The rumpetybump rumpetybump spaced out, slackened; bumpers banged all down the train. The man dropped off the rods. He couldnt move for stiffness. It was pitchblack. Very slowly he crawled out, hoisted himself to his knees, to his feet until he leaned panting against the freightcar. His body was not his own; his muscles were smashed wood, his bones were twisted rods. A lantern burst his eyes.
"Get outa here quick yous. Company detectives is beatin through de yards"
"Say feller, is this New York?"
"You're goddam right it is. Juss foller my lantern; you kin git out along de waterfront."
His feet could barely stumble through the long gleaming v's and crisscrossed lines of tracks, he tripped and fell over a bundle of signal rods. At last he was sitting on the edge of a wharf with his head in his hands. The water made a soothing noise against the piles like the lapping of a dog. He took a newspaper out of his pocket and unwrapped a hunk of bread and a slice of gristly meat. He ate them dry, chewing and chewing before he could get any moisture in his mouth. Then he got unsteadily to his feet, brushed the crumbs off his knees, and looked about him. Southward beyond the tracks the murky sky was drenched with orange glow.
"The Gay White Way," he said aloud in a croaking voice. "The Gay White Way."
THROUGH the rainstriped window Jimmy Herf was watching the umbrellas bob in the slowly swirling traffic that flowed up Broadway. There was a knock at the door; "Come in," said Jimmy and turned back to the window when he saw that the waiter wasn't Pat. The waiter switched on the light. Jimmy saw him reflected in the windowpane, a lean spikyhaired man holding aloft in one hand the dinnertray on which the silver covers were grouped like domes. Breathing hard the waiter advanced into the room dragging a folding stand after him with his free hand. He jerked open the stand, set the tray on it and laid a cloth on the round table. A greasy pantry smell came from him. Jimmy waited till he'd gone to turn round. Then he walked about the table tipping up the silver covers; soup with little green things in it, roast lamb, mashed potatoes, mashed turnips, spinach, no desert either.
"Muddy." "Yes deary," the voice wailed frailly through the folding doors.
"Dinner's ready mother dear."
"You begin darling boy, I'll be right in. . . ."
"But I dont want to begin without you mother."
He walked round the table straightening knives and forks. He put a napkin over his arm. The head waiter at Delmonico's was arranging the table for Graustark and the Blind King of Bohemia and Prince Henry the Navigator and . . .
"Mother who d'you want to be Mary Queen of Scots or Lady Jane Grey?"
"But they both had their heads chopped off honey. . . . I dont want to have my head chopped off." Mother had on her salmoncolored teagown. When she opened the folding doors a wilted smell of cologne and medicines seeped out of the bedroom, trailed after her long lacefringed sleeves. She had put a little too much powder on her face, but her hair, her lovely brown hair was done beautifully. They sat down opposite one another; she set a plate of soup in front of him, lifting it between two long blueveined hands.
He ate the soup that was watery and not hot enough. "Oh I forgot the croutons, honey."
"Muddy . . . mother why arent you eating your soup?"
"I dont seem to like it much this evening. I couldn't think what to order tonight my head ached so. It doesn’t matter.”
“Would you rather be Cleopatra? She had a wonderful appetite and ate everything that was put before her like a good little girl.”
“Even pearls. . . . She put a pearl in a glass of vinegar and drank it down. . . .” Her voice trembled. She stretched out her hand to him across the table; he patted her hand manfully and smiled. “Only you and me Jimmy boy. . . . Honey you’ll always love your mother wont you?”
“What’s the matter muddy dear?”
“Oh nothing; I feel strange this evening. . . . Oh I’m so tired of never really feeling well.”
“But after you’ve had your operation. . . .”
“Oh yes after I’ve had my operation. . . . Deary there’s a paper of fresh butter on the windowledge in the bathroom. . . . I’ll put some on these turnips if you fetch it for me. . . . I’m afraid I’ll have to complain about the food again. This lamb’s not all it should be; I hope it wont make us sick.”
Jimmy ran through the folding doors and his mother’s room into the little passage that smelled of mothballs and silky bits of clothing littered on a chair; the red rubber tubing of a douche swung in his face as he opened the bathroom door; the whiff of medicines made his ribs contract with misery. He pushed up the window at the end of the tub. The ledge was gritty and feathery specks of soot covered the plate turned up over the butter. He stood a moment staring down the airshaft, breathing through his mouth to keep from smelling the coalgas that rose from the furnaces. Below him a maid in a white cap leaned out of a window and talked to one of the furnacemen who stood looking up at her with his bare grimy arms crossed over his chest. Jimmy strained his ears to hear what they were saying; to be dirty and handle coal all day and have grease in your hair and up to your armpits.
“Coming mother.” Blushing he slammed down the window and walked back to the sittingroom, slowly so that the red would have time to fade out of his face.
"Dreaming again, Jimmy. My little dreamer."
He put the butter beside his mother's plate and sat down.
"Hurry up and eat your lamb while it's hot. Why dont you try a little French mustard on it? It'll make it taste better."
The mustard burnt his tongue, brought tears to his eyes.
"Is it too hot?" mother asked laughing. "You must learn to like hot things. . . . He always liked hot things."
"Someone I loved very much."
They were silent. He could hear himself chewing. A few rattling sounds of cabs and trolleycars squirmed in brokenly through the closed windows. The steampipes knocked and hissed. Down the airshaft the furnaceman with grease up to his armpits was spitting words out of his wabbly mouth up at the maid in the starched cap—dirty words. Mustard's the color of . . .
"A penny for your thoughts."
"I wasn't thinking of anything."
"We mustn't have any secrets from each other dear. Remember you're the only comfort your mother has in the world."
"I wonder what it'd be like to be a seal, a little harbor seal."
"Very chilly I should think."
"But you wouldn't feel it. . . . Seals are protected by a layer of blubber so that they're always warm even sitting on an iceberg. But it would be such fun to swim around in the sea whenever you wanted to. They travel thousands of miles without stopping."
"But mother's traveled thousands of miles without stopping and so have you."
"Going abroad and coming back." She was laughing at him with bright eyes.
"Oh but that's in a boat."
"And when we used to go cruising on the Mary Stuart."
"Oh tell me about that muddy."
There was a knock. "Come." The spikyhaired waiter put his head in the door.
"Can I clear mum?"
"Yes and bring me some fruit salad and see that the fruit is fresh cut. . . . Things are wretched this evening."
Puffing, the waiter was piling dishes on the tray. "I'm sorry mum," he puffed.
"All right, I know it's not your fault waiter. . . . What'll you have Jimmy?"
"May I have a meringue glacé muddy?"
"All right if you'll be very good."
"Yea," Jimmy let out a yell.
"Darling you mustn't shout like that at table."
"But we dont mind when there are just the two of us. . . . Hooray meringue glacé."
"James a gentleman always behaves the same way whether he's in his own home or in the wilds of Africa."
