When Big Mike Bergen, New York racketeer, falls heir to a block of tennis courts, he appeals in his dilemma to
Steve McRuddy, jobless press agent, for guidance. McRuddy takes Big Mike, with his bodyguards and
Goldie, his fiancée, to a professional tennis show. Impressed by the gales, Bergen startles
G. Warfield Edgerton III, amateur tennis mogul, with the proposal that they boss the “rucket ” together. In Edgerton’s office Bergen meets
Mary Edgerton, the mogul’s niece, who has brains, beauty and an interest in
Harold Farnham, America’s leading tennis amateur. Unable to make a deal with Edgerton l ! I, Bergen defies him. He sends Stete McRuddy after
Lefty Epstein, a tennis professional. Ordered by Bergen to find the two "best known unknowns’’ in the country, Epstein produces
Barney Chellowitz, of the Bronx, and
Bill Goodall, from the South, and Big Mike Bergen is ready to crash the tennis "racket.” Goodall falls in love with Mary.
Epstein takes the boys to Hawaii. Returning, they are presented to the tennis world as marvellous “native” players named "Billo” and “Barno,” and as such they create a sensation at various minor tournaments. Edgerton has them barred from a big Eastern tournament, but withdraws further opposition after a disagreeable experience with Mike Bergen’s muscle-men. Mary Edgerton, who had become interested in Bill Goodall, quarrels with him. Mike Bergen’s business rival,
Buggsy George Flynn, decides to enter the tennis business and signs up to play professional tennis for him, after the Cavis Cup matches hate been concluded, the German challengers,
Count von Zach and
The Cavis Cup defense committee is forced by public opinion to name Goodall, Chellowitz and Farnham as Cup defenders; and Goodall patches up his quarrel with Mary.
WE MOVED camp to Philadelphia, where the Cavis Cup matches were to be played. Mike was burned up. since he had to keep in the background. But he had the good sense to see that it wouldn’t do for him to be identified as Head Man yet, so he left things pretty much to me.
Holloway, a member of the committee in charge of the players, tried to punch up the squad into a sort of college fraternity. He was always fussing around like a hen with hives, ready to leap into range the instant a photographer appeared, until I told him to lay off.
“Don’t forget, young man,” he snapped, drawing himself up to the full height of a street hydrant, “these boys are not playing for their own pleasure now. They are cast in greater roles—as defenders of lawn tennis--standardbearers of American sportsmanship. As such, they are subject to my control.”
“As such,” I said, “nuts! These men spring from hardy stock, mister. Stock which ate its meat right off the hoof. They took no stage directions from anybody until the missionaries arrived with their brief cases full of beads. They trust us. You get your pictures taken with the other members of the squad —we’ll be ready when the bell rings.”
It hadn't occurred to me that Mary Edgerton might be avoiding me a little until the day before the match, when Buggsy Flynn slouched up. He was a big, broad, stoopshouldered ape, with shoe-button eyes and a mouth like a potato knife.
“I’m just getting around to thanking you for the tip, pally,” he said, with an off-centre grin. He had that hoarse voice, common among retired pugs, from being punched in the Adam’s apple. “You gimme a good steer-put her there.” My face must have reflected my surprise. He chuckled. “This fluffy stuff is new to me, all right. I thought I'd squoze the cream out of everything in the line of sport. But after this, well—maybe we’ll be working the croquet racket next.”
“Sure,” I said, stringing along till I caught on. “Who knows?”
When rival racketeers fight for control of tennis, sparkling sport and merry mayhem provide a pandemonium of excitement “Why, when that Edgerton dame told me you thought tennis would bloom with more real business guys in on it, I thought she was givin’ me the rib. Then I snoop around, wise up on the tax the suckers are dropping to see these Elmers pat that powder-puff, and move right in. What do you say we sort of get together and fix a few— ”
“Some other time, George,” I said faintly. “Got a date now.”
“Have fun. Butch,” he grinned genially. “And thanks, pally; I won’t forgetcha.”
So, I said to myself, that’s what you get for exchanging a few simple pleasantries with a woman. She takes you seriously. She moves in as tough a mob of busters as ever ate the knob off a safe. She scrambles the eggs just when they’re coming to the boil. And yet, when I accuse Mary of doing it just to embarrass Mike Bergen for scaring her uncle out of his white pants, she’ll look me right in the eye, bat those two-inch lashes and say, “But Mac, you told me yourself that it would be fun to have a few others in with you and Uncle Warfield. I’m terribly, terribly sorry, but ...” and so on.
Two days later, when I did catch her, that’s exactly what happened. To the letter. And the worst of it was, I still don’t know whether or not she was giving me the ride of my life. But I suspect she was—and that’s always an uncomfortable feeling for a smart man to have.
