CHEAP AT A BILLION
What would you do if you could read the thoughts of others? It did not take Thomas Robinson, Jr., Hardware, long to find out.
THOMAS ROBINSON, JR., Hardware, glanced behind him covertly, to ensure that no member of the specious, ubiquitous traffic cop was trailing him, and stepped on the gas.
He was the incarnation of that type of North American recently immortalized by Sinclair Lewis; red and full and shiny as to countenance, his waistcoat very near the steering wheel. Masonic insignia gleamed on his lapel, and he considered Henry Ford the greatest man the world has yet produced.
He was speeding home from an eminently successful week’s business. Not that successful business was any new thing to him. On the contrary. Starting with a paltry twenty thousand, bequeathed him by his father, his invested fortune had now passed its sixth figure, and grew still apace.
It was neither happiness in retrospect, nor gladness for the weekend rest, nor eagerness to see his lovely home, nor to kiss his still more lovely wife, that made him lout the law and hum along the smooth suburban road at forty miles an hour.
No! He was a radio fan. To the very marrow. He read it, talked it, thought it, dreamed it—literally subsisted upon radio. His evenings and his weekends passed in feverishly building radio sets, each one larger than the last. He would crouch till the grey dawn, a spring-steel head-piece on his head, twirling the black dials while he combed infinity for what his antennae might find.
Eager perusal of radio magazines had taught him to talk glibly of heterodynes and pea-tubes and hecto-amptogyro-debilo-lamino dingbats and dooflickuses, till he really thought he understood the subject.
In point of fact, his activities consisted merely of buying ready manufactured standard parts and wiring them together according to printed plans. But such was his
nature that he had hypnotized himself into an honest conviction that he was a profound student of electricity, a scientifically minded man engaged upon significant and original research. Sometimes he went to the length of monkeying with the parts themselves, pulling them to pieces and re-assembling them. The latter operation was something of a hazard, he discovered, and if, during Saturday afternoon, he succeeded in disembowelling a periometer and putting it together again so that it worked half as well as it had at first, he went to his evening meal with sensations comparable only with those of a Steinmetz or an Edison.
Occasionally he would conceive new ways of assembling the sets, or would add to them coils and things that were not in the plans. He did this quite unintelligently; but the process tickled his imagination, and he was never cheated of a thrill when putting on the head-phones after such an adventure into the unknown. True, the instrument was invariably quite “dead” on these occasions. For a while he would shake his head and frown, clucking his tongue in scholarly disappointment and wisely twirling the dials. Then the machine would be dismantled once more. When he had done this, re-assembled the set, and
picked up some station again, he felt a delightful sense of achievement, of work well done, which brightened the hours that must be passed before he could be on with his hobby again.
This afternoon he was agog with a grand idea for a new way of coupling the machine. He could barely contain his eagerness to be at it, and the car boomed ever higher under his urging toe. At last he slowed down to swing into the gravel drive, and pulled up before his door.
His wife was in the den and smiled at him with that serenity so marked in her.
She was remarkably handsome: fair, still under forty, not unduly plump, and dressed exquisitely. As yet her face showed neither sag nor wrinkle.
He was inordinately proud of her, but prouder still of his own acumen in selecting so desirable a helpmeet.
There was a deal of pride of possession about Robinson. It embraced his business, his home, his wife, his children, his country, Henry Ford, and, last but by no means least, himself.
He knew a good thing when he saw one, so he did!
Tanys was pretty lucky in her marriage, he considered. Not many husbands were as steady, as considerate, as prosperous, as eminently desirable as hers. He was sure she felt that, too, and that she was duly proud of him, and grateful.
She came across and kissed him dutifully.
He patted her shoulder, then rubbed his pudgy hands, beaming. “Lunch ready?”
“Yes, dear. Shall we have it at once? Then you can change and we’ll start.”
He looked up sharply. “Start? Where to?”
Her face fell a little. “Why, we’re going to the Barrie matinee, aren’t we? I told you about it on Monday so that you would remember to keep it open.” He had quite forgotten the fact. In truth, he had never been conscious of it. Tanys was always talking to him when he wanted to think of his radio, and by keeping up an intermittent, “Yes, dear,” and “No, dear,” and “Quite so, dear,” he managed to achieve the semblance of interest without undue distraction from his own concerns.
Continued on page 64
Cheap at a Billion
Continued from page 11
Momentarily disconcerted, he rose to the occasion with that promptness and diplomacy which had contributed so much to the new sixth figure in his private ledger.