"Gee I wish we were in the wilds of Africa."
"I'd be terrified, dear."
'I'd shout like that and scare away all the lions and tigers. . . . Yes I would."
The waiter came back with two plates on the tray. "I'm sorry mum but meringue glacé's all out. . . . I brought the young gentleman chocolate icecream instead."
"Never mind dear. . . . It would have been too rich anyway. . . . You eat that and I'll let you run out after dinner and buy some candy."
"But dont eat the icecream too fast or you'll have colly-wobbles."
"I'm all through."
"You bolted it you little wretch. . . . Put on your rubbers honey."
"But it's not raining at all."
"Do as mother wants you dear. . . . And please dont be long. I put you on your honor to come right back. Mother's not a bit well tonight and she gets so nervous when you're out in the street. There are such terrible dangers. . . ."
He sat down to pull on his rubbers. While he was snapping them tight over his heels she came to him with a dollar bill. She put her arm with its long silky sleeve round his shoulder. "Oh my darling."
She was crying.
"Mother you mustnt." He squeezed her hard; he could feel the ribs of her corset against his arms. "I'll be back in a minute, in the teenciest weenciest minute."
On the stairs where a brass rod held the dull crimson carpet in place on each step, Jimmy pulled off his rubbers and stuffed them into the pockets of his raincoat. With his head in the air he hurried through the web of prying glances of the bellhops on the bench beside the desk. "Coin fer a walk?" the youngest lighthaired bellhop asked him. Jimmy nodded wisely, slipped past the staring buttons of the doorman and out onto Broadway full of clangor and footsteps and faces putting on shadowmasks when they slid out of the splotches of light from stores and arclamps. He walked fast uptown past the Ansonia. In the doorway lounged a blackbrowed man with a cigar in his mouth, maybe a kidnapper. But nice people live in the Ansonia like where we live. Next a telegraph office, drygoods stores, a dyers and cleaners, a Chinese laundry sending out a scorched mysterious steamy smell. He walks faster, the chinks are terrible kidnappers. Footpads. A man with a can of coaloil brushes past him, a greasy sleeve brushes against his shoulder, smells of sweat and coaloil; suppose he's a firebug. The thought of firebug gives him gooseflesh. Fire. Fire.
Huyler's; there's a comfortable fudgy odor mixed with the smell of nickel and wellwiped marble outside the door, and the smell of cooking chocolate curls warmly from the gratings under the windows. Black and orange crêpepaper favors for Hallowe'en. He is just going in when he thinks of the Mirror place two blocks further up, those little silver steamengines and automobiles they give you with your change. I'll hurry; on rollerskates it'd take less time, you could escape from bandits, thugs, holdupmen, on rollerskates, shooting over your shoulder with a long automatic, bing . . . one of em down! that's the worst of em, bing . . . there's another; the rollerskates are magic rollerskates, whee . . . up the brick walls of the houses, over the roofs, vaulting chimneys, up the Flatiron Building, scooting across the cables of Brooklyn Bridge.
Mirror candies; this time he goes in without hesitating. He stands at the counter a while before anyone comes to wait on him. "Please a pound of sixty cents a pound mixed chocolate creams," he rattled off. She is a blond lady, a little crosseyed, and looks at him spitefully without answering. "Please I'm in a hurry if you dont mind."
"All right, everybody in their turn," she snaps. He stands blinking at her with flaming cheeks. She pushes him a box all wrapped up with a check on it "Pay at the desk." I'm not going to cry. The lady at the desk is small and grey-haired. She takes his dollar through a little door like the little doors little animals go in and out of in the Small Mammal House. The cash register makes a cheerful tinkle, glad to get the money. A quarter, a dime, a nickel and a little cup, is that forty cents? But only a little cup instead of a steamengine or an automobile. He picks up the money and leaves the little cup and hurries out with the box under his arm. Mother'll say I've been too long. He walks home looking straight ahead of him, smarting from the meanness of the blond lady.
"Ha . . . been out abuyin candy," said the lighthaired bellhop. "I'll give you some if you come up later," whispered Jimmy as he passed. The brass rods rang when he kicked them running up the stairs. Outside the chocolate-colored door that had 503 on it in white enameled letters he remembered his rubbers. He set the candy on the floor and pulled them on over his damp shoes. Lucky Muddy wasn't waiting for him with the door open. Maybe she'd seen him coming from the window.
"Mother." She wasn't in the sittingroom. He was terrified. She'd gone out, she'd gone away. "Mother!"
"Come here dear," came her voice weakly from the bedroom.
He pulled off his hat and raincoat and rushed in. "Mother what's the matter?"
"Nothing honey. . . . I've a headache that's all, a terrible headache. . . . Put some cologne on a handkerchief and put it on my head nicely, and dont please dear get it in my eye the way you did last time."
She lay on the bed in a skyblue wadded wrapper. Her face was purplish pale. The silky salmoncolored teagown hung limp over a chair; on the floor lay her corsets in a tangle of pink strings. Jimmy put the wet handkerchief carefully on her forehead. The cologne reeked strong, prickling his nostrils as he leaned over her.
"That's so good," came her voice feebly, "Dear call up Aunt Emily, Riverside 2466, and ask her if she can come round this evening. I want to talk to her. . . . Oh my head's bursting."
His heart thumping terribly and tears blearing his eyes he went to the telephone. Aunt Emily's voice came unexpectedly soon.
"Aunt Emily mother's kinder sick. . . . She wants you to come around. . . . She's coming right away mother dear," he shouted, "isn't that fine? She's coming right around."
He tiptoed back into his mother's room, picked up the corset and the teagown and hung them in the wardrobe.
"Deary" came her frail voice "take the hairpins out of my hair, they hurt my head. . . . Oh honeyboy I feel as if my head would burst. . . ." He felt gently through her brown hair that was silkier than the teagown and pulled out the hairpins.
"Ou dont, you are hurting me."
"Mother I didn't mean to."
Aunt Emily, thin in a blue mackintosh thrown over her evening dress, hurried into the room, her thin mouth in a pucker of sympathy. She saw her sister lying twisted with pain on the bed and the skinny whitefaced boy in short pants standing beside her with his hands full of hairpins.
"What is it Lil?" she asked quietly.
"My dear something terrible's the matter with me," came Lily Herf's voice in a gasping hiss.
"James," said Aunt Emily harshly, "you must run off to bed. . . . Mother needs perfect quiet."
"Good night muddy dear," he said.
Aunt Emily patted him on the back. "Dont worry James I'll attend to everything." She went to the telephone and began calling a number in a low precise voice.
