Page:Manhattan Transfer (John Dos Passos, 1925).djvu/405

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The Burthen of Nineveh


He seemed asleep when Gladys came in wearing a raincoat with a wet umbrella in her hand. She tiptoed to the window and stood looking out at the gray rainy street and the old tomblike brownstone houses opposite. For a splinter of a second she was a little girl come in her nightgown to have Sunday morning breakfast with daddy in his big bed.

He woke up with a start, looked about him with bloodshot eyes, the heavy muscles of his jowl tightening under the ghastly purplish skin.

"Well Gladys where's that rye whiskey I ordered?"

"Oh daddy you know what Dr. Thorn said."

"He said it'd kill me if I took another drink. . . . Well I'm not dead yet am I? He's a damned ass."

"Oh but you must take care of yourself and not get all excited." She kissed him and put a cool slim hand on his forehead.

"Havent I got reason to get excited? If I had my hands on that dirty lilylivered bastard's neck. . . . We'd have pulled through if he hadnt lost his nerve. Serve me right for taking such a yellow sop into partnership. . . . Twentyfive, thirty years of work all gone to hell in ten minutes. . . . For twentyfive years my word's been as good as a banknote. Best thing for me to do's to follow the firm to Tophet, to hell with me. And by the living Jingo you, my own flesh, tell me not to drink. . . . God almighty. Hay Bob . . . Bob. . . . Where's that goddam officeboy gone? Hay come here one of you sons of bitches, what do you think I pay you for?"

A nurse put her head in the door.

"Get out of here," shouted Blackhead, "none of your starched virgins around me." He threw the pillow from under his head. The nurse disappeared. The pillow hit one of the posts and bounced back on the bed. Gladys began to cry.

"Oh daddy I cant stand it . . . and everybody always respected you so. . . . Do try to control yourself, daddy dear."

"And why should I for Christ's sake . . .? Show's over,