“Why, I’d no idea you wanted me to go! Thought you just mentioned that you were going.”
“But you’re coming?” Her tone was wistful, with, under it, a rising note of injured indignation.
He was all solicitude. “Why, if I’d dreamed you wanted me to come, of course . . . But I’d no idea. Too bad! Too bad! Got some important work to do . . . ”
She said nothing, but her eyes hardened a little and her foot tap-tap-tapped on the carpet.
He was always proud of his ability to handle situations such as this with a strong hand. Patting her shoulder paternally, he smiled his best “selling” smile.
“Too bad, too bad! Tell you what, though! I’ll ’phone Belle Merrit for you. I know Bill’s away. She’ll be glad to go, and you’ll have a better time than with an old crab like me.”
She slipped from under his hand and turned away, while he rounded off the incident by bustling to the telephone.
For all his tactful adjustment of the matter, lunch was a silent meal, and it was barely over before he shoved back his chair, dabbing with his napkin at his lips.
“Must get on the job. Ticklish bit of work, this afternoon,” he said pompously. “Have a good time . . . oh, and get me a hundred cigars, will you? I’d no time to get them this morning.”
His wife did not reply; her eyes were fixed on the fruit she was eating. But the faint contented smile that stood to him for all he knew she was, was on her lips, and after a moment’s hesitation he left her.
HURRYING to his room he donned his old tweed coat and made his way to the shed, in the shrubbery behind the house.
It was a roomy place, with a bench in the middle and another along one side. The laundry was there, and much miscellaneous furniture. At the centre bench, Vanny, their fat negro kitchenmaid, was at her Saturday afternoon task of cleaning the table silver.
“Good afternoon, Vanny,” he said, quite cordially, rubbing his hands. He believed in geniality to his inferiors.
Vanny flashed her white teeth and bashfully breathed, “Sah!” applying herself more diligently to her polishing.
Going to his bench he fell upon the radio set he kept there to work upon, and at once became absorbed in pulling it down and re-assembling it in accordance with the plan he had conceived.
It was an engrossing task, not simple, and by the time the mechanical difficulties had been surmounted, an hour had passed. But at last it was done, and, eagerly tightening the last screw, he threw down the screwdriver and slipped on the ear-phones, tuning up to the higher wave-lengths, on which there is usually something passing in the day time.
The machine was quite unresponsive. Not even the abandoned whoops and shrieks of “static” rewarded him.
He frowned, and impatiently twiddling the dials, after the manner of all radio maniacs, he became suddenly aware of a curious mental obsession. Insistent and unbidden as the voice of conscience, a monologue went on within his brain. Try as he would, he could not silence it, and, most remarkably, the voice had the richest, softest drawl that ever left the wide lips of a Southern nigger.
“Ole fool,” it rambled. “Twiddlin’ dem t’ingâ wid his eyes poppin’ outer his head, lak er dead fish. You’d t’ink he cud fin’ sump’n better teh do, wid all his dough. Me, I’d be out in dat big noo cyar. Mak’ me sick.” So annoyed was he at the machine’s defection, that he did not realize how strange the phenomenon was. He shook his head irascibly and removed the ’phones; going carefully over the wiring for a loose connection. Finding nothing amiss, he donned them again, whirling the dials gravely.
The diaphragms emitted not one solitary “cluck.”
Extremely irritated, he was playing an impatient tattoo with his fingers on the bench, when that insidious nigger-voice began again.
“Dere he goes,” it said, with a sort of weary sarcasm. “Gettin’ mad too. W’at he know ’bout radio, Fd lak tell me? Huh! Dat li’l debbil Ed know mo’ . . .” Now for the first time the unusual nature of his mental monologue thrust upon him. His eyebrows climbed surprisedly as he gave new heed.
“Cripes,” the voice continued. “Ah’m fair sick er cleanin’ dis yuh silber. Orter bea law, so Janes lak me git Sat’dy afternoon ’n Sund’y, same’s oder folks. Dat ole buzzard might’s well clean dis silber and lemme go, stead o’ poke dem foolish wires ’bout, all the blessed day.” It was as if he overheard a conversation between a most disgruntled and outspoken Vanny and some trusted kindred spirit.
Involuntarily he turned to where she worked at the table behind him.