The box of candy was on the parlor table; Jimmy felt guilty when he put it under his arm. As he passed the bookcase he snatched out a volume of the American Cyclopædia and tucked it under the other arm. His aunt did not notice when he went out the door. The dungeon gates opened. Outside was an Arab stallion and two trusty retainers waiting to speed him across the border to freedom. Three doors down was his room. It was stuffed with silent chunky darkness. The light switched on obediently lighting up the cabin of the schooner Mary Stuart. All right Captain weigh anchor and set your course for the Windward Isles and dont let me be disturbed before dawn; I have important papers to peruse. He tore off his clothes and knelt beside the bed in his pyjamas. Nowilaymedowntosleep Ipraythelordmysoultokeep Ifishoulddiebeforeiwake Ipraythe lordmysoultotake.
Then he opened the box of candy and set the pillows together at the end of the bed under the light. His teeth broke through the chocolate into a squashysweet filling. Let's see . . .
A the first of the vowels, the first letter in all written alphabets except the Amharic or Abyssinian, of which it is the thirteenth, and the Runic of which it is the tenth. . . .
Darn it that's a hairy one. . . .
AA, Aachen (see Aix-la-Chapelle).
Aardvark . . .
Gee he's funny looking . . .
(orycteropus capensis), a plantigrade animal of the class mammalia, order edentata, peculiar to Africa.
Abd-el-halim, an Egyptian prince, son of Mehmet Ali and a white slave woman. . . .
His cheeks burned as he read:
The Queen of the White Slaves.
Abdomen (lat. of undetermined etymology) . . . the lower part of the body included between the level of the diaphragm and that of the pelvis. . . .
Abelard . . . The relation of master and pupil was not long preserved. A warmer sentiment than esteem filled their hearts and the unlimited opportunities of intercourse which were afforded them by the canon who confided in Abelard's age (he was now almost forty), and in his public character, were fatal to the peace of both. The condition of Heloise was on the point of betraying their intimacy. . . . Fulbert now abandoned himself to a transport of savage vindictiveness . . . burst into Abelard's chamber with a band of ruffians and gratified his revenge by inflicting on him an atrocious mutilation. . . .
Abelites . . . denounced sexual intercourse as service of Satan.
Abimelech I, son of Gideon by a Sheshemite concubine, who made himself king after murdering all his seventy brethren except Jotham, and was killed while besieging the tower of Thebez . . .
Abortion . . .
No; his hands were icy and he felt a little sick from stuffing down so many chocolates.
Abydos . . .
He got up to drink a glass of water before Abyssinia with engravings of desert mountains and the burning of Magdala by the British.
His eyes smarted. He was stiff and sleepy. He looked at his Ingersoll. Eleven o'clock. Terror gripped him suddenly. If mother was dead . . .? He pressed his face into the pillow. She stood over him in her white ballgown that had lace crisply on it and a train sweeping behind on satin rustling ruffles and her hand softly fragrant gently stroked his cheek. A rush of sobs choked him. He tossed on the bed with his face shoved hard into the knotty pillow. For a long time he couldn't stop crying.
He woke up to find the light burning dizzily and the room stuffy and hot. The book was on the floor and the candy squashed under him oozing stickily from its box. The watch had stopped at 1.45. He opened the window, put the chocolates in the bureau drawer and was about to snap off the light when he remembered. Shivering with terror he put on his bathrobe and slippers and tiptoed down the darkened hall. He listened outside the door. People were talking low. He knocked faintly and turned the knob. A hand pulled the door open hard and Jimmy was blinking in the face of a tall cleanshaven man with gold eyeglasses. The folding doors were closed; in front of them stood a starched nurse.
"James dear, go back to bed and dont worry," said Aunt Emily in a tired whisper. "Mother's very ill and must be absolutely quiet, but there's no more danger."
"Not for the present at least, Mrs. Merivale," said the doctor breathing on his eyeglasses.
"The little dear," came the nurse's voice low and purry and reassuring, "he's been sitting up worrying all night and he never bothered us once."
"I'll go back and tuck you into bed," said Aunt Emily. "My James always likes that."
"May I see mother, just a peek so's I'll know she's all right." Jimmy looked up timidly at the big face with the eyeglasses.
The doctor nodded. "Well I must go. . . . I shall drop by at four or five to see how things go. . . . Goodnight Mrs. Merivale. Goodnight Miss Billings. Goodnight son. . . ."
"This way. . . ." The trained nurse put her hand on Jimmy's shoulder. He wriggled out from under and walked behind her.
There was a light on in the corner of mother's room shaded by a towel pinned round it. From the bed came the rasp of breathing he did not recognize. Her crumpled face was towards him, the closed eyelids violet, the mouth screwed to one side. For a half a minute he stared at her. "All right I'll go back to bed now," he whispered to the nurse. His blood pounded deafeningly. Without looking at his aunt or at the nurse he walked stiffly to the outer door. His aunt said something. He ran down the corridor to his own room, slammed the door and bolted it. He stood stiff and cold in the center of the room with his fists clenched. "I hate them. I hate them," he shouted aloud. Then gulping a dry sob he turned out the light and slipped into bed between the shiverycold sheets.
"With all the business you have, madame," Emile was saying in a singsong voice, "I should think you'd need someone to help you with the store."
"I know that . . . I'm killing myself with work; I know that," sighed Madame Rigaud from her stool at the cashdesk. Emile was silent a long time staring at the cross section of a Westphalia ham that lay on a marble slab beside his elbow. Then he said timidly: "A woman like you, a beautiful woman like you, Madame Rigaud, is never without friends."
"Ah ça. . . . I have lived too much in my time. . . . I have no more confidence. . . . Men are a set of brutes, and women, Oh I dont get on with women a bit!"
"History and literature . . ." began Emile.
The bell on the top of the door jangled. A man and a woman stamped into the shop. She had yellow hair and a hat like a flowerbed.
"Now Billy dont be extravagant," she was saying.
"But Norah we got have sumpen te eat. . . .. An I'll be all jake by Saturday."
"Nutten'll be jake till you stop playin the ponies."
"Aw go long wud yer. . . . Let's have some liverwurst. . . My that cold breast of turkey looks good. . . ."
"Piggywiggy," cooed the yellowhaired girl.
"Lay off me will ye, I'm doing this."
"Yes sir ze breast of turkee is veree goud. . . . We ave ole cheekens too, steel 'ot. . . . Emile mong ami cherchez moi uns de ces petits poulets dans la cuisin-e." Madame Rigaud spoke like an oracle without moving from her stool by the cashdesk. The man was fanning himself with a thickbrimmed straw hat that had a checked band.
"Varm tonight," said Madame Rigaud.
"It sure is. . . . Norah we ought to have gone down to the Island instead of bummin round this town."
"Billy you know why we couldn't go perfectly well."
"Don't rub it in. Aint I tellin ye it'll be all jake by Saturday."
"History and literature," continued Emile when the customers had gone off with the chicken, leaving Madame Rigaud a silver half dollar to lock up in the till . . . "history and literature teach us that there are friendships, that there sometimes comes love that is worthy of confidence. . . ."
"History and literature!" Madame Rigaud growled with internal laughter. "A lot of good that'll do us."
