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Manhattan Transfer

"Well, are you out James?" cried his mother running into his arms.

He nodded and kissed her. She looked pale and wilted in her black dress. Maisie, also in black, came rustling tall and rosycheeked behind her. "It's wonderful to find you both looking so well."

"Of course we are . . . as well as could be expected. My dear we've had a terrible time. . . . You're the head of the family now, James."

"Poor daddy . . . to go off like that."

"That was something you missed. . . . Thousands of people died of it in New York alone."

He hugged Maisie with one arm and his mother with the other. Nobody spoke.

"Well," said Merivale walking into the living room, "it was a great war while it lasted." His mother and sister followed on his heels. He sat down in the leather chair and stretched out his polished legs. "You dont know how wonderful it is to get home."

Mrs. Merivale drew up her chair close to his. "Now dear you just tell us all about it."

In the dark of the stoop in front of the tenement door, he reaches for her and drags her to him. "Dont Bouy, dont; dont be rough." His arms tighten like knotted cords round her back; her knees are trembling. His mouth is groping for her mouth along one cheekbone, down the side of her nose. She cant breathe with his lips probing her lips. "Oh I cant stand it." He holds her away from him. She is staggering panting against the wall held up by his big hands.

"Nutten to worry about," he whispers gently.

"I've got to go, it's late. . . . I have to get up at six."

"Well what time do you think I get up?"

"It's mommer who might catch me. . . ."

"Tell her to go to hell."

"I will some day . . . worse'n that . . . if she dont quit