He tumbled — She tumbled — In fact, both tumbled better than they knew
FRANK LEON SMITH
MR. HARRY PRINDLE was a freckled, blueeyed, buttermilk blond fellow, with a tremendous chest and shoulders, and hardly hips enough to hold up his trousers. Expensively garbed in a suit of tan tropical cloth, a panama hat, and sport shoes of brown and white that cost him thirty-five cents per treatment at the bootblack’s, Harry Prindle had the appearance and bearing of a keen, athletic young businessman who could hardly wait till he got to his office and the morning mail. He was. in truth, nothing of the sort. He was a gym bum, and right now he was afraid his uncle had a job for him.
Harry’s prowess as an amateur gymnast had won him local, national and Olympic renown. He was a daring young man on the flying trai^ze, the Roman rings, the horizontal bar, the tumbler's mat, and lie was outstanding, nonchalant, unbelievable on the side-horse.
To see Harry Prindle advance on that headless, static, leather-and-iron broncho of the gymnasium, and give it one of his masterly rides, wafting himself fore and aft. executing fabulous hand stands, holding himself off at angles by the strength of his grip, with his legs seeming but weightless and graceful antennae, was to send you home in despair, if you were of the puny.
Rut, outside of a lot of cups and medals, a vast acquaintanceship among the muscular and sweaty, and some old blazers and singlets presented by the 1936 Olympic Committee, what did all these unique and strictly amateur skills, powers and graces get Harry Prindle? Well, from his uncle and guardian, they got him the gently derisive nickname, Side-Horse Harry. From his uncle lie also got the doubtful compliment that because of his practiced agility, he was probably the only adult male in North America who could get into and out of a roadster rumble seat without marring his knees or the paint job. And, from this same unde, he got the call that brought him to this office building on a hot morning late in July.
1 he elevator for which 1 larry was headed was already crowded; he felt every eye on him, and it was with aii effort he refrained from taking a few short, quick, stylized steps, throwing three fast handsprings and a flip, and taking a “ta-daa."
In the infuriating manner of his kind, the operator waited for still another passenger, a flushed and pretty girl. Miss Sallie Matthews, who advanced to the castanet music of her spike heels on the marble. Sallie was dark, animated, desirable. As a competent if rather young modern business woman, reporting for another routine office day, and asoné who had Society Row traditions, and until recently Society Row charge accounts, she was, of course, dressed as smartly as though she were going to the races at Auteuil.
She gave one and all the conventional smile, half apologetic, half triumphant, of the late comer, backed into the car, and came down hard on Harry Prindle's left foot with a small spike heel. Doors and gates were slammed, and up went the car, as out hero suppressed a yell of pain, and Sallie murmured words of ajx>logy over her shoulder.
Although a well-constructed girl, complete in every detail, she couldn’t be very heavy, but half her weight, concentrated on a heel point, reminded him painfully of the time he had booted a round gymnasium object, thinking it an indoor baseball, and finding it to be a twelve-pound shot. He ran rapidly through a
list of sharp things to say to girls who didn't look where they were going, but said nothing until the other passengers had left, at various floors, and he was alone with her.
Then, as she turned to him swiftly, with a friendly, flashing smile, and said, “I really am awfully sorry. Now I've spoiled your whole day,” Harry got his first look at her. He gaped with astonishment and admiration. He swept oil his fine panama, and he was inspired to say, with emotion, “On the contrary.”
C ALLIE MATTHEWS blushed. She smiled, fluttered her U eyelids twice, indicating with the finality of one flipping the shutter on a letter box that the incident was dosed, and turned away.
” 1 wenty-four—and tops !” sang out the operator.
Sallie got out. Harry got out. She rapped away briskly down a hall and into a cross hall. She took out her keys, and as she stabbed at the lock of a door marked, “Prindle Building Corp. Alan O. H. Prindle, Pres.,” she glanced back for one last look at the impressively built young man she had wounded.
Harry now was approaching along the cross hall. When he saw her at the door of his uncle’s office, he hesitated. Sallie went inside. The telephone was ringing, and she dropped purse and gloves and answered the call.
“Hello? Oh, hello there! Just got in. The phone was ringing and—what? Now Barbara, it is all very well for you to telephone from bedside out there in thé country where only the birds and butlers are about—but I’m a working girl now, and of course I can't dash right out there. What? Of course I’m still here. I think PU last, and I like it ever so much. Mr. Prindle is the nicest man to work for. I think he likes my work, because he’s going away, and I’m to be in charge. And Barbara, what do you think? If I can rent the Fish Bowl, I’m to get a handsome bonus!”