"But dont you ever feel lonely in a big foreign city like this . . .? Everything is so hard. Women look in your pocket not in your heart. . . . I cant stand it any more."
Madame Rigaud's broad shoulders and her big breasts shook with laughter. Her corsets creaked when she lifted herself still laughing off the stool. "Emile, you're a good-looking fellow and steady and you'll get on in the world. . . . But I'll never put myself in a man's power again. . . . I've suffered too much. . . . Not if you came to me with five thousand dollars."
"You're a very cruel woman."
Madame Rigaud laughed again. "Come along now, you can help me close up."
Sunday weighed silent and sunny over downtown. Baldwin sat at his desk in his shirtsleeves reading a calfbound lawbook. Now and then he wrote down a note on a scratchpad in a wide regular hand. The phone rang loud in the hot stillness. He finished the paragraph he was reading and strode over to answer it.
"Yes I'm here alone, come on over if you want to." He put down the receiver. "God damn it," he muttered through clenched teeth.
Nellie came in without knocking, found him pacing back and forth in front of the window.
"Hello Nellie," he said without looking up; she stood still staring at him.
"Look here Georgy this cant go on."
"Why cant it?"
"I'm sick of always pretendin an deceivin."
"Nobody's found out anything, have they?"
"Oh of course not."
She went up to him and straightened his necktie. He kissed her gently on the mouth. She wore a frilled muslin dress of a reddish lilac color and had a blue sunshade in her hand.
"How's things Georgy?"
"Wonderful. D'you know, you people have brought me luck? I've got several good cases on hand now and I've made some very valuable connections."
"Little luck it's brought me. I haven't dared go to confession yet. The priest'll be thinkin I've turned heathen."
"Oh full of his plans. . . . Might think he'd earned the money, he's gettin that cocky about it."
"Look Nellie how would it be if you left Gus and came and lived with me? You could get a divorce and we could get married. . . . Everything would be all right then."
"Like fun it would. . . . You dont mean it anyhow."
"But it's been worth it Nellie, honestly it has." He put his arms round her and kissed her hard still lips. She pushed him away.
"Anyways I aint comin here again. . . . Oh I was so happy comin up the stairs thinkin about seein you. . . . You're paid an the business is all finished."
He noticed that the little curls round her forehead were loose. A wisp of hair hung over one eyebrow.
"Nellie we mustn't part bitterly like this."
"Why not will ye tell me?"
"Because we've both loved one another."
"I'm not goin to cry." She patted her nose with a little rolledup handkerchief. "Georgy I'm goin to hate ye. . . . Goodby." The door snapped sharply to behind her.
Baldwin sat at his desk and chewed the end of a pencil. A faint pungence of her hair lingered in his nostrils. His throat was stiff and lumpy. He coughed. The pencil fell out of his mouth. He wiped the saliva off with his handkerchief and settled himself in his chair. From bleary the crowded paragraphs of the lawbook became clear. He tore the written sheet off the scratchpad and clipped it to the top of a pile of documents. On the new sheet he began: Decision of the Supreme Court of the State of New York. . . . Suddenly he sat up straight in his chair, and started biting the end of his pencil again. From outside came the endless sultry whistle of a peanut wagon. "Oh well, that's that," he said aloud. He went on writing in a wide regular hand: Case of Patterson vs. The State of New York. . . . Decision of the Supreme . . .
Bud sat by a window in the Seamen's Union reading slowly and carefully through a newspaper. Next him two men with freshly shaved rawsteak cheeks cramped into white collars and blue serge storesuits were ponderously playing chess. One of them smoked a pipe that made a little clucking noise when he drew on it. Outside rain beat incessantly on a wide glimmering square.
Banzai, live a thousand years, cried the little gray men of the fourth platoon of Japanese sappers as they advanced to repair the bridge over the Yalu River . . . Special correspondent of the New York Herald . . .
"Checkmate," said the man with the pipe. "Damn it all let's go have a drink. This is no night to be sitting here sober."
"I promised the ole woman . . ."
"None o that crap Jess, I know your kinda promises." A big crimson hand thickly furred with yellow hairs brushed the chessmen into their box. "Tell the ole woman you had to have a nip to keep the weather out."
"That's no lie neither."
Bud watched their shadows hunched into the rain pass the window.
"What you name?"
Bud turned sharp from the window startled by a shrill squeaky voice in his ear. He was looking into the fireblue eyes of a little yellow man who had a face like a toad, large mouth, protruding eyes and thick closecropped black hair.
Bud's jaw set. "My name's Smith, what about it?"
The little man held out a square callouspalmed hand, "Plis to meet yez. Me Matty."
Bud took the hand in spite of himself. It squeezed his until he winced. "Matty what?" he asked. "Me juss Matty . . . Laplander Matty . . . Come have drink."
"I'm flat," said Bud. "Aint got a red cent."
"On me. Me too much money, take some. . . ." Matty shoved a hand into either pocket of his baggy checked suit and punched Bud in the chest with two fistfuls of greenbacks.
"Aw keep yer money . . . I'll take a drink with yous though."
By the time they got to the saloon on the corner of Pearl Street Bud's elbows and knees were soaked and a trickle of cold rain was running down his neck. When they went up to the bar Laplander Matty put down a five dollar bill.
"Me treat everybody; very happy yet tonight."
Bud was tackling the free lunch. "Hadn't et in a dawg's age," he explained when he went back to the bar to take his drink. The whisky burnt his throat all the way down, dried wet clothes and made him feel the way he used to feel when he was a kid and got off to go to a baseball game Saturday afternoon.
"Put it there Lap," he shouted slapping the little man's broad back. "You an me's friends from now on."
"Hey landlubber, tomorrow me an you ship togezzer. What say?"
"Sure we will."
"Now we go up Bowery Street look at broads. Me pay."
"Aint a Bowery broad would go wid yer, ye little Yap," shouted a tall drunken man with drooping black mustaches who had lurched in between them as they swayed in the swinging doors.
"Zey vont, vont zey?" said the Lap hauling off. One of his hammershaped fists shot in a sudden uppercut under the man's jaw. The man rose off his feet and soared obliquely in through the swinging doors that closed on him. A shout went up from inside the saloon.
"I'll be a sonofabitch, Lappy, I'll be a sonofabitch," roared Bud and slapped him on the back again.
Arm in arm they careened up Pearl Street under the drenching rain. Bars yawned bright to them at the corners of rainseething streets. Yellow light off mirrors and brass rails and gilt frames round pictures of pink naked women was looped and slopped into whiskyglasses guzzled fiery with tipped back head, oozed bright through the blood, popped bubbly out of ears and eyes, dripped spluttering off fingertips.
The raindark houses heaved on either side, streetlamps swayed like lanterns carried in a parade, until Bud was in a back room full of nudging faces with a woman on his knees. Laplander Matty stood with his arms round two girls' necks, yanked his shirt open to show a naked man and a naked woman tattooed in red and green on his chest, hugging, stiffly coiled in a seaserpent and when he puffed out his chest and wiggled the skin with his fingers the tatooed man and woman wiggled and all the nudging faces laughed.
