THE OTH ER FOOT
FRANK R. ADAMS
Being the chronicle of a gentleman of leisure who, by stepping into another man s shoes, discovered why the well-known other half of the world often has a struggle to live.
WHAT,” said George Thinn, throwing back the silk coverlet of his modern four-poster bed, “is the cock-eyed idea?”
The intruder at his dressing table turned as the overhead chandelier flooded the room with near-daylight. The revolver in his hand covered the foolish Mr. Thinn who was disobeying Rule Number One for dealing with burglars, viz: “Never start an argument with a man
carrying a gun.”
But George Thinn was the kind of goof from which heroes are made. One has to be sort of dumb to lack fear. Men of imagination are the ones who believe in ghosts. George also was one of those men who loved excitement. Lately he had not had any. '
Turning on the light had deprived the thief of his chief advantage. Instead of being an unknown, and therefore fearful, quantity at the beam-end of a flashlight he was now a rather insignificant and certainly disreputable looking man of middle age who was confronted by the unpleasant alternative of murder or arrest. He did not wear a mask. Even that would have helped him to maintain the dominance of terror.
“Well,” continued George Thinn, unpleasantly forcing the issue, “how did you and I come to meet in this secluded spot? I’m here because I own the building but I
fail to place you as one of my employees, guests or what not.”
“I’m here because I need money,” the burglar replied sullenly, thereby relinquishing his only other terrorizing asset—silence. Any man who speaks is just a man—an apparition which stands motionless and dumb might be—anything.
The burglar seemed to realize that by being trapped into a verbal defense of his position he had forfeited his possible mastery of the situation and he lowered his gun.
“Put it in your pocket,” suggested George, when the other was about to lay it on the table. “You can pawn it later for the price of a meal ticket.”
That done, George did not know exactly what to do with his captive. He regarded him for a moment perplexedly. Then, “You say you need money? That, of course, is a common complaint. But why, I ask you, don’t you enter some profession for which you are better fitted, some less hazardous occupation?” “Say,” demanded the burglar with some show of spirit, “did
you ever try to get a job of any kind these days?” George admitted that he had not. Fortunately his position in life had been pretty well mapped out in advance. He worked—George was an energetic soul who would have scorned a life of perpetual idleness, even a life of perpetual golf—but his duties had to do particularly with the management of properties, real estate and manufacturing, which had been accumulated by a father and two uncles, all deceased, who had left a very sizeable package of this world’s goods in George’s capable care.
“But,” said George, glad of someone to talk to, as he had not been able to sleep anyway, “but, there is no good reason why any able bodied industrious man, even one of no very great vocational training, should not be able to earn enough money at least to live comfortably.”
“That’s what you rich men think,” complained the burglar. “I’d like to see you try it once. Go out and try to get a job that will pay any real money and then see what you’ll say. Do you know what nearly every one of those ‘Help Wanted’ ads in the paper is about? I do. I’ve answered ’em all. They’re for men to go out soliciting subscriptions to phoney magazines or fake charities on a commission basis. Or they want you to put in a couple of hundred dollars to buy an outfit for making something at home. Factories and stores are laying off help, not
taking it on. Anybody that’s got a job is hanging on to it like it was the outside edge of a window-sill twenty stories up.”
“Still,” argued George, “to the man of courage and determination—”
“Well,” pointed out the burglar significantly, “you got plenty of courage, I’ve got to admit, and—”
“You mean, why don’t I try it myself? I was just thinking of that. The last really interesting thing that happened to me was in 1918 when I was in the marines—” “Pardon me,” interrupted the burglar, “but I belong to the Society for Requesting Marines to Tell It To Each Other.”
George Thinn stared at his guest truculently. “Even burglars refuse to be entertained by my war stories! The world is coming to a pretty pass. Well, what shall we do, listen to the radio or play Mah Jong?”
“I was thinking there might be something to eat in the pantry?”
“True, there probably is. And while we’re eating it we can discuss economic conditions, the cause of social unrest and specifically the difficulties of getting any really remunerative job other than grand larcency.”
“Strangely, enough I understand your polysyllables perfectly. I was once a school teacher.”
