Young Mr. Paige
A tale of a gilded youth and what happened when he met an inspiration
RUTH BURR SANBORN
TO MR. J. H. LATIMER PAIGE, Sr., Westmount, P.Q. Report on J. H. Latimer Paige, Jr., November 27 to December 25, 1931.
I am sending you herewith the first monthly report on the progress, pursuits, associates and general conduct of your son, as per our agreement. I hope that it will prove satisfactory, and that we can continue our business relations.
I had, as you predicted, no difficulty in taking service with Young Mr. Paige. Indeed, considering my experience and abilities, I was surprised at the offhand way in which he received my application. Perhaps I mentioned that I had previously been with Lord Robert of Stallings, Whitsunbastingbroke, Hants; Sir George Tewkesbury, of Little Cleethom in the Wolds and Wycomwith, Strundlehead on the Water; His Grace the Archbishop of Burdenwake; and James Dwight Dinwiddie Crumpton Farringham, K.C.B., K.C.V.O., second son of the Earl of Watchet, of Mayfair, London, and Horncastle, Lamprey under Lyme. I mentioned these facts briefly to Young Mr. Paige. I flatter myself that my expression did not betray my arrangement with you. Lord Robert of Stallings was once kind enough to say that I had a face like a wooden meat block.
Young Mr. Paige was wearing a wet towel round his head, his tie was in disarray, his shoes had been insufficiently brushed, and his right arm was in a sling. He appeared as you had described him—a rake and a roisterer, a rowdy and a roughneck. Nevertheless, I was startled by the strange bright look that flashed in his eyes.
“All right,” he said. “Stick around if you want to.” “Very good, sir,” I said.
“I’m glad you think so,” said Young Mr. Paige.
So I went to see about the tickets.
The first day en route passed very quietly. Young Mr. Paige spoke twice, once when he looked out at Toronto and swore mildly; again when he glanced out at Windsor and swore again. He retired early. I laid out blue pyjamas, suitable to his mood, and he put the trousers on wrong side in front.
'T'HE second day passed quietly also. Young Mr. Paige rose late, refusing breakfast and a pick-me-up. He placed his right shoe on the left foot and his left shoe on the right. It does not look well for a man’s man if a man goes about like that.
I beg your pardon, sir,” I said, “but should you mind changing your shoes?”
Young Mr. Paige seemed surprised. “Have I another pair?”
I explained my meaning patiently. “The shoes are all right, sir, but they are on the wrong feet.”
So that s it, said Young Mr. Paige. “I thought all the time I had got off on the wrong foot.”
At 1.15 he went into the dining car and drank four cups of black coffee. At 1.45 he went into the lounge and smoked fourteen cigarettes. When he came back he looked at me
for the first time as if he really saw me.
“I suppose you know all about the mess, Trapper,” he said.
“One reads the newspapers, sir,” I replied carefully. I quoted from the headlines: “Millionaire’s Son Runs Amuck following Wild Wet Party. J. H. Latimer Paige, Jr., Leads Thanksgiving Turkey Hunt’ through Westmount. Steals Cars, Smashes Windows, Bags Quarry on Dining Table of Senator. Hurt While Resisting Arrest ...”
“M-m,”said Young Mr. Paige. “Fruity.”
As this was his only comment, I made bold to ask a question.
“I understand that this is correct, sir?”
“Do you?” said Young Mr. Paige. And he leaned back and closed his eyes. I could see that you were right in saying that he was a confoundedly exasperating young cuss.
Nor could I see, observing him in this relaxed position, what made him so popular. With his height and thinness, the careless, loose-limbed way he is put together I can speak of only as gangling. His features are irregular—nose too long, mouth too wide with a downward twist at the comer, cheekbones too high, chin too angular—and this irregularity is emphasized by the way he has of puckering his forehead and the scar down his cheek. The best that can be said for him is that he has a clean, brown look, well scrubbed and healthy, with an implication of high standards and right living which he but ill deserves.
I was discouraged, as even His Grace the Archbishop was handsome in a beetfaced, evangelical way. I am afraid that nothing can be done about the hair, on account of the cowlick which gives it a windblown look. It is rather a pity about the scar. I understand that it was taken in rescuing a child from drowning, and it is unfortunate that the one reputable act of Young Mr. Paige’s life should be the one to leave a blemish. His Grace the Archbishop once said that I was quite a philosopher.
