Three's a Crowd

Three's a Crowd  (1916) 
by Octavus Roy Cohen
Extracted from Green Book magazine, July 1916, pp. 155-159.

"A prize-fight manager falls in love with a country lass—and plays hero."

Three's a Crowd


By Octavus Roy Cohen

SAY, why don't you take in the show at the Academy to-night—"The Old Homestead"? … Sure, I used to be strong on the rough stuff, but that was before the Doc sends me off to the country. …

What's the story? Well, I guess it aint no new yarn, but when these old-timers get under y'r shirt, they make a deep dent.

Y'see, it was this way: I've been feeling kinder on the hog for a long time, and I has a gabfest with the Doc. He pokes me a few in the bread-basket, feels me up a bit, holds hands awhile, makes me stick out me tongue—and says:

"The back-to-nature cure f'r yours, m'son."

"Huh?" I asks, puzzled.

"The country," he wises me. "Babblin' brooks an' bosky dells an' such."

"Y're kiddin' me?"

"On the level," he insists, earnest-like. "And y'd better make it soon. Y're run down. Things are lookin' bad—"

"Yeh!" I butts in. "Rotten! Here's me wit' two of the best hundred-and-twenty-two pounders in the city, and not a fight f'r a month. Honest, Doc, things is fierce!"

"I aint talkin' about business," he says, peevish. "I'm gassin' about y'r health."

I'M wise finally, an' the next day I pulls out on the Central. My ticket expires at a one-hoss burg called Harleyville, and I takes a hack f'r the farm he'd recommended as training quarters—no taxi being in sight. That was night. The next morning I lamps the outfit for the first time.

Say, on the dead, that was some good-looking piece of scenery, rollin' up and down like the surf at Coney, and cows and chickens and pigs and geese—and a little blonde queen all dolled up like the first act of that there same "Old Homestead."

Yeh, it was me f'r her right from the gong, though she never could see me with field-glasses. I runs across her funny. I'm strollin' through a big field and climbs a fence. When I gets half-way over I slips and falls. I swears aplenty, and then I hear some one laughin', sorter half shocked and half tickled. I looks up—an' there she is!

She aint no more'n about five foot one, and'd enter the ring ten pounds below the flyweight limit in proper trim. Here she is, dressed in this pink-and-white stuff, big bonnet hat, dish o' corn under the left wing and the right hand busy handing it out to the hungriest bunch of poultry I ever seen.

I gets up, brushes my clothes and stares for a minute. She quits feedin' the chickens, an' she stares at me too. Shoot me dead if she aint got the cutest lamps—aw, say; you've seen 'em, aint you? All blue and big and round—gee! It made funny little shivers run up and down me back, and I started to think this back-to-nature business was pretty good stuff after all.

Then I snatches off me lid.

"Beg pardon," I spars, "but I fell down—accidental."

She looks at me to see am I kiddin' her, and then she laughs again.

"I see," she bubbles. An' off she goes for another spiel.

"Seein' it pleases you," I sez, "I'll do it again." I starts to climb the fence, and she calls to me.

"Never mind, Mister Davis," she says. "Once was enough. I wont forget.

I'm surprised that she's got my monaker, and I asks her about it.

"Doctor Marchale telegraphs y'r comin'," she says.

"Wasn't that nice of him?"

"Y'r from Noo York?"

"That's me," I answers.

"An' y'r up here f'r y'r health?"

"That's my Bertillon, all right."

She eyes me for a second, and I see that she don't get me f'r soup.

"Well?" I asks, tickled.

"I hope you'll improve—" And she actually blushes, though Lord knows what for.

"You hang out here?"


"I'll improve," I says, pronto.

"Oh!" And she blushes again.

I TRIES my darndest to think of something else to make her blush, she looks so nice that way, but the only other things I can think of that'd make her do that—well, I keeps 'em under my hat.

"We haven't been interduced," I says, bold. "My name's George Davis."

A little dimple peeks outa her left cheek f'r a minute.

"I'm Phyllis Barrow," she counters.

"Pleased to meetcha!" I blurts, an' we shakes hands. Say. she's got the softest mitt I ever handled. But she's got a grip, too; an' she looks me right in the eyes when she shakes.

"I hope we'll be friends," she feints.

"We will," I comes back, tryin' to look her square in the eyes, and failin'.—I'm groggy by that time, y'see,—"or it wont be my fault."

So we rambles into the big top for breakfast, and I gets knocked down to the old man an' the chief dame and a couple of boobs who works on the farm. Then we sets down to sausages like we gets in cans in Noo York, an' stacks o' wheats that'd make old Childs turn over, an' coffee—some coffee, that. And I finds meself drinkin' milk before the meal's over. Some hangout, that.

