got a raise."
"Really?" said Uncle John, seeing it was expected of him.
"For a fact. It's Patsy's doing, I've no doubt. She wheedled the firm into giving me a vacation, and now they're to pay me twelve a week instead of ten."
"Is that enough?" asked Uncle John, doubtfully.
"More than enough, sir. I'm getting old, and can't earn as much as a younger man. But I'm pretty tough, and mean to hold onto that twelve a week as long as possible."
"What pay do you get, Patsy?" asked Uncle John.
"Almost as much as Daddy. We're dreadfully rich, Uncle John; so you needn't worry if you don't strike a job yourself all at once."
"Any luck today, sir," asked the Major, tucking a napkin under his chin and beginning on the soup.
Uncle John shook his head.
"Of course not," said Patsy, quickly. "It's too early, as yet. Don't hurry, Uncle John. Except that it'll keep you busy, there's no need for you to work at all."
"You're older than I am," suggested the Major, "and that makes it harder to break in. But there's no hurry, as Patsy says."
Uncle John did not seem to be worrying over his idleness. He kept on questioning his brother-in-law and his niece about their labors, and afterward related to them the sights he had seen in the shop windows. Of course he could not eat much after the feast he had had at luncheon, and this disturbed Patsy a little. She insisted he was tired, and carried her men away to the tenement rooms as soon as possible, where she installed them at the table to play cribbage until bed-time.
The next day Uncle John seemed to be busy enough, although of course Patsy could not know what he was doing. He visited a real-estate office, for one thing, and then telephoned Isham, Marvin & Co. and issued a string of orders in a voice not nearly so meek and mild as it was when he was in Patsy's presence. Whatever he had undertaken required time, for all during the week he left the tenement directly the Major and his daughter had gone to the city, and bustled about until it was time to meet them for dinner at the restaurant. But he was happy and in good spirits and enjoyed his evening game of cribbage with the Major exceedingly.
"You must be nearly bankrupt, by this time," said Patsy on Tuesday evening.
"It's an expensive city to live in," sighed Uncle John.
She gave him fifty cents of his money, then, and on Friday fifty cents more.
"After a time," she said, "you'll manage to get along with less. It's always harder to economize at first."
"How about the bills?" he inquired. "Don't I pay my share of them?"
"Your expenses are nothing at all," declared the Major, with a wave of his hand.
"But my dinners at Danny Reeves' place must cost a lot," protested Uncle John.
"Surely not; Patsy has managed all that for a trifle, and the pleasure of your company more than repays us for the bit of expense."
On Saturday night there was a pint of red wine for the two men, and then the weekly cigars were brought—very inexpensive ones, to be sure. The first whiff he took made Uncle John cough; but the Major smoked so gracefully and with such evident pleasure that his brother-in-law clung manfully to the cigar, and succeeded in consuming it to the end.
"Tomorrow is the day of rest," announced Patsy, "so we'll all go for a nice walk in the parks after breakfast."
"And we sleep 'till eight o'clock, don't we, Patsy?" asked the Major.
"And the eggs for breakfast?"
"I've bought them already, three for a nickle. You don't care for more than one, do you, Uncle John?"
"No, my dear."
"It's our Sunday morning extra—an egg apiece. The Major is so fond of them."
"And so am I, Patsy."
"And now we'll have our cribbage and get to bed early. Heigho! but Sunday's a great day for folks that work."