At this point in my reflections, Young Mr. Paige opened his eyes.
“I understand, sir,” I resumed, “that the matter was aggravated by the scene in the senator’s dining room and your father’s political connections. I understand that your father was irritated, and that you had words.”
“Irritated!” said Young Mr. Paige. "He came out in a rash. Words! We had whole paragraphs.”
“You’re very understanding.” said Young Mr. Paige. “But if you understand that my father threwme out with nothing but a one-way railroad ticket, you’re darn well right." This was, of course, not quite correct, as there was $67.44 in the inside pocket of his top coat. He added darkly: “California isn’t so far away, though, that my father won’t hear of me.”
"I beg your pardon, sir,” I said, "but what are you going todo?”
“I’m going to paint the town red,” said Young Mr. Paige.
nPHE third day was not so quiet. We were hardly settled in the through sleeper when luggage was placed in Section 16, opposite, and a girl came in. She wore a rough, dark blue travelling coat and a blue hat. These she removed. Under the coat was a dark blue dress with white collar and cuffs, and under the hat was a great deal of straight fair hair, brushed close behind her ears. These were not large ears, rather on the pinkish shade inside, and effectively placed. She had a clear skin and purple eyes. Young Mr. Paige, however, tells me that they are violet.
“What do you mean,” he whispered sharply, “by giving me a green tie with a blue shirt?” .
“I laid out a blue ^ tie, sir,” I said, “but you disregarded it.” When Young Mr. Paige came back from the dressing room, he looked different. It was not wholly the tie; rather it was something in his manner. I cannot explain it better than by saying that he looked very wide awake. It seemed also that there was an added spring in his step, and I am bound to admit that notwithstanding his excessive height, Young Mr. Paige is not a gawky man.
Hitherto he had paid no attention to what was passing, but now he took an interest in the scenery which he watched through the window opposite. I found it an awkw-ard method of looking out myself, because of the girl’s head which kept getting in the way. The sun came down on his head, and it was very smooth and shining in the back.
The girl, too, was absorbed in the scenery. She did not notice when Young Mr. Paige adjusted her window shade, and when he offered his magazine she did not hear him. Even when she went out for lunch and Young Mr. Paige held all the doors for her, she acknowledged his kindness in the briefest way. During the afternoon a boy came with books, and Young Mr. Paige bought six:—The Siege of the Serious Suitor, Locomotive Love, 1 Love a Lady, Love Ltd., Matrimony and Way Stations, and Romance Preferred. These he had delivered in Section 16. The girl was engrossed in a freight yard, but afterward I saw her peeping at the titles.
Just before dinner an embarrassing thing happened. The girl had risen and Young Mr. Paige was fumbling with his bags when she stepjxd into the aisle. One of the bags shot out directly under her feet. I think she would have fallen if Young Mr. Paige had not prevented it.
“It’s quite all right,” said the girl formally.
“1 don’t mean,” explained Young Mr. Paige, “that I’m sorry I tripped you. I mean I’m sorry I did it so
badly. I meant to fix it so you would fall right into my arms.”
“People like me,” said the girl with dignity, “do not fall into the arms of strange young men.”
“There aren’t any people like you,” said Young Mr. Paige, “and I’m trying not to be a strange young man.” I had never seen Young Mr. Paige smile before. He has a less offensive smile than might have been expected.
I thought the girl’s mouth—which is a soft-looking mouth and very red—twisted at the comers, but she did not smile back.
“You are very strange indeed,” she said.
“If it’s just my being a stranger that’s the trouble,” Young Mr. Paige suggested. “I could introduce Trapper, and then Trapper could introduce me. But in order to make the introduction legal, you’d have to tell me your name.” Young Mr. Paige, it appears, is not without resource. For an instant the girl stood still, looking up at him out of those eyes which he tells me are violet.
“I am Christy Wyatt,” she said slowly.
THE fourth day was not quiet at all. Young Mr. Paige rose early, and I laid out three suits with accessories before he found one that pleased him.
