FICTION

NET RESULTS

Mike Bergen Presents : The Original and Only Barefoot Tennis Marvels from the Wilds of Ookalooku

STANLEY JONES July 15 1939
FICTION

NET RESULTS

Mike Bergen Presents : The Original and Only Barefoot Tennis Marvels from the Wilds of Ookalooku

STANLEY JONES July 15 1939

NET RESULTS

Mike Bergen Presents : The Original and Only Barefoot Tennis Marvels from the Wilds of Ookalooku

STANLEY JONES

When Big Mike Bergen. New York racketeer, falls heir to a block of tennis courts, he appeals in his dilemma to Steve McRuddy, jobless press agent, for guidance. McRuddy takes Big Mike with his bodyguards und

Goldie, his fiancée, to a professional tennis show. Impressed by the gates, Bergen startles

G. Warfield Edgerton III, amateur tennis mogul, with the proposal that they boss the “racket” together. In Edgerton s office Bergen meets

Mary Edgerton. the mogul’s niece, who has brains, beauty, and an interest in

Harold Farnham, America’s leading tennis amateur. Unable to make a deal with Edgerton III, Bergen defies him. He sends Steve McRuddy after Lefty Epstein, a tennis professional. Ordered by Bergen to find the two “best known unknowns" in the country, Epstein produces

Barney Chellowjtz. of the Bronx, and Bill Goodall, from the South, and Big Mike Bergen sends them to Hawaii for “seasoning. ”

WELL, five months skidded by. Fast, like they show them in the movies, with calendar leaves in a blur. Then, one morning, I got a radiogram that blew me aboard the first skyliner which was California-bound.

Surviving some fog and as eye-filling a hostess as ever held a head, we hit San Francisco right on the nose. Heading for a phone, I stopped at a glimpse of the ’Frisco Courier's streamer, then I sat down with a cup of Java and ate up the story. It happened to have been written by the Courier’s Ed Ferguson, an old pal from the Globe days in New York.

“TAN TYPHOON THREATENS NETMEN.

“Barefoot pair from Ookalooku jam pier— Discovered by wreck survivor, who predicts First Ten rating —Charge news photog’s with spears— To play in Oregon.

“San Francisco, Cal., June 20. American Lawn Tennis is promised a real novelty this season. Unheralded and unsung, two inhabitants of one of Uncle Sam’s least know'll Pacific possessions strode down the gangplank of the S.S. Septic to survey a new world with the round eyes of Mowgli.

“Lean, hard and brown, the visitors wore, under borrowed topcoats, the simple costume of fibre sarong and hemp sandals native to their temperate isle. Both Billo and Barno — as their manager, Mr. Fillmore Epstein, calls them—affected beards, an island custom. The former appears several shades the lighter, and attributes this to an ancient infusion of Anglo-Saxon blood, when the island was a trading post.

“Mr. Epstein, a New Yorker, was washed ashore on the island when his fishing boat was demolished in a Pacific squall. His guide and boatman w'ere lost. He was found on the hot beach by natives and carried to the home of the U. S. Agent—whose chief duty is to supervise the manufacture of Government rum.

“Restored to hea th, he awaited the small schooner which was the sole link with Ookalooku Island and. through it, the outer world. On a jaunt in the hills, Epstein declares, he came upon a secluded village. Here he was amazed to find not only a gracious hospitality from its inhabitants, but several excellent clay tennis courts hewn out of the jungle itself.

“Investigation revealed that the game had been introduced by a group of Englishmen shipwrecked on a pearl-fishing junket twenty-five years ago. Mr. Epstein, a lifelong player and student of tennis, astounded at the brilliance of the players, played daily with his protégés.

“ ‘Once my boys get used to American galleries and style of play I look for them to prove something of a sensation.’ Mr. Epstein smiled. During the interview Billo and Barno grinned amiably.

“An incident occurred when news photographers set off their flashes. Alarmed, the visitors whipped out short native spears and charged the press. Mr. Epstein

persuaded them no harm was meant but later refused to divulge their stopping place, stating that he w'ished his charges to avoid curiosity seekers.

“It is safe to say, however, that the presence of the picturesque visitors will heighten interest in next week’s Oregon tourney, whose entry list already sparkles with the names of two First Ten stars.”

VV TELL, that was a great send-off. What’s more, W i knew that all the other papers would be hot on the trail. That meant work, but I welcomed it after dull months of promoting dancers, wnestlers, hot spots and fighters.

Before going out to the secluded little inn that I had arranged as headquarters, I phoned Egg-Head Ed Ferguson. He sounded happy as a boy with a slingshot in a greenhouse.

“That’s some medicine show you’ve got there, Turkey,” he chuckled. “When are you coming into the case, personal?”

“In a few days,” I said. “Lefty and I are going to fix it up so that it will look like an accident. How would you like to introduce me to him—in front of a crowd, or something?”

Ed guffawed. “Why not make it the station platform, just as we leave for Portland? The boss has given me the assignment.”

“Yes, I know,” I told him. “I gave your boss the assignment of assigning you, my son. And my boss gave me the assignment of assigning your—anyhow, you get the rough idea. Well, I’ll be seeing you, Egg-Head. Keep it smoking.”

I had the taxi swing out around the Pine Cone Inn a couple of times, just to be sure that no one had followed. Then I saw Lefty’s face, browm as a saddle. 1 waved and he grinned. Everything was jake.

Up in his room w-ere two handsome husky savages, whose teeth shone like piano keyboards as w'e pumped hands. “How' do you like ’em. hey?” cried Lefty. “Ain’t they something to give that New'port gallery the shakes?”

Everybody talked and laughed at once, and it was a gcx)d fifteen minutes before anyone could hear a w-ord. But it was evident that the three had got along famously. Finally Barney asked, sort of timidly, how Rosie was. She hadn’t, it seemed, thought very much of the idea of his going way off there, on account of she’d seen “Mutiny on the Bounty” and “Hurricane”—and those native babes, you know.

“That reminds me,” I said, reaching. “Here’s an eight-page letter she loaded on me.”

“Gee, thanks, Steve. You’ll excuse me?”

“Sure,” I said. “Take it out in the backyard, but be careful some jaybird don’t read it over your shoulder. Reading letters from girls in public is dangerous business, as Professor Epstein here will tell you.”

“Cost me my first wife,” nodded Lefty. “Cheap, at that.”

I gave Lefty a nudge then, and we pretended not to notice Bill Goodall’s eyes. They had followed my hand like a setter pup’s w'hen I handed out Barney’s letter; a piteous dumb enquiry which turned to an ineffable sadness when I reached in again, pulled out a cigarette case. Then he heaved a sigh like a slow leak in a tire and flopped back on the bed. I winked at Lefty. “By the way, I saw that cute Mary Edgerton, the other night. Out in a night spot, and who do you think was with her?”

Lefty played straight. “You can search me with a vacuum cleaner. Who?”

“That big clown, Farnham. He seems to be doing his training on the dance floor.”

I kept watching Bill with the tail of my eye.

He said: “Gee, I wash I could get a chance to dance more. Did she -did you—get to speak to her, Steve?”

I AFFECTED tardy recollection. “By golly, I did! I'd clean forgotten. Tipped a waiter to page Farnham for a phone call and had quite a visit while he raged around outside abusing the operators. I happened to mention that 1 expected to see you in a few days.”