“Even I admit that burglary is better than that.” There was food in the ice-box. And whisky in a decanter on the sideboard. George poured his guest and himself a drink of the latter.
“Here’s mud in your eye, Professor.”
“And yet,” commented the professor, on whom the title did seem to rest fitly enough, “you rich men have the nerve to punish us when we break the laws, too, to get what we want.” He indicated the forbidden liquor.
“This isn’t very drastic punishment, it seems to me,” argued George, offering ham, chicken and bread.
The professor had no iron in his soul, none which could resist food anyway, and he used his mouth for its more primitive purpose until he couldn’t hold another crumb.
“Now,” said George, over the perfectos, “let’s carry on. So far the situation is a bit conventional. The comparatively wealthy man, myself, has fed the midnight prowler, yourself. The next thing would ordinarily be for me to listen to your story but, fortunately, I don’t care to hear it. And even if I did, I wouldn’t listen anyway after your biting sarcasm anent my war reminiscences. What, in all seriousness, do you suggest?”
“You made the remark some time ago,” reminded the professor, “that any man of courage and determination ought to be able to go out and get a job that would pay enough to meet all actual necessities. Personally I’d like to see you do it under present conditions.”
“You’re egging me on for your own amusement,” George opined suspiciously.
“On the contrary,” the professor rebutted as one used to argumenr, “if anyone gets any amusement out of it you would be the person. All I would receive would be the amount of our wager.”
“Oh, a wager? This is to be a sporting proposition?”
“But what do you put up? You have no money.” “Strangely enough you’re wrong. I haven’t counted it yet but I should judge there was several hundred dollars.” “Six hundred and forty-two,” corroborated George ruefully. “I see I didn’t turn the light up quite soon enough.”
“Gentlemen making a wager do not question the source of one another’s funds,” the professor pointed out.
“True. I was merely saving you the trouble of counting your roll.”
“Thanks. If you happen not to have any cash yourself you’ll be correctly equipped to start looking for honest employment. Ninety-eight out of a hundred of your contesting rivals will be in exactly the same boat. Let’s make the bet five hundred, you to make good in one week —is that time enough?”
“I suggest that you conduct this experiment in some nearby manufacturing town where there will be no question of your identity being found out and, also, where
there is some good comfortable hotel that I can live in while I watch the outcome of our sporting venture.”
George fell into the spirit of the game at once. He congratulated himself on having for a fencing opponent a man who, in spite of his disreputable appearance, could appreciate the finer points of a game. Besides the professor did not look so hangdog now. His clothes were nondescript but his spirit had rebounded to a certain jauntiness now that he was fed. Perhaps, too, it did him good to sharpen his conversational wits against an educated intelligence such as George’s.
IT WAS arranged, therefore, by and between the parties of the first and second parts, that they should both outfit themselves from George’s wardrobe, the two men being near enough of a size, and proceed thence, immediately, by interurban car to South Hammersmith where so many typewriters, watches and barbers’ tools are made.
The professor courteously paid George’s fare on the interurban.
•‘No need,” he explained, “to have grisly realism begin until we arrive at South Hammersmith. It is worth the small sum I have to pay for your ticket just to have you to talk to on the way. I imagine that neither of us is in the mood for sleep.”
George had not told the professor that several of the factories in South Hammersmith were owned entirely or in part by himself. It would not make any particular difference, as he was not known there to men in hiring capacities anyway, and he thought that he could combine business with pleasure by finding out living conditions among his own employees.
It was daylight when they arrived. The professor went to the comfortable Gassier Hotel and George hung his hat in the park, so to speak.
It was a little too early to go out job hunting, so he sat on a bench and contemplated the adventure. It did not look quite so rosy in the chilly dawn and he had a momen-
tary regret. He had felt the same way when he had enlisted in the marines back there in 1917.
But that was no way to start. Perhaps, while he was waiting, a little breakfast would be the correct heartening influence.
But accidentally putting his hand in his pockets the fact that no jingling was set up, even of keys, reminded him sharply that he could not eat without funds.
George laughed ruefully. He might just as well have asked the professor for half a dollar of his own money before they had parted.
Well, it wasn’t too late yet. George strolled over to the hotel. He had walked clear to the desk before he recalled that he did not know the name of his burglarious friend.