At that moment the hall door opened and in stepped Harry Prindle. He looked at Sallie. and Sallie, phone in hand, looked at him. Her blue eyes went very wide, she blushed, and spoke rapidly, nervously to lier distant friend:
W hy. the penthouse, of course. The penthouse on our roof here at the Prindle Building. It is charming, but we simply can’t rent it since the Foxhall Towers went up. The Foxhall tenants look out their windows, and visitors go up to the observation roof and look down with telescopes, and people just won’t live in our penthouse any more. They say they have no more privacy than a goldfish. So we call it the P ish Bowl and if 1 rent it, I get a bonus. Oh 1 ’ll have to say good-by. Barbara. Good morning, Mr. Prindle!”
The hall door had oix-ned again, and a bulky man. laden with bags, a topcoat, umbrella and a lot of slipperv magazines. barged in and was crossing to the door of a private office. The young visitor, Harry Prindle. leaped up “ ’Morning, Uncle Alan!"
Sallie Matthews, putting down the telephone, gasped as Mr. Alan Prindle, her boss, said, "Hah! Side-Horse Harry, himself! Come on in.” and she stared as the two men withdrew.
TN THE private office, Uncle Alan put down his things and took off his hat, revealing that his sandy hair had lost a semifinal decision to baldness. I le dropped into the chair behind his desk, pulled a timetable from his pocket and began to check it with a pencil. "Be right with you, Harry.”
1 larry sat down near a window, and when his uncle finally looked up, he said brightly, ou sent for me? I came as soon as I could. 1 ve been at the western gymnastic meet, in Winnipeg.”
“Win anything?” asked his uncle disarmingly.
"Only the side-horse and the tumbling,” said Harry proudly.
“Two firsts, that's all. And a second on the parallel bars.”
“Oh,” said his uncle, salting it with sarcasm, “then you couldn’t have been in very good shape.”
“Who, me? Why, I always keep fit.”
“Why? I mean, what for? Fit for what?” Mr. Alan Prindle regarded his strong nephew steadily. “Harry, what do these gymnastics get you in dollars and cents?”
Harry was shocked. “Why, you don’t mean . . . ?” He said it and stopped, as they do in the movies when they come to something too tough for words. His uncle didn’t help him, so Harry had to finish.
“Would you have me turn professional and lose my amateur standing?”
His uncle nodded. “Other athletes become performers, boxers, wrestlers, acrobats. Or they stand on platforms in the back of seed stores, and show their muscles to make people think they could be strong, t(x>, if they ate those health seeds.”
“Gosh, I thought you were proud when I made the Olympics. ”
“I was but time prances on.
Seriously, Harry, don’t you think you are now too old for tumbling?”
Harry was too insulted for speech.
After a moment his uncle said. “We could use you here in the building. A man of your proportions would command a lot of respect as a rent collector.”
“Hey!” cried Harry indignantly.
His uncle sighed. À look of concern shot across Harry’s face, but a smile was left in its wake. He saw his uncle writing in his chequebook.
“Anyway,” Harry said cheerfully,
"you’re still my favorite uncle, guardian, trustee and fiscal agent, no matter how you bawl me out.”
“So?” said his uncle, and gave him a cheque.
"This is for three thousand dollars! I won’t need so much.”
“If you won’t, then you’re brighter than I thought. I mean, amateur or professional, you are on your own now. I hat is ail there is. 1'here will not be any more.”
"Here, you take it. I’d only spend it. You invest it for me.”
His uncle yelped, as with pain. “Better take it and go, before I weaken. Pm almost on the rocks, Harry. When this confounded Prindle Building was built, some coins and bills w ere put in a copper box, in the cornerstone. I f we don’t get a lot of new tenants soon. I’m going to take a hammer and chisel, and rob my own cornerstone !”
Telephone bells rang beyond the partition, and the clear, pleasant voice of Sallie Matthews could be heard as she
took the call. Mr. Alan Prindle looked at his watch. “I’m going away for a few weeks and take some waters and mud baths, and see if I can keep from going crazy. Now Harry. I’ve thought it all over, and this is the best way. That’s all the money you have left, and it is all you’re going to get !” He gazed at his nephew. “And you needn’t look at me like that. Except for nerves. I am in very good shape. I assure you. I shall live to a ripe old age because I conserve my strength instead of wearing it out, testing it. Good day, Harry, and good luck !”
Harry went out with his cheque, so dazed that he was down on the street before he realized he had forgotten to look once more upon the pretty girl in the outer office. Then a thought hit him that was like a fall without a mat.
When he was in his uncle’s office, if he could hear the phone ring outside, and hear the girl answer it, then she could hear their voices! She had heard his uncle’s charges and his own feeble defenses! What could she think of him?