“Aw. quit pulling the wings off flies.” Lefty said, unable to watch the internal bleeding any longer. “Go on—give it to him.”

I pulled out Mary’s letter then, and got pushed over backward in my chair for my pains. But the kid’s face

was worth it.

“He was scared to write her anything but two-line notes,” grinned Lefty when Bill had banged out. “Eating his heart out, if I may say so, but afraid to ‘force himself on her,’ as he put it. Why, he wouldn’t even send her his address for fear writing him would develop into a chore! And as for the local café-au-lait talent down yonder—he wouldn't give ’em the time of day.”

“Glad to hear it,” I said. “For Mary picked me like a soup bone for news of him. I gave her as rpuch as I thought she ought to have, and I think she guessed the rest. Then she made me promise not to leave without that two-volume novel for Bill.”

“How’s the betting on this Farnham hide?”

“I don’t think you could get five to one on him to place, unless Bill Goodall broke a leg at the barrier. Or bolted clean out of the park at the idea of marrying the Edgerton social position. But Harold Farnham is certainly in there, pitching! Besides that, he’s playing like crazy this year—

copped two major tournaments already. But now you tell me about things—how’re they shaping up?”

Lefty blew an eloquent cloud of smoke at the ceiling. “Wait till you see these babies, then you tell me! They were hotter than a four-alarm fire down there. Hounds for work, too. Of course, they had no one to play with except me, and a few of the boys at the big rum plant. But we got in about six hours a day; I taught ’em all I know.” “What did you do the rest of the time?”

“That kid Bill—he’s got me licked. Had a big box of books on engineering sent down, and some crazy-looking instruments. He studied as though he really liked it; kept hanging around the engineer in charge of building the new refinery. First thing we know, he’s working on the job after hours—and getting paid for it!”

“On the level?”

“Cross my throat,” grinned Lefty. “Boss told me he was sharp as a tack. too. It was all I could do to get him away from that gang. They’ve got a good two years work there yet, and Bill fitted in like a glass eye. They were all crazy about him.”

“What did Barney do with himself?”

“Slept. At every stop, like a junkman’s horse. Slept and ate. And what a spot to sleep! Air soft and warm—the sound of the sea in your ears— no taxi horns, or L trains.” Lefty sighed. “I really ought to pay Mike for the trip, Steve. What a break!”

“Well, that’s cooked now, and we’ve got to produce. Can the boys go the route for the season?”

Lefty examined his cigar. “I don't know who can beat ’em. Of course, they’re green to big-time stuff. And if they’ve got to play barefooted, dressed in those native rigs, the galleries may kid the shorts right off of ’em.” “That’s the act,” I told him firmly. “Mike’s right about it, too. Boy, wait till they burst on Seaview and Beachampton !”

“Boston’s the spot for my dough,” said Lefty, with a laugh which dislodged a slab of ceiling. “When those Fijis hit Boston for the doubles, the mayor will prob'ly call out the National Guard. Wow!”

I got up, after outlining our plan of attack. Egg-Head Ferguson was to introduce me to Lefty. Out of that chance encounter I was to be appointed press representative and sort of assistant manager for the tour. Things seemed all set. I went home and wrote Mike Bergen all about it before turning in.

rT'HE Oregon debut was a terrific success. We took Bill A and Barney up to Portland, accompanied by the crack sports writers in California. Only I wouldn’t let them reach the boys first-hand. I told them our charges were polishing up their English and were a little embarrassed to face the press yet. That went over okay.

The photographers had a field day. Lefty and 1 applied an extra coat of the tan dye which withstood anything for weeks on end. brushed out the fuzzy youthful beards, and laid out brand-new striped sarongs and hemp sandals. Bill Goodall nearly died laughing.

“Holy catfish, Steve,” he said. “We’ve been going barefoot so long now that even these things feel like galoshes! Think they’ll let us play like this?”

“It doesn't matter what they do,” I said. “We’ll get the headlines either way. If they make you change, we’ll protest and get even more space. If anybody tries to ket you to talk too much, act dumb and tell them I’m wur spokesman for the trip.” i*

“I don’t know what Mary will think of me when t Jsees me in this getup,” he said doubtfully.

I said, “She’ll probably laugh her pretty head off. if I’m any judge of Mary. And then go for you like a trout for a fly. You know, you and Barney have acquired quite a bit of appeal with your exotic South Sea ways.”

He shook his head. “I don’t know what a girl in Mary’s position could see in a bird like me, Steve. I’m just plain folks from down yonder, to her.”

"Okay, then. Be a sap. Stand off and wish for the moon. Only don’t be surprised if some Farnham grabs your girl.” I left him with that, and he didn’t like it any more than I intended he should. But he went into the Oregon tourney without even seeing the crowd, knocked off Stumpy Farr, the Number 8, in four sxrching sets, and won the final from Barney in five! The wires out of Portland were humming that night. Me, I sat up till dawn, writing releases about tennis as it might have been played on an island I had never seen.

I sent Mike a wire, “Finished one, two!” One came right back, like the report which follows the flash of a gun. It read. “Nuts to that. Stop. What was the gate?” That was Uncle Mike for you!

After that, we were swamped with invitations. It would have taken a year to enter even half the tournaments. So Lefty and I picked a few, spotted at strategic points along the road back East. To the others, we sent polite regrets —accompanied by press photos and news stories.

Bill and Barney had shaken their shyness by this time.

'I hey began to relax and enter into the acting with that inherent zest which every human being has for playing a part. I kept thinking up new gags, each one good for reams of notices. The gang used to sit up nights waiting to see what we’d spring on the customers next day. Sometimes they kicked, too.

"I’m getting sick of cocoanut milk drunk from the shell.” complained Barney just after we’d won the Trans-Mississippi doubles. “It’s no bargain even when it’s cold, Steve. Tastes like distilled oilcloth.”

“Sorry, sonny,” I said. “But the story has got around that kids on your island get nothing else till they're eighteen. I don’t know who started it, but we're stuck with it.”

Lefty nodded. “Personally, I think it’s a whingding of a story. Why, when I w'hack off the head of a cocoanut with that machete, right under the umpire’s chair, it’s sensational! I wouldn’t be surprised if we started a rage for the things.”

Bill chuckled, then threw back his head and roared. “That other gag of yours, though, Steve, that’s a whizzer! When I tell the cameramen they can’t shoot because a picture steals a man’s strength, according to our religion— they just go nuts!”

"They’ll really go nuts, and so will Mike, if you smash any more cameras. That one Barney jumped on in Omaha cost the Boss three hundred fish. It’s okay to scare ’em, but stop there unless the customers start getting bored.”

IT WAS pretty difficult to keep the boys away from all the people who wanted to see them, but we did the l>est we could. I had to let down the bars on speaking—so I said that Bill and Barney had learned English at the school on the island, and had picked up current American words with amazing speed. This went all right, the press showing constant surprise at their fluency.

Another concession that became increasingly important as we worked tow'ard the conservative East wras that of costume. While I howled over committee objections to the scanty sarongs (which I protested my boys were accustomed to from birth), we had to put shirts and shorts on them in some places. Heaven knows they were still picturesque enough with their beards, sun-bleached hair, and bare feet!

