ARCHIE P. McKISHNIE
MR. CUPIDORE had set his sable wings and descended on Chatville East much as a foraging hawk might settle in a farmyard replete with unsuspecting fowl.
Mr. Cupidore was what is vulgarly known as a “short-change artist” of the first water. His methods of relieving his fellow men of that filthy but beloved commodity, money, were simple in the extreme, but original always. On the battle-scarred field of his latest endeavor he had been a “Give Me One and I’ll Make You Two” broker.
Previous to this he had posed, successfully, as an East India Prince anxious to transfer invisible millions into visible Canadian real estate, and had lelt enough worthless cheques behind him to paper the sky. He possessed the creative imagination and the colossal ignorance, sometimes mistermed nerve, to tackle anything which promised fitting remuneration.
This morning Mr. Cupidore licked an inky finger and surveyed approvingly the sign he had just completed lettering. It read:—
A. CUPIDORE Seventh Son of a Seventh Son,
Clairvoyant, Seer and Fortune Teller.
The last two words held his focused attention for a long time. Those words spelt immunity from the law. Fortunetelling was illegal only when the teller charged for services rendered. Not that Mr. Cupidore w as particular about living within the law, but if possible it was just as well to hug the edge of the safety zone.
Before renting the small, lavishly furnished office he now occupied, from Mr.
Samuel Smithson, Mr. Cupidore had mingled with the Chatville citizens and, ears and eyes alert, had in a short time acquired the dialect of the northern negro.
This he considered essential to his plans.
“When you’re in Rome, do as the Romans do,” was his motto.
A/fR. CUPIDORE had scarcely hung the gilt-framed sign announcing his calling in the window before the first fly paused, rubbed his legs together and proceeded to take a sip of the prepared poison.
Mr. Homer Hudson, champion pugilist of Kent County, had been journeying homeward after an all night session in the cock-pit, when his sleepy eyes had been arrested by Mr. Cupidore’s artistic handiwork.
Homer was strong for anything he could not understand. He had never heard of a clairvoyant or a seer, although he had a hazy idea of what a fortune teller was, and as it wasn’t going to cost anything to find out, he ascended the steps and opened Mr. Cupidore’s office door.
The prize-fighter’s face was in what those who best knew him would call neutral, as he surveyed the nattilyclad, colored gentleman seated before the rosewood desk. The eyes scowled but the lips smiled, displaying a gold tooth the size of a thumb nail.
Mr. Cupidore was about to rise with a suave “Good morning,” when he remembered himself in time. Instead he pushed back his chair and grunted, “Howde.” “Mawnin’.”
Homer advanced to the desk and stood looking down on Mr. Cupidore in an aggressive, enquiring way that somehow aroused that gentleman’s ire. He was, however, too diplomatic to show this.
Homer was conscious of his own inferiority. His checked suit, late creation of Chatville’s best tailor, seemed saggy and out of date compared to the one which the man before him was wearing.
“Would yo’all mind elucidatin’ on jes’ what a clairvoyant am?” he enquired, as he took the chair Mr. Cupidore pushed forward. “Might so I might buy one ob dem fings from yo’all, Misto—”
“Cupidore’s my name,” the other informed him, “from Jackson. And yourn?” he asked as he produced a box of gala labeled cigars.
“My name’s Hudson,” Homer said. “I’m a prizefightin’ pugilist, but I never fit Jackson.”
“No, sah, dough I did sure try ter get a match wif Jack
“Jes’ a minute. On dat cayrd in de win’er, yo’ says ‘No charge’. Am dem words speakin’ troo er jes’ jokin’?” “Brudder,” Mr. Cupidore placed a. lean hand on Homer’s pudgy one,, “dem words utters troof. I makes no charge. What I does fer yo’, I does, free.”
Homer looked dubious. “Umph! I do’ like de lis’en ob dat free stuff!” he grunted. “I’s willin’ ter pay fer what I gets.”
Mr. Cupidore looked pained. “Ob course,” he said, “my clients may do as dey please. If so dey feels like makin’ me a li’l—”
“How much?” asked the practical Homer.
“Well,” Mr. Cupidore frowned, “if so I locationizes dat easy pug an’ yo’ books a match wif him—would thirty dollars be too excruciatin’ a figger ter pay fer same?” “Not atall,” Homer answered promptly, “Yo’ clairvoyant dat fighter an’ I gibes yo’ fifteen bucks down fer de locatin’. When I makes de match, I pays de balance. Dat disagreeable?”
