Page:Manhattan Transfer (John Dos Passos, 1925).djvu/241

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Went to the Animals' Fair

229

In the hall George Baldwin stepped in front of them. He was pale as chalk, his black tie was crooked, the nostrils of his thin nose were dilated and marked with little veins of red.

"Hello George."

His voice croaked tartly like a klaxon. "Elaine I've been looking for you. I must speak to you. . . . Maybe you think I'm joking. I never joke."

"Herf excuse me a minute. . . . Now what is the matter George? Come back to the table."

"George I was not joking either. . . . Herf do you mind ordering me a taxi?"

Baldwin grabbed hold of her wrist. "You've been playing with me long enough, do you hear me? Some day some man's going to take a gun and shoot you. You think you can play me like all the other little sniveling fools. . . . You're no better than a common prostitute."

"Herf I told you to go get me a taxi."

Jimmy bit his lip and went out the front door.

"Elaine what are you going to do?"

"George I will not be bullied."

Something nickel flashed in Baldwin's hand. Gus McNiel stepped forward and gripped his wrist with a big red hand.

"Gimme that George. . . . For God's sake man pull yourself together." He shoved the revolver into his pocket. Baldwin tottered to the wall in front of him. The trigger finger of his right hand was bleeding.

"Here's a taxi," said Herf looking from one to another of the taut white faces.

"All right you take the girl home. . . . No harm done, just a little nervous attack, see? No cause for alarm," McNiel was shouting in the voice of a man speaking from a soapbox. The headwaiter and the coatgirl were looking at each other uneasily. "Didn't nutten happen. . . . Gentleman's a little nervous . . . overwork you understand," McNiel brought his voice down to a reassuring purr. "You just forget it."