But George was ingenious. He told the clerk that he had accidentally exchanged hats with another traveler on the train and that without knowing the gentleman’s name he could describe him. That was a cinch for George, because all the professor’s clothes were really his own. The description convinced the sceptical clerk who gave George the room number of the most recently arrived guest.
George called him on the house telephone.
The man at the other end of the wire seemed annoyed. “It’s too damned early to call anybody up.”
“But you just arrived, Professor.”
“Who are you?”
“I’m the man who came in on the same interurban car that you did.”
“And listen, Professor, I haven’t any money for breakfast.”
“Well, what of it? There’s a lot of people in the same fix.”
“If you could spare half a dollar.”
“Say, what do you mean trying to panhandle me over the telephone at this hour of the day?”
“I don’t know you. If you ring me up again, I’ll
have the clerk put you out and notify the police.” George saw a terrible sheet of red flame for about ten seconds. Then he unclenched his fists. It was funny, of course, but not so darn funny, especially to the fellow who handn’t had any breakfast.
THE joke became increasingly less apparent as the day wore on. George had not accumulated any employment by lunch time. Nor by dinner time. All he had was an intense hatred of the men and manners of the employment bureaus of all the concerns in town. Why upstarts should be paid salaries to convey the curt information “We’re not hiring anybody in any department,” was more than George could understand. His resentment included men working for his own companies. He had been turned down the hardest by the employment office of the Hartwell Steel Die Company of which he held sixty-five per cent, of the stock.
George was mad, tired and hungry. Of course he was not actually suffering yet, but the fact remained that he had not slept the night before, had not eaten for over twenty-four hours and had been tramping from factory to factory all day long. This is more tiring than following a golf ball for an equal length of time.
But George was stubborn. And he had pride. His theory, so often expressed at banquet and club, that an able-bodied man could always obtain employment, must be right. “Our great industries,” he could almost hear himself saying, post-prandially, “are so keen to find capable men that there is no question of even ordinary ability going unrecognized. The men who claim that conditions are hard have only themselves to blame. They are lacking in the essential American characteristic, persistent push.” (Applause.)
Still it was eight p.m. and the park bench was hard and it was rapidly getting too cold for comfort. A cigarette would have helped some. But George was not yet reduced to asking anybody for a cigarette.
It was a worse night than he ever recollected to have
spent anywhere—ever. That included several pretty tough evenings devoted to the safety of democracy.
The next morning—-notice how quickly that night passed on paper; in reality it was interminable—the next morning found George Thinn practically a militant socialist. He looked rather like a Russian Red. Whiskers grew fast in the field of George’s countenance, and two days without a razor gave him a dark and desperate appearance.
Hunting for work that day was merely a matter of aimless plodding. The machinery he had set in motion two nights before kept on going, but that was all. He did not give it much personal attention, did not have any hope that it would accomplish anything. His conscious mind was busy with a sullen hatred of the representatives of employers with whom he came in contact.
It seemed incredible that merely to have a chance to work should be so desirable.
Nightfall found him all but ready to give up.
Five hundred dollars, the amount of the bet, was very little to pay for the privilege of a bath, a shave and a dinner. “All but ready to give up.” Notice the “all but.” He couldn’t actually yell “Enough.”
Not and ever look himself square in the shaving mirror again.
It was damnably uncomfortable to have so much pride. A real down and outer would not have been forced to see the thing through just as a matter of principle. George brought himself up short at that thought. A real down and outer would have had to see the thing through as a matter of necessity.
There was no other alternative save begging or law breaking.
George squared his shoulders figuratively. What others had to face he could force himself to do.
Another man was sitting at the opposite end of the bench. George had been dimly aware of him for some time but had not really looked at him until the other spoke.
“Got a match, buddy?”
By a strange freak George did have a match.
He would have said that there was nothing but his hands in his pockets but there was one solitary match.
He produced it. The request of the match emboldened him. “Have you got another cigarette?”
“Part of one.” His companion offered what had obviously been a “snipe.” George took it.
They lit up from the one match.
“Broke?” asked the stranger.
There was no further conversation for some time, but the silence was more companionable than it had been.
