Page:Manhattan Transfer (John Dos Passos, 1925).djvu/338

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Manhattan Transfer

hall to the telephone. "Rector 12305. . . . Hello. I want to speak to Mr. Jack Cunningham please. . . . Hello. Is this Mr. Cunningham's office? Mr. James Merivale speaking. . . . Out of town. . . . And when will he be back? . . . Hum," He strode back along the hall. "The damn scoundrel's out of town."

"All the years I've known him," said the little lady in the round hat, "that has always been where he was."

Outside the broad office windows the night is gray and foggy. Here and there a few lights make up dim horizontals and perpendiculars of asterisks. Phineas Blackhead sits at his desk tipping far back in the small leather armchair. In his hand protecting his fingers by a large silk handkerchief, he holds a glass of hot water and bicarbonate of soda. Densch bald and round as a billiardball sits in the deep armchair playing with his tortoiseshell spectacles. Everything is quiet except for an occasional rattling and snapping of the steampipes.

"Densch you must forgive me. . . . You know I rarely permit myself an observation concerning other people's business," Blackhead is saying slowly between sips; then suddenly he sits up in his chair. "It's a damn fool proposition, Densch, by God it is . . . by the Living Jingo it's ridiculous."

"I dont like dirtying my hands any more than you do. . . . Baldwin's a good fellow, I think we're safe in backing him a little."

"What the hell's an import and export firm got to do in politics? If any of those guys wants a handout let him come up here and get it. Our business is the price of beans . . . and its goddam low. If any of you puling lawyers could restore the balance of the exchanges I'd be willing to do anything in the world. . . . They're crooks every last goddam one of em . . . by the Living Jingo they're crooks."