“Quite so,” Mr. Cupidore answered: quickly. “An’ now, if yo’ll ’cuse me, Misto Hudson, I’ll commune wTif de spirits.”
“Hoi’ up dar!” Homer cried, as the other closed his eyes again. “Jes’ leabe de spirits an’ get a connection wif dat pug direct. Ain’t wantin’ ter meddle wif ne spirits.”
“Very well. Now please be silent fer two minutes. I am goin’ inter de trance.” Mr. Cupidcre’s head slumped forward on his folded arms. Silence fell. Hcmer mopped his sweating brow and swore softly beneath his breath.
“Maybe dat feller die in dat trance,” he murmured. “Lor’, I’s gettin’ out ob here quick. Feet, do you’re propellin’!”
Homer arose, but just at that moment, Mr. Cupidore, with a long shudder, spoke.
“Listen! Dere’s a colored fighter in Detroit, knowed as The Yaller Tiger. His address is 543 Langley Avenue. If se yo’ kin get a match wif him, yo’ll be sure ter win.”
Homer’s hand dived for a vest pocket. Quickly he wrote down the name and. address. He was pocketing his notebook when Mr. Cupidore opened his eyes.
“Did I fin’ him?” the clairvoyant asked weakly.
“Yo’ sure did,” Homer answered. “Here’s yo’re fifteen, I’m off ter Detroit dis very day on de noon train. If so I fin’s yo’s tellin’ troo, well and goodie. If so I fin’s yo’ gib me a bum steer, I’s cornin’ back here and hit yo’ so hard in de eyes yo’r gran’-chillun’ll be born wif green shutters, fer eye-brows!”
The door opened and closed. He was gone.
Mr. Cupidore leaned back in his chair and laughed. Then he arose, and locking his office door behind him* went out to send a cypher telegram to a Detroit fight promoter named Goodison.
HOMER HUDSON returned from Detroit next morning. There was a jaunty swagger to his step as. he approached Mr. Cupidore’s office. He stood for a moment contemplating the sign in the window, before entering. Apparently the seer, fortune-teller and clairvoyant had enlarged his field of endeavour since Homer last saw him. To the sign had been added these words:
Also Domestic Mediator and Mender of Broken Hearts.
“Gollies,” Homer muttered as he opened the door, ‘ de Lord must suttinly sent dis man my w'ay!”
Mr. Cupidore, attired in a fawn-colored suit, was seated at his rosewood desk, writing. He looked up as Homer entered.
“Ah, Brudder Hudson,” he smiled in cheerful greeting. “Welkumback! I am glad your trip was so successful.” Homer stood uncertainly beside the table. “An’ how come yo’ know my trip was successful?” he asked wonderingly.
“Brudder,” Mr. Cupidore replied, “I knows eberyfing.” Homer’s uneasiness increased perceptibly. “It ain’t always wise ter know too much,” he suggested darkly. “The less yo’ knows, the less yo’r liable ter spout.”
Johnson, but he was scared ter take me on,” Homer modestly admitted.
“Oh,” exclaimed Mr. Cupidore, “I have of’en heerd ob yo’, Mr. Hudson. Yo’r name is well-knowed through de States.”
“Sure is,” Homer nodded. “An’ in Ohio too. I boxed in dat continent two years ago.”
Mr. Cupidore lit a cheroot and pondered. “Now lessee,” he remarked after a silence, “you desires ter know what a clairvoyant is, don’ yo’?”
“Well, I’s not itchin’ ter know,” Homer replied, “but I admits I’s curious.”
“Well, a clairvoyant is a person with second sight,” Mr. Cupidore explained. >“You come to him about money what’s been los’ or stole an’ he goes inter a trance an’ tells yo’ jes’ where ter fin’ it at, or who’s got it.” Homer stared. “Am d^t relly so?” he murmured.
Mr. Cupidore nodded. “Why, man,” he cried, “I kin go inter a trance an’ tell yo’ anyfing yo’ wants ter know. I has found diamonds, los’ frien’s, murdered bodies—” Homer licked his lips and scraped back his chair.