Phineas P. Blackhead pushed up the wide office window. He stood looking out over the harbor of slate and mica in the uneven roar of traffic, voices, racket of building that soared from the downtown streets bellying and curling like smoke in the stiff wind shoving down the Hudson out of the northwest.
"Hay Schmidt, bring me my field glasses," he called over his shoulder. "Look . . ." He was focusing the glasses on a thickwaisted white steamer with a sooty yellow stack that was abreast of Governors Island. "Isn't that the Anonda coming in now?"
Schmidt was a fat man who had shrunk. The skin hung in loose haggard wrinkles on his face. He took one look through the glasses. "Sure it is." He pushed down the window; the roar receded tapering hollowly like the sound of a sea shell.
"Jiminy they were quick about it. . . . They'll be docked in half an hour. . . . You beat it along over and get hold of Inspector Mulligan. He's all fixed. . . . Dont take your eyes off him. Old Matanzas is out on the warpath trying to get an injunction against us. If every spoonful of manganese isnt off by tomorrow night I'll cut your commission in half. . . . Do you get that?"
Schmidt's loose jowls shook when he laughed. "No danger sir. . . . You ought to know me by this time."
"Of course I do. . . . You're a good feller Schmidt. I was just joking."
Phineas P. Blackhead was a lanky man with silver hair and a red hawkface; he slipped back into the mahogany armchair at his desk and rang an electric bell. "All right Charlie, show em in." he growled at the towheaded officeboy who appeared in the door. He rose stiffly from his desk and held out a hand. "How do you do Mr. Storrow . . . How do you do Mr. Gold. . . . Make yourselves comfortable. . . . That's it. . . . Now look here, about this strike. The attitude of the railroad and docking interests that I represent is one of frankness and honesty, you know that. . . . I have confidence, I can say I have the completest confidence, that we can settle this matter amicably and agreeably. . . . Of course you must meet me halfway. . . . We have I know the same interests at heart, the interests of this great city, of this great seaport. . . ." Mr. Gold moved his hat to the back of his head and cleared his throat with a loud barking noise. "Gentlemen, one of two roads lies before us . . ."
In the sunlight on the windowledge a fly sat scrubbing his wings with his hinder legs. He cleaned himself all over, twisting and untwisting his forelegs like a person soaping his hands, stroking the top of his lobed head carefully; brushing his hair. Jimmy's hand hovered over the fly and slapped down. The fly buzzed tinglingly in his palm. He groped for it with two fingers, held it slowly squeezing it into mashed gray jelly between finger and thumb. He wiped it off under the windowledge. A hot sick feeling went through him. Poor old fly, after washing himself so carefully, too. He stood a long time looking down the air-shaft through the dusty pane where the sun gave a tiny glitter to the dust. Now and then a man in shirtsleeves crossed the court below with a tray of dishes. Orders shouted and the clatter of dishwashing came up faintly from the kitchens.
He stared through the tiny glitter of the dust on the windowpane. Mother's had a stroke and next week I'll go back to school.
"Say Herfy have you learned to fight yet?"
"Herfy an the Kid are goin to fight for the flyweight championship before lights."
"But I dont want to."
"Kid wants to. . . . Here he comes. Make a ring there you ginks."
"I dont want to, please."
"You've damn well got to, we'll beat hell outa both of yo if you dont."
"Say Freddy that's a nickel fine from you for swearing."
"Jez I forgot."
"There you go again. . . . Paste him in the slats."
"Go it Herfy, I'm bettin on yer."
"That's it sock him."
The Kid's white screwedup face bouncing in front of him like a balloon; his fist gets Jimmy in the mouth; a salty taste of blood from the cut lip. Jimmy strikes out, gets him down on the bed, pokes his knee in his belly. They pull him off and throw him back against the wall.
"Go it Kid."
"Go it Herfy."
There's a smell of blood in his nose and lungs; his breath rasps. A foot shoots out and trips him up.
"That's enough, Herfy's licked."
"Girlboy . . . Girlboy."
"But hell Freddy he had the Kid down."
"Shut up, don't make such a racket. . . . Old Hoppy'll be coming up."
"Just a little friendly bout, wasn't it Herfy?"
"Get outa my room, all of you, all of you," Jimmy screeches, tear-blinded, striking out with both arms.
"Crybaby . . . crybaby."
He slams the door behind them, pushes the desk against it and crawls trembling into bed. He turns over on his face and lies squirming with shame, biting the pillow. Jimmy stared through the tiny glitter of the dust on the windowpane.
Your poor mother was very unhappy when she finally put you on the train and went back to her big empty rooms at the hotel. Dear, I am very lonely without you. Do you know what I did? I got out all your toy soldiers, the ones that used to be in the taking of Port Arthur, and set them all out in battalions on the library shelf. Wasn't that silly? Never mind dear, Christmas'll soon come round and I'll have my boy again. . . .
A crumpled face on a pillow; mother's had a stroke and next week I'll go back to school. Darkgrained skin growing flabby under her eyes, gray creeping up her brown hair. Mother never laughs. The stroke.
He turned back suddenly into the room, threw himself on the bed with a thin leather book in his hand. The surf thundered loud on the barrier reef. He didn't need to read. Jack was swimming fast through the calm blue waters of the lagoon, stood in the sun on the yellow beach shaking the briny drops off him, opened his nostrils wide to the smell of breadfruit roasting beside his solitary campfire. Birds of bright plumage shrieked and tittered from the tall ferny tops of the coconut palms. The room was drowsy hot. Jimmy fell asleep. There was a strawberry lemon smell, a smell of pineapples on the deck and mother was there in a white suit and a dark man in a yachtingcap, and the sunlight rippled on the milkytall sails. Mother's soft laugh rises into a shriek O-o-o-ohee. A fly the size of a ferryboat walks towards them across the water, reaching out jagged crabclaws. "Yump Yimmy, yump; you can do it in two yumps," the dark man yells in his ear. "But please I dont want to . . . I dont want to," Jimmy whines. The dark man's beating him, yump yump yump. . . . "Yes one moment. Who is it?"
Aunt Emily was at the door. "Why do you keep your door locked Jimmy. . . . I never allow James to lock his door."
"I like it better that way, Aunt Emily."
"Imagine a boy asleep this time of the afternoon."
"I was reading The Coral Island and I fell asleep." Jimmy was blushing.
"All right. Come along. Miss Billings said not to stop by mother's room. She's asleep."
They were in the narrow elevator that smelled of castor oil; the colored boy grinned at Jimmy.
"What did the doctor say Aunt Emily?"
"Everything's going as well as could be expected. . . . But you mustn't worry about that. This evening you must have a real good time with your little cousins. . . . You dont see enough children of your own age Jimmy."
They were walking towards the river leaning into a gritty wind that swirled up the street cast out of iron under a dark silvershot sky.