“May I sit here?” he asked, indicating the seat opposite Christy Wyatt.
“That,” she said, “is just between you and the railroad. I am paying only for the lower.”
‘Young Mr. Paige sat down. “I like the view better on this side.”
“The scenery on this side,” said Christy Wyatt, “seems much like the scenery on the other.”
“It isn’t the trees and grass I want to see,” explained Young Mr. Paige. “It is the eyes and chin.”
Young Mr. Paige sat there all the rest of the day. He has a queer crooked grin which emphasizes the worst features of his face, drawing down the comer of his mouth and pulling the scar tight across his cheek ; and yet I am bound to say that there is something not utterly repulsive about it. When he grins he wrinkles his forehead in horizontal lines, and in some way this calls attention to the largeness, wideness, deepness and greyness of his eyes and the unnecessary length of his lashes. He is, as you say, a reprehensible young wastrel, but he has a way with him. I think it is what is called charm.
Christy Wyatt looked grave and sweet. She has a large dimple, situated a quarter of an inch from the lower lefthand corner of her mouth. It did not appear often. When it did, taken in conjunction with the fair hair, the violet eyes, the small nose and the uppish chin, it presented a not unpleasing ensemble. She has, I think, what is called some kind of appeal.
I regret that I cannot repeat their conversation entire, owing to Young Mr. Paige’s habit of sending me on errands to the observation car, which was seventeen cars away. Most of the time, however, they did not talk about anything in particular, and I have included everything of significance.
“Isn’t it queer?” Christy Wyatt was saying. “I’ve just been reading in the paper about a man named Paige. I hope there’s no connection.”
“I hope not,” said Young Mr. Paige. “I shouldn’t want you to connect me with him.”
“He was very rich and very bad.”
“I am very poor,” said Young Mr. Paige hastily.
“His name was J. H. Latimer Paige, Jr.”
“My name is John Henry,” said Young Mr. Paige. “Trapper, step down to the observation car and bring me a time-table.”
“And what are you going to do in California?” Young Mr. Paige was saying.
“Work,” said Christy Wyatt.
“Think of that !” said Young Mr. Paige.
Christy Wyatt, then, belonged to the working classes; and I remembered your instructions not to let Young Mr. Paige fall in with low companions. She did not look low, however. She looked young and eager and innocent and brave, and I did not think she could do him any harm.
“After my father died,” she said, putting her hand up to her chin as if to make sure it was steady, “I wanted to go far away. My father was wonderful. But he didn’t leave much money. So I wrote to an old friend of his who works at Papaya Park near San Diego to get me a job there. I’m going to have a little apartment and do light housekeeping.” The way she said it, a trifle breathless, made it sound desirable.
“That will be nice,” said Young Mr. Paige thoughtfully. I believe he was thinking that Christy Wyatt was in much the same predicament as he. But she was taking it differently. “Only—would this aged family friend be a fuddyduddy, chaperonish sort of person? Would she want to make a party of two into a party of three?”
“I don’t think so,” said Christy Wyatt positively. The dimple came near the comer of her mouth, and she changed the subject with a pretty embarrassment. “Nowtell me about you.”
“Trapper,” said Young Mr. Paige, “step down to the observation car and bring me a postage stamp.”
“So I wanted to go far away, too,” Young Mr. Paige was
saying when I returned. “As far from Montreal as any one could get.”
“Are business conditions so bad in Montreal, then?” “Conditions in Montreal," said Young Mr. Paige, "could hardly be worse.”
“And what is your business?”
“My what?” said Young Mr. Paige. “Oh. I’m thinking of going into a new' line. I—I think I’ll take up painting.” I íe is, as you say, a complete reprobate, and I w'as surprised that he had the grace to blush.
“You needn't be embarrassed,” Christy Wyatt reassured him. “There have been a lot of failures just because of the hard times. My father always said it wasn’t the success or failure that mattered so much as the spirit back of it. The ambition—”
“I am very ambitious,” said Young Mr. Paige, brightening.
“And the earnestness
“I was never more in earnest.”
“And the perseverance—”
“I mean to be very persevering.”
“With enough ambition and earnestness and perseverance, my father always said you could get anywhere.”
