FICTION

JUST A FAVORITE OF THE STARS

Frank Mann Harris March 15 1934
FICTION

JUST A FAVORITE OF THE STARS

Frank Mann Harris March 15 1934

JUST A FAVORITE OF THE STARS

Frank Mann Harris

WHAT ARE you going to eat, Addle? Goon; order whatever you like and never mind looking at the prices on that bill of fare either because this is on me, and now that I got plenty of what it takes,

the price don’t matter.

Chicken salad and a glass of orange juice—is that all? Why, Addie, you don’t mean to say that you are dieting yet? Well, I ain’t hardly a bit hungry myself. I slept kind of late this morning, so 1 guess I’ll just have the pot roast and dumplings and say, waiter, tell them plenty of gravy.

Goodness me! 1 often think I’ll have to go on a diet myself. Still, you wouldn’t call one fifty-eight or so fat not with a figure like mine, I mean, and anyways them boyish shapes are all going out of style and not before it was time. 1 saw Mae West in a film last night and I bet she don’t starve herself none.

Marty Walsh, the detective— it was him took me to the picture Marty says, "Prosperity ain’t around no comer with that dame, it’s around the curves.” 1 thought I’d die. He's a great kidder, Marty is, and very refined for a detective. He thinks that I and Mae West are very much alike, only I got more personality at least that's what he says.

Well. I supixjse you are waiting to hear all about how I come into this money and when you do, I bet you won’t ever laugh at me again for believing in fortune tellers and such. Remember how you used to say to me. "Etta, it’s all a lot of hooey and you’re just wasting your dough going to them?” Well, wait till you hear.

TT WAS ON a Friday night, after the store closed, and I don’t know when I ever felt so low down in my spirits. We had been awful busy all day and that assistant manager. Bender, the little weasel, had got on my nerves something fierce. Every minute it had been: "Etta, don'tcha see that customer waiting?” or "Etta, would you like me to have a sofa put in the department?” and “Etta this” and "Etta that” until I could of screamed. And all because I maybe sat down for a second to rest my feet.

So, anyways, there I am walking along Queen Street toward the boarding-house, not thinking of anything particular, when all of a sudden I see this sign in a window. It says on it: "Madame Rameses. Your Past, Present and Future. Ten Cents.” And something seems to come over me like, and l think I will go in and see what she says. "And

if the future isn’t no better than the past and present,” I say to myself, “I’ll go jump off the viaduck or something.”

It is a queer little joint, all hung round with these ornamental rugs and stuff, and smelling sort of mysterious-like incense and fried onions mixed. This Madame Rameses is a skinny old wren and she makes me sit down and grabs my hand.

"The full reading is one dollar,” she says.

"No,” I says, "I’ll just take a dime’s worth. I’m in a hurry.”

Of course I don’t tell her that the dime is every cent I got.

So she takes a peek at my palm.

“You have had much trouble,” she says, "but soon your trouble will be over. I see a letter and money—much money. I see a tall fair man with curly hair. That is all I can see now, but for one dollar I could tell you much more.”

"Not just now,” I says. "Maybe some other time. Tell me, madame,” I says, “this money you see when is it coming?”

“It comes soon,” she says. "Very soon. Maybe tonight, maybe next month.” Site ducks behind the curtains and leaves me.

Well, I walk along the rest of the way to the boardinghouse, not feeling much better, and Addie—believe it or not. like the fellow says in the paper—what happens but I no sooner open the front door than Mrs. Brown hands me a letter. It is Irom some lawyer, I can see, and as I open it I say to myself: "Dam those installment people anyway; I wisht I hadn’t of ever bought that minkette coat last winter.”

Out of the envelope drops a cheque. It is made out to me. And it is for five thousand dollars !