I had engaged a clipping bureau, which kept a large staff busy sending our notices to Mike. He was hot after me; phone calls and wires keeping us as intimately informed of our mutual doings as Siamese sardines in a tin.

Meanwhile, don’t think the august American Tennis Association was idle, fingering its committee badges and posing beside trophies for the roto sections. They were nervous as hens in a rainstorm.

Mary wrote to Bill, in part, the day we entrained for our first big Eastern appearance:

“There is something going on here in Olympus which I can’t tell you about yet, because I don’t know enough. But I do know the brass hats are viewing your approach with alarm. You promise to complicate their plans no end. Poor Harold —he popped in the other day, after winning the Tri-State. When Uncle Warfield showed him the accounts of your Western mop-up, they shut the door and went into conference. Later, they phoned Mr. Holloway to come over. So something is in the wind. I feel sort of guilty, even telling you this little. But I can’t see why they should count their Cup chickens Ix-fore the eggs are even laid at Seaview. and the other tj>ig matches here in June. Seeing pictures of you surrounded by those beautiful Western debs makes me winder. Bill . When do you ever find time to pr^e?”

“Get that last line?” I said to Bill. "She’s jealous. You’ve got her.”

“What’s there to be jealous about?” he asked, innocent as a bedtime story. “Those are just press pictures. Everybody knows that.”

"Pictures make a big impression.” 1 insisted.

I íe slxx)k his head. "Maybe so, Steve. You make everything sound as simple as possum on a plate. Only it isn’t that way. 1 know it isn’t. Because nothing that nice— like, well, Mary, you know—could possibly happen that easy to anyone. Least of all, to me.”

I looked at him. And dang me if I didn’t feel sort of old and sad. Yes, almost ashamed. But only for the time it would take a sparrow to swallow a bug. Feeling that way is a luxury a man can’t afford until he’s chairman of the board, with the annuities rolling in. So 1 just pulled his hat over his eyes, threatened to set fire to his whiskers if I heard any more talk like that, and wheeled off.

'Filings were going so well 1 could hardly get carfare out of my |xx:kets for keeping my fingers crossed. As we shoved aboard the eastbound that hot afternoon in early June, I wondered how long it would last.

WELL, about an hour before we hit New York next morning, the porter handed me a telegram. It was signed “Cecelia,” which meant Mike Bergen—he signed all his wires to me “Cecelia.” It never failed to give me a smile. But this one put the chill on my face.

“Well?” asked Lefty, around his cigar. “Go on. Spring it.”

“Mike has just heard that Edgerton & Company have

got us barred from Seaview. Some backstage business or other.”

Barney and Bill Goodall sat up, eyes wide. “You mean, we don’t get to play there?”

“That’s the story, unless this whole wire’s a mistake.”

“That, means no Cavis Cup,” said Lefty. “I was counting on Seaview, more than any other, to set us up right.”

“What—what did he say?” faltered Bill.

I threw down the paper. “Just that. And for me to duck the reception committee and head for the Hotel Alger as soon as we pull in. This means, Lefty, that you’ll have to handle the interviews and pictures. Just ask for Fiai Doty, of the Press—he’s worked for Mike and knows what’s going on. Then call me later.”

We didn’t talk much after that. We were too depressed. Yet, as we sped nearer, with the wheels clicking, “Nuts-toyou! Nuts-to-you !” I had a faint spark of hope that something might yet be done. I had great faith in Uncle Mike—and in myself.

I didn’t really feel I was home until I walked down a corridor on the top floor of the Hotel Alger. Then I was seized in a viselike grip. My new straw left my head.

“I hear there’s a lot of the queer around,” said Bab No. 1. “We better give this hayhawk the frisk.”

“Yeah,” growled No. 2, holding me despite my frantic struggles. “Most of these hen-herders hide phony in their hats.”

Slowly and happily they tore out the lining and leather band, scrutinizing each piece before tossing it aside. Then they released me, grinning.

“H’ya, Turkey?”

“I was doing pretty well up to now,” I growled. “Where’s Mike?”

Uncle Mike was in one of the hotel rooms, sprawled in a big chair by the window, trying to stir up some air with a palm-leaf fan. As I advanced, a large foot caught me in the rear, accelerating my progress.

“H’ya, kid?” grinned Thoiteen, showing practically all the nationis gold that w-asn’t buried at Fort Knox.

“Fine, fine. Nice to feel all the old friends again. Hello, Mike.”

HELLO, Irish,” grunted Mike. He thumbed Thoiteen to the bedroom with one jerk, me to a chair with the other. “Well, looks like we’ve been crow'ded off the track on the first turn, eh?”

“I was afraid of something.” I admitted. “Things have been going too smooth. When did this Seaview' thing bust?”

"Last night. I read the entry list in the papers. We were out. So I’m going to call on old Rumple-puss Edgerton today. Just a nice sociable tea chat. With the Eastern grass thing coming next week, and the All-State the w-eek after, well— we’ve got to have an understanding, that’s all.” The picture of Mike and G. Warfield Edgerton. III. reaching a gentleman’s agreement over a dish of Oolong amused me a little. But it was packed with danger, too. It wouldn’t do for Mike to appear as our backer—at least not yet. I thought t over.

“Wait a few days,” I said at last. “An injustice like this must be brought to the attention of the great sport-loving American public. It must be made an issue in the papers. Letters must appear, demanding that the spirit of fair play, the very soul of amateur sport, shall not be smothered by the despotic whims of bureaucrats.”

"Yeah, yeah,” nodded Mike. “Goon. Get hot.”

“Lawn tennis has ahvays been the most democratic of sports—played by rich and poor alike—”

“Personally. I never heard of it before F'ishface Graham left me them lots,” said Mike. “But don’t let that stop you.”

“It won’t. And now—nowwhat has happened?” I demanded, facing the room. “Two strangers, mere boys, have come from a far-off land. By the skill and courage acquired through years of practice under difficult conditions they have become great players, great sportsmen. Discovered by sheer chance, they have been induced by a patron of the game to visit our shores. Playing under strange conditions handicapped by large galleries of the curious—subjected to daily interviewsthey have shown themselves worthy of our finest traditions. And what do they get?”

"They get Rumple-puss,” Mike said. “And that fine old Indian w'ar dance known as the run-around. That’s what they get.”

“And then, despite their magnificent record against our best players, they come East, to the very cradle of the game itself. And they are frosted ignored insulted by the very men who are supposed to safeguard the best traditions of lawn tennis.”

“Robbed, too.” reminded Mike. “Don’t forget ‘robbed.’ By guys who ain’t above stealing the pens out of a post office. But what are we going to do about it?”

I st(xx3 up. "You just sit back and read the papers.” I told him. "I will throw the switch and start grinding. I will also call upon Mr. Edgerton, myself, tomorrow a.m.” “Flaw kay. Only call me after, and tell me what went on. I am known as something of a persuasive guy when the chips are down. I will be thinking along the lines of bringing

the best interests of lawn tennis to the front of his mind.” “All right. But don’t take any steps without consulting me, Mike. Promise?”

“I never promise nothing,” said Mike.

I shook my head and left. I wanted to get on the phone with a lot of sports writers I knew. There were plenty of them who had been shoved around by the Edgertons while helping to build up the game for the Exigerions—they’d be tickled stiff to hear my story.