Finally: “How would you like to go in with me on a deal to make a hundred dollars?”
George considered. “Forgery or hold-up?”
“Well, it’s a sort of a cross between the two.”
“You mean really?”
“No, I didn’t mean really. I’m a detective going around testing you out.” The other lapsed in sardonic baffled silence.
George repented his involuntary revulsion. “I would not squeal on you,” he offered humbly. “What I felt was that I’d rather take my chances of starving!”
“You aren’t married?” the other queried irrelevantly. “I am. It’s a damn sight easier to starve all by yourself than it is to watch your wife and kids doing it with you.” There seemed nothing further to say. In a few minutes the father of the family got up.
“You’re not going to—?” George began.
“I’m going to stroll over to me club for a brandy and soda before retiring, old chap.”
“Wait a minute,” George requested. “Before you go give me your address.”
“Like hell I will. I believe you’re a ‘dick’ yourself.” “No, nothing like that at all. Only I know of a regular job that might open up to-morrow and if you’d lay off this other thing to-night I could hunt you up as soon as I get any definite news. I’ll tell you what, if I don’t land a job to-morrow for both of us I’ll help you to-morrow night with any scheme you’ve got in mind.”
George had risen to his feet to impress his point. The other surveyed his height and bulk approvingly. “All right, I’m on. You’d be a lot of help. My name is Donlin, Pete Donlin, and I live at 34 Boylston Street.”
George let his companion in arms go home to carry phantom cheer to his wife.
WELL, the plot grew more complicated. On George’s shoulders now rested the necessity for keeping a fellow human being in the path of honesty. Having a responsibility did make a difference. George wondered what he would do if a woman’s welfare rested on his technical observance of the law.
He was soon to know.
While he had been lost in thought, the end of the bench recently vacated, had been preempted by a newcomer. George had not noticed particularly until a suppressed
sob caught his attention. Maybe it wasn’t a sob—it was more like a despairing sigh.
He wondered what to do, but only for a moment. There seemed to be few conventions among the cold and hungry fellowship of the park bench.
“What’s it all about, sister?” he asked.
She stared at him without really seeing. “You couldn’t help.”
“Maybe not, but sometimes it does a lot of good just to tell somebody else.”
Perhaps if she had been able to see him she never would have told. But there was something soothing and at the same time compelling about George’s voice. To talk to him—only a blurry shape at the other end of the
Head IVinds a rousing Tale of Adventure by Bertrand TV, Sinclair commences in Adac Lean’s November 1
bench—was like unburdening one’s self in the confessional.
“I was fired to-day.”
George was silent. She went on in a minute. “That in itself isn’t so bad. But I have a sister whom I take care of. She is very ill. We were to have taken the midnight train for Rochester. The operation is all arranged for. But when I asked my boss for a few days off and told him what for, he fired me without giving me my last month’s pay. He said my account would have to be O.K.’d by Mr. Thinn, the president of the Company, and that I’d get a check next week. That will be too late. I have to have that hundred dollars for expenses to-night or we can’t go. I pleaded with him and finally he agreed to advance the money personally if I would come to his apartment to-night to get it.”
At the mention of his own name George had stiffened like a hunting dog at sight of game.
“Who is your boss?” he demanded.
“Henry Morrison, local manager of the Harnish Hone and Strop Company.”
"And you’re his stenographer?”
“I was one of the office sténos.”
Now George knew well that vouchers for office assisttants at the factory were never routined through himself. It struck him that Mr. Morrison had stretched the truth considerably in dealing with the low voiced young woman who had so recently left his employ. George couldn’t exactly place Mr. Morrison. He was doubtless a comparative newcomer among the heads of Thinn enterprises.
“Well,” inquired George finally, “what had you planned to do about it?”
“When I left the office I told him I hoped never to see him again, but when I got home and talked with my sister I hadn’t the heart to tell her the trip was all off. Why, just the idea that there is hope has made her begin to be well again. So I went out to telephone Mr. Morrison and ask if I might still come and get the money. He said yes and I’m on the way there now.”