Naturally enough, I come all over with the jitters from the shock, and Mrs. Brown has to fetch me a cup of hot tea before I can see what the letter says on account of my

hands trembling so. It is from a lawyer back in Paynesville, where I come from when a kid, and it says that this here five thousand is what is left me by my Uncle Pete, on my mother’s side, who gets pneumonia try ing to pick up bargains at an auction sale in zero weather and dies the winter before. Of course the letter don’t say all those details, but my second cousin w-ent to the funeral and told me all about it when she come back. Uncle Pete always was a sucker for auction sales.

Now, if anything could of been more of a surprise to me than to get five thousand dollars from anywheres it is to get it from Uncle Pete, because if you had come right up and asked me I would of said that Uncle Pete didn’t have five thousand of anything on that farm of his unless it w-as sowthistles. But then I happen to remember the old proverb. "Never speak nothing good of the dead.” So I set down and eat my supper—although the finnan haddie is cold as a bone by then -real grateful to Uncle Pete, although I can’t help from thinking that if he hadn’t of worked Aunt Susie and the girls to death and begrudged them even a nickel for

theirselves, perhaps he would of had some of his own near kin to leave his money to—only, of course, it is me that Madame Rameses predicts is going to get it so I guess you can’t interfere with the workings of fate.

NEXT MORNING I wake up thinking it is all just a dream. But there, sure enough, is the cheque under my pillow, only quite a bit crumpled from me reaching under and squeezing it every half-hour or so all night. Then I start worrying for fear it is one of these elastic cheques that snap back in your face, like you read about. So I hustle down town and I am at the bank d(x>r long before the clerks get there, let alone get their hair slicked back for the day. But after a long while and plenty of fussing about, everything is fixed up and they tell me that the cheque is on the leveí. So I open me a bank account and draw* out a couple of hundred dollars just to go on with, and the paying teller tries to date me up but I act kind of cold and distant and just give him my phone number.

Well, first of all, I go up to the store and I order two or three dresses and a lot of other stuff because, while the clothes I got are all right for a saleslady in the hosiery, they naturally are not by no means suitable for a heiress like I am now. It runs acrost my mind that maybe I ought to go into mourning for Uncle Pete, but then I think to myself, “Well, the poor old fellow has been resting quiet enough, far as I know, without me wearing black, so forget it, Etta. And anyways one of the dresses I buy is a sort of deep purple, which is kind of half mourning, and after all it is the spirit that counts and not the clothes, don’t you think so, Addie?

While I am waiting for one of those frocks to be altered a little—and you can’t tell me they make the sizes in those ready-to-wears as big as they used to I slip on down to the hosiery department. I have left my hat up in the fitting-room, so I sneak behind my regular counter and sit down and pretty soon along comes that little weasel of a Bender. Of course he starts to jump all over me, because by then it is close to noon.

“Where have you been?” he says. “What kind of time do you think this is to come to work? and all like that.

So I just look at him very haughty and I say so all the girls in the circle can hear me:

“Mister Bender,” I say, “would you kindly go and jump in the lake?”

You ought to have seen his face, Addie, he flushes a deep

raspberry.

AFTER I GET ON my new frock and have some lunch I g() over to the “La Mode” and blow myself to a permanent and a facial and a manicure and goodness knows what else, and when I come out you should of seen the fellows trying to give me the eye. Of course it is very insulting to have a lot of strangers staring at you on the street, but still there’s a sort of a satisfaction about it, too, because you know that they don't look twice at any dead one.

By then it is too late to do anything much, so I decide I will go in and see this Madame Rameses again. After all, it was her that told me about my good fortune, and I feel that some way she has something to do with it. _

The old wren hardly knows me when I come in, and when she does recognize me her eyes near pop out of her skull. I toss a five-dollar bill on the table.

“You’re fired,” he says. “Oh, no, I’m not,” I says back at him, “because I've quit.” And with that I walk away on him without even a backward look. Gee, Addie, even if Uncle Pete never done another good deed in his life I hope he gets to heaven just for the pleasure it give me to tell that Bender where he got off.

“There you are, madame," I say. “Shoot the works and give me a full reading and anything else you got."