All that afternoon I talked and wrote releases. Lefty called to say he’d moved the boys out to a little private club in Westchester. A quiet place, with fine courts. Despite the heat and Edgerton, the town began to look pretty sweet again.

NFIXT morning I tackled Rumple-puss. with no holds barred. I welcomed it. For. like most men who write a lot, I had cultivated that peculiar quality of self-hypnosis which is vital to conviction on any subject— and subject to change within the hour. Any hour.

By the time I reached his office I was mad as hops. It wasn't just a game any longer. He had become a menace, an ogre, a blight; one whose solicitude for amateurism was only in part an honest desire to keep the sport clean. The other part was simply a cool, out-and-out business proposition. Besides this, of course, he was getting in our way. Great moral indignation is always easier to kindle if the subject is pursuing his immoral ends in our own front yard.

When I walked into the big office marked “Private,” G. Warfield Edgerton III. was strangling the telephone. “No!” he yelled, face purple. “No, I will not see you, or anyone else from your paper! I gave out a statement yesterday—and that is all. I have no control over the players that private clubs choose to invite to their tournaments. That is their affair, not ours. No, I don’t know anything about the Beachampton Invitation next week. No, no, and no!”

“Good morning,” I said. “My name is— ”

“How did you get in here?” His white eyebrows sprang at me.

I indicated my feet. “These,” I said. “I am a tennis enthusiast and— ”

“Stop!” he howled, jumping up. “Not another word. Get out!”

I walked over and looked out the window while he stamped about the place until the ship models trembled. When he ran dowm I said, “These two boys from the Pacific Islands. They will be asked to play at Beachampton next week, won’t they?”

He took another whirl around the track, leaving a trail of smoking carpet. I gathered that they might not be asked, if he had anything to say about it. “Which I haven’t,” he glared. “Any fool knows that.”

I let that pass. “Well,” I said, dropping my card on his desk, “I just wanted to know. In fact, everybody who has the best interests of tennis at heart wants to know', Mr. Edgerton. I might suggest that you use whatever small influence you have to see that they are invited.”

He w'hirled on me. And what business of mine was it? I replied that I had become interested in the two, for sport’s sake. Nothing more.

“Just in case you change your mind,” I concluded, “you might give me a ring and let me know'. Good morning, sir.” I went down to phone Mike that I’d failed, and that we’d have to try and think up some way to bring pressure on Edgerton.

After that call, things began to happen right away quick. Until I thought at times that I was in one of those nightmares where everything melts away and leaves you clutching at shadows.

The following morning opened the barrage, with ninepound headlines in the Daily Globe:

“ATTEMPTED ABDUCTION,” SWEARS EDGERTON!

“Tennis Official Forced into Ambulance on Leaving for Home—Polite Internes Compare Photographs and say, ‘He’s our man, all right.’ Treated well, admits Edgerton, but kept out all night. Police Scout Entire Story as Fantastic.

“New York. June 12. In what he describes as a strange and unexplicable threat for reasons unknown, G. Warfield Edgerton III, related to a sceptical press today the bizarre happenings which ...”

I read no more. Uncle Mike was evidently getting impatient. Grabbing my panama, I tore over to the Alger. Mikp was assaulting a grapefruit, newspaper propped.

I jabbed at the headlines. “What’s the idea, Mike?” I demanded.

Mike read them, arching his massive brows as though in unbelief.

“Tch. tch, tch. Terrible, the things that go on. Such a nice man, too. Why, I knew him, personal.”

“Aw, cut the kidding, Mike,” I begged. “This is bad, on the level.”

“Just how,” he enquired blandly, “did you propose to bring home the seriousness of this matter to G. Warfield Edgerton Thoid?”

I fell silent. Mike waited. Then he said, through a slab of toast:

“I feel that the time for playing dropthe-handkerchief with these birds has come to an end. I am a patient guy— but direct. Bill and Barney will be asked to do their stuff before the stuffs at Beachampton. If they are not, well ...” He gave me a long slow wink.

“But you might have scared him into a heart attack,” I protested.

“Very few heart attacks happen to people who are careful—and reasonable. I gather from the newspapers that the doctors in the white coats were most hospitable; that they brought him a fine dinner and begged him to join them in a game of red dog. The whole thing was a case of mistaken identity, Irish. It could happen to anybody.”

“You think, then, that Edgerton will get the idea?”

“Unless he’s crazy. Most men are reasonable, Irish. They just need to have your point of view made very clear.”

“Well, what do we do now?” I enquired rather lamely.

“Sit back,” Mike said, with a wave of the toast. “Admire the view.” But I was too nervous, so I went back to my hotel to wait.

I DIDN’T wait long. First Edgerton phoned, with quite a bit of throatclearing. He had just heard from the Beachampton Club, it appeared. They had wanted Bill and Barney to play in their tournament, which determined the Mid-Atlantic titles. And he, Edgerton. wanted to know, if, by any chance, I could give him the boys’ address. I told him that I had been shocked at his uncomfortable experience, and advised him to notify the chief of police. Perhaps even the mayor.

He no sooner hung up than Bill Goodall called, in a highly excited condition.

"Say, what’s going on here, anyway? I telephoned Mary this morning and she lit on me like a hawk in a hen yard. Said she guessed she had been mistaken about me and my friends, and that she drew the line at some things. Gee, Mac, you’ve got to fix things up. You’ve got to! If you don't, I’m going to quit all this and go on back down home. I’m not fooling. Mac.” “Sure, sure,” I soothed him. “Leave it to me, son. Just leave it to me and keep on with that backhand cross-court shot. Lefty tells me you’re going to kill ’em with it. just leave things to me. that’s all.” He no sooner stopped than the Morning Mail came on. Mr. Harold Farnham has hinted to them that there might be some vague connection between Mr. Edgerton’s mishap and myself. Can you tie that? Then Mike Bergen rolled in.

“Whew! Did I just get a filling from that bit of Park Avenue!” He whistled, touched his brow with a huge lavender handkerchief. I asked him which bit.

“That Mary Edgerton. Why, she bust into my place like the Feds used to do in Prohibition ! Brushed off the Babs— stepped on Thoiteen’s feet—looked at me like I was the ground under a heel.” He shook his head. “I gotta hand it to her; she’s got plenty of moxie, that doll. Told me fun was fun, but I wasn’t funny any longer. And that if I couldn’t correct the abuses of the Lawn Tennis What’s-it without hiring a ambulance to ride people around in, she’d prefer to see things stand.”

“Did you get the idea we couldn’t count on her any longer?”

“Worse!” said Mike. “I gathered that if we tried any more high jinks on Uncle Edge, she would spill the whole works to the papers. Why, no dame has talked to me like that since my first wife—sort of made me homesick.”

“Where were your well-known powers of persuasion?”

Uncle Mike flushed down to his gunmetal chops. “They were running for Sweeney.”

I said, “Well, we’re all set for Beachampton, anyway. The thing to do now is to keep the troops in the headlines. I’ve made ’em a real national issue this past week. What we want now is humaninterest stuff and color.”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah—with a capital K, Irish. What’s on the line?”

I consulted my notebook. “Today: Surprise in Central Park. Bill and Barney are due on the Sheep Meadow at three p.m., carrying their own net and those crude native bats we had strung up for the pictures when they first landed. Headline: ‘ISLAND ACES PINE FOR SPACES.’ I’m arranging for the cops to get wind of it—and the photographers of course.”