Yes, it did make a difference with one’s slant on ethical questions, having a woman’s welfare tangled up in the results of your actions. George had come face to face with the fact that it is confoundedly difficult to carry the entire trayful of glass commandments over a rocky road, especially if they joggle against one another. Right then George was inspired with an overwhelming desire to commit assault and battery on the person of his despotic manager.
“Will you wait until to-morrow?” he asked.
He started to tell her that he would fire Mr. Morrison and take her back at an increased salary but realized before he had spoken how absurd it would sound. No one would believe that the dirty, bewhiskered bum, sitting on the bench in the public park of South Hammersmith was in reality the wealthy and powerful George Thinn, prince of industry. No, the story of Haroun-al-Raschid would not wash in real life.
So he said lamely, “By to-morrow I might be able to help you.”
She laughed. “Thanks, but to-morrow will be too late. We’ve got to leave to-night or miss our appointment with the surgeons. We couldn’t get another one for ten days.”
She got to her feet.
“Wait a minute,” George insisted. “Will you give me half an hour to raise a hundred dollars for
She laughed again. At least he had aroused her interest. “Why should you care? In the dark here you can’t see whether I am pretty or not. All you have to go on is Mr. Morrison’s judgment and his tastes may not be similar to yours.”
George did know that she was pretty, or at least that she was charming. One could tell that even in the dark. Not that attractiveness entered into the equation as it stood. George’s concern was merely to right a wrong in which he was indirectly implicated.
Again he argued, as he had argued with the potential footpad, and again, because he was George Thinn, a man who spoke with the voice of authority, he prevailed even when advancing the most quixotic propositions.
“All right,” the girl said. “I will wait here for you half an hour but on the understanding that you are not going to rob anyone.”
“On the contrary,” George assured her. “This money I am going to get for you really belongs to me.”
In a sense that was true.
HE HAD the number of the “professor’s” room at the Gassier Hotel. It was not an impossible feat to mingle with the crowd in the lobby and finally to slip up the stairs.
Unfortunately the “professor” was not in just at the moment. George waited twenty minutes, walking round and round the corridors in an agony of indecision. He was just about to go back to the park to plead for more time when the elevator coming up, disgorged his sporting friend and another man.
To abandon the quest just then with the quarry in sight seemed foolish. George decided to trust to luck that the girl would wait a few minutes and he hurried down the corridor.
The professor’s door was unlocked. George opened it a crack and peeped in. The professor was offering liquid hospitality to his guest. When tJhe two glasses were raised George threw upon the door with the classical exclama tion, “Stick 'em up!”
George had no more dangerous weapons than his two forefingers but he pointed them very realistically from the hip.
The other two men were caught in an awkward position with the right hand raised. There was nothing to do but bring the left up also.
“But damn it,” said the man whom George did not know, “you can’t hold me up. I’m the chief of police.” “Gee, that does make it more difficult,” George agreed. “Turn around, chief, and just let me take this ‘gat’ out of your pants pocket. Then I won’t hold you up any more.” Having a real gun he turned it on the professor who, having recognized him in spite of the foliage, was beaming on him.
“Where’s your roll?” George demanded.
“You’re not really going to rob me?” queried the professor plaintively.
George was tapping his victim’s pockets and had discovered the money for himself. So he merely grunted as he shook out a one hundred dollar bill and put the rest back where he had found it.
“I should think,” complained the professor querulously, “that a man of courage and determination could earn enough to live comfortably without—
“Shut up!” George advised curtly. “There aren't any jobs and you know it.”
“Oh, the shoe pinches, does it, when you get it on the other foot?”
George paid no attention to the professor's triumph. He backed away to the door, took the key out from behind him and put it in the outside keyhole. Then he threw the gun into the middle of the room, slammed the door shut and locked it on the outside. He figured that would give him about five minutes head start.
The park bench was empty. He had taken too long.
Continued on page 55
The Other Foot
Continued from page 10
She had not waited to find out if there was any truth in his fairy tale.
Well, he had the hundred. He had committed robbery to get it and there was no use in letting a perfectly good crime go to waste.
Besides that girl had had charm and she was an unknown quantity—a mystery. He wondered what she looked like and why Henry Morrison was making such a high handed play for her.
HAVING money in his pocket, George was in a plane where he knew how to act. He went to a drug-store, found the address in the telephone directory and took a taxicab to Mr. Morrison’s apartment.
