Page:Manhattan Transfer (John Dos Passos, 1925).djvu/380

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Manhattan Transfer

Mr. Goldstein suddenly produced a shiny new revolver from under the counter and pointed it at the reporter.

"Hay go easy with that."

Mr. Goldstein laughed a sardonic laugh. "I'm ready for em next time they come," he shouted after the reporter who was already making for the Subway.

"Our business, my dear Mrs. Herf," declaimed Mr. Harpsicourt, looking sweetly in her eyes and smiling his gray Cheshire cat smile, "is to roll ashore on the wave of fashion the second before it breaks, like riding a surfboard."

Ellen was delicately digging with her spoon into half an alligator pear; she kept her eyes on her plate, her lips a little parted; she felt cool and slender in the tightfitting darkblue dress, shyly alert in the middle of the tangle of sideways glances and the singsong modish talk of the restaurant.

"It's a knack that I can prophesy in you more than in any girl, and more charmingly than any girl I've ever known."

"Prophesy?" asked Ellen, looking up at him laughing.

"You shouldnt pick up an old man's word. . . . I'm expressing myself badly. . . . That's always a dangerous sign. No, you understand so perfectly, though you disdain it a little . . . admit that. . . . What we need on such a periodical, that I'm sure you could explain it to me far better."

"Of course what you want to do is make every reader feel Johnny on the spot in the center of things."

"As if she were having lunch right here at the Algonquin."

"Not today but tomorrow," added Ellen.

Mr. Harpsicourt laughed his creaky little laugh and tried to look deep among the laughing gold specs in her gray eyes. Blushing she looked down into the gutted half of an alligator pear in her plate. Like the sense of a mirror behind her she felt the smart probing glances of men and women at the tables round about.