“You look as if you already had come into wealth,” she says; so naturally I tell her what has happened, and she is so interested, asking me how much it is and all like that,

I can hardly get her to do her stuff. But finally she goes into a sort of a trance.

“The money you get,” she says, speaking like she is down a rain barrel, “is but a small part of what you will have. I see great riches—riches beyond your dreams— coming to you through a tall man with dark hair.”

“You must have your controls twisted, madame,” I tell her. “Uncle Pete was short and didn’t have any hair to speak of. and besides he has already passed on. And anyways the last time you said that it was a fellow with fair curls.”

“No, not so,” she says. “I see him very plain.^ Tall and dark and his initials they are—let me see—‘M’ and ‘K’. Through him you come to much wealth and perhaps love as well.”

“Gee,” I says, “not only dough but love as well. Well, madame,” I says, “if all your predictions come out like the last one it looks like I better start embroidering ‘K’on a lot of lonjery and stuff and packing the old hope chest.”

"Do not laugh,” she says very solemn. “You are one of fortune’s favorites. Perhaps more messages will come for you when you are not here. Tell me where you live so that I can send you word.” And she is so serious about it all that I leave her my name and address because, you know, Addie, you never can tell about those things.

I have supper with one of the girls that works at the store, and when I get to the boarding-house about nine o’clock, the very first thing I notice is that the "Room To Let” sign is out of the window.

“You don’t mean to tell me," I says to Mrs. Brown, "that you have rented your first front at last?”

“Yes. Etta.” she says, "thank the I have. The strangest thing! About six this evening this man walks up and says that somebody recommends this place to him, and he takes the room without hardly looking at it and never even tries to beat me down on the price.

“Isn't that nice?” I says. "What is he like, young or old?

“Young and tall and dark.” Mrs. Brown says. "I lis name is Kent.”

Just then we hear a open above, and down the stairs comes this stranger. He is awful good -looking, something like Clark Gable, and when he gets to where we are standing in the hall he bows very polite.

“Excuse* me, ladies," he says, "could you tell me where is the nearest mail box?”

“Right on the next comer,” Mrs. Brown tells him, and then, as he don’t make any attempt to pass us, she says: "I suppose I ought to introduce you two, seeing as you are to be fellow boarders. Miss Phillips,” she says to me. "this is

Mr. Kent.” .....

"Morris Kent to my friends,” he says with a lovely smile, taking my hand. "And I am sure we should all be friends in such a charming home as this.”

We stand there gabbing about this and that for quite a while, and he hangs on to my hand all the time, fairly staring into my eyes like Gilbert giving Garbo the works in a big scene. Finally I manage to break away and go up to my room.

“Morris Kent,” I say to myself as I am getting ready for bed. “M.K. Tall and dark. Madame Rameses. you certainly can call them, however it is that you do it.

W TELL, ADDIE, there isn’t any sense in going into a W lot of details about the next few days because what is past and gone is past and gone and no use crying over sour grapes, I always say. But if ever a fellow gave a girl a real speedy rush that Morris Kent sure give me one and no fooling. Right from the start it appears he has fell for me hard and don't try to hide it none. And me well, he is just about the most fascinat ingest talker I ever listened to, and as smooth as silk, and I might as well confess that I go for him in a real big way.

He hasn’t been there two days before it seems like we have known each other for always. Of course we have lots of

Continued on page 62

Just a Favorite of the Stars

Continued from page 11

time to get acquainted quick, even if he isn't such a fast worker, because naturally I am not doing anything and he don’t seem to have any regular job either.

“What line of business are you in?” I ask him the first afternoon. “Or are you another of the army of the unemployed.” “Not me, baby,” he says. “I am always on the job, only my work comes in fits and starts.”

“What are you then?” I says. “A radio crooner working one programme a month?” “Nothing like that,” he laughs. “I am what they call an investment finder.”

“I have heard of well finders,” I says, “who tell farmers where to dig for a pump. But investment finders are something beyond me.”