Her broad black face was quite expressionless as she rubbed a teapot lustily. Her lips did not move, yet, in his brain, her voice soliloquized disgustedly:
“S’pose w’en dis yuh silber done, kin clean pertaters fer dat dodgasted cook. Lawdy, de grub dey eats, dese w’ite folks, an’ de gosh-foolery ’bout de way it all hash up. Li’l old dish on er stalk fer de grapefruit; salad on ’noder plate, wid lots er room on dey eatin-plate; forty’leven knife an’ fork. , . .Shucks!”
As he watched and harked, in growing wonderment, she held at arm’s length the gleaming teapot, surveying it with satisfaction. And in his brain her voice said pridefully:
“Dere! Dats one clean kittle, ef Ah does say it. Dat’sdelot.”
Now her gaze wandered to the window, and at once her face split in a flashing grin.
“Dere goes dat Eben Jackson nex’ door. Mabbee kin git across an’ ketch him ’fore he gits here. Alius did lak dat nigger. . . ” Robinson’s thought raced, conceiving incredible, fantastic things. The woman was not talking. Her lips were still, her face expressionless. Yet, in his brain, her voice spoke unmistakably. He snatched off the head-piece. At once the voice ceased, cut off in the middle of a sentence as the receivers left his ears.
He put them on again. Vanny still peered from the window.
“Dere he goes,” her voice said ludicrously, “a-talkin’ ter dat no-good cook nex’ door ...”
Then she started, as the head-phones clattered to the floor, and turned, to stare with widening gaze at her employer.
His eyes were glassy, his jaw slack, and he breathed quickly. A myriad dizzy thoughts stampeded through his brain. It seemed his radio, rebuilt to his new idea, was conceiving Vanny’s thoughts and transmitting them to his own brain.
He shook his head impatiently. “I’m crazy,” he muttered. “Clean bughouse; or dreaming.”
Now he realized that Vanny stared at him in surprise, from scared eyes, rimmed with white. As he met them she straightened, turned, and shuffled to her bench.
He stooped for the head-phones, feeling half-frightened as he put one to his ear. At once he heard her voice, not speaking in the diaphragm, as in a telephone, but within his brain, as if it were his own thoughts speaking.
“Lawdy!” it said with indignation. “Had me plum’ skeered. Wat matter wid de ole cuss? Looked lak he goin’ git a paralactic stroke. S’pose ah’d better git on in an’ clean pertators.”
Again, in his excitement, the voice’s insolence, which normally would have enraged him, was lost upon him. As the enormity of the situation dawned, he became almost light-headed, but after an effort succeeded in thinking coherently.
“It can’t be!” his reason said. “But it is!” countered himself. “I just heard it. And why shouldn’t it be? There’s radio. Electrical impulses are transmitted through thousands of miles of space.
Mental telepathy is a proved phenomenon! Why should not a suitable instrument pick up thought waves and transmit them to another brain? Why not? Why not, indeed?”
He’d done it! He, Thomas Robinson, Jr., Hardware!
A crazy dance of words began within his brain. Fame! Wealth! Fabulous wealth! Millions and millions and millions.
Then his thoughts took a new channel. What should he do . . .now?
The “Hardware” part of him spoke decisively. Patent it first. Say not a word except to his lawyer. Spike down for all eternity the name of Robinson on the age’s most stupendous discovery. Then make a statement to the press. Approach the General Electric. Or the Radio Corporation. Or Westinghouse. Or, maybe, float his own company, to exploit it. Far ahead his thoughts tore on, in glorious career.
With a tray of silver in her hands, and breathing stertorously, Vanny now shuffled from the shed.
Now to test it again. He waited till she had time to reach the house, then, almost furtively, as though ashamed that his mind could entertain such utterly fantastic notions as in truth it did, he re-adjusted the head-phones.
No interloping voice spoke in his brain. He moved the dials through all their ranges, without result. Then, working with feverish haste, he dismantled the set and re-assembled it; this time in the normal manner. At once the demoniac whoops, squalls and chuckles that are music to the acolytes of radio assailed his ears.
His hands shook, and he moistened his lips as he started up. He had now no doubts. He knew he was not dreaming. The incredible happening was real.
He must tell Tanys. At once. She would be more proud of him than ever. She would glory in the fortune that had wedded her to so great a man.
Barely able to control his excitement, he hurried out, knocking over his workstool, unheeded, in his precipitancy.
The house seemed very still. He had quite forgotten the incident of the matinee, and rang for the girl, intending to inquire for his wife. Then he remembered. A wave of irritation passed over him. Damn it! he thought exasperatedly, why couldn’t she be in, just when he wanted her so?