"I guess you'll be glad to get back to school, James."
"Yes Aunt Emily."
"A boy's school days are the happiest time in his life. You must be sure to write your mother once a week at least James. . . . You are all she has now. . . . Miss Billings and I will keep you informed."
"Yes Aunt Emily."
"And James I want you to know my James better. He's the same age you are, only perhaps a little more developed and all that, and you ought to be good friends. . . . I wish Lily had sent you to Hotchkiss too."
"Yes Aunt Emily."
There were pillars of pink marble in the lower hall of Aunt Emily's apartmenthouse and the elevatorboy wore a chocolate livery with brass buttons and the elevator was square and decorated with mirrors. Aunt Emily stopped before a wide red mahogany door on the seventh floor and fumbled in her purse for her key. At the end of the hall was a leaded window through which you could see the Hudson and steamboats and tall trees of smoke rising against the yellow sunset from the yards along the river. When Aunt Emily got the door open they heard the piano. "That's Maisie doing her practicing." In the room where the piano was the rug was thick and mossy, the wallpaper was yellow with silveryshiny roses between the cream woodwork and the gold frames of oilpaintings of woods and people in a gondola and a fat cardinal drinking. Maisie tossed the pigtails off her shoulders as she jumped off the pianostool. She had a round creamy face and a slight pugnose. The metronome went on ticking.
"Hello James," she said after she had tilted her mouth up to her mother's to be kissed. "I'm awfully sorry poor Aunt Lily's so sick."
"Arent you going to kiss your cousin, James?" said Aunt Emily.
Jimmy shambled up to Maisie and pushed his face against hers.
"That's a funny kind of a kiss," said Maisie.
"Well you two children can keep each other company till dinner." Aunt Emily rustled through the blue velvet curtains into the next room.
"We wont be able to go on calling you James." After she had stopped the metronome, Maisie stood staring with serious brown eyes at her cousin. "There cant be two Jameses can there?"
"Mother calls me Jimmy."
"Jimmy's a kinder common name, but I guess it'll have to do till we can think of a better one. . . . How many jacks can you pick up?"
"What are jacks?"
"Gracious dont you know what jackstones are? Wait till James comes back, wont he laugh!"
"I know Jack roses. Mother used to like them better'n any other kind."
"American Beauties are the only roses I like," announced Maisie flopping into a Morris chair. Jimmy stood on one leg kicking his heel with the toes of the other foot.
"He'll be home soon. . . . He's having his riding lesson."
The twilight became leadensilent between them. From the trainyards came the scream of a locomotivewhistle and the clank of couplings on shunted freight cars. Jimmy ran to the window.
"Say Maisie, do you like engines?" he asked.
"I think they are horrid. Daddy says we're going to move on account of the noise and smoke."
Through the gloom Jimmy could make out the beveled smooth bulk of a big locomotive. The smoke rolled out of the stack in huge bronze and lilac coils. Down the track a red light snapped green. The bell started to ring slowly, lazily. Forced draft snorting loud the train clankingly moved, gathered speed, slid into dusk swinging a red taillight.
"Gee I wish we lived here," said Jimmy. "I've got two hundred and seventytwo pictures of locomotives, I'll show em to you sometime if you like. I collect em."
"What a funny thing to collect. . . . Look Jimmy you pull the shade down and I'll light the light."
When Maisie pushed the switch they saw James Merivale standing in the door. He had light wiry hair and a freckled face with a pugnose like Maisie's. He had on riding breeches and black leather gaiters and was flicking a long peeled stick about.
"Hullo Jimmy," he said. "Welcome to our city."
"Say James," cried Maisie, "Jimmy doesn't know what jackstones are."
Aunt Emily appeared through the blue velvet curtains. She wore a highnecked green silk blouse with lace on it. Her white hair rose in a smooth curve from her forehead. "It's time you children were washing up," she said, "dinner's in five minutes. . . . James take your cousin back to your room and hurry up and take off those ridingclothes."
Everybody was already seated when Jimmy followed his cousin into the diningroom. Knives and forks tinkled discreetly in the light of six candles in red and silver shades. At the end of the table sat Aunt Emily, next to her a red-necked man with no back to his head, and at the other end Uncle Jeff with a pearl pin in his checked necktie filled a broad armchair. The colored maid hovered about the fringe of light passing toasted crackers. Jimmy ate his soup stiffly, afraid of making a noise. Uncle Jeff was talking in a booming voice between spoonfuls of soup.
"No I tell you, Wilkinson, New York is no longer what it used to be when Emily and I first moved up here about the time the Ark landed. . . . City's overrun with kikes and low Irish, that's what's the matter with it. . . . In ten years a Christian wont be able to make a living. . . . I tell you the Catholics and the Jews are going to run us out of our own country, that's what they are going to do."
"It's the New Jerusalem," put in Aunt Emily laughing.
"It's no laughing matter; when a man's worked hard all his life to build up a business and that sort of thing he dont want to be run out by a lot of damn foreigners, does he Wilkinson?"
"Jeff you are getting all excited. You know it gives you indigestion. . . ."
"I'll keep cool, mother."
"The trouble with the people of this country is this, Mr. Merivale" . . . Mr. Wilkinson frowned ponderously. "The people of this country are too tolerant. There's no other country in the world where they'd allow it. . . . After all we built up this country and then we allow a lot of foreigners, the scum of Europe, the offscourings of Polish ghettos to come and run it for us."
"The fact of the matter is that an honest man wont soil his hands with politics, and he's given no inducement to take public office."
"That's true, a live man, nowadays, wants more money, needs more money than he can make honestly in public life. . . . Naturally the best men turn to other channels."
"And add to that the ignorance of these dirty kikes and shanty Irish that we make voters before they can even talk English . . ." began Uncle Jeff.
The maid set a highpiled dish of fried chicken edged by corn fritters before Aunt Emily. Talk lapsed while everyone was helped. "Oh I forgot to tell you Jeff," said Aunt Emily, "we're to go up to Scarsdale Sunday."
"Oh mother I hate going out Sundays."
"He's a perfect baby about staying home."
"But Sunday's the only day I get at home."
"Well it was this way: I was having tea with the Harland girls at Maillard's and who should sit down at the next table but Mrs. Burkhart . . ."
"Is that Mrs. John B. Burkhart? Isnt he one of the vice-presidents of the National City Bank?"
"John's a fine feller and a coming man downtown."
"Well as I was saying dear, Mrs. Burkhart said we just had to come up and spend Sunday with them and I just couldn't refuse."
"My father," continued Mr. Wilkinson, "used to be old Johannes Burkhart's physician. The old man was a cranky old bird, he'd made his pile in the fur trade way back in Colonel Astor's day. He had the gout and used to swear something terrible. . . . I remember seeing him once, a red-faced old man with long white hair and a silk skullcap over his baldspot. He had a parrot named Tobias and people going along the street never knew whether it was Tobias or Judge Burkhart cussing,"
"Ah well, times have changed," said Aunt Emily.