“I don't wonder at that, baby,” he says, “on account there are only a few of us and the public don’t never hear of our work. You see, it is this way. You take the big shots in the financial world—like, for instance, Rockefeller or Morgan. Well, it stands to reason that with all they got on their mind they haven’t time to be searching out for places to invest their dough. So that is where I come in. I scout around and when I find a likely spot I tip one of the big fellows off, and after he cleans up I get my share.” “Isn’t that grand,” I says. “Imagine being able to meet such important folks. And some of those big shots make plenty when they invest, don't they, Morris?” “Sometimes as much as eight or nine hundred per cent practically overnight,” Morris says. “What I would like to do is get together a little working capital for myself so as to be able to take the whole pot instead of just a cut.”

"It sounds good to me,” I says. “I haven’t got very much and I have to be careful of what I have. Still if I thought I could make eight hundred per cent without no risk I wouldn’t mind making a small investment myself.”

"Why,” he says, “there is something I just heard about this morning. Tomorrow there will be a horse running over at Hamilton, and when I tell you that the race is already in the sack for him I positively mean it. He just can’t lose. And if you were to invest, say, maybe four thousand dollars or so on him, you would have twenty or twenty-five grand before night.”

When he cracked this, Addie, I fairly blazed out at him.

“Morris Kent,” I says, “I am surprised at you. Here you are talking about investing money, and all the time you mean betting on horse races which is nothing more or less than gambling. And if you only knew what I think of gambling -after the way my poor old pop used to stay out till all hours playing euchre at ten cents a comer at Hank Moyer's barber shop in Paynesville, ruining his health till he went into a decline, I loathe the very word gambler. And, besides, how did you know how much money I got to invest?”

i I am burning up but Morris soon soothes i me down.

“You are dead right, sweetheart,” he 1 says, patting my shoulder. “I think the very same about gambling, and more especial race horse gambling, as you do. All I mentioned I about this horse for was just to test you.

! Don't you ever leave me catch you betting I on a horse race or I won’t never speak to you again. I haven’t the slightest idea howmuch money you got, but whatever it is, hang on to it tight and maybe before long I will mn across a real gilt-lined investment where you can clean up legitimate without any gambling.”

He is so smooth with it all that pretty soon he has me all calm again, and we don’t talk any more about money or investments. Not that day, anyways.

BUT IT ISN’T more than a couple of nights later that he comes to me in the parlor in a great state from excitement.

“Sweetheart,” he says, “I have just come acrost the swellest proposition that ever was offered since Henry Ford was peddling his motor stock at a dime a dozen. If we can only get in on it before it is all gone, we—I mean you, of course—will be rich.”

“What is it?” I ask him.

So he explains all about it, sitting on the sofa, holding my hand with one of his and pulling out papers and maps and documents with the other. And it certainly looked like a good thing, Addie. It is a mine by the name of Pyrite Gold which had been dug years before and abandoned on account of there isn’t any gold in it. But now some miner has came along and, unbeknownst to the owners, he has sank a new shaft or tunnel or whatever it is they call them, and he finds gold in chunks.

So, naturally, if the folks w'hich own this stock ever hear about this gold the price will go away up to the roof. And what Morris and a few big financiers are trying for to do is to grab all the old stock at a few cents a share and get all this gold for themselves.

I do not let myself get excited or hurried or anything like that. I remember that you got to keep a cool head and not make no hasty moves if you want to succeed in this high finance. But after I have examined these assays and documents for a good quarter hour I can’t help from seeing that it is the chance of a lifetime.

“Morris,” I says, “how much of this stock do you think you can get me?”

“How much have you got to invest, baby?” he asks.

“I might dig up as much as four thousand,” I tell him.

“For that much, baby,” he says, “I can get you a block of a hundred thousand shares which, if it should only go to even a dollar a share would make you worth a hundred grand. And w’hen this honey starts jumping, a buck a share will be only just the take-off.”