“Haw kay,” chuckled Mike. He narrowed his shoebutton eyes in sudden inspiration. “You know, Irish, you’re doing all right. But you’re losing sight of one important item in all these shenanigans.”

I asked him to name it.

“Legs,” said Mike, and bit off the end of a cigar. “Dolls. We got to needle some sex into this show. And here’s how. Get a brace of cuties from one of my night spots —brunettes. No blondes or redheads.”

“But how—”

“Give ’em a coat of stain like we do for Hawaiian numbers. Spring ’em as native sweethearts. They’ve got so-o lonesome out there that they just had to follow their men. Set ’em to retrieving tennis balls for their heroes, instead of using ball boys. And tell ’em to keep their mouths shut, or they’ll be back at their sewing machines next week.”

I shook his large, hairy paw. “And you’re paying me.” I said sadly.

“Have a cigar,” he grinned. “You know, I think we might add those dolls to the troupe as regulars, Irish, if the tryout clicks.”

I saw it, then—big.

“Great! Arguments wherever we go. Morals. East versus West. Are the boys married, or are they not? Strange native betrothal customs. Prigs battling free lovers. Clubs— churches— friends and families split asunder by the burning question. Mike, you’re nothing short of terrific!”

“Aw, shucks, it just came to me,” he said. “But get right on it. And don’t be hitting me for a raise tomorrow, either.” I whizzed out, my mind popping with pictures. And when I thought of Boston, and the National Doubles, I got to laughing like crazy. The only factors I didn’t figure in were the two most important ones, Bill and Barney. And how they would react, with two girls nuts about them already.

THE tournament at Beachampton was like a string of firecrackers. Lefty had the boys down a couple of days before it started, and everything looked perfect.

There was the sprawling brick clubhouse surrounded by turf courts hedged in from the vulgar gaze. There was the restless sound of the sea all day long, and the clean salt smell of it. There were long shiny motors everywhere, and lovely supercilious ladies in fragile frocks who “My deared” each other incessantly and clapped at the wrong times. There were handsome tanned kids with college sweaters, tearing around and spending more in a night than I was making in two months at their age. Above all, there were the members—the gentlemen of the ensemble. The Edgertons and the Holloways and the Dussosoits. Business barons, burned by the sun and the Administration to a fine mahogany crisp. A tonev-looking lot, with their quietly expensive clothes and Cellini bridgework, and overlay of fat blunting the bone lines in their shrewd faces. They were everywhere.

Into this peaceful scene came tennis players whose names were news on the sports pages of the country. And right along with them—a bizarre note—came Uncle Mike’s strange troupe. I tried in vain to persuade Mike himself to remain in the background, in town. He’d have none of it. He rented a floor in the exclusive Dunes Hotel, accompanied by the Babs and a sprinkling of plausible gents in Broadway versions of fashionable sportswear.

“I’m going to see that we get a clean cut and a topside deal,” he declared. “I may not know enough about this racket to stump a mosquito, but I know crooks, regardless of where they buy their clothes.” I got no sleep that night.

I was somewhat reassured by the way the dub • folks treated us. They were white. The president, a fine old hickory named DeMerrell, had me and the boys over for dinner at his ocean-front villa the second night. After the boys had gone back to bed at 9.30, we sat on the porch. The orange moon hauled up out of the ocean, looking like it would fall smack on us if a breeze hit it. We smoked fiftycent cigars, and just lay back, while every now and then a flunky would tiptoe up to sound the lead in our glasses. At last I sighed.

“This is killing me, but I really ought to leave. Those kids might want something, down at the club, and they hate to ask favors.”

Hickory grunted. “If they do, they’re different from most of the young men who come here. Bunch of loafers. My own nephew’s one. I don’t know what becomes of them. Playing away the most important years of their lives.”

I sat up.

“Don’t misunderstand me,” he said sharply. “Tennis is a great game. I play it myself and I’m touching sixty. But it’s become a business. Old fools encourage young fools to devote whole years to it. And for what? Mostly for the reflected glory of being identified with sport in their

communities. And of course, to keep their clubs out of the red by packing the stands. Lot of nonsense!”

1 said I imagined it was becoming somewhat specialized. He snorted.

“Specialized! It's almost a craft union. Look at the trouble you had trying to horn in at Seaview. I know all about those things; I was puddling in steel-mill politics at sixteen. Nobody ever gave me anything I didn’t sweat for. That’s why I like honest professionals — like yourselves. Even if you are working under cover.”

That was one right between the eyes. I was glad it was dark. “Why, what do you mean?” I managed.

He leaned over and tapped my arm. “You didn’t fool me. Mr. McRuddy. I’ve rigged too many deals myself. In fact, deals are my hobby. And this thing is one of the most artful pieces of promotion I ever came across.” He chuckled. “You’ve got Edgerton and Holloway knocked higher than a kite. Old fools. They don’t know how to meet a new situation because they’ve had it too easy. No competition. They’re soft.”

I began to get frightened. “But—but we’re not professionals. Neither of those boys has ever been paid a cent for any sport.”

He laughed again. “I believe you. But the whole approach has that definite planned atmosphere which I like to see in any undertaking. You wouldn’t deny, perhaps, that your men might turn professional-providing the season works out as you think it will?”

“I couldn’t say.”

He was chuckling again, the tip of his cigar red. “Whatever you do, you’re giving the game just what it needs, and badly. Only let me give you a word of advicewatch your boys’ table manners.”

“I think they do very well,” I said hotly. “They—”

“Just the point. They do too well, Mr. McRuddy. Far too well for natives who are supposed to have eaten with their fingers all their lives—according to the publicity. No one expects too much formality from a primitive people lacking our many cultural advantages, you know.”

I couldn’t see his face. But I had the feeling that those shrewd eyes under their white brows saw through us like a windowpane. It was a violent shock. Yet I had the funny instinctive feeling that we could trust him, all the way.

“You’ll get a square deal here,” he said as we shook hands. “As long as I’m president of this club, we’ll draw no international lines. Or,” he added, and I fancied his eyes twinkled, “no State lines, even. I’m going to really enjoy this tournament, for the first time in ten years.”

PLAY began next morning, before the largest gallery Beachampton had ever seen. And the evening papers left no doubt that the experts were impressed by our boys. They were even more impressed with the two cuties in grass skirts who chased the balls. To the news photographers, they were a million dollars— straight from heaven. But to the boys, they were a severe pain in the neck.

“Now listen, Mac,” protested Bill, after the fiftieth pose had bought off the hocusfocus brigade. “This is laying it on too thick. Once they hear Gussie cuss when she slips, the whole show’s off. Besides, I haven’t heard from Mary for five days. She’s seen those Central Park shots, and I wouldn’t blame her if she never spoke to me again. I’d blame you.”

“Make that double,” said the taciturn Barney. “Rosie sent me a clipping of that job. She said if that was the way I felt about her, she’d tell her old man and he’d ¡ tell the whole Bronx. Send these babes back to the floor show where they belong, Steve.”

I could see how they felt. So I had it out with Mike that night. He finally agreed to give the girls featured billing in the “International Parade Revue” provided the boys would let them reappear in one finer tournament lor new pictures.