Jimmy sat in his chair with pins and needles in his legs. Mother's had a stroke and next week I'll go back to school. Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday. . . . He and Skinny coming back from playing with the hoptoads down by the pond, in their blue suits because it was Sunday afternoon. Smokebushes were in bloom behind the barn. A lot of fellows teasing little Harris, calling him Iky because he was supposed to be a Jew. His voice rose in a singsong whine; "Cut it fellers, cant you fellers. I've got my best suit on fellers."
"Oy Oy Meester Solomon Levy with his best Yiddisher garments all marked down," piped jeering voices. "Did you buy it in a five and ten Iky?"
"I bet he got it at a firesale."
"If he got it at a firesale we ought to turn the hose on him."
"Let's turn the hose on Solomon Levy."
"Oh stop it fellers."
"Shut up; dont yell so loud."
"They're juss kiddin, they wont hurt him," whispered Skinny.
Iky was carried kicking and bawling down towards the pond, his white tearwet face upside down. "He's not a Jew at all," said Skinny. "But I'll tell you who is a Jew, that big bully Fat Swanson."
"His roommate told me."
"Gee whiz they're going to do it."
They ran in all directions. Little Harris with his hair full of mud was crawling up the bank, water running out of his coatsleeves.
There was hot chocolate sauce with the icecream. "An Irishman and a Scotchman were walking down the street and the Irishman said to the Scotchman; Sandy let's have a drink. . . ." A prolonged ringing at the front door bell was making them inattentive to Uncle Jeff's story. The colored maid flurried back into the diningroom and began whispering in Aunt Emily's ear. ". . . And the Scotchman said, Mike . . . Why what's the matter?"
"It's Mr. Joe sir."
"The hell it is."
"Well maybe he's all right," said Aunt Emily hastily.
"A bit whipsey, ma'am."
"Sarah why the dickens did you let him in?"
"I didnt let him, he juss came."
Uncle Jeff pushed his plate away and slapped down his napkin. "Oh hell . . . I'll go talk to him."
"Try and make him go . . ." Aunt Emily had begun; she stopped with her mouth partly open. A head was stuck through the curtains that hung in the wide doorway to the livingroom. It had a birdlike face, with a thin drooping nose, topped by a mass of straight black hair like an Indian's. One of the redrimmed eyes winked quietly.
"Hullo everybody! . . . How's every lil thing? Mind if I butt in?" His voice perked hoarsely as a tall skinny body followed the head through the curtains. Aunt Emily's mouth arranged itself in a frosty smile. "Why Emily you must . . . er . . . excuse me; I felt an evening . . . er . . . round the family hearth . . . er . . . would be . . . er . . . er . . . beneficial. You understand, the refining influence of the home." He stood jiggling his head behind Uncle Jeff's chair. "Well Jefferson ole boy, how's the market?" He brought a hand down on Uncle Jeff's shoulder.
"Oh all right. Want to sit down?" he growled.
"They tell me . . . if you'll take a tip from an old timer . . . er . . . a retired broker . . . broker and broker every day . . . ha-ha. . . . But they tell me that Interborough Rapid Transit's worth trying a snifter of. . . . Doan look at me crosseyed like that Emily. I'm going right away. . . . Why howdedo Mr. Wilkinson. . . . Kids are looking well. Well I'll be if that isn't Lily Herf's lil boy. . . . Jimmy you dont remember your . . . er . . . cousin, Joe Harland do you? Nobody remembers Joe Harland. . . . Except you Emily and you wish you could forget him . . . ha-ha. . . . How's your mother Jimmy?"
"A little better thank you," Jimmy forced the words out through a tight throat.
"Well when you go home you give her my love . . . she'll understand. Lily and I have always been good friends even if I am the family skeleton. . . . They dont like me, they wish I'd go away. . . . I'll tell you what boy, Lily's the best of the lot. Isn't she Emily, isn't she the best of the lot of us?"
Aunt Emily cleared her throat. "Sure she is, the best looking, the cleverest, the realest. . . . Jimmy your mother's an emperess. . . . Aways been too fine for all this. By gorry I'd like to drink her health."
"Joe you might moderate your voice a little;" Aunt Emily clicked out the words like a typewriter.
"Aw you all think I'm drunk. . . . Remember this Jimmy" . . . he leaned across the table, stroked Jimmy's face with his grainy whisky breath . . . "these things aren't always a man's fault . . . circumstances . . . er . . . circumstances." He upset a glass staggering to his feet. "If Emily insists on looking at me crosseyed I'm goin out. . . . But remember give Lily Herf Joe Harland's love even if he has gone to the demnition bowbows." He lurched out through the curtains again.
"Jeff I know he'll upset the Sèvres vase. . . . See that he gets out all right and get him a cab." James and Maisie burst into shrill giggles from behind their napkins. Uncle Jeff was purple.
"I'll be damned to hell if I put him in a cab. He's not my cousin. . . . He ought to be locked up. And next time you see him you can tell him this from me, Emily: if he ever comes here in that disgusting condition again I'll throw him out."
"Jefferson dear, it's no use getting angry. . . . There's no harm done. He's gone."
"No harm done! Think of our children. Suppose there'd been a stranger here instead of Wilkinson. What would he have thought of our home?"
"Dont worry about that," croaked Mr. Wilkinson, "accidents will happen in the best regulated families."
"Poor Joe's such a sweet boy when he's himself," said Aunt Emily. "And think that it looked for a while years ago as if Harland held the whole Curb Market in the palm of his hand. The papers called him the King of the Curb, dont you remember?" "That was before the Lottie Smithers affair. . . ."
"Well suppose you children go and play in the other room while we have our coffee," chirped Aunt Emily. "Yes, they ought to have gone long ago."
"Can you play Five Hundred, Jimmy?" asked Maisie.
"No I cant."
"What do you think of that James, he cant play jacks and he cant play Five Hundred."
"Well they're both girl's games," said James loftily. "I wouldn't play em either xept on account of you."
"Oh wouldn't you, Mr. Smarty."
"Let's play animal grabs."
"But there aren't enough of us for that. It's no fun without a crowd."
"An last time you got the giggles so bad mother made us stop."
"Mother made us stop because you kicked little Billy Schmutz in the funnybone an made him cry."
"Spose we go down an look at the trains," put in Jimmy.
"We're not allowed to go down stairs after dark," said Maisie severely.
"I'll tell you what lets play stock exchange. . . . I've got a million dollars in bonds to sell and Maisie can be the bulls an Jimmy can be the bears."
"All right, what do we do?"
"Oh juss run round an yell mostly. . . . I'm selling short."
"All right Mr. Broker I'll buy em all at five cents each."
"No you cant say that. . . . You say ninety six and a half or something like that."
"I'll give you five million for them," cried Maisie waving the blotter of the writing desk.