“Could I?” said Young Mr. Paige. And he got over from the seat opposite Christy Wyatt into the seat beside her. “And how did you hurt your arm?”
“I hit it on a piece of wood,” said Young Mr. Paige shamelessly. “Then complications set in. It was about as painful a thing as ever happened to me. But it is more comfortable now'.” He laid it comfortably along the back of the seat behind Christy Wyatt.
“I’m afraid it’s going to make it bad about painting.” “My arm is quite strong now,” said Young Mr. Paige promptly. “Here, let me show' you. Trapper, go down to the observation car and see what you can observe.”
ON THE fifth day w'e arrived in San Diego, which is adjacent to the Pacific Ocean and looked very w'arm and cheerful. Young Mr. Paige looked warm and cheerful, too.
“Come along in my taxi?” he said to Christy Wyatt. Christy was excited, and the dimple came and wrent in her cheek. She pressed her face against the window.
“Thank you,” she said, “but I think Richard will meet me.”.
The train came to a stop. It must have given Young Mr. Paige’s injured arm a nasty jar, for an expression of pain crossed his face.
"Richard?” he said. “Richard w’ho? Who’s Richard?” “Richard Struthers,” said Christy Wyatt. “He’s the friend I told you about.”
“No, I didn’t. Of course, I’ve never seen him, but his letters didn’t sound a bit like that. Do you suppose he’s the one by the palm tree, the one with the black eyes?”
Mr. Richard Struthers wras the one by the palm tree. He came striding down the platform, and he was neither aged, fuddy-duddy nor chaperonish. From my study of the magazines, I judged him to be the best type of young American manhood. His smile w'as like an advertisement for tooth paste, his hair like an advertisement for lie-flat lotion, his clothes like an advertisement for what the welldressed young man will-wear in the tropics, and his manner like an advertisement for personality courses.
“I knew you right away,” he said, taking both Christy’s hands.
"Delighted,” said Young Mr. Paige, concealing his delight at the introduction under a black scowl.
"Much obliged,” said Mr. Struthers, beaming, “for handing Miss Wyatt over to me safely.”
“I haven’t handed her over to you,” said Young Mr. Paige. He was looking pale, and the scar was drawn a little tighter than common down his cheek. But I was again startled by that strange, bright look that flashed in his eyes. If I had not known from your statement that he was a lazy lounge lizard, I should have said it was a look of more than ordinary determination. I could see that he and Mr. Struthers were not attracted to each other.
“Maybe you can get Mr. Paige a job at Papaya Park, too,” suggested Christy Wyatt. “He’s a painter.”
“I’m afraid he couldn’t paint in sufficiently glowing colors.” Mr. Struthers shut off his smile as if it were controlled by a switch. He nodded a brief farewell and tucked Christy Wyatt’s hand possessively under his arm. “All aboard for twelve twenty Orange Avenue,” he said to her.
I had to call Young Mr. Paige twice before he saw our taxi. “Orange Avenue,” he said then. “Try twelve twenty-one.”
^NRANGE AVENUE was a long bright street, lined with pepper trees and pastel bungalows. I found our quarters, over the garage at twelve twenty-one, very cramped, as I had been accustomed to James Dwight Dinwiddie Crumpton Farringham’s Elizabethan mansion at Horncastle, I-amprey under Lyme. Young Mr. Paige, however, said he liked the view. It happened that Christy Wyatt lived directly opposite.
The first week was not a pleasant one. I was busy about the apartment, an occupation highly distasteful as I am by profession a valet and not a light housekeeper. Every day
Young Mr. Paige went out. I offered to accompany him, but he refused. Every evening, if Christy Wyatt was not with Mr. Struthers. he called on her.
During the evenings I took occasion to rake Miss Wyatt’s yard, and since the windows were open, it happened that I heard snatches of their talk. Young Mr. Paige said frankly that he had $4.03 after paying a month’s rent; and Christy Wyatt said she had the thousand dollars her father left her, but she did not want to break into that.
“I won’t have to, though,” she said, “because Richard got me a job as saleswoman at Papaya Park. Wasn’t that nice of him? And wasn’t it lucky that he and father had been corresponding about investments, so that I knew, him?” You could see that she was grateful and admiring. “Have you found any work yet?”