As there isn’t any time to be lost I make him out a cheque for four thousand and hand it to him. As he is putting it away a little green slip of paper falls out of his wallet. I pick it up to hand it to him and on it I read: “Irish Hospital Sw'eepstakes.” “Morris Kent,” I says to him, “I thought you told me you hated gambling.”

“Oh, that,” he says, “Why, pet, that there isn’t gambling. I bought it because it is for a worthy charity.”

“It wouldn’t be charity if you were to win the first prize,” I says. “I have read where those things run into big money.”

“I couldn’t be lucky enough to draw even a starter,” he says, “let alone a winner.” Right then I am not much interested in anything except gold mines. So I hand him back the slip. But as I do so I notice something on it.

“If this is yours,” I says, “how come it has the name of B. Jacobson on it?”

So he explains to me that nobody but a sap gives their real name in these sw'eeps on account of some crazy old law which says that anybody can go and snitch to the law on the winners and collect the prize theirself.

We already had a date to go to a show that evening, but Morris says that he thinks he better chase down town and see can he round up any of this stock before anybody else gets word of it. I agree with him because I would hate to have some millionaire, who probably don’t need the money, beat me to this swell investment.

After he has gone I feel a bit lonesome, and I think I will go and leave Madame Rameses take another peek into the future for me just to pass the time. When I get to her joint the madame isn’t in sight but I can hear talking going on behind the ornamental rugs. A man’s voice is saying, “And the big truck horse signs on the dotted line.” And then somebody says, “Hush, shut up.” And the old wren appears.

When she sees me she acts surprised and appears to be awful agitated-like.

"I cannot talk to you tonight, my dear.” she says, backing up against the curtains. “An important message is just coming through—perhaps it will be a message for you from the stars. Come back and see me tomorrow, please.”

SO I TAKE the air, not caring much either way, although it seems queer for a fortune teller to be turning away real money these times. I stroll along slow, thinking all what I will do with what I make from this investment, and sort of wondering where I have heard the voice which comes from behind the curtain in Madame Rameses’ joint, because it sounds awful familiar.

When I am maybe a block away from the boarding house somebody hollers at me. I turn around and if it isn't Marty Walsh. I hardly know him for a second because he is not dressed like a copper.

“Why, hello, Marty,” I say to him. “Where have you been all my life? Seems like I haven’t saw you in years.” Because, after all, Addie, I always did like Marty ever since we were kids together back in Paynesville.

“Hello, Etta,” he says hearty, grabbing my both hands. “You must of had your eyesight fixed. I yell ‘hello’ at you on Yonge Street a couple of weeks ago and you let on like you never seen me. I thought you were sore at me or something.”

“Well, Marty,” I says, “I am not high hat or nothing, but still a lady don’t like to be hollered at on the street by a copper with all his uniform and brass buttons on, especially a copper as big as you. Folks are liable to think—oh, all sorts of things.”

“If that is all that is worrying you, Etta,” he says, “you won’t need to play me the chills any more as I am a detective now and don’t have to wear the harness any more.” “A detective, Marty,” I says, “isn’t that grand? I always think there is something so romantic about a detective and I am crazy about them crime pictures and all.”

“Speaking about pictures,” says Marty, who is walking along holding my arm by now, “don’t I see you going into The Gem, night before last, with a tall skinny guy with a long nose? Who is that guy, Etta?”

I sort of resent the way he describes Morris, but nobody can’t be mad with Marty long. So I start telling him all about me and Morris and, one thing leading to another, pretty soon it all comes out about Uncle Pete’s will and the way I am going to get very wealthy from the gold mine.

Then all of a sudden Marty lets out a yell.

“I got it, Etta,” he says. “Ever since I seen you and him together I am trying to remember who this guy is. When did you give him this cheque you are talking about?” “About an hour ago,” I says, “But why do you ask that, Marty?”

“Just an hour ago—fine!” Marty says. “Tomorrow when lie goes to cash that cheque I will be there to nab him and put him where he belongs, the rat !”