Going to the big radio in the living room he took out the front panel, then cursed and hurried to the shed for pliers, returning to dismantle the machine and reassemble it in the manner which had brought such staggering results with the other set. This done, testing it, he found it as unresponsive as had been the one in the workshop.
His fingers drummed on the table. Why was Tanys out? After all, when a fellow was away working hard all week it was up to his wife to devote Saturday and Sunday to him. Selfish of her to go off that way, he thought.
In such half-petulant, injured mood he waited, planning the while how he would break the news; picturing her incredulity, and then her pride and joy.
A glow suffused him; satisfying, infinitely exhilarating, and visions of felicities to come for him and his made glorious procession through his mind.
Then a brilliant idea occurred to him. He would not tell his wife at once, but would mystify her hopelessly by reading her thoughts. When she was utterly bewildered, then he would break his incredible news to her.
A rare situation, he thought, gleefully, and, in contemplation of its delightful possibilities, quite forgot his irritation till the horn sounded as the car swung into the drive.
Sitting before the radio slowly turning a dial, he affected not to hear when his wife came in, though a thrill of proud anticipation ran over him at the imminence of his triumph.
She came behind him, kissing the top of his bald head, as was her occasional habit. “Still working hard at your radio, dear?” she said.
He half turned in his chair, looking up at her with the patient gravity of one disturbed by trivialities while engaged.
Then he blushed looster-red as a whisper sounded in his brain disgustedly:
“Oh, my lord! Who would believe a full grown man could be such a monumental fool, messing with this radio every minute of his time. I’m so absolutely sick of him. But,” resignedly, “that’s no use; and it’s no good saying anything; he’d only sulk or rave, and I’d have to nurse him out of it to make the house habitable .
Robinson turned quickly back to face the radio. What was this preposterous blasphemy?
As she continued to stroke his head caressingly, the whisper in his brain went on. ,
“Better get him out of the way before Belle comes, or he’ll talk us dizzy about himself all the time. He should hear her mimic him. I thought I’d die laughing when she and Bill and Chuck Haynes were here last time he was at his precious lodge. That’s one thing about this radio. It keeps him out of the way. Too much, though. After all, a woman likes to be seen with her husband once in a while, even if he is a conceited fat fool. People say catty things.”
Her husband’s mind raced. He was dreaming, he argued with himself _ insistently. Absolutely must be dreaming. But there nevertheless persisted a hideous conviction that he was not. Then, in the mirror above the radio, he caught sight of his wife’s face. At once a glow of ineffable relief spread over him. There she was, his loyal, devoted Tanys, smiling with that Madonna-like serenity, that sweet and feminine benevolence that was, for him, her chiefest charm. It never failed him and did more to fortify his ego than anything he knew; it soothed his nerves, and gratified his vanity. Now it calmed his momentary panic like a divine benison.
He reached up for her hand. “You re right,” he said, “I’m dog-gone tired. Had a heavy afternoon.”
Once more the savor of the afternoon’s anticipatory joys returned to him, and, though he knew he dreamed, he could not resist the temptation to give himself the thrill of breaking his news. He was about to say: “What would you say if I told you we should soon be multi-millionaires, and world famous?”—when she said;
“So very tired? You go and lie down, and I’ll send some tea and toast. Come alone now. It’s lodge to-night, you know, and you must be fresh for that.”
But in his brain the whisper said: “That lodge is a blessing. Chuck’ll be over, and he said he’d bring a fourth now Bill’s away. Chuck’s a good head. Life with him might be worth while. At least, he’s not fat. Here’s Tom with three chins already, and rolls of fat hanging over his collar. He’s only forty-two at that. To think I’ve got to live with him for ever and ever! He’s a born fool, too; just the kind all the clever people make fun of these days. But he doesn’t see it. He’s so colossally conceited, he couldn’t. Thank God for that, anyway. At least I can bluff him so he doesn’t interfere. There’s always some compensation, they say.”
In spite of him there dawned again the lurking, hideous conviction that he was not dreaming after all. Even his selfsufficiency recognized the fatal knell of truth that sounded in her words. He became afraid, horribly, sickeningly afraid, yet obsessed and fascinated by the desire to hear more from that insidious, relentless whisper.
So he said, albeit somewhat huskily, “All right, dear. I’ll go in just a minute,” then fell to fiddling nervously with the dials.