“Er—no,” said Young Mr. Paige.
“But you will,” said Christy cheerfully. “I don’t think anybody can be happy without work, do you?”
“Maybe that’s it,” said Young Mr. Paige. “I’m not very happy.” He added hastily: “The—the painting business isn’t what it
“Perhaps you’ll have to take up something else.”
“I think I shall,” said Young Mr. Paige. And he moved closer to Christy Wyatt and took up her hand between his. “You know,” he said, ‘‘I don’t like this Mr. Struthers.”
“Isn’t that queer?” said Christy.
“That’s what he said about you.”
Mr. Struthers wanted Christy to rest for a few days, and then he took her over Papaya Park, which was a real estate sulxiivision. They went on a Tuesday, and Christy asked Young Mr. Paige to go, too.
I was also of the party, at the invitation of Mr. Struthers, who said that for every dollar invested now a thousand would be reaped at the harvest. I did not invest anything, as I consider no place so safe for a dollar as the toe of an old shoe. I-ord Robert of Stallings was once kind enough to say that it took a strong man to pinch a penny as hard as I could.
I spent a pleasant day, however.
Papaya Park was situated on a hill, with a view of bare red mountains. It was approached by an ornamental gateway with very large posts. The paving and street lights were not yet in, but they would be presently. The papaya trees were not all set out. but work was in progress. A free lunch
was served in the marquee baked beans, ham sandwiches, apple pie, cheese and coffee and this was excellent. We had been living on tinned things and cold rolls, as I am by profession a valet and not a cook;
After lunch, Mr. Struthers showed us all over the property. He held Christy Wyatt firmly by the arm to keep her from stumbling in the freshly turned ground. Christy had on a white dress with no sleeves and big blue buttons, and her hair was as golden as the California sunshine, and her eyes as blue as the blue Pacific. They looked wide with admiration when she lifted them to Mr. Struthers. Young Mr. Paige plowed along on her other side and made no effort to be agreeable.
“This,” said Mr. Struthers, “is a papaya tree. Note the large, lacy leaves. Note the hollow stems. The trunk is also hollow—”
“Just like the big posts at the gate,” said Young Mr. Paige.
Mr. Struthers ignored his gaucherie.
"At this season,” he said, “the fruit is still small. When ripe, it resembles a melon. Single fruits often reach a weight of twenty pounds and command excellent prices.”
“Where?” asked Young Mr. Paige.
“Wherever they are sold,” explained Mr. Struthers patiently. “This continent is, as yet, hardly papaya con-
scious. When it is understood that the papaya contains vitamins a, b, c, d, e, f and g
“Q.E.D., P.D.Q., how do you get that way, R.S.V.P.?” said Young Mr. Paige rudely.
Mr. Struthers paid no attention to his rudeness, passing at once to another topic.
“Papaya culture is simple. The trees need only to be set out. and, of course, watered. After that it is necessary to pinch back the suckers—”
“You have to catch the suckers before you can pinch them, don’t you?" said Young Mr. Paige.
“John Henry,” said Christy gently, “you mustn’t be jealous just because Richard lias done better than you have.”
Mr. Paige did not see Christy Wyatt. She was much with Mr. Struthers. I was shocked at what happened on the third day. For Young Mr. Paige invited them both to dinner.
I had been obliged to speak seriously in regard to our situation, as there were no provisions in the house and also no money. Following this interview. Young Mr. Paige took his best hat and went out. When he returned he w'as bareheaded, but he carried a grocery bag; his eyes just showed over the top. Christy Wyatt was getting out of
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Mr. Struthers’ Gir at her gate. She looked flushed and dishevelled, as if she might have been kissed. Young Mr. Paige must have been embarrassed at his intrusion. But he concealed it.
"Hello!” he called. "Pm going home to eat my hat. Want to come?”
Christy Wyatt looked at Mr. Struthers. "Let’s,” she said.
It was a queer dinner party. For Young Mr. Paige, everything was wrong. The quarters were cramped and shoddy and the gas heater smelled. The chicken tasted of the tin, the rolls were cold, the strawberries and cream were warm, the crackers were soft and the cheese was hard, and the coffee not so black as it should have been. Young Mr. Paige himself, his brown shock of hair on end from going without a hat, was hardly presentable. There was a strained look round his eyes, but he grinned and puckered up his forehead.