"But you fool, they're only worth one million," shouted Jimmy.
Maisie stood still in her tracks. "Jimmy what did you say then?" Jimmy felt shame flame up through him; he looked at his stubby shoes. "I said, you fool."
"Haven't you ever been to Sunday school? Don't you know that God says in the Bible that if you call anybody Thou fool you'll be in danger of hellfire?"
Jimmy didn't dare raise his eyes.
"Well I'm not going to play any more," said Maisie drawing herself up. Jimmy somehow found himself out in the hall. He grabbed his hat and ran out the door and down the six flights of white stone stairs past the brass buttons and chocolate livery of the elevator boy, out through the hall that had pink marble pillars in to Seventysecond Street. It was dark and blowy, full of ponderous advancing shadows and chasing footsteps. At last he was climbing the familiar crimson stairs of the hotel. He hurried past his mother's door. They'd ask him why he had come home so soon. He burst into his own room, shot the bolt, doublelocked the door and stood leaning against it panting.
"Well are you married yet?" was the first thing Congo asked when Emile opened the door to him. Emile was in his undershirt. The shoebox-shaped room was stuffy, lit and heated by a gas crown with a tin cap on it.
"Where are you in from this time?"
"Bizerta and Trondjeb. . . . I'm an able seaman."
"That's a rotten job, going to sea. . . . I've saved two hundred dollars. I'm working at Delmonico's."
They sat down side by side on the unmade bed. Congo produced a package of gold tipped Egyptian Deities. "Four months' pay"; he slapped his thigh. "Seen May Sweitzer?" Emile shook his head. "I'll have to find the little son of a gun. . . . In those goddam Scandinavian ports they come out in boats, big fat blond women in bumboats. . . ."
They were silent. The gas hummed. Congo let his breath out in a whistle. "Whee . . . C'est chic ça, Delmonico . . . Why havent you married her?"
"She likes to have me hang around. . . . I'd run the store better than she does."
"You're too easy; got to use rough stuff with women to get anything outa them. . . . Make her jealous."
"She's got me going."
"Want to see some postalcards?" Congo pulled a package, wrapped in newspaper out of his pocket. "Look these are Naples; everybody there wants to come to New York. . . . That's an Arab dancing girl. Nom d'une vache they got slippery bellybuttons. . . ."
"Say, I know what I'll do," cried Emile suddenly dropping the cards on the bed. "I'll make her jealous. . . ."
"Ernestine . . . Madame Rigaud. . . ."
"Sure walk up an down Eighth Avenue with a girl a couple of times an I bet she'll fall like a ton of bricks."
The alarmclock went off on the chair beside the bed. Emile jumped up to stop it and began splashing water on his face in the washbasin.
"Merde I got to go to work."
"I'll go over to Hell's Kitchen an see if I can find May."
"Don't be a fool an spend all your money," said Emile who stood at the cracked mirror with his face screwed up, fastening the buttons in the front of a clean boiled shirt.
"It's a sure thing I'm tellin yer," said the man again and again, bringing his face close to Ed Thatcher's face and rapping the desk with his flat hand.
"Maybe it is Viler but I seen so many of em go under, honest I dent see how I can risk it."
"Man I've hocked the misses's silver teaset and my diamond ring an the baby's mug. . . . It's a sure sure thing. . . . I wouldn't let you in on it, xept you an me's been pretty good friends an I owe you money an everythin. . . . You'll make twentyfive percent on your money by tomorrow noon. . . . Then if you want to hold you can on a gamble, but if you sell three quarters and hold the rest two or three days on a chance you're safe as. . . as the Rock of Gibraltar."
"I know Viler, it certainly sounds good. . . ."
"Hell man you dont want to be in this damned office all your life, do you? Think of your little girl."
"I am, that's the trouble."
"But Ed, Gibbons and Swandike had started buying already at three cents when the market closed this evening. . . . Klein got wise an'll be right there with bells on first thing in the morning. The market'll go crazy on it. . . .
"Unless the fellers doin the dirty work change their minds. I know that stuff through and through. Viler. . . . Sounds like a topnotch proposition. . . . But I've examined the books of too many bankrupts."
Viler got to his feet and threw his cigar into the cuspidor. "Well do as you like, damn it all. . . . I guess you must like commuting from Hackensack an working twelve hours a day. . . ."
"I believe in workin my way up, that's all."
"What's the use of a few thousands salted away when you're old and cant get any satisfaction? Man I'm goin in with both feet."
"Go to it Viler. . . . You tellem," muttered Thatcher as the other man stamped out slamming the office door.
The big office with its series of yellow desks and hooded typewriters was dark except for the tent of light in which Thatcher sat at a desk piled with ledgers. The three windows at the end were not curtained. Through them he could see the steep bulk of buildings scaled with lights and a plankshaped bit of inky sky. He was copying memoranda on a long sheet of legal cap.
FanTan Import and Export Company (statement of assets and liabilities up to and including February 29) . . . Branches New York, Shanghai, Hongkong and Straights Settlements. . . .
|Balance carried over||$345,789.84|
|Profit and Loss||399,765.90|
"A bunch of goddam crooks," growled Thatcher out loud. "Not an item on the whole thing that aint faked. I dont believe they've got any branches in Hongkong or anywhere. . . ."
He leaned back in his chair and stared out of the window. The buildings were going dark. He could just make out a star in the patch of sky. Ought to go out an eat, bum for the digestion to eat irregularly like I do. Suppose I'd taken a plunge on Viler's red hot tip. Ellen, how do you like these American Beauty roses? They have stems eight feet long, and I want you to look over the itinerary of the trip abroad I've mapped out to finish your education. Yes it will be a shame to leave our fine new apartment looking out over Central Park. . . . And downtown; The Fiduciary Accounting Institute, Edward C. Thatcher, President. . . . Blobs of steam were drifting up across the patch of sky, hiding the star. Take a plunge, take a plunge . . . they're all crooks and gamblers anyway . . . take a plunge and come up with your hands full, pockets full, bankaccount full, vaults full of money. If I only dared take the risk. Fool to waste your time fuming about it. Get back to the FanTan Import. Steam faintly ruddy with light reflected from the streets swarmed swiftly up across the patch of sky, twisting scattering.
Goods on hand in U. S. bonded warehouses . . . $325,666.00
Take a plunge and come up with three hundred and twentyfive thousand, six hundred and sixtysix dollars. Dollars swarming up like steam, twisting scattering against the stars. Millionaire Thatcher leaned out of the window of the bright patchouliscented room to look at the darkjutting city steaming with laughter, voices, tinkling and lights; behind him orchestras played among the azaleas, private wires click click clickclicked dollars from Singapore, Valparaiso, Mukden, Hongkong, Chicago. Susie leaned over him in a dress made of orchids, breathed in his ear.
Ed Thatcher got to his feet with clenched fists sniveling; You poor fool whats the use now she's gone. I'd better go eat or Ellen'll scold me.