During the next day’s matches, some funny work began to crop up with two of the linesmen. Bill was playing Ed Parry, a nice kid, when he let Ed’s lob drop. It was clearly out.

“Good,” yapped the linesman.

Bill looked around in surprise. In the second frame, at set point, it happened again. This time, even young Parry looked surprised. “Are you sure about that?” he called.

“The point has been decided,” said Mr. Holloway, ensconced in the umpire’s chair. "Set to Mi. Parry. Play.”

Mike scribbled a note and snapped it at my feet. It read, “Get that guy’s name. Also that other ape’s who called those low ones in the first round.”

Bill set his mouth, dug his bare toes into the beautiful turf and went to work. He washed the deciding set up at 6-1; but the linesman on the other side gave him one more flagrantly bad decision. So much so that even the crowd murmured.

Mike was all set for having Thoiteen waylay Mr. Pounds and Dr. Demonet, the astigmatic officials, and give them a persuasive talk. I finally cooled him off. “Any man,” I pointed out, “is apt to have a bad day.”

He gave me a tight grin. “You’re lying, Irish, and you know it. But I’ll give them one more chance. Let them start putting the eye on us tomorrow, and it will be just —toobad.”

The following day’s matches saw new officials in the chairs, and we breathed easier. But our relief was short-lived. The boys pulled out all the stops and never gave their opponents a chance as they swept into opposite brackets of the semifinals.

We were dismayed, however, to see Pounds and Dr. Demonet back on the lines again for the semifinals. Mike’s face set like concrete. While Barney and Farnham warmed up, he nodded slowly to Sal Andretta, one of his handy boys horn town. The latter returned it, then strolled into the clubhouse. I didn’t like the looks of things. But neither did I like the idea of getting the old razz-ma-tazz from those stooges in the white pants and backgammon-board jackets.

Bill had Clahane two sets to one. He was leading four to two and forty-fifteen in the seventh game. He was so hot you could have fried an egg on him as he blasted over a service ace.

“Fault!” barked Pounds.

“Good!” cried an angry voice. I recognized it as Mr. DeMerrell’s. “That ball was in by a foot!” Other voices were raised. The umpire held up his hand, shushing in vain for silence. Mike nodded at Andretta, who went back inside.

Play was finally resumed, the game going to Clahane. He also won the next two as Bill became rattled. Then he took the set. As they paused under the umpire’s chair, a page scurried out. “Long distance calling, Mr. Pounds. Right this way.” Pounds waved another budget to his chair and made his way inside. He didn’t come back that afternoon, or the following day. That was the day Bill Goodall beat Farnham in five blistering sets, Farnham having gained the finals when Barney wrenched his ankle at one set each. In fact, Mr. Pounds was home for three days.

“All I remember,” he explained, “is going to the phone booth and saying, ‘Hello, Pounds speaking.’ Then everything went blank. The doctor said I must have had a sunstroke—a severe one.”

OF COURSE, neither Lefty nor I quite believed his story. Possibly Mr. DeMerrell didn’t, either. Or Uncle Mike. And, later on, when we were winning the doubles, Dr. Demonet, for he had something of the same curious experience, except that he said he accepted an invita| tion for a drink one evening at the club I from a nice young man. a stranger. Uncle j Mike suggested that it might have been I mixing shellfish with liquor. Dr. Demonet ' shook his head and said, vaguely, it was

more likely mixing liquor with strangers. I We pulled out the morning after the club dinner, at which the cups were ! presented. Mr. DeMerrell presided, and he took a few swipes at the judges. We liked that, but it left most of the gathering cold.

When the party was over, I strolled out j and found young Bill Goodall sitting on a | sand dune. He was looking at the moon j on the water and toeing the sand with one | foot.

“What’s the matter, son?” I asked him, | as if I didn’t know.

“Oh, nothing, Mac. Only sometimes I get sick of tennis. I guess I get sick of ; everything. I got a letter from Charley Terry—he’s the engineer on that construeI tion job down on Ookalooku, you know he wants me back. I’ve half a mind to | chuck all this foolishness and go. I want to get to work.”

“Hmm,” I said. “Kind of lonesome down there, isn’t it?”

“It doesn’t much matter where you are,” he blurted out like a kid. “It’s who's around you that matters. If you get what I mean.”

I nodded. “I guess I get it. Seen anything of Mary lately?”

“Not me. She was down here one day, but I just saw her at a distance, with a crowd. Seemed to be having a good time, all right. I suppose lots of girls are like that.”

I hooked his arm. I was afraid he might | get moonstruck and walk right out to sea —men in that condition don’t know what they’re doing or saying half the time. I’ve been in it, myself.

“Only girls in love are like that, you pinhead. She’s waiting for you to say you’re sorry. Yes, I know you haven’t done anything to be sorry for, but you’ve got to start saying it anyway. They expect it. It’s part of the game.”

He stopped short. I saw I’d made it worse. “Oh, you mean being in love is just a game? Being in love so’s you can’t eat and feel terrible is just a game with girls, is it? Well, I’m glad I found it out in time. Yes, sir, I’m mighty glad.”

He stalked off, the sorriest-looking glad man I ever saw in my life. But I knew I’d have to start some operations there, or he might jump the act, at that.

Things were getting moi e difficult all the time, with Uncle Mike trying to take over active management and the Cavis Cup challengers, fresh from Germany, showing better form than ever, according to reports. Count von Zach, a beautiful stylist, was cleaning up. He had gone to the finals at Forest Hills the previous year, exhaustion costing him a probable victory over Farnham. Now he was looming up, and Bill Goodall was thinking of faces instead of aces, and Barney had a trick ankle. I began to lose sleep right then, and never made it up for six months. Every night seemed as long as a year in bed, but I didn’t enjoy much of it.

WELL, as you’ll remember if you’re a tennis fan, we breezed through the New York Challenge Bowl thing. Parry, Farnham, George Stoddard, Tom Campbell—they all looked alike to the boys. Our stock rose with the sports writers and the public. I kept the old typewriter smoking, and we had the news the papers wanted. If we didn’t have it, we made it—as all good publicity men do.

Then we hitched our belts for the last big bite before the Cavis Cup—the AllEast Grass job. “If you wash that one up,” I promised the boys, “I’ll guarantee you’re in for the Germans. What’s more, you get a week’s rest in between—maybe two.’* Barney, stretched on the couch, yawned and opened his eyes. “You know, running a haberdashery store shouldn’t be so tough after all the standing I’ve done lately.” “Not if one marries the right girl,” I said.

“Don’t you worry about Rosie,” said Barney, as though I was. “She’s smart as two whips, and she’s always in there pitching for a guy. That’s what counts. She’s proud of me.”

“That’s fine,” I told him. “Just so she doesn’t start getting proud out loud.”

“Oh. she wouldn’t do that, Mac. She hasn’t told a soul except her old man.”

It took a minute for that to soak in. “What?” I asked.

Barney said: “Rosie’s smart. She

wouldn’t tell anybody except her old man. He thinks it’s a cute idea, this whole thing. Says he’s going to sell the scoop to all the big dailies when the time is right.”