There were quick eager steps across the floor. The door was opened and George stuck in his foot.
“Oh!” said Mr. Morrison.
“Weren’t you expecting someone?” George asked genially. “Yes, I see you were.”
He had pushed by his host and was surveying a supper table set for two. Evidently the girl had taken a street car which he had outdistanced in his taxicab.
“I’ll have to wait,” George decided, “and while waiting—” he picked up a leg of cold chicken.
Mr. Morrison eyed him in sheer amazement. He was not the type of man who fights. Perhaps not a coward exactly, he was a slim well-gToomed individual who found conquests in the social circle more to his taste.
And anybody, outside of a champion, would have been justified in not picking a quarrel with George—not with the whiskers. Two days growth was an undeniable asset in George’s present profesión of banditry. With stubble as black as
that on his features he needed no other weapon.
George made a very satisfactory repast by cleaning up all the supplies evidently intended for two. Only once did he speak. That was when his involuntary host started to leave the room. Then George growled, half inarticulately. Mr. Morrison got the idea and sat down right where he was.
The door-buzzer purred.
“Come in,” roared George in character.
Enter the girl.
Neat, tidy, tense, good-looking in a capable way, dark, rather tall, lithe, with blanketing black eyes that compelled attention. They were lovely, her eyes, and unfathomable. There was something in them that baffled you. Suffering, perhaps —wistfulness, more likely; which is suffering for something that never was. Anyway, wonderful eyes supported on a tripod of presentable girl.
She halted on the threshold of the door, surprised.
“Don’t blame you a bit,” encouraged George. “But come right in. You were expecting to find only one of us. But I am your good fairy, considerably disguised but nevertheless on the job. If you don’t believe it here are my credentials— the materialization of your wish made in the park.” He flourished the one hundred dollar bill.
Then she knew who he was.
George began to marshal her through the door going out. Not quite understanding, she resisted.
As has been said, Mr. Morrison was not a fighter. But he was a quick thinker.
“Look here, you can’t run away with my wife like that.”
“Can’t I?” mocked George. “After having eaten your delicious supper I could run away with anybody’s wife.
This, iady and gentleman, is my night to
It was fun to pick her up and run down stairs to the taxicab. She struggled for a minute at the unexpectedness of it and then relaxed deliciously.
She laughed. “I suppose I might as well enjoy it. A working girl hasn’t any right to expect more than one night of excitement in her life.”
“You’re going to be surprised,” George declared as he stuffed her into his waiting taxi. “To the chateau, James,—but wait a minute until I ask the duchess which
He conferred with the passenger. Then once more to the driver. “To the Chateau Cheznous, number eleven ninety two Adelphi Avenue,” and added when the chauffeur looked puzzled, “down by the brick yards.”
George was out of all proportion exhilarated. Perhaps it was from having been fed, but probably not. He could not have explained it exactly himself.
“You’re wonderful,” whispered the girl as he climbed into the taxi after her.
That was it. The reason he felt so like Monte Cristo sitting on top of the world was because he was performing incredible deeds for someone who thought he was a prodigy of strength and valor. Any of the girls of his regular circle of acquaintances would have taken his services as a matter of course.
No one had thought George was wonderful, and said so, for a long time—not since that girl who lived in the Rue des Penitentes Rouges in a city which has been forgotten by everyone who was never there. Many people thought George was wonderfully rich or wonderfully well dressed or that he had a wonderful social position but scarcely anyone could have whispered, “You’re wonderful,” just plumb without any qualifications whatever, as this girl had. No one else would have recogr.ized that he was a knight in armor and would have swung up so trustfully to the pillion behind his saddle.
From the pillion she told him to call her Mary and he told his real name, too, bracing himself to have her recognize it and be overawed. But he need not have worried. Thinn meant nothing to her.
THEY chatted cheerfully of this, and that, and other things on the way to her home as young people will who are feeling their way into each other lives and George had a very pleasant sense of appreciation of the simple things of life. A very little made Mary happy and a very little, he found, made him happy, too.
Mary’s sister, Rose, a pale little thing of about twelve, was waiting for them. She was surprised to see George and was a little afraid of him at first, especially when he proposed to carry her out to the car.