V\ TELL, the first day’s draw pitted Bill against Kreutz, W an(j Farnham against Count von Zach. The place was a sellout, despite blistering heat. Spectators were packed in like bunches of asparagus. “If they’d only forget theirselves and take off their coats,” remarked Thoiteen, “we could have rammed another two thousand.”
“Who is that chestnut worm in the high chair?” demanded Mike. “Is he our guy?” I told him I didn’t know who he was; the Association selected the referee. Mike shook his head. “I don’t like it. Irish. There’s no sense in being careless about a thing like this. Now, in the fight game - ”
“Play!” cried the chestnut worm. That sepulchral silence prescribed for important tennis events fell like a pall over the well-trained crowd. “Bang!” went Bill Goodall’s bat, and the first ball streaked into Kreutz’s court like a burst from a field gun. The big match was on.
As the experts figured, young Kreutz was no match for Bill. He blasted in a flock of service aces, following them to the net for slashing volleys when he reached the ball at all. But Bill was like a dancing master. He fenced about, continually forcing Kreutz’s weak backhand, and making almost no errors himself. Bill won with astonishing ease, considering the importance of the match. It was over in forty-five minutes, at 6-2, 6-3. 6-2.
Harold Farnham then stalked on and posed happily with the graceful count. The sun smote his wavy hair like burnished gold. As they warmed up, the social set “O-ohed” and “A-ahed” at the power of his smashes. But the smoothstroking German was at the peak of his effortless game. He caught Harold’s best and tossed it back, flicking the lines with sparkling passing shots which left the panting youth just a step short. It was a fine, exciting exhibition, but Von Zach got the nod in four sets at 6-4, 3-6, 8-6, 7-5. First day’s totals: Germany 1, United States 1.
“Too bad, Harold,” sympathized Mary Edgerton, as he moved off, white polo coat over his broad shoulders. “You were going well, too.”
“He’s the better man—today,” replied Farnham, with conventional form. “Next time I’ll take him.” He looked at Mary with a satirical glint in his prominent blue eyes. “But I wouldn’t be surprised if he ran the whiskers off that ginzo who’s been hanging around you.”
Mary flushed. I saw her pretty chin build up a few angles.
“Ordinarily,” she said lightly, “I am not a betting man. but ...”
“Great,” grinned Harold, batting her shoulder. “What do you say to this: if the count beats Goodall, I take you to the tennis ball the night of the last match. If your ginzo wins, I won’t even go - and you know how I like to dance.”
“Done,” said Mary.
A bevy of wide-eyed autograph girls swooped up then.
Harold signed “Harold G. Farnham, Jr.” with a magnificent flourish. The count gravely made an “X” when they besought him. “I am so sorry, but I do not yet write in American—thank you very much.” He caught my eye, winked solemnly. He was all right, the count. I was only sorry he was such a good player.
Next day, the doubles. Bill was all over, covering far more than his share of court to save Barnev’s ankle. The
Germans were much more formidable as a team than as individuals. The lead seesawed for five bitter sets before the boys succeeded in raking Kreutz to a state of gasping exhaustion. They closed it out with a love game at 12-10.
“Nice going,” panted Barney. He cuffed Bill's wet head.
“You’re coming along, yourself. Fireball,” said Bill. “Give me a wipe on that towel. I think you worked up this ankle gag just so’s I’d have to play the whole court.”
Barney mopped his grinning, sweaty face. “I’m no fool, fella—just intelligently relaxed. You know how we lotuseaters are, down yonder.”
“All I know is that I’m glad I don’t have to tackle that duke tomorrow. I’m going home and mash that mattress as flat as a bookmark! Nothing’s going to turn me out tonight except a four-alarm fire under the bed.”
BACK at the hotel. Mike waited. He was really excited for once. He had seen the match and was bubbling. “Say. was that a crowd ! Stinky and I sat up where we could count the house. Why, we don’t draw that many for the night ball games at my park over in Brooklyn.”
“How did you like the match?” I enquired.
“Match?” repeated Mike. “Oh, sure, the match. To tell you the honest truth, I hardly looked at it. Up to the finish, that is. We won, didn’t we?”
“You ought to be kicked in the pants.” I said severely. “Here the boys were killing themselves in that awful heat, and you sit in the stands and don’t even know who won!” Mike had the grace to look a little sheepish. “Well. I’m a businessman. What’s more, they're not losing anything by working for me. We can raise the admission fee another buck for these last two matches and do all right.”
I asked him to repeat that.
“Sure, we’ve got ’em coming now, Irish. That’s the time to sink the old harpoon. I '11 get some big signs painted tomorrow and we’ll hang them up outside the park. The suckers won’t even notice another dollar mark-up. Why, more than half those cars there today had