“I ain’t astin’ yo’ ter dig up non’ sech,” he spoke quickly. “Nuffin’ like dat, Misto Cupidore. No sah.” “It might be den, yo’ desires certain info’mation as’ll be vallable ter yo’ all,” spoke the astute Cupidore. “Mebee now yo’ wants ter know ’bout some rival pugilist an’ if yo’ kin lick him?”
Homer nodded slowly. “Dat’s what,” he admitted. “If so yo’ could go inter dat trance an’ pick me out sumbuddy in my line as I kin be shore ter knock out— why dat ud be all hunky.”
“Why,” cried Mr. Cupidore, “nuffin’ simpler dan dat! Look, all I does is close my eyes an’ sink slow ter sleep, an’ while I sleeps I picks yo’ an easy mark.”
Mr. Cupidore closed his eyes, but opened them again at a prod from Homer’s strong thumb.
With this story of Mr. Cupidore s skill as a mender of pugilistic fortunes and broken hearts, Archie McKishnie s inimitable negroes return to the pages of MacLean s. Old friends will be delighted to know that the laughter-provoking Lenix Ballister will be among their number.
“Misto Hudson,” said Mr. Cupidore earnestly, “when it comes ter spoutin’, I’s a dry hole. The good book says, ‘Let not yo’r right hand know what yo’r left eye doeth. If it offend thee, pluck it out.’ Is I right?”
“Yo’ suttinly is,” Homer agreed. “De Bible says dem very words.”
“Misto Hudson, I keeps my clientele’s secrets inviolent.”
“Well, see yo’ does,” Homer growled. “Udderwise I knows one ob dem same clienteles dátil be cornin’ in violent on yo’ all. Get dat!”
“Have no fear,” Mr. Cupidore assured him. “Whatebber secrets ob yo’rs dat I discober, am safe in my keepin’.”
Homer allowed his frowning face to lighten.
“I’ll pay yo’ de balance ob dat thirty now,” he said, taking out a well-filled wallet. “I made dat match wif de Yaller Tiger. De papers am signed an’ de fight am cornin’ off right here in Chatville on de 6th ob August. Gollies, I had one lucky trip. I’ll tell yo’ all about it.”
Mr. Cupidor raised a hand.
“No need, Brudder,” he smiled. “I know already jes’ what happened.”
“I went inter a trance, Brudder, an’ follered yo’ clean froo de transaction. Lis’en, I’ll tell yo’ jes’ what took place. When yo’ get off at Brish Street Station yo meets up wif a tall colored man named Goodison; jes’ accidently run inter him, like, an’ gets in converse wif him. Dat corree’?”
Homer was staring open-mouthed.
“Dat’s troo,” he murmured. “What den?”
“Why, dis Goodison gent he invite yo’ ter lunch an’ yo’ go ’long, an’ by and by yo’ tells him jes’ why yo’re in Detroit.”
Homer nodded dumbly.
“An’, strange ter say, dis man Goodison knows de Yaller Tiger’s manager. He takes yo’ ter him—”
“Hoi’ up,” Homer interrupted. “Seein’s yo’ clairvoyant so damn well, suppose yo’ spills dat manager’s name ter me. Reckon yo’se stuck dere.”
“De Tiger’s manager’s name am Hotspur,” Mr. Cupidore answered without the slightest hesitation. “He’s a small sized man wif a bald head an’ a razor scar on his right cheek.”
“Goramitty!” mutte~ed Homer huskily. He was perspiring copiously.
“Yo’ got him ter a T.”
“An’ den—Mr. Cupidore proceeded, but Hudson stopped him.
“No need ter go on,” he shivered. “None atall.
Yo’ knows jes’ what I did.
Yo’ suttinly am one vizard!”
He stood eyeing Mr.
Cupidore with speculative Interest savored with superstitious awe.
“Jes’ what do dat phrasology yo’s tacked onter dat gilt-clad notice ter de people mean?” he asked, pointing to the sign in the window. “What yo’ attemptin’ ter convey by •dem words ‘Mender ob broke hearts’? ”
“Oh, dat!” Mr. Cupidore hitched his chair closer to his visitor and spoke in soitly modulated tones.
“Brudder, dat means dat I patch up differences atwdst husban’s an’ wives, an’ sweethearts what have becomed bestranged. I is a troo deciple follerin’ in de feetsteps—”
“Yo’ bes’ be right keerful whose feetsteps yo’ follers,” Homer interrupted darkly, “udderwise dere’s goin’ ter be a long blank in yo’r life line. If so I ebber cotch yo’ a-shadderin’ me—”
&,“But, Brudder,” cried Mr. Cupidore, “I’s meanin’ nuffin’ sech. Yo’s takin’ me too literary.”