“Let him, Rose, dear,” soothed Mary, “he’s fearfully strong and when he lifts you’ll remember how you rode on clouds before you were born.”
George Thinn looked in some surprise at the promulgator of this unexpected flight of fancy, but picked up the sick girl gently at the same time. George really was “fearfully” strong and never more conscious of his strength than now. Rose was a feather-burden and if she had not been ill he would have tossed her to the ceiling and caught her as she came down just to prove his superabundance of energy.
In the taxicab on the way to the station he told her the fairy story of The Mermaid Who Wore Pantalettes and she got so interested that she did not want to get on the sleeper. This time when George picked her up she put her arms trustingly around his neck and rested her cheek against his.
“Please come with us,” she begged, “/sk him to, Mary, please.”
“I’ve asked quite enough of him already,” Mary objected.
“There isn’t money enough for all of us, I’m afraid.” George turned over the hundred dollar bill to Mary. “But, I’ll tell you what, I’ll see you the very day you get backif you want me to.”
“We do,” the girls chorused and then Mary added, “I do.” At least George thought she said that. He hoped she did.
They both kissed him good bye, which left George standing in a mist of whirling
I stars through which he could not see very clearly.
When the train was gone and the star dust had settled a bit, George realized that he had given Mary all the money in the world.
And there was quite a large taxi bill to pay.
For a moment George thought of leaving the station by another exit so that the taxi driver would not see him, but when he looked around to locate the doors the first thing his eye encountered was the driver himself standing respectfully behind him.
“The cab is out this way, sir,” he said without batting an eyelid, and then when George was about to step in, “Where to, sir?”
“Where do you usually take people who can’t pay the meter tax?”
“That will do very nicely. Carry on, James.”
A WEEK or so later the tiny office at the factory of the Harnish Hone and Strop Company was suffering from an attack of acute indigestion. The recent manager, Henry Morrison, was moving his traps out into the street — by request, and the president of the company himself, was taking his place, temporarily, until a new man could be secured.
Mary coming to the office, by request, made in a letter which she had found at home on her return, encountered first at the secretary’s desk a rather insignificant looking man who nevertheless bustled with recently assumed importance.
“I wish to see the manager,” she said. “Sorry, but—”
“By appointment,” she added, tendering the letter.
The man glanced at it and then looked at her critically. Finally he pressed a button on his desk and spoke into a house ’phone.
“She’s here,” he said, “and I take back what I said. You are right and I give my consent.” He hung up and told Mary, “You’re to go in.” She did.
At the not very ponderous desk sat a j nice looking young man whom she almost [ recognized, grinning up at her.
“Mary,” he said.
“It’s George?” she stated, doubtfully. He was on his feet by that time. “No other,” he assured her.
“Did you get Mr. Morrison’s job?”
“I did—in both senses of the word.” “I’m glad. You won’t need to be hungry again.” She dismissed that subject. “Fm glad I found you. Rose was so disappointed at not seeing you. I think she expected that you would be hanging around down at the station meeting all trains until ours arrived. She thinks you’re wonderful. You’ll come and see her soon?”
“Right away, dear.”
“Pardon me, I’ve been thinking of you as ‘dear’ and that slipped.”
“Is it apt to happen again?”
“I just wanted to know so I could be braced for it.”
Her eyes were laughing now. Maybe she, too, had been disappointed because George had not been at the railway station when they came in.
George wanted to kiss her but didn’t. Instead he looked a good long look in her eyes and took her out through the door.
“I’ll be out for a little while, professor. If Pete Donlin comes in tell him he can have a job making handles until something better turns up.”
The professor snorted. “I suppose from now on you’ll be trying to provide jobs for every down and outer in the world.” “Nope, old head. All I’m going to attempt to do is to brighten the corners where I am—take care of my own.”
They were half way to the door.
“When will you be back?”
“That,” said George, “depends a good deal upon Mary.”
“Mary, dear,” she corrected.
“Yes,” George concurred and then added to the professor. “I find that I shall not be coming back again to-day.”
It was sunny outside, and crisp and cool —an ideal day.
There never had been another so appropriately glorious before in all their lives.