Lefty and I exchanged glances. Lefty whistled a few bars of “That’s Where My Money Goes.” I got up. “What’s the name of Rosie’s father, bright boy?” Barney looked amazed. “Ulysses S. Shapiro, Mac. Why? What’s the trouble?” “Get your hat. We’re going to call on Ulysses. If we have to pay him to forget what he’s heard, it comes out of your travelling expenses. You’re a tennis player, not a broadcaster. Don’t you tell Rosie anything else until I say it’s time to, either. Not a thing, understand?”

We caught Ulysses just in time. He was even experimenting with some homemade headlines. It cost Mike five hundred fish to bottle him up ! That was just one more thing that came up to worry us. We never knew when Ulysses might take one too many and start spilling the legumes up and down Mosholu Parkway.

Bill Goodall got worse and worse. Sat around moping with his guitar. Lefty finally told me the kid was off his feed so badly that his game showed it. “He just don’t seem to care. You’ve got to do something about that girl, Mac, even if it means kidnapping her.”

I TRIED to see Mary. The first time she gave me the bright business smile. “I’m sorry, Mr. McRuddy, but I don’t feel that we have much in common to discuss. You’ve got your friends, your business— I’ve got mine. I’m afraid they don’t mix.” I tried her on the phone, but got nowhere faster. She was as distant as the head elevator starter in a large office building. I got real panicky then, and ran to Mike. He heard me out, little eyes shut.

“If sugar’s no good, I know what is. Get me that cheque book.”

Well, I never told Mike, but it took me five days to get up nerve enough to tackle Mary Edgerton with that little slip of pale blue paper. And the way it turned out just shows how little you can figure a woman, no matter what the setup. It also shows you how silly it is to put off a job because you’re scared of it. For the things you ought to be paralyzed over, just thinking about them, are generally the ones you can’t plan on for a minute.

I knew she wouldn’t see me up in the office, so I waited in the lobby. It was sunset, with a mess of baby-pink clouds crowning the misty Palisades, and the evening cool just beginning to make life bearable. Pretty soon Mary came out.

She didn’t look very happy in spite of her gay little frock, the color of those first apple leaves out in the spring. She had a swell tan, but today there was no attack in her face. I felt like a punk, but Bill had had a close call in the third round of the All-East Grass that very day . . .

“Hello,” I said, falling into step. “It’s a small world, isn’t it?”

“Around here it is,” she said.

“I know you hate me like a bootblack hates a suede shoe.”

“He’s clairvoyant too,” she said, treating me to her beautiful profile, as clearly minted as a new coin. “Only he leans to understatement. Most men overtalk, but this one—”

“Please,” I begged, squirming. “I’ve got to talk to you. It’s important.”

“To Mr. Bergen and yourself?”

“No.” I tried to make a dramatic pause. “To—Bill.”

She stopped short. I seized the pause. “Sit down and let me talk to you for just a few minutes.”

We sat in an open garden place with a little fountain and bright umbrellas. And

while I talked about Bill she sat, chin in hands, levelling me with those beautiful big grey eyes that told me nothing. When I broke out Mike’s cheque, I got ready to duck. But she appraised it coolly.

“It is rather difficult for me to realize how seriously your Mr. Bergen has gone into this thing,” she said. “He’s very thorough, isn’t he?”

“Mike plays for keeps,” I said. “He’s come up the hard way.”

“And he’s in tennis for keeps, I gather.” “He wants to get what there is in it,” I explained. “At the same time, he’s doing the game and the boys a good turn. Anything that hurts them hurts Mike’s chances and threatens his investment.”

Mary smiled at that “Nice word — investment.”

I had to grin. “Looks like a good one too, unless you start to put the freeze on our chief prefeired asset. Won’t you be nice to the kid—just to protect the other stockholders?”

She pursed her lips, the faintest hint of mockery in her lovely face.

“I suppose a girl ought to be willing to put herself out somewhat to help a poor young man make his way in the world. And I might consider it, Mr. McRuddy. Bill is nothing to me as long as he chooses to play around with Mr. Bergen and his boys and,” she added pensively, “a working girl needs so many things these days that money can help with.”

“Oh, Bill isn’t really with us,” I protested. “Why, the kid doesn’t know anything that’s going on. He’s straight as a string. Only he needs more good decent company than he’s liable to find in our lodge.”

“I see,” Mary said slowly. I had the uneasy feeling that she was laughing at me. “Then this is not only a business transaction but a social responsibility too. Is that it?”

“In the shell of a peanut, yes. You’ll be helping to save tennis. You’ll be making a nice piece of change for yourself. And, most important of all, you’ll be renewing the faith of a swell guy in American womanhood. What more do you want?”

■\ ^ARY burst into sudden laughter that seemed to have been dammed up too long. “How could any woman resist such an appeal? One that suits her sense of profit, her sense of romance, her sense of humanity—above all, her sense of humor, Mr. McRuddy.”

“But,” I protested, “this isn’t funny, you know. This is serious.”

She comix)sed herself with difficulty, wiping her eyes on a tiny leaf-green handkerchief. “Yes, I—I suppose it is. Only I haven’t laughed for so long I lose my perspective. And when one’s sense of humor and one’s perspective begin to dull —well, that’s nearing the end.”

“Will you see Bill—tomorrow?” I asked anxiously. “Will you?”

“Will he see—me?”

I hadn’t thought of that. He was a pretty disillusioned young man about young American womanhood. “We’d better surprise him, I guess. If you could only be stranded on the curb somewhere, looking pathetic, we might pick you up on our way to the club. He couldn’t very well refuse to speak to you then.” She nodded demurely.

“I am in your hands. I’ll be standing wherever you say—call me in the morning. I could be crying a little, if that would help?” She was smiling.

"I guess you’ll do, just as you are. And thanks. You’re a brick.”

She looked at me, wide-eyed as you please. “But one isn’t a brick for doing what one is paid for doing, Mr. McRuddy. You left me no choice. I don’t know what we’re coming to, really. Are there many other gentlemen like Mr. Bergen in Mr. Bergen’s business?”

“There used to be,” I said. “But there’s only room for a couple up where Mike is. He and Buggsy George Flynn could pretty near divide the island up now, I suppose. Though Mike is miles smarter.”

“That’s a lovely name—Buggsy George Flynn. Don’t you think it would be fun if Buggsy George got into tennis too, along with Mike and Uncle Warfield?”

I laughed at the picture. She was a swell girl. If I’d been ten years younger, I’d have gone for her like a tramp for a steak.

“That,” I said, “would be just dandy. You could reach him on the upper East Side—any cop’ll give you his address, in case the Social Register overlooked it this year.”

“I don’t want to intrude too much,” said Mary, rising. “Still— well, thank you for everything. We all need to be checked up on our responsibilities now and then. You may save me yet. Your persuasion and Mr. Bergen’s more concrete appeals are hard to resist.”

Mary was as good as her word—she was waiting. And so lovely it brought a lump in your throat to look at her. Bill was a little cool to her at first, but by the time he reached the semifinals, he was mooning and fuzzy-eyed again. Harold Farnham began to suspicion something, so I made the doves keep it out of sight. There was no sense in stirring Farnham up before we really had to—we had enough trouble as it was. Bill floated around in the old familiar grinning stupor again, but on the court he was dynamite. Showing off—you’ve never seen such showing-off! And all for Mary. He knocked off Harold in five sets in the windup, though I must admit that Harold was too busy watching Mary’s part of the gallery to show at his best.