For Mr. Struthers, on the other hand, everything was right. Sleek and suave, well tailored, well pressed, well shined and well polished, he was a sight that any man’s man might have taken pride in. And yet, in some obscure way, Young Mr. Paige seemed to have the advantage. I think it was in the complete naturalness of his manner. Mr. Struthers was just a shade too careful. It was in as small a thing as the way his cigarette case and lighter matched his watch.
"Come in.” said Young Mr. Paige, flinging wide the door, "and see my five-room apartment. This is the living room and that is the bathroom. The bedroom lets down out of this wall, the kitchen is on that shelf, and when it is time for meals we move in the dining room and set it by the window.” “What a lovely pepjxr tree !” said Christy Wyatt tactfully.
"From my place,” said Mr. Struthers, “there is a fine view of the bay.”
During dinner Mr. Struthers talked of the pajxiya industry and his special part in it. One gathered that San Diego had not been much when he came there. It is hard to explain why Young Mr. Paige should have been unfavorably impressed, as everything Mr. Struthers said of himself was g;xxl. Young Mr. Paige’s manner was not wholly laudatory. I think Mr. Struthers lx>re it only in the hope that he might invest something at Papaya Park. Young Mr. Paige, however, was not in a position to do so. "Besides,” he said obscurely, "I am not a widow or an orphan.”
"The trouble with the unemployed,” Mr. Struthers was saying instructively, “is that they’re tcx> particular. If they can’t get a job as head of a corporation they won’t take anything.”
"That’s an idea,” said Young Mr. Paige. “I haven’t tried head of a corporation.” "What have you tried?" said Christy Wyatt. If her voice was a challenge, it was hard to say which she was challenging.
"Taxi driver, bus driver, truck driver and private chauffeur," said Young Mr. Paige. “Golf pro and caddy; butler, second man, third man and bell hop; athletic director, swimming instructor, riding master, motorcycle officer, airplane pilot, bridge expert, dance partner, saxophone player, pin setter and able seaman. I’ll try head of a corporation in the morning.” Young Mr. Paige, it appeared, was not without invention. Christy’s eyes were wide.
"I think you might get him something at Papaya Park, Richard,” sire said, "when he has tried so hard.”
"Ikxx.*y,” said Mr. Struthers.
"With Mr. Struthers and me in the same organization,” said Young Mr. Paige, “the papaya industry would be badly overcrowded.”
“You see?” said Mr. Struthers. “When he’s offered something, he d;xjsn’t want it.” After dinner Mr. Struthers went into the bathroom, and Young Mr. Paige took Christy to the window to watch the moon shine through the pepper tree. She could not see plainly at first because of the light,
and Young Mr. Paige put his hands up on each side aí her face to make a shield. To do this he st;x>d behind her with his arms over her shoulders.
"I’m going to work tomorrow,” Christy said. She did not seem as happy over it as one would have expected. After a moment she added: “I wish I hadn’t had to invest my thousand dollars, though.”
"It seems there’s a new rule,” explained Christy, “and all the salespeople have to invest something. Of course, it doesn’t matter really, because I’ll have my salary to live on. And I suppose it would l;x)k queer if we didn’t. As if we hadn’t confidence ”
“Confidence!” said Young Mr. Paige violently.
Christy Wyatt turned at his tone, so that she stood right inside the circle of his arms. When Mr. Struthers came back, it was plain that he did not care for the arrangement.
Young Mr. Paige swung about to face him.
"You—” he began.
But Mr. Struthers forestalled him.
“So that’s who you are!” he said. "I knew there was something fishy. Living over a garage, with those clothes. Pretending to be broke, with a valet. Trying to turn her against me. I knew the minute I saw the initials on your brushes. You’re the feller that painted Montreal red. Take your hands off her, Mr. J. H. Latimer Paige, Jr.
Young Mr. Paige’s hands dropped to his sides, but I do not think it was because of Mr. Struthers’ words. Rather, it was the look in Christ}' Wyatt’s face. It was as if a curtain had been drawn down, shutting out the light, and her eyes were blank and still like blue glass.