Well, what did he care what she thought? He’d never go back to that office again, and if he ever saw that girl on the street, he’d look right through her. But, could he do this? And. if he could, wouldn’t he be cheating himself if he didn’t let his gaze stop at the contours of this pretty girl who had impressed herself so strongly on him with heel and charm?
He groaned. Supposing he did get to know her, and supposing, just for the fun of supposing, that it got to the, “Well, Harry, what are your intentions?” point—what
could he oiler her. beyond a few cartwheels, hand stands and nip-ups?
If he could put out his fortune safely, and at six per cent, it would bring in less than three and a half bucks a week, and you couldn't go very far or fast on that. No, a job was indicated. He had been putting it off, not because he was lazy, but in fear for his amateur standing, and fear that a job might take the fine edge oil his feeling for body balance, when performing at evening meets. He saw that he could put it off no longer. At long last he stood right abreast of the most recent diploma bearers, gazing at a world that lcxiked different and terrible, and asking himself. “Now what? Now, where?”
I le was in such a state that he had to do something about it. As a toper might turn, for comfort, to his bottle, Harry turned to his gymnasium. In recent months, anxious to spin out as finely as possible the legacy his uncle had been handling for him. Harry had economized. His life had been one gymnasium after another. Now he was down to his last gym, a dreary place that hadn't known fresh air since a window had been broken by a pail, thrown by a prize fighter at his manager.
Harry got into his gym gear, threw a few moody handsprings, worked with chest weights, took a brisk walk on his hands, rowed a mile on the machine, had his showers, and then he lay upon a sheet-covered table, and Charlie Splendorio gave him a rubdown.
Charlie Splendorio was a powerful, gentle and pale Apollo. He didn't so much suggest an Apollo in the flesh, as a plaster cast of the young god, with the full lips, curly hair, and the noncommittal expression customary in the eyes of plaster casts. Ho work«! on Harry and presently he said, in his sad. gentle tones, "Will you come to soi' me on visiting day?”
Then he explained that the proprietor of the gym, a former wrestler, had suddenly married a rich fat lady, and departed on a world honeymoon cruise.
"I le leaves me the gym, and the bills for laundrying the tights and towels,” said Charlie. “And the rent, and one thing and another. Worst hard luck of all, he leaves me with all these guys with membership cards, so 1 got to keep the place open until their time runs out, and if 1 try to skip, I’ll land in jail.”
“Aw, you’ll make a goof it,” said Harry encouragingly.
Charlie beat furiously upon 1 larry with stiff hand edges. “No. Mr. Harry. The gym business is all shot. You don’t get none of them reduce-me guys any more. Take a guy who’s got a few extra pounds of fat on him. and he’s keeping if to live off of.” 1 íe pounded Harry some more. "You wouldn’t want to buy the joint?"
Harry sat up suddenly, draped his sheet like a toga, and looked across the gymnasium at some halfhearted boxers poking uncertainly at each other, and at some moist wrestlers grunting at their knotty problems on the mats. “Charlie,” he said. “I’ve got an idea! It’s only an idea, but don’t sell out until you see me!”
HE GOT swiftly into his clothes, and a few moments later he made his second apjx'arance of the day at the offices of the president of the Prindle Building Corporation. He and Sallie Matthews looked at each other, and blushed. “I’m Mr. Prindle’s nephew. Harry,” he explained.
“How is your front foot?” she asked. “I would have to pick out a member of the family to step on.”
He grinned and gestured. “My uncle gone?”
"Yes. I’m Sallie Matthews, and I’m in charge now. Anything I can do for you?”
“Could you show me the penthouse on the roof?” Sallie got red. for he had heard her at: the telephone, and it was hardly a sales talk. She took keys tied to a stick, put her purse under her arm, fixed the latch on the hall door, and went down the hall with him.
When they came to the elevators, she explained, “There is a car that goes all the way to the roof. It is also the service car. equipped for carrying furniture and building supplies. The roof's only one flight up, if you don’t mind walking.”
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They opened a door to the stairwell, and went on up. She unlocked a door that led to a little foyer, and then another door, and they were in the penthouse.
It w:as a good-sized bungalow, with a huge living room, large bedrooms and kitchen, and two bathrooms. They opened a door and went out on the roof. Instantly demanding their attention was the Prindle Building's colossal neighbor, the Foxhall Towers, an amazing structure such as a futuristic artist might design if he had a tall canvas and a lot of time to draw windows.
Harry explored the roof. “How’s the rent? Much or little?”
She told him. He didn’t know enough about such things to know if it were reasonable or excessive, but it sounded within reach. “If I should rent it, would you get the credit? I mean, would it do you some good in your job?”
She regarded him with open admiration. “Oh, boy !”