After breakfast I moseys out on the piazza—straight goods, that's what they call it—and takes a smoke. I hands the old man one of mv ten-cent-straights, and that wins him. Then I sees Phyllis beatin' it down the hill with a bucket in each hand.

"Where's she headed?" I asks

"To get some water," he answers, easy-like,

I looks at him hard.

"What! Her bringing up two buckets of water?"

"Why, sure—say, where're you goin'?"—f'r I'm beatin' it right after her.

"To bring up that water for her," I answers, haughty. "Wimmin oughtn't to work that way!" I turns around once, an the old geezer is staring after me like I'm nutty.

She's got the buckets filled when I gets there, an' she lifts 'em as easy as nothin'.

"Cease!" I says, strikin' a pose. "I will carry them for you."


"Because no wimmin should carry such loads."

She sizes me up, puzzled again, laughs out loud, and lets me go ahead. I lands 'em in the kitchen—it aint none of these here kitchenettes either—and then the old lady gives me the ta-ta sign, an' I beats it.

{dhr}} I DON'T see Phyllis again till dinner. We don't speak none, bein' as we're across the table, an' I seems to have lost my gift of gab. But the old man butts in.

"Have yuh lamped the village yet?" he asks. Of course he don't talk like me none whatever, but I couldn't imitate that talk of his if I tried a hundred years. It aint American at all.

"Na-a!" I answers. "Where is it?"

"'Bout a mile and a half down the road. Phyllis is goin' down after the mail in an hour, an' you can trot along w' her."

I looks at the kid quick, an' she's reddened up again.

"If it's O. K.—"I starts, an' she flashes me another of them round-eyed looks.

"Delighted," she says.

"Gotcha!" I counters. "One hour it is."

An hour later we're doin' a marathon down the road. I looks at her a long while—the red comin' an' goin' in them cheeks o' her'n.

"Y'r some chicken!" I busts out finally.

"Oh!" She gets fire-color.

I see I've made a break.

"That's slang," I apologizes. "But you are pretty!"

She seems as tickled as a three-year-old.

"You really think so?"

"Why sure—I—" Say, that's puttin' it up to me pretty strong, aint it? Well, after that we keeps silent for a long time. Then she slants me one outa the corners of her eyes, smiles—an' says:

"Noo York must be grand!" Yeh, just like that.

"Betcha life it is," I comes back. I'm on familiar ground now, y'see.

"An' you live there—all the time?"

"Sure do."

"What—" Them blushes comes in—I never seen a girl who c'd' blush like her. "But I guess that'd be an impertinent question."

"Nix on that stuff, kiddo," I says, quick. "You couldn't ask no impertinent questions. What you wanna know?"

She hesitates; then she sails in, both hands flyin', so to speak.

"Whatcha do in Noo York?"

"Y' mean what's me business?"

She nods. I stop a minute, and for the first time I feel a little bit ashamed. And then I makes up me mind that if that's goin' to queer me, I'd better go ahead an do it now 'thout letting her get wise on her own hook,.

"I'm a prize-fight manager," I says.

She shies:


I seen right then and there I'm left at the post.

"A prize-fight manager," I repeats.

I'M ashamed of my profesh f'r the first time. I have handled some good ones, you know: there's Tiger Thomson, an' Kid Wilson, an'—but what's the use? This here aint no prize-fight story.

"What—what—does a prize-fight manager do?"

"Meanin' me?"

She bobs her head.

"Well, I keep a stable—"

"Of horses?"

"No. Fighters—men. There's four in the stable now—good ones, too. That there Kid Wilson is feather-weight champ of the world, an' he's my principal mea1-ticket—" I see I'm in over her depth, an' I eases up.

"These here fellers," I explains, "fight f'r money. They're clean guys, honest—three of the four is married, an' they're happier. An' listen here, Miss Phyllis—don't you get the idea in y'r bean that fightin' aint as good a profesh as anything else. It takes a head f'r that, an' a clean body, an' spirit an' grit, an'—"

She flushes, an' nods.

"I understand," she says. "On'y I—"

"Like everyone else, y' thought fighters must be brutes, eh? Well, y' think I'm a brute?" I'm punishin' myself some there, but if I'm gonna be queered, I might as well go the whole hog.

"Oh! no—" she comes back quick.

"Well, I was a fighter f'r three years—an' a good one!"

She jumps back to what I'd said before.

"Are you married?"

Doggone it—I blushed!

"Na-a!" I says. "I aint tied up—n'r aint likely to be. The girls I could have I wouldn't have. An' the decent skirts I take a shine to—well, they wont none of 'em have anything to do wit' a fight-manager."