% “An’ I’ll take yo’ udder ways likewise if yo’ go spyin’ on me an’ my love affairs,” growled the pugilist. “How come yo’ ter know, anyways, dat me an’ my gal was at outs?” he demanded.
“My frien’,” said Mr. Cupidore solemnly, “de glass reveals what de heart conceals.”
The fortune-teller rose and from a small cabinet brought forth a glass globe. This he placed on the fable before Homer.
“I has only,” he announced, tapping the glittering
sphere with a finger, “ter gaze dere in ter read yo’r past, present an’ future.”
“Yo’ means,” Homer asked hoarsely, “dat every act ob mine, good an’ bad, am chronicled in dat big glass alley fer yo’r peroosal? Am dat what yo’s a-tryin’ ter tell me?”
“Exactly,” nodded Mr. Cupidore.
Homer sank slowly into his chair. His scalp pricked. He felt clammy all over. His rolling eyes came to rest at length on Mr. Cupidore’s rapt face.
“Lorgawd,” he whispered huskily, “s’pose yo’ am in league wif de police, what den becomes ob me?”
“Brudder,” Mr. Cupidore assured him, “yo’r secrets —as I already tol’ yo’—am safe in my keepin’. My aim ain’t ter get yo’ inter trubble but ter git yo’ out ob if. I’m frien’ an’ brudder ter my feller man.”
He arose and walked around to where Homer sat slumped in his chair. “Brudder,” he said, placing a hand on each of the pugilist’s beefy shoulders, “I would fain brin’ yo’ an’ de gal yo’ loves togedder ag’in. Let me patch up de misunderstandin’ atwist yo’ two.”
Homer’s head sagged. He gulped convulsively. Something like a tear or two splashed on the polished surface of the table.
“Rosie Jones won’t hab nuffin’ ter do wif me no more,” he announced dejectedly. “She done tell me so—an’ she means it. Us had a quarrel ober her wantin’ me ter gib up dis fightin’ game. Her won’t marry me ’less I does. I done say I woul’n’ an’—I got my walkin’ ticket. Now— Rosie won’t see me atall.”
"Oh, yes, she will!” Mr. Cupidore slapped the drooping shoulders. “I’ll see dat she sees yo’, Brudder, an’ soon, too. Yo’ jes’ leabe it all ter me. Now den, de address ob de young lady am what?”
Homer stirred erect.
“Jes’ how much dis weldin’ process goin’ ter hit my pocket?” he asked quickly.
“Not one cent,” Mr. Cupidore answered, “’cept a little ’spence money perhaps.”
“Meanin’ which, an’ how much?”
“Oh, s’pose us say— thirty dollars.”
“Cash money er time?”
“Fifty-sixty. Half down an’ balance when eberyfing’s patched up. How’s dat?”
“I’m quite dissatisfied, if y o’ is.”
Homer resorted once again to his roll. Mr. Cupidore
took down a certain address and Homer arose to depart.
“Gibe me twenty-fo’ hours, Brudder, an’ after dat yo’ kin walk right inter paradise,” Mr. Cupidore spoke in parting.
“I’s lucky if I don’ walk inter de clink!” Homer growled beneath his breath. “How I know but what dis guy’ll go straight ter de police an’ tell all ’bout de crap games an’ chicken fights dat glass ball shows up?”
But he did not voice his suspicion aloud. He glanced across at the fifteen dollars lying on the table, and sighed.
“If so Rosie accepts me back,” he spoke from the open doorway, “I comes here ’long ’bout seben Toosday night, wif de coin; if so her don’t, I comes wif a gat.”
“Jes’ a minute, Brudder.”
Mr. Cupidore walked to the door and extended his hand to his client. “If so—as I claims I kin do—I brings yo’ an’ yo’r gal togedder ag’in in amicable an’ lovin’ understandin’, is yo’ willin’ ter help me spread gladness by gibin’ me de history ob any udder unhappy couple, married er udderwise, as yo’ happens ter know?”