Old Rumple-puss was fit to be tied in a bowknot. He and Carter Holloway put off picking the Cavis Cup squad for as long as they could, but they finally had to do it. Even then they tried to narrow the thing down to “native-born players.” They had a lot of tripe in the papers about it, but the reporters kidded their ears off. Then Mike got Stinky Fink to look over Holloway’s record and found out that he’d been born in Europe. So we countered with headlines like. “SHALL FOREIGNBORN COMMITTEES SELECT OUR CUP TEAM?” They finally shut up.

r“PHE Germans, Count von Zach and Adolf Kreutz, were tuning up at the Wormwood Tennis Club. Lefty and I went out to watch. “That Kreutz,” said Lefty, “is just a boy on a man’s errand. But the count is a horse of another garage —he’s got everything. What’s more, lie’s set his heart on winning this year; just to show the world how degenerate us Democrats have become.”

“If he wins,” I said, “he’s apt to get a Cabinet post back home. And jam on Sundays. Handsome beggar, isn’t he?” lie was, too. Tall and blond and wideshouldered, with I - kiss - your - hand -madame court manners. I was st ruck with a brilliant idea. Why didn’t Mike sign the count, too? That would give us full control of the best talent; an idea conceived by large industries and developed to a dizzy {leak by certain movies. I raced to Mike, breathless.

“It would have been good,” he said. “In fact, it would have been a hundred per cent.”

I asked him where he got that “would.” He jerked a thumb at the door of his Chislewood Apartment suite. “Sit down,” said Mike. “Something very discouraging has come up. We are having competition. Certain low parties have discovered the gold that is hid in them tennis courts.” “You mean Rumple-puss?” “Rumple-puss.” sniffed Mike. “He wouldn’t even know how to draw up a contract with a kickback clause. No, this is serious. I refer to Buggsy George Flynn.

I can see now that I have underestimated that gorilla’s brains.”

My jaw dropped. “Buggsy!” I gasped. “What’s he done?”

“Oh, nothing much,” said Mike, examining a fingernail. “Only when I sent someone around to sound out the count yesterday, he tells me that he has signed on the Q.T. with Buggsy. The whole being very aboveboard and sub rosa, of course. No-

body’s to know about it until the count and ! his pal have lifted the Cup—which they think is as good as done already. When : they’ve attended to that little thing, and won the U. S. champeenship, they will be | ready to meet all comers—for heavy sugar and a large bite of the gate.”

“Well, slap —my—puss!” I said weakly, flopping into a chair.

“No,” Mike said. “I think I’ll save that for Buggsy. I’ve noticed him around Wormwood in that Coney Island sport j suit of his. Of course. I thought he was doing nothing worse than picking a few pockets. And here he is, cutting himself into an honest man’s business by grappling onto those Ileinies!”

“Has he—has he approached Bill or Barney?” I began to feel uneasy.

“No. And that’s a funny thing, too. Whoever put Buggsy onto tennis also tipped him off that our boys were already on the line. We’ve had a slight leak under our own roof, right here, and I’d sort of like to know who the sieve is. We can’t afford leaks at this stage.”

“Huh? No!” I said with as much conviction as I could muster. “Gee, that’s a shame, Chief. That means mote trouble for Edgerton, Holloway & Company, though. They'll have to work against both of us.”

Mike grunted. “Not so. Those birds think the count is hot stuff. They’re after him like hicks in a peep show. He spent last week-end at Edgerton’s—-I saw their pictures in the Sunday papers.”

“That leaves Farnham out in the cold,”

I said. “Dandy!”

“We could maybe take Farnham in,” Mike said. “I don’t like anything about him except the suckers he draws into the grandstand, but you can’t mix business and feelings. I think I’ll make him an offer.”

“No,” I said firmly. “Not unless you want Bill Goodall to pack up and leave next day. You can mix rival mobs a lot easier than you can mix two young goofs in love with the same girl, Mike.”

He threw his cigar on the floor and stamped around. I could now see clearly what I had begun to suspect for a few weeks past—he was getting bewildered by the unfamiliar angles of his latest venture. Mike could break the toughest strike in New York, move a new mob machine into strange territories and have it paying within a week, fix almost any sporting event on the calendar. But here he was bucking something so tenuous yet inflexible that its senseless little obstacles baffled him. He snapped at me.

“Say, what am I running here—a business or a courting bureau? If I pay these muggs right, you mean to say they won’t shake hands and play ball with me?”

“That’s exactly what I mean. Chief, j Young men in love have no basis of j comparison. All they know is this: (aj j they want the same girl, (b) they hate I anyone or anything that threatens to get in the way. You can call it Nonsense, but they call it L-O-V-E. And the history books all tell you that when Love runs into Business, Business runs for Sweeney.” “Not around here it doesn’t,” said Goldie, entering. “Does it, dar-ling?”

“Shut your face,” said Mike. “And that door after you ”

WHEN she had gone, leaving behind a choking billow of scent, Mike scowled again. “That Buggsy,” he said, “he isn’t so crazy. If he’d get enough undercover dough on the count and Farnham, we could get our boys to go into the tank and switch our bets at the last moment.”

“Couldn’t be done,” I said promptly. ¡ “It would take me too long to try to explain it, Mike, but it couldn’t. Tennis may be a sissy’s game to you, but I don’t think there’s a really first-rate amateur playing who would chuck a match. Not one. Even for big dough.”

I could see he didn’t quite believe me. But so many things had surprised him of late that he decided to take my word for it. “Haw kay, Irish. But that means we can’t have any slips in anything from now on. With Buggsy in there we’ve got to bolt the doors. I’ll get a couple of shadows for the boys.”

“When the committee names the Cup team,” I said, “then we’ll be on the last lap. I wish Barney’s ankle would come around, though. We keep it taped when he plays. But he’s apt to lean one way and fall another.”

“Make him take it easy. Who do you figure will be the team?”

I said: “Well, they can’t skip Bill

Goodall without risking another Civil War. They can’t pass up Barney either, that I can see. Famham might take him, best out of fifty starts, but I wouldn’t bet on it. Parry’s a good man, too.”

Well, that’s the way it worked out. As the day approached, I redoubled the tubthumping for Bill and Barney, “The Tennis Players’ Tennis Players.” Holloway and Edgerton were dying to drop one of them, but I plugged their records on every sports page. Reporters who’d been pushed around for years by the officials gave us noble backing and acres of space—the

Old Guard simply didn’t dare ignore us. Bill and Famham for the singles; Bill and Barney for the doubles, that was the slate. And come to think of it, we hadn’t done so badly, at that. Two unknown kids, out of nowhere, picked to defend the trophy emblematic of world tennis supremacy within a few months of their “landing” here.

We all liked it. Naturally, we had to keep the romances of our gladiators under cover as much as we could, but Bill Goodall and Mary managed a few dates after dark, when most people were in the hay. The only thing that Bill didn’t like was having Louie, Bab Number 2, attached to him as a bodyguard. Though Mary used to laugh herself sick over it.

When they’d go riding they’d wedge Louie in the roadster’s little seat out back, and scare the everlasting bejaspers out of him. He hollered blue murder on the turns. Then, when they’d stop for ice cream, they’d send Louie in for it and drive off. Nobody wanted to get that Cavis Cup match over more ardently than Louie, Bab Number 2 !