"Oh!" she says, kinder soft; an' we hardly speaks again till we gets back to supper.

WELL, that's the begginin'. If I do say it meself, I gets in pretty strong wit' the old folks, and at the end of two weeks I'm ready to confess' that I'm strong enough f'r this Plyllis kid to get hitched f'r life. An' she seems to have got over her feelin' against fight-managers, some. We walks together 'most every day when she aint workin'. By this time me health is all to the merry, but I've got a neat little wad in the bank, and I aint worryin' none about kale.

Yeh! mebbe you think it wasn't nervy f'r me to be shinin' up to such as her. But Steve Brodie took a chanst, an' Steve aint got nothin' special on me. I made up mt mind to propose.

Say—did y' ever try to propose to a tiny, soft-voiced, pink-an'-white little woman that yuh thought was all the world an' then some? I'd rather face Jack Johnson in a finish-go any day in the week. Six times that I remembers, I try it, an' I never get beyond the dumb period. Then I goes to me room an' kicks meself. Not that she'd have said "Yes" if I'd made good; but—well, that's all I gotta say about it. An' in three days it was too late. Chauncey Neville blew into the picture.

Chauncey, his name was, an' that describes him better'n anything I c'n tell you. He was pretty good to look at, but I think he uses face-cream an' talcum-powder. Chauncey's a writer. Now I aint got nothin' against writers as a whole: Bill Angus who used to write them love stories f'r Th' Police Gazette was a partic'lar friend o' mine; but Chauncey gets on my nerves—an' he stays there.

It'd have been bad enough under any conditions, but when Chauncey comes I gets me knockout.

Wimmin are fools, anyway—all of 'em, even Phyllis. She liked them wing collars an' them soft silk shirts he wore, an' the white britches an' white shoes and socks. Oh! he had her goin' from his very first evenin' at supper, w'en he looks at her cowlike an' says:

"Miss Phyllis, do you know you have perfectly exquisite eyes?"

I couldn't get off a line like that to save my neck—not that I didn't agree; but the idee of him sayin' it that way.

F'r two days he hangs around her like a trainer an' a scrapper the day before the champeenship fight. I'm so jealous I'm afraid to trust meself near 'em, f'r fear I'll take a poke at 'im and muss his face a bit. An' on the evenin' of the second day I meets Phyllis alone at the gate. I bows, an' she stops.

"What's been the matter with you f'r the last couple o' days?" she asks soft-like.

"Oh! nothin' special," I sez. "But w'en I see one of these imitation John Drews dazzlin' you, I guess it's hands off f'r me!" I says, just like that. Up goes her pretty head, an' she streaks into the house.

BY the end of a week I've got enough. Three times I catch this here Chauncey helpin' her over a brook—reg'lar picture like they got in Tom Sharkey's place; an' they stops in the middle, him wit' his lunch-hooks clamped around her mitt loverlike—an' she don't seem to mind. Every time I beats it for fear I'll do something.

Nine days is gone. I'm just ready to beat it back to Noo York. I aint said nothin'—an' I'm feelin' miserable. I goes out under the trees at night—an' then I seen 'em comin'. An' his arm is around her waist!

I seen red. I wanted to do murder right there—the darned Chauncey kid. But I figures if they love each other, it's O.K., but little Willie's on the job to watch.

He stops right on the other side of the tree from where I am, an' kisses her—an' she kisses him— Say, don't you never have a gun in y'r pocket w'en y' see the woman y' love kissin' another man, an' snugglin' close in his arms. I didn't, or—but anyways, I didn't.

There aint no use tellin' you w'at they talked about; but I'll just tell yuh that they're plannin' to elope. They're gonna leave from Harleyville on the four o'clock train the next afternoon. He's wired to a friend of his f'r a minister, an' they're gonna get married. She aint wise to why she oughter elope, but he insists, an' the poor kid's so gone on him she says she will.

Right then I begin to think at a 2:01 gait The next mornin' I avoids Chauncey an' the girl an' packs me grip. Right after dinner I sneaks out an' beats it to the village.

Sure 'nuff, w'en the train comes in, they're waitin'. She's all tremblin' an' flustered an' scared, an' he's smilin' that evil smile o' his'n. I'm just about wild, hut I holds meself in, wait till they get on the train—an' then I jumps on from th' other side and take up my post on the platform of the one Pullman. They aint likely to lamp me there.

TWO or three times durin' the down trip the conductor eyes me kinder funny, wantin' to know why I'm ridin' on the platform, but I've paid me Pullman fare, an' there aint too much said. At nine o'clock we pulls into the Grand Central, an' I goes into the day-coach an' swings to the ground first. I bats it to the taxi entrance an' grabs one of the drivers.