Homer nodded. “I is,” he answered. “Dere’s a long, lean Nigger in dis town named Ballister. He ain’t no good but him’s my frien’. His wife weighs ’bout fo’ hundered pounds an’ her’s jealous ob dat pore, rundown clock her calls husban’. Dere’s work fer yo’ ter do in dat home. I’ll tell yo’ all ’bout it if so I fin’ Rosie receptive. If I don’ fin’ her so, dere ain’t no use ob anybuddy tryin’ ter tell yo’ nuffin’, kase yo’re ears’ll be too dumb ter hear.” The door banged and he was gone.
EXACTLY twenty-four hours following the appointment of Mr. Cupidore as mediator cf his happiness, Homer, attired in a new suit, issued from his pretty cottage in the suburbs and swung jauntily down the path toward the road. The swagger was forced. Homer wanted to believe in the powers of the seer, but, somehow, he couldn’t be optimistic. He was going to call on Rosie Jones. He hoped for a glad reception, but he felt in his heart it would be a frost.
Homer was a long time covering the mile which lay between his home and that of the girl he loved. He wanted to run—but in the opposite direction. “If her hurls a flatiron at me, an’ has luck,” he meditated, shivering, “dere won’t be no fight wif de Yaller Tiger. I’s a fool. I’s a good notion to turn back, get my fifteen bucks from dat fortune tellin’ Nigger an’ kick him clean inter de nex’ county.”
But he didn’t turn back. Ere long he stood, limp and perspiring, before the Jones’ door.
Twice he essayed to knock and twice his courage failed him.
He was about to turn away, when the door opened and a smiling vision of loveliness stood before him.
“Oh, Homer,” spoke a liquid, alto voice, “I’m so glad to see you!”
Homer swallowed the lump in his throat and stared at the speaker, a tall Mulatto girl whose white teeth gleamed in a smile of welcome and whose dark eyes gleamed with something even greater.
She reached down and drew the abashed and humbled Homer into the room. She placed a chair before a table fairly loaded with hot house llowers, gently pressed Hpmer into it, and sank, with a long sigh on his knee.
“It was gran’ of yo’ ter do it, Homer,” she whispered, her lips close to his ear.
“Not atall, Rosie dere,” Homer returned. He was wondering just what it was he had done.
“When I get dat note from yo’, dear,” Rosie went on, “sayin’ dat after one more prize fight yo’ was through tightin’ fer ever I could have cried wif joy.”
“Yo’ don’ say!” Homer vas sweating profusely. He wondered if that was all he had promised, or if worse w as to come.
“An’ I’m so glad yo’ll give up cock-fightin’ and gamblin’ fer my sake, sweetheart,” Rosie murmured. “It simply shows me what a great man you are.”
Not a’all,” gulped Homer. Not atall, dear. Anyfing yo’ wants—yo’ gets.”
And these beautiful flowers, Homer: they must hab cost yo’ a let ob money?”
Nuffin’ ter speak ob, Rosie.” Homer mopped his brow as he gazed at the masses of ccstly bloom on the table.
“But dis, love, am de greatest tribute ob all!” Rosie said. She held up a slim hand, on a finger of which glittered a large diamond.
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Continued from page 20
“Tain’t any too good fer de gal dat wears it,” Homer managed to say gallantly.
He submitted to a forgiving kiss and returned it with all the warmth he could muster.
“Fs mighty glad yo’ like—eberyfing,” he managed to say.
“Did de men what bringed de flowers and ring biing de bills, Rosie, dere?” he managed to ask.
“No, dere. Another gentleman bringed de bills, here deyare. One frum de florist and one frum de jeweler.”
“Was he a slim, good-lookin’ man, dis feller?” Homer enquired, murder in his heart, “an’ was his name, by any chanst, Cupidore?”
“Yes, dat was his name,” Rosie nodded. “He said yo’ an’ him were great frien’s.” “Dat’s right,” Homer nodded, and to himself added—‘ I is goin’ ter cut a frien’ an’ cut him deep!”
“Misto Cupidore,” he enlightened Rosie, “was simply actin’ as my neediator.”
“Neediator?” Rosie questioned. “What’s a neediator, dere?”
“A neediatcr,” Homer answered, “am one who goes an’ gits yo’ what yo’ needs, when so yo’needs it.”
“Oh, Homer,” Rosie sighed rapturously. “Yo’ll hab ter do sumfin’ ter show him how much yo’ appreciate what he has done fer yo’ and me. Has yo’ made up yo’r min’ what dat’ll be?”
“I shore has,” Homer answered.