Young Mr. Paige was white. When he sjxike it was to Mr. Struthers.
"You low-down skunk.” he said quietly.
“You high-flying fluke,’’ said Mr. Struthers.
I could not believe then that it was Christy Wyatt’s voice; it was so cold and small.
“So, that’s the kind of painting you do.”
Across Young Mr. Paige’s face the color came up in a hard streak of crimson, as if he had been struck. The scar sUxxJ out, sharp. "That was before I knew you,” he said.
“It’s true, then?”
“I am J. H. Latimer Paige, Jr.,” said Young Mr. Paige steadily.
A FTER Christy Wyatt went down the stairs that night w'ith Mr. Struthers, there were no more meetings between her and Young Mr. Paige. She went out at eight-thirty every morning and did not return till late, so it seemed evident that she was working.
Young Mr. Paige was busy, too. The next morning he sent me to do the marketing, and when I returned he had rented the downstairs part of the garage and had installed a desk, a chair, a typewriter and a filing Gibinet. 1 could not understand where he got the money until I missed his studs. Young Mr. Paige himself was outside, painting the front of the garage red. He handed me the paint pot and the brush. I hesitated, as I am by profession a valet and not a painter. In the end, however, I remained; for Young Mr. Paige began to put gold letters on the dcxjr, and I thought you would like to know what they were. J. H. Latimer Paige, M.A.
"I beg your pardon, sir,” I said, “but I was not aware that you were a master of arts.”
“M.A. stands for Mess Adjuster,” said Young Mr. Paige. “It is an honorary degree from the School of Human Relations.” After a moment he added another line—Incorporated.
Young Mr. Paige spent the next week writing letters. I offered to help him, although I am by profession a valet and not a typist. He refused, however, so I do not know what the letters said. Whenever
he finished one, he took it out and mailed it himself. This often happened just as Christy Wyatt was passing, but she did not appear to see him.
During the week which followed Young Mr. Paige had a number of callers. The first was a young man with a wild eye and an unsteady chin. I was uneasy, as he looked like a low companion, so I went to empty the wastebasket. Unfortunately, Young Mr. Paige sent me to the drug store for a package of cigarettes, and when I returned they were outside, in a large and dazzling car.
“Here are the cigarettes, sir,” I said.
"Thanks,” said Young Mr. Paige, as if the matter were ended.
Naturally I wished to be of further service.
"Shall I wipe the car, sir?” I said.
"No,” said Young Mr. Paige.
“Shall I see if the gas and oil are all right, sir?”
“Yes,” said Y'oung Mr. Paige. “Oil the typewriter and light the gas heater.”
Owing to these duties, I am unable to make a complete report on the young man with the wild eye. He came several times, and Young Mr. Paige went out with him.
I offered to accompany them, to watch the car and prevent its being stolen, but Young Mr. Paige said it would not be necessary.
Other callers included a large woman, dressed primarily in furs and diamonds; a small girl, primarily undressed, with sandals over bare feet, and toe-nails enamelled scarlet like her lips; and a youth with no necktie. Following the break with Christy Wyatt, it was plain that Young Mr. Paige had fallen in again with low companions. This was the more apparent, as he began presently to be in funds. I lived in constant expectation of the police.
On one occasion I confided my fears to Miss Wyatt, whom I met on the street. I could see that she had been working hard, as she looked very tired; indeed I was startled by a new sharpness and pallor in the small, pointed face.
“I hope you are happy in your new position, miss,” 1 said.
To my surprise she flashed out at me:
“I suppose he sent you to find out.”
“Oh, no, miss,” I told her hastily. "He is much too occupied w'ith his new friends.” She seemed to be waiting for me to go on, so I did. “I am rather worried about him, as I fear they are a low set; probably gamblers, and I don’t know what besides.”
At this moment Young Mr. Paige drove up, accompanied by the girl with the scarlet toenails. She threw a kiss as he got out.
“Tomorrow,” we heard her say. "Everything’s jake.”
“I wouldn’t worry about him!” said Christy Wyatt sharply. And she ran past me into the house and slammed the door.