"I'm gonna point out a couple t' you," I sez. "Keep them in sight an' it's a ten-spot f'r yours. Get me?"

He nods. Then Chaunccy an' the girl comes out, an' she's lookin' around all bewildered, an' he's grinnin' open now. They're off! Down Fourth Avenoo they go, an'—well, they wind up at a hotel I don't like the looks of none too well. I follows 'em in.

They've got what that little whippersnapper of a clerk calls a sweet, an' I have a lot of trouble gettin' in. An' w'en they finally do knock, an' announce a visitor, the door is cracked open, an' I shoulders me way in.

There's as pretty a little tableau as you ever seen. A guy wit' a minister's coat an' a Bible—an' the mug of a bruiser—is standin' before Chauncey an' the girl. There's another woman in the room—she who opened the door f'r me—an' nobody else. Then I'm sure!

Phyllis an' Chauncey jumps apart.

"Mister Davis!" she pipes, lookin' past me as though her old man was comin' in the room.

Chauncey mutters something ugly under his breath, and when I heard it, I knowed I'd been following a straight steer.

"I come down to be a witness," I says, bowin'. The girl gets red an' sidles closer to Chauncey.

"I'll thank you to go," he says to me.

"Now, really, will you?" I asks, sarcastic. "Is that so?"

"It is," he returns. The girl is groggy: she can't make nothin' out of it, although somehow she won't get mad at me. She just says, "Oh!" an' lets it go at that.

"I'll go," I says, "w'en I see the marriage license!"

"Then the girl seems to get wise for the first time.

"An' I'll go," I says, "w'en I'm sure this here drink o' water is a reg'lar minister. An' I'll go," I says, "w'en y' tell me how y'r getttn' married with on'y one witness."

"Chauncey!" says Phyllis, an' she looks at me outa them big, round, scared eyes o' her'n.

Chauncey walks over to me.

"Get outa here!" he says.

I'M tickled all over. This looks like action, an' I know that he's wisin' the girl up every minute to the true state of affairs.

"Go t' blazes!" I responds cheerful.


"Say it!" I invites, cordial, "so's I c'n smear y' all over this here floor."

I reckon that there Chauncey person never seen me w'en I was doin' ten-round wind-ups every two weeks. He takes a puny little smack at me mug an' yells "Come on!" to the minister.

I ducks, steps in an' uppercuts to Mister Chauncey's jaw. He goes down an' out. I turns f'r the minister, but he's beat it. Then I swing around to the girl. She aint faintin' none, but she's starin' at me, an' then at Chauncey on the floor, and wringing her hands kinder easy-like.

"Come on," I says, "let's get outa this hell-hole. I'll carry y' to a decent place, an' to-morrow y' can beat it back home."

"Oh!" she sobs. "I can't go home—I can't—"

I'm mighty embarrassed—she looks so little an' so sweet.

"Why not?"

"I lef' a note tellin' 'em I was comin' to Noo York t' get married."

"Didja say who to?"

She flashes me a look.

"No—I—" She looks like she's gonna cry.

"Well," I says, an' I'm all choked up—an' feelin' foolish. "You come wit' me to a decent hang-out t'night, an' to-morrer if you can't go back home wit'out bein' married—why—" I stops.


'W'y—w'y—darn it—marry me!"

She stares at me; then she crumples on the floor like it hit 'er in the solar plexus.

"Oh! I couldn't—I couldn't—" she says. "It wouldn't be treatin' you right—an' I couldn't help comin' down to Noo York. You never would look at me. You treated me so crool. You—I—oh! I can't!"

I stands over her. Somehow I manages to fight down the hankerin' to take her in me arms.

"Listen here, baby doll," I says. "I know you aint got no use f'r me. But if y' can't go back, why, you might's well take me—as—as—I'll treat y' right. An' to-morrer we'll get married all proper—an' I—I'll try 'n' make y' love me—some day!"

She climbs up an' looks at me quiet.

"I aint worthy o' such a man as you!" she says (aint that awful!), "but I'll do it!"

Well, she done it all right. After we been married an' gone to a hotel an' are left alone, she looks at me, an' says:

"You—you never told me that—that—"

I goes close, starin'.

"I love you," I says, husky.

She looks right back, an' I could see them eyes wasn't lyin'.

"Take me in y'r arms!" she says. I done it.

Then she pulls my head down to hers, an' whispers:

"I love you!"

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1928.

The longest-living author of this work died in 1959, so this work is in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 63 years or less. This work may be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.