Harry smiled indulgently on her girlish transports. “Would there be any objections to changes and alterations?”
“Goodness, no. Not if they don't violate any of the city building by-laws. I can advise you there, and get you quick approval for your plans.”
He gazed at the flushed, excited, smartly attired maiden who suggested station wagons and cocktail terraces, rather than rental offices. “Gosh, but you’re smart— and you haven’t been with my uncle very long.”
She smiled. “My first job—but my father was a builder, and I was brought up on title clearances, building lines, setbacks ...” She blush<*d. “I could write a book on setbacks, both architectural and economic.”
He added sympathy to the ardor of his gaze, and he was inspired to identify himself with a national matter in which he had taken only a mild, academic interest. “I guess a lot of us that didn’t expect to, have had to go to work,” he said lightly. “I used to think that recession was only a dentist’s term, but—”
“What did you have in mind, here?” she asked briskly.
Harry looked around the roof speculatively. He turned to her with the burning gaze of a fanatic. “Handball courts!” “Oh, where people could come and play, for so much an hour?”
“No, no. Look. Let me explain. My uncle is sore because I can still do this.” He moved away a little, threw himself into the air in a back flip, and came down lightly on his feet.
“Why, Harry!” she gasped, his name escaping her in sheer admiration.
“Hoh,” said Harry carelessly, and threw five fast handsprings and a front flip, and came back to her, dislodging the roof gravel that was embedded in his palms. “Why, you’re marvellous!”
Harry bowed modestly, and before he could stop himself, he bowed around aloft, as to a gymnasium audience on a running
track. “Uncle Alan is also sore because I'm still an amateur. I always figured that if I did give up my amateur standing and go professional, it would be for a worthy cause.” He shot her an ardent glance. “And now * have found my worthy cause !”
“I—I’m sure your uncle will be pleased,” she murmured.
“I’m not doing this to please my uncle. I’m doing it of my own accord. I have a chance to buy a gymnasium, and here’s where I’m going to have it.”
“Sounds exciting. But, are you sure you won’t mind?” She gestured at the Foxhall Towers. “The last tenants here said they felt like something under a slide on a microscope.”
“Hah! Let ’em stare all they please. ’Course I won’t stand for any of my guys running around out here on the roof with nothing on.”
Now a strange look came over his face, one that was brand new to his freckled countenance; his first professional l<x)k. “Know what I am going to do with you?” he said tensely as he advanced a step. “I’m going right downstairs with you, and sign a lease before I lose my nerve !”
They went below, the lease was signed, and advance rent money changed hands. Right there, Sallie made a mistake. She should have wired to Mr. Alan Prindle for his approval of a gym on the roof of his conservative office building, but she didn’t even think of it, and it wasn’t because she was afraid she’d lose her bonus, because that phase of it had suddenly lost its importance.
rT'HE NEW tenant and his new enterprise fascinated her. She had definite ideas about recreation roofs. She wanted to tell him about them, but he was in too much of a hurry. Having become, as by spontaneous combustion, a businessman, he was busier than Frank Buck in a new jungle. He ran all the way back to Charlie Splendorio, fearful lest somelxxiy had already bought the old gym right out from under him.
He acquired the rights and properties of the old establishment by paying the outstanding bills, and assuming responsibility for the memberships, and for Charlie’s salary. Then he went feverishly through catalogues, planning to buy a lot of expensive apparatus. “Nix,” said Charlie. “We keep it simple. If a guy gets hurt playing handball or something, he blames it on himself. But if he busts himself falling offen a trapeze, he sues the pants off you.”
That was a blow to Harry, for he felt that a gym without at least a side-horse and parallel bars, was like a racing stable without a thoroughbred. He bowed to Charlie’s world wisdom, but he made a mental note that he was irritated, and he referred to this note later, when Sallie came out with her suggestions.
Sallie saw to getting the plans drawn and approved, and the hiring of carpenters, plumbers and painters, and what with the
work and excitement of getting the job rushed through, her relationship with Harry was as impersonal as though she had merely changed Prindles as employers.
When the new quarters were ready, Harry showed Sallie proudly through his premises. All the walls had been painted white. A ring had been pitched in the big living room, and there, too, were the mats for the wrestlers, and the chest weights and punching bags. The bedrooms were lined with lockers, the dining room was Charlie Splendorio’s new rubdown parlor; there were five showers; and outside, there were three great wooden structures, painted green, and covered at the top with hen wire, and equipped with awnings that could be pulled over against rain or snow. These were the handball courts.
“How you like?” asked Harry, ready to take a big “ta-daa.”
She shook her head. “I don’t,” she said, “I’ve been trying to tell you, but you wouldn’t listen.”
