Page:Manhattan Transfer (John Dos Passos, 1925).djvu/202

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Manhattan Transfer

Harland's pipe had gone out, he stood puffing at it with his back to the gate looking at the files of empty wheelbarrows, the piles of picks and shovels, the little shed for the donkey-engine and the steam drills that sat perched on a split rock like a mountaineer's shack. It seemed to him peaceful in spite of the rasp of traffic from the street that seeped through the hoarding. He went into the leanto by the gate where the telephone was, sat down in the chair, knocked out, filled and lit his pipe and spread the newspaper out on his knees. Contractors Plan Lockout to Answer Builders' Strike. He yawned and threw back his head. The light was too blue-dim to read. He sat a long time staring at the stub scarred toes of his boots. His mind was a fuzzy comfortable blank. Suddenly he saw himself in a dress-suit wearing a top hat with an orchid in his buttonhole. The Wizard of Wall Street looked at the lined red face and the gray hair under the mangy cap and the big hands with their grimy swollen knuckles and faded with a snicker. He remembered faintly the smell of a Corona-Corona as he reached into the pocket of the peajacket for a can of Prince Albert to refill his pipe. "What dif does it make I'd like to know?" he said aloud. When he lit a match the night went suddenly inky all round. He blew out the match. His pipe was a tiny genial red volcano that made a discreet cluck each time he pulled on it. He smoked very slowly inhaling deep. The tall buildings all round were haloed with ruddy glare from streets and electriclight signs. Looking straight up through glimmering veils of reflected light he could see the blueblack sky and stars. The tobacco was sweet. He was very happy.

A glowing cigarend crossed the door of the shack. Harland grabbed his lantern and went out. He held the lantern up in the face of a blond young man with a thick nose and lips and a cigar in the side of his mouth.

"How did you get in here?"

"Side door was open."

"The hell it was? Who are you looking for?"

"You the night watchman round here?" Harland nodded.