“Marty Walsh,” I says, very indignant, “I would like to inform you that Mr. Kent is a perfect gentleman and a very dear friend of mine. So be careful what you are saying about him.”

“He calls himself Morris Kent now, does he?” Marty goes on just like he hasn't heard me. “His real tag is Barney Jacobson, or at least that was what he went by the last time we were after him. Makes a specialty of widows and janes without no protection that have a little money—peddles them a lot of junk like worthless stock and phoney bonds and then leaves them holding the bag. He would of done a stretch two years ago only he hires a smooth lawyer who out-smarts the Crown Attorney.”

"Marty Walsh,” I says. “I think you are just jealous and I don’t believe a single, solitary word you say.” And with that I run up the boarding-house steps and slam the door quick so that Marty will not see me

crying. Berause down deep in my heart, Addie. I know it is the truth and nothing but.

Y\7TLL. YOU CAN imagine how I slept

* V night. But next morning about

eleven Marty phones me. He says that he has watched this Barney Jacobson cash my cheque at the bank. Then he follows him to the depot and puts the nab on him just as he is buying a ticket for Buffalo.

"We got him safe, Etta,” Marty says, “and your money, too. And tomorrow you will have to appear against him in police court.”

Now I guess I am just a big soft-hearted fool, Addie, but somehow the thought of Morris, or Barney, or whatever his name is. getting sent down to the pen for maybe years and years, is something I just can't bear to think about. It is Marty’s night off so he comes up to the house and we talk about one thing and another, and I never realize before how comforting a man can be, especially a detective.

Marty has brought along an evening paper, and while I am making some coffee he starts reading it. Over his shoulder I see a big headline which says: “Irish Sweep

Winners Draw Big Prizes.”

So while Marty is drinking his coffee I take the paper and read this piece, and among the winners it says that a Mr. B. Jacobson, of Toronto, has a ticket on the winner worth eighty thousand dollars. It also says how they haven’t been able to locate Mr. Jacobson to tell him about his good fortune. I point it out to Marty.

“I guess they couldn’t of looked in Number Two Police Station,” I says.

So that is how it was, Addie, and maybe I let my soft heart get the better of my judgment. But I don’t care. You see, first thing next morning Marty takes me to a court, where I swear out what they call an information against Mr. B. Jacobson as winner of an illegal sweepstake. So then I go to police court and I tell them that so long as I got my four thousand back. I do not care to proceed with the charges against Morris for attempted fraud.

And the upshot is that he gets let off with a warning which should learn him to be more careful in the future who he tries to take for a sucker, for that police court judge bawls him out something dreadful. The look on Morris's face when he is getting told off is something pitiful, I can tell you.

But he don't look half so sorry for himself as he does when I and Marty see him outside of the court and tell him about the sweojv stake ticket and what we have done about it. And the upshot of it all is that after a lot of discussion I decide that 1 will compromise for half of the winnings, which is more than I should of did at that, but after all, Addie, that Morris Kent was awful fascinating even if only a crook at heart.

So now, Addie, I got forty-four thousand nice dollars safely tucked away in the bank, and at home I got a swell big dog, which 1 intend to sic on to anybody that ever mentions the word “investments” to me, even if it was Ronald Colman in jxrson. But what I started out to say to you, Addie, is that it all goes to show you that you shouldn’t laugh at these fortune tellers and astrologists because you got to admit that old Madame Rameses certainly did predict my fortune right, however she done it— although Marty, the big silly, claims that Madame Rameses must have been working | in with Morris Kent, although I can’t see how that could possibly be.

Marty says that what I need now is a : man to protect me, but I don’t know, Addie. ; I wonder if there is anything in this here spiritualism. Mrs. Brown goes to a circle j near every night and she tells me that the things that come through from the departed are something wonderful.

How would it be, Addie, if I and you were to go and try them some night soon? Maybe there would be a message for me from Uncle Pete.