I larry was aghast. “Why, I thought you said it was a swell idea.”
“Yes, but what?” he shouted. “Are you going to be like Charlie, and tell me how to run my business?”
“Are you talking to me, Mr. Prindle? Or to someone in the Foxhall Towers?” “Don’t Mister Prindle me, Sallie Matthews—and what’s wrong with this layout, Fd like to know?”
“I think your kind of gymnasium is too old-fashioned and stodgy. I think you should have some gay awnings, and bright cushions, and a few stunning chairs. I think you should appeal to a different type of client, and give them smart modern things like badminton, shuffieboard, deck tennis, rope skipping, quoits, sun bathing, clock golf—”
“That sounds sissy to me, and I’ve been around gyms all my life.”
“Yes, that’s just the trouble,” said Sallie, and marched away.
Harry started what was supposed to be an angry glare, but somehow a different prism got slipped in. He gaped at her graceful retreating figure until she disappeared, and he was about to rush right after her and tell her how wonderful he thought she was and how crazy he was about her, when a furtive cauliflower ear came around a corner, followed by the bent-nosed countenance of the first of the old clients. Then the other veteran members began to show up, and Harry was kept busy with his duties as master of muscle ceremonies.
Toward five that afternoon, Sallie, who had been varying office routine with private opinions of Mr. Side-Horse Harry Prindle, heard a strange knocking, high on the door. When there was no response to her call, she threw the door open, and in ran Harry, on his hands, crying, “Yorrsy! Yorrsy!”
“I'm just out of reins and whips,” she said coldly. “Go get Mr. Splendorio, if you want to play horsy.”
Harry came neatly to his feet. “That was upside down for. ‘sorry.’ Er - Mr. Harry Prindle’s compliments, and he regrets his loud shoutiness to Miss Matthews, and prays that she will dine with him, in sign of her forgiveness.”
Sallie laughed. “Tell your Mr. Prindle that he is a fool, but a nice one—and who am I to hold it against him?”
“Hah! Just for that. I’ll blow you to a filet mignon place, and buy you an orchid.”
So, they dined, and when the orchid was resting against his starched bosom, for their first dance, and he shot a thick blacksleeved arm across the white of her evening gown, she said with sudden apprehension. “No tricks now, my strong friend! If you have any adagio ideas of hurling people across rooms, save ’em for your gym.”
She needn't have worried. He was a splendid dancer, but the subject of gymnasiums, which had not been mentioned up to then, was to dominate the
evening, and, ultimately, ruin it. Harry had wanted to hear all about Miss Sallie Matthews, from ancestors to even date, but he used up all his time on the air, talking about himself, man and boy, in relation to his gymnastic skills and achievements.
The night was fine, they walked home, and by the time they reached her door, Harry had got as far as the Berlin Olympics, and how he had kept limber on the trip over. “Come up for a cigarette?” she suggested, and he came up.
T-JER small apartment was eloquent, and when she switched on the lights, Harry got its message from the door. An overcrowded little apartment, since it had so many fine pieces, from a once great establishment, which Sallie cherished and couldn’t make herself part with. Harry had seen other such apartments. “You poor kid,” he said with feeling.
“Park all sympathy outside, sir,” she said crisply. “And if the Matthews girl ain’t what she uster be, neither is Society Row.”
They sat down. “Let’s see—where was I?” said Harry.
She smiled wickedly. “You had just admitted that you are wrong, and I am right, about your gym.”
She nodded. “Without wasting any time, I’d rig two of the handball courts so they can be used for badminton as well. Then, the largest one, I’d fix with a good teakwood backstop.”
“Teak? Teak? Why teak?”
“Gives a true and perfect rebound, for checker tennis. You paint a panel of big black and white squares clear across it, net high, and you stand back at a service line, and get to be a regular marksman at spotting your tennis shots.”
Harry gave a derisive hoot. “You keep jabbering away about badminton and tennishave you seen any of my clients? Most of ’em are pugs and wrestlers. The others are in the gymnastic racket, one way or another, and I assure you that swinging a tennis bat wouldn’t help to keep them in form.”
“That’s just it,” she said. “You are catering to the wrong class of client. You could make more money, and run a far more attractive recreation roof, by appealing to a smarter clientele.”
Harry leaped up. “Smart? Smart? What’s that got to do with the gym business? You’ve got a lot of silly, teaand-cinnamon-toast ideas. My customers are big, raw-beef-and-ale boys. I don’t want to brag, but if I don’t know my gyms, after all these years—”
“Afraid you don’t, Harry darling. Make a note that I told you so.”
“Good night!” he shouted, and rushed out and slammed the door. Then he rushed right back again. “Anyway, thanks for a swell evening.”