No police raids had taken place up to this morning. Young Mr. Paige dressed with more than ordinary care.
It being Christmas morning, he told me that I might have the rest of the day off.
"Thank you, sir,” I said. I remained in the comer drug store, however, sipping a vanilla soda, as I thought you would like to know what he did next.
What he did was to go to a florist’s and buy a bundle of roses, which even in California I can characterize only as extravagant. With these he returned to Christy Wyatt’s, and presently he disappeared inside.
I walked slowly up the street. As I was passing, it occurred to me that Miss Wyatt’s flower beds were badly in need of weeding, and being of an orderly nature I knelt down and began to weed them. It happened that the open living room window was directly above my head. From time to time it was necessary to rise and ease my back, and I therefore could not avoid knowing what was taking place.
CHRISTY WYATT had on a little flowered cotton dress with blue pockets. "You’re looking prosperous,” she said, a trifle bitterly.
“I’ve gone into business,” said Young Mr. Paige. “Didn’t you see my shop? I’ve painted it red.”
Christy Wyatt spoke in a small voice.
"I didn’t think—you’d make a joke of it.” “It isn’t a joke,” said Young Mr. Paige. “It’s a corporation. I’m the head of it.” When she did not take them, he arranged the flowers himself. “How’s your job?” he said.
And upon that, with no warning, Christy Wyatt burst into tears.
I do not think that Christy Wyatt is a person who cries easily.
Young Mr. Paige crossed the room in two long strides. He picked Christy Wyatt up, rocking her back and forth like a child. I could see a muscle spring in his cheek.
"Christy !” he said. “Don’t cry like that. I can’t stand it.”
Christy Wyatt hid her face against Young Mr. Paige’s shoulder, and after a moment the words came pouring out.
"Oh, John Henry,” she cried. "I haven’t any job. You were right -about Richard. He kept putting me off and putting me off, and one day I went to the office and it was all shut up, and Papaya Park was all shut up, and Richard had run off with his stensten-stenographer and taken my thousand dollars. And I’ve walked a million miles and worn out all my shoes, and I can’t find anything to do and I haven’t any money, and it’s Ch-Ch-Christmas.”
Young Mr. Paige set Christy gently on her feet. His manner was kindly and impersonal, but there was a queer huskiness in his voice.
"Run along and wash your face,” he said, “and we’ll find a Christmas dinner.”
But Christy stood still. It was as if she gathered the tatters of her pride about her, and her chin was suddenly high and the tears were dry on her lashes.
“I wouldn’t care to have you spend any money on me,” she said, "that you got gambling with—your friends.”
“Gambling?” said Young Mr. Paige. "Fve been working. Friends? They’re not friends. They’re clients.”
“I’m afraid I don’t quite understand,” said Christy Wyatt.
I did not understand either. I rose to ease my back.
Young Mr. Paige was trying to explain. He did it rather badly.
“After I knew you,” he said, “I tried to find work. But nobody would hire me. So I had to start a business of my own. I didn’t have much experience, but I’d been in a lot of messes. So I wrote some letters and said I was a Mess Adjuster. I’m adjusting messes for an old dame that wants her will to fool all her relatives, and a little slip that’s got herself engaged to four men at once, and young Dalton from Point Loma that ran his car through a showroom window, and some others. It really pays awfully well. I— Don’t be mad, Christy, but I’ve got to have a secretary anyhow. If you Christy Wyatt did not answer. There was a strange look on her face.
"Funny,” said Young Mr. Paige slowly after a moment, "to be able to adjust everybody’s mess except my own.”
“What is your mess?” said Christy Wyatt. “I love you,” said Young Mr. Paige simply. “I thought you knew.”
Christy Wyatt took her hands out of her pockets. She stepped forward a little. Her eyes were very wide and very violet.
“Maybe,” she said, “the two of us together could adjust that.”
Young Mr. Paige took Christy Wyatt in his arms again then. It wasn’t like the other time. Not gentle or impersonal. I stood up again to ease my back, and I could see that his suit would have to be pressed.
They are adjusting the matter now. Christy Wyatt has a small mouth, but it seems very adjustable.
His Grace the Archbishop once spoke of me as Socrates the Second.