She stroked his head, smiling down tenderly. “Poor old boy,” she crooned. “Working so hard, always. Do please take care. Whatever should I do if anything happened to you?”
But that fiendish whisper he’d already learned to hate said succintly; “What would I do? I’ll tell the world. There’d be a hundred thousand, I’m pretty sure; and there’s the business and forty thousand life insurance. What would I do? There’s Chuck, too. I’m pretty sure he’d.. . There’s something about Chuck. If it wasn’t for the children, right now I do believe I’d . . . but I don’t think he’d want a divorced woman. He’s sort of old fashioned. That’s what makes him so nice. No. Have to stick it. Might be worse, at that, so long as Tom’s so easily handled. But I do loathe the way his eyes stick out. Just like a dead codfish
Her husband jumped—literally—-as though he had been stabbed treacherously with a fork. Exactly what Vanny had said, he thought with terror, and the fact drove further home the conviction he could deny no longer—that he was in sober truth awake. Involuntarily he blinked and knuckled his eyes in an unconscious effort to remedy so conspicuous a physical deformity.
Now he hovered on the brink of panic. His world tottered. That beastly whisper, whose words his heart knew to be true, was the innermost secret voice of Tanys, his Tanys, the knowledge of whose pride in him had been for twenty years the never-failing source of balm to his soul. Horrible! Unthinkable! Impossible!
As was their lifelong habit, his thoughts fled swiftly from the contemplation of the painful truth.
But the whisper went on remorselessly. “The poor fool! I really do believe he thinks he’s doing something with this everlasting radio. Could you imagine . . .? Why, Eddie has forgotten more than he’ll ever know about it, and he only fourteen!”
Vanny’s words again, he thought with misery and despair. His mind fled in a frantic circle, seeking some refuge, some thought to soothe its cataclysmic discomfiture. But he found none, and with morbid relish forced himself to face the truth.
“Listen,” he told himself. “Don’t hide. That’s Tanys speaking. That’s what she thinks of you—a fool, and fat, and selfish. She only bothers with you because it’s the easiest way, and because of the children.”
Now Tanys made to raise him from his seat, “Come now,” she said. “An hour’s rest before dinner.”
But he thrust her furiously off and slumped down in his chair like a sulky child, glaring, and his eyes protruded more than ever.
At this she was more than a little surprised. Such tactics had never before failed to reduce him to complacent affability. Now she noted his color—he was almost purple, and perspiring freely. For once at a loss with him, she hesitated a moment, then said brightly:
“Sorry, darling. I didn’t mean to disturb you. But you are so tired. I’ll go and take off my things.”
He neither moved nor spoke, but when the door closed after her, dragged off the headpiece and flung it down.
Misery, rage and disbelief chased one another through his consciousness, but dominating all was the vast self-pity of a weakling strutter shorn of his self-delusion. He felt deserted, heartlessly ill-used, and most appallingly alone. No longer did he feel the strong and downright figure his ego loved to picture.
So he sat, and his mind wandered back over the undiluted happiness that had been his a few short hours ago. Then, awaking to the present as from a dream, he heard the voice of Tanys singing brightly in another room.
For twenty years that voice had never failed to soothe him. For all that time, the singer had never failed to refresh his spirit and bolster up his self esteem on the rare occasions when it wavered.
Now, in his misery, so deeply-rooted a habit did not fail, and the voice so soft and low, soothed his bruised spirit with a touch ineffable, and the happenings of the hour just past, slipped into unreality.
THE relief was exquisite, and with his relaxation other mental habits, deep graven by the use of twenty years, took up their functions.
Of course, he began to feel, everyone had unseemly thoughts like that. They came in spite of one. But that didn’t make them real. They didn’t mean anything. In fact they helped to clarify the mind by contrast. It’s what you do that counts. He, himself, often had thoughts he wouldn’t want anyone to know about, not that they meant anything; they just drifted in and out of his mind. To think he could have got in such a stew because he’d discovered Tanys was sometimes a little irritated at him inwardly. That’s all it was, of course! Just a little irritation. Very human. Tanys. Dear old Tanys! His wife, for whom he labored at his hardware business, for whom he’d built the best house in that Brooklane suburb. She knew how much he thought of her, how he slaved for her—and how lucky she was—really—to have such a fellow for her husband. Of course. Of course! Ha! Ha! What a panicky fool he’d been. After all, he was Thomas Robinson, Jr. Hardware, and his private ledger, by his own effort, balanced with a credit of over a hundred thousand!