“That was for me to say, but you charged off in a huff.”
“Who’s in a huff?” he bellowed, and then, softly, “Look here, Sallie, I think you’re swell. You’re the prettiest girl I ever saw, and I’m crazy about you, but everything I’ve got is tied up in that gym, and if you’re going defeatist on me, I ’ll just have to keep away from you, in selfdefense.”
She came to him. She put her hands on his shoulders. “Harry—you are a dear, and I wouldn’t discourage you for anything. I—I like you, and you are doing something I'd like to have done myself, and if I have different ideas, please don’t hate me for them. I can be wrong.”
He gazed into her eyes. He put his arms around her and drew her to him. and kissed her, and she clung to him. “Sallie—Sallie, darling,” he murmured.
“Oh, Harry,” she whispered, and then, her voice muffled by the embrace, “forget the badminton for the moment, but I could get you a good price on teak for the checker-tennis backstop.”
Harry tore himself away. “So! Sallie
Delilah Matthews! Good night! And this is the sign-off !”
A GAIN he rushed out, and this time he TV. didn’t come back. For two days he stayed away from her office, and she didn't go near the roof. Then Charlie Splendorio broke the news to Harry that most of the members were not going to renew when their time ran out.
“Why not? Our rate for a three months card is as cheap as anybody else's. What’s the matter? Isn't our gym good enough for ’em?”
“Too good,” said Charlie wisely. “A lot of them pugs have never been in a decent respectable building like this. They get scared, meeting swell people in the halls and elevators. Another thing, they can’t stand the fresh air. They’re used to the good old gym whifferoo.”
Harry, then, was inspired. Let the oldtimers drop out. He set about working up a new clientele, right there in the building. He roved the place, visiting one office after another and soliciting in a sjiectacular manner. He would walk in. throw a front or back flip, and if there was a phone book within reach, he would tear it in halves, to show the strength that could be developed by regular attendance at Prindle’s Gymnasium.
Complaints began to reach Sallie, and she had to send for Harry. He came bounding in, full of zest and zeal, too new to business to realize that already he was almost licked. “Harry,” she began, “don’t you think, well, the way you have been canvassing the building—”
“Was that a hunch ! Gosh, if Unde Alan didn’t have so much of his building vacant—”
“Listen, Harry, you are only scaring people and giving them the wrong idea. These office folks don’t want to build up muscles like yours. If you’d only sell them the idea of bright games and sports—”
“Hah! Listen to the expert ! And look, Sallie, I know athletes all over the country. I’ve sent out form letters, telling ’em to drop in for a workout, when they’re in town, as my guests.”
She shook her head in despair. Then she said, “That reminds me. I have some letters here—”
“Some other time. I’ve got to beat it now.” He beamed on her. “You’re still a swell girl, Sallie, even if you have got screwy ideas.”
She watched the door close on him. She thought, “Oh, darn the luck. I would have to fall in love with an acrobat, and one who won’t listen to reason. I suppose I’ll wind up by having to forget him, and he’s such an awful lot to forget.”
Then Harry stuck his head in the door. “Sallie! Have lunch with me tomorrow. Got a surprise for you.” He hesitated. “And I do mean—you!” he said with tremendous feeling, and departed.
He had a surprise for her. “And I do mean—you!’’ That sounded exciting. So exciting that the next morning she got out new shoes and stockings, and a dress with a fascinating cut as to bosom and sleeves, that was designed especially for the business girl who got asked out for lunch. In the middle of the morning she locked the office and shot down to a lower floor beauty parlor, where an operator waved the magic wand over her hair, and sent her forth, an utter knockout.
At the lunch hour, Harry bustled into her office. “Mind if we go to the lunchroom on the second floor? I’m in an awful rush.”
So, she went meekly below with him, to a noisy, practical place, as famed for its speed of service as for its food. She thought, Privacy is purely a relative matter, and when they had all the privacy they could contrive by lowered voices and inclined heads, she thought. If he does propose, we’ll just have to make the best of it. And we could stop in my office for a minute, before he goes up to the penthouse, and she said invitingly, “Well. Harry?”
Harry beamed at her. “Told you I had a
surprise for you.’’ And. as she blushed and prepared to be tremendously surprised, he went on, “We have a piano now !”
She stared. “A piano?” she faltered. “Yup. I’ve decided to go right out after the professional acrobat, juggler and weight-liftei trade! You know how those fellows always like to work to music, and Charlie can bang out stuff like, ‘Over the Waves,’ ‘Narcissus,’ and. ‘The Entrance of the Gladiators,’—stuff like that, while they rehearse—why, Sallie!”
