Page:Manhattan Transfer (John Dos Passos, 1925).djvu/344

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Manhattan Transfer

George Baldwin looked at himself in the mirror as he washed his hands in the Httle washroom behind his office. His hair that still grew densely down to a point on his forehead was almost white. There was a deep line at each corner of his mouth and across his chin. Under his bright gimleteyes the skin was sagging and granulated. When he had wiped his hands slowly and meticulously he took a little box of strychnine pills from the upper pocket of his vest, swallowed one, and feeling the anticipated stimulus tingle through him went back into his office. A longnecked officeboy was fidgeting beside his desk with a card in his hand.

"A lady wants to speak to you sir."

"Has she an appointment? Ask Miss Ranke. . . . Wait a minute. Show the lady right through into this office."

The card read Nellie Linihan McNiel. She was expensively dressed with a lot of lace in the opening of her big fur coat. Round her neck she had a lorgnette on an amethyst chain.

"Gus asked me to come to see you," she said as he motioned her into a chair beside the desk.

"What can I do for you?" His heart for some reason was pounding hard.

She looked at him a moment through her lorgnette. "George you stand it better than Gus does."


"Oh all this. . . . I'm trying to get Gus to go away with me for a rest abroad . . . Marianbad or something like that . . . but he says he's in too deep to pull up his stakes."

"I guess that's true of all of us," said Baldwin with a cold smile.

They were silent a minute, then Nellie McNiel got to her feet. "Look here George, Gus is awfully cut up about this. . . . You know he likes to stand by his friends and have his friends stand by him."

"Nobody can say that I havent stood by him. . . . It's simply this, I'm not a politician, and as, probably foolishly, I've allowed myself to be nominated for office, I have to run on a nonpartisan basis."

"George that's only half the story and you know it."