What if Tanys did have a few rebellious
secret thoughts, once in a while? She had lots to offset them. After all, he had treated her pretty well. She knew how well off she was. There was his radio, too. No one at the club had built nearly so many, nor such large machines as he had. Why, Schwartz had been positively staggered at the efficiency of that last one. Think of that, now! Such a new complicated science, too.
And now, almost forgotten in his astonishment, his terror and his exquisite relief, he thought again of the day’s stupendous discovery, and at once his spirits soared to heights, if possible, above those of the afternoon.
“What had he not done that day?” he thought, with pride he knew was justified. If Tanys had any little discontents before, they would be buried now forever under such achievement. He was a great inventor. He’d invented a machine that read the thoughts. It was worth a billion dollars! Marvellous! He’d be rich beyond dreams; and famous.
Of course, he’d always know he’d do something like that, sooner or later. It was bound to have happened. He must tell her, at once.
As he called, his voice shook. “Tan! Oh, Tan! Come here. I want you.”
In a moment she thrust in her head enquiringly. He beckoned with eagerness. “Here,” and moved impatiently as she hesitated.
She crossed and stood before him dutifully. He put his two hands on her shoulders and swelled almost visibly with pride.
“What would you do if I said we were going to be as rich as Ford and as famous as Edison?”
She smiled and shook her head. “WTell, dear, we’re not so very poor, now, are we? And fame wouldn’t make you any
His heart beat fast with sheer joy.
Dear, darling Tanys! So loyal, so kind, so proud of him.
“Well, I’ll show you,” he said, delightedly, leading her to the radio table and slipping on the ’phones.
Then a dark flush spread over his face. He stood as if petrified, listening to the devilish whisper in his brain.
“Oh, my heavens!” it said, with weary, utter exasperation. “How can I get rid of this fat fool? Here’s Belle bringing Chuck to tea, and I’ll have to sit and let him see I live with this for ever and ever.”
Then something seemed to snap inside his head.
Amazedly she watched him seize the long box of the radio and, without waiting to disconnect it, rush to the door. Half way there the wires brought him up short, but he hurled himself with fury repeatedly against them, till they broke. He stumbled, almost falling, recovered and plunged out.
Her eyes were very wide, but the habits of her lifetime, those of resignation, swayed her. “What is it, now?” she silently soliloquized. “Some new bug has struck him, I suppose . . .”
Then Belle and Chuck came down the hall, and hurrying to greet them she forgot the incident at once in her pleasure at greeting the smiling, black-haired Chuck.
But just as they were sitting down around the fire, Albert, her ten-year-old, shot into the room as from a catapult, breathlessly yelling.
“Hey, Mom! C’m on ’n see Pop! He’s smashin’ up all his radios; ’n when I ast him why, he looked ’s if he’d murder me. His eyes are stickin out a mile. I b’lieve he’s gone bughouse. C’m on ’n see ’im. C’m on out!”
So excited and insistent was the youngster, that everyone followed him. Down the path through the shrubbery to the work-shed he led, running, round to the woodpile at the back. There he stopped and pointed awesomely.
“Look at ’m, Mom! Golly, ain’t he wild!”
Piled on the ground before Thomas Robinson, Jr., Hardware, were all his radios, six or seven large cases, which he was frenziedly battering with an axe. His coat was split down his bulging back, his tie was underneath his ear, his collar burst. A coil of wire, at which from time to time he kicked out ineffectually, festooned one leg. But such details did not in the least distract him from his earnest task of utterly destroying everything he owned that bore the name of radio. What he lacked in strength and skill he contributed in fervor, and wherever a radio part survived intact he buried the axehead in it, grunting with vindictive fury each time he struck. The air was filled with gleaming wires, and bits of glass and splintered wood.
They watched in stark amazement till, breathless, purple and sweating profusely, he desisted and stood glaring at the wreckage in malignant satisfaction. His eyes so far protruded that it seemed they corld have been knocked off with a stick.
Then he turned and, seeing them there,
glowered and truculently thrust forward his head.
“Tom!” ejaculated his wife, hurrying to him, for once genuinely concerned at a demonstration of her husband’s. “Whatever is the matter?”
He did not answer. Sweeping her aside and trailing after him, by the wire about his ankle, a string of wreckage, he moved swiftly in the direction of the debonair Mr. Haynes, handling the axe in an ominously suggestive manner .