She had given up. She felt if she listened a moment more, she would scream, and so, she lied.
“Gosh!” thought Harry. “Now what did I say to get her so mad?”
AT THE moment when Harry was T* mentioning jugglers and acrobats, his Uncle Alan, in a black and ferocious mood, was paying off a taximan outside the Prindle Building. He had emerged from his mud baths before his time was up. because he had just learned he now had a gymnasium on his roof. Mr. Prindle was in a mood, and now that the taximan was pretending he didn’t have change for a dollar so he'd get the balance as a tip, he was in a mood within a mood.
Suddenly a meteor whistled past his ear to the sidewalk. A rubber meteor; a handball, struck by an enthusiastic player on the roof, so that it went through the hen wire, and came down twenty-five stories to bounce near Mr. Prindle.
“Godfrey!” cried Mr. Prindle, and the taximan drove off with his dollar.
The ball bounced seventy feet, then thirty, and as its bounces shortened, Mr. Prindle sprang for it, retrieved it. and darted into his building, before anybody could think to sue. Cut into the black rubber of the ball were the small initials, “H. P„” and Mr. Prindle knew they stood for the name of a nephew who was going to be bounced higher than the ball had.
He advanced to the elevator that went to the roof. There were only a few other passengers in the car, but the starter, anxious to please the returned maestro of the building, sounded his clicker as soon as Mr. Prindle stepped in. The car went up, and stopixid at the second floor to pick up Miss Sallie Matthews, whose one thought was to lock herself in her office, and get at some serious tear work. Then she recognized her employer. “Why Mr. Prindle! I didn’t know you were back !”
“You rented the penthouse?” he said, from the corner of his mouth.
Sallie brightened. A bonus was a poor solace for her mortification, but still and all, a bonus was a bonus. “Yes,” she said brightly.
“To my nephew—for a gymnasium?” “Oh yes, and—”
“You are through!” said Mr. Prindle. as close-mouthed as a ventriloquist. “Today ! I'll give you two weeks salary.” Sallie quivered. This was terrible, It was unfair. To be fired in an elevator, going up, with peojile around, even if they hadn’t heard; to be fired without a hearing. “Why, Mr. Prindle!” she began.
Mr. Prindle wasn’t listening. He was looking sharply at the operator, for the car had given a queer jolt. “Car’s stopped, sir.”
“Well, start it, then.”
“I can’t. We’re stuck.”
“Where are we?”
“Just short of the twenty-fourth fkxtr, sir.”
“Open the door. Maybe we can get out." The operator opened the door. At about the level of their faces was the bottom of the door to the shaft at the twenty-fourth floor. The incidental passengers now began to take alarm, and advise everybody to go easy, as they might bust the cables and let the car fall.
“Here,” said Mr. Prindle. “I'll lift you. Reach for the catch and free it.”
He lifted the operator by the legs. The operator thrust an arm between the shaft and car, reached the door catch with his
pocketknife, then he forced the door back. Now they could see into the corridor. “Well, this is a mess." said a nervous passenger. Sallie, who had just been discharged and was in confinement with her irate boss, thought it was too.
It was at this moment that Harry Prindle got out of another elevator, on his way to Sallie’s office to try to renew diplomatic relations. Noting the open door, he looked in, and seeing people’s faces down at floor level, he squatted and gaped at them. “What’s the matter?” he asked. “Get stuck? Oh, hello, Uncle Alan ! When did you get back?”
“Don’t squat there asking foolish questions, you stupid ass. Do something! Call the building engineer. Phone the elevator company.”
The operator chimed in bitterly, “See what you done, overloading the car with your big piano! You jimmed the cables.” "What!” roared Mr. Prindle. “Trying to wreck my whole building?”
Then Harry saw Sallie. “Good lord!” he cried. “Sallie! Reach!”
Sallie reached. Harry reached. He set his side-horse and other trained muscles, and he pulled easily, powerfully. Sallie floated up and out of the car. “All right, Uncle Alan. You’re next, but take it easy, everybody. Don’t jostle the car.”
He made almost as light a job of his bulky uncle as he had of Sallie, and then he snaked out the other passengers, and the operator, and turned to Sallie. “Are you all right? Gosh, I was scared.”
“Never mind me, Harry. Your uncle is awfully sore. He just fired me, but don’t you be discouraged about your gym. He— he went right up there.”
Harry yanked open the door of the stairwell, and raced up the stairs, with Sallie behind him. He tracked his uncle through handball courts No. 1, No. 2, and No. 3. Sallie dropped out then, and Harry caught up with Mr. Prindle at the indoor ring, where two big, mostly bare men, in a clinch, were staggering around like moose with locked horns. “Good godfrey!” said Uncle Alan. He glared with stupefaction at his nephew, and, drawn by the rushing and splashing of water, he rushed to the baths, and stared at two huge, hairy, soapy fellows at their showers.
He reeled back to the little reception room, where Sallie and an alarmed Charlie Splendorio were waiting. Charlie fled, and the irate president of the Prindle Building Corp. sank into a chair and regarded his nephew from under thunderous brows.
“What do you think of it?” asked Harry. “Swell layout, eh?”
“It is terrible!” shouted Uncle Alan. “From outside, my roof must look like a lot of wrecked box cars.”
“Oh, is that so!” said Harry hotly. “Well, let me tell you, the carpenters and painters did a very neat job and for that matter, who’s going to see it, except somebody in an airplane or the Foxhall building?”
“Yes,” said Sallie loyally. “And as for the Foxhall people, they’re the ones who’ve kept you from renting this property as a penthouse.”
\/fR. ALAN PRINDLE looked at her ■*•*1. and at his nephew. What had been going on here? When he left, they didn't know each other. Now they were working together, hand and glove.
“Sure,” Harry said. “From what I hear, this spot has been a drug on the market for three years, and I come along and improve it—”
“Improve it? Improve it?” his uncle howled.
“Yes, improve it,” said Sallie. “Right now it is a very desirable property, and you could rent it like a shot if your nephew gave it up.”
“But I’m not going to give it up,” declared Harry. “You always wanted me to get to work, and now that I have
His uncle was staggered. “Did you have to disfigure my roof?”
Harry looked at Sallie, who had come so loyally to his aid. Surely no sacrifice was too great for a girl like that. He took a deep breath, and he said to his unde, “Give me time, will you? You won’t know the place when I get it all fixed up with some bright awnings, and cushions and chairs and things.”
Sallie’s radiant look almost unmanned him. She gave him a little bow. and she addressed his uncle. “After all, Mr. Prindle, a smart recreation roof is just the thing right now, and they are becoming more popular every day.”
Mr. Alan Prindle was giving up, but he masked his retreat with an irritable. “I know, I know. You don’t have to tell me. But what about these terrible men you’ve got here, half bison, half—half—”
“Oh,” said Harry, “the old members? They’re dropping out as fast as their memberships expire.”
“Hah! Then your enterprise is failing already !”
“Nothing of the sort,” said Harry desperately. He shot an appealing glance at Sallie. “I—I’m going after an entirely different clientele—”
“I should say so,” said Sallie swiftly. “High-class young business men and women. I know any number of them in buildings near here, and right here in this building, who will pay well for the privilege of using this recreation roof.”
Mr. Prindle got up. “Now that sounds sensible. Now you’re on the right track.” He smiled faintly at his nephew. “Well, what’s done is done. After all, getting you down to earth and at work is worth some concession from me.”
“Hey!” cried Harry, and Sallie said swiftly, “On your desk, Mr. Prindle, you’ll find several letters from prospective tenants — manufacturers of gymnastic apparatus and athletic supplies, and physical-culture people who know about your famous nephew and would like to have offices in the building, especially since it has the Prindle name. And I'm sure your nephew can tell you of a lot of others in the same or similar lines.”
Mr. Prindle beamed. “That so? Sallie,
I think I was too hasty. Come down and we’ll go over those letters together.”
He started away, but turned back to his nephew. “Just a minute, young man. What’s this about high-class young business ladies as well as men? Young ladies? In your gym classes?”
“Oh,” said Sallie quickly, and moved a chair back. “I’m considering an offer from your nephew to preside, at ladies’ hours.” And, fine gown and all, she did a quick handspring with one hand, for she was holding her purse with the other. “I’m considered rather good at acrobatic tapdancing.” she said, flushed and smiling. “And—and games and things.”
Mr. Alan Prindle stared. “Well, I’ll be darned!” he said. His eyes twinkled. “I suppose you expect that bonus for renting this property? Well, you’ll get it. Say, I've got to see if that infernal elevator is running.’’ and he hurried out.
“Sallie!” cried Harry, and, “Harry!” cried she, and they flew into each other’s arms. “You never told me about those letters from j>eople who want offices here.” “I wanted to tell you, but you never listen, dear.”
“I will, from now on. And look. Sallie —about that oiler from me—do you mean it? I mean, would you go in with me, here?”
Outside, Charlie Splendorio, who hadn’t missed a thing, sprang at the newly installed piano, and the place resounded to the air to which people sing under their breaths, “Here comes the bride.”
With fiery faces. Sallie and Harry looked at each other. He murmured, “I never heard of a husband and wife running a gym—but why not?”
“Why not?” she echoed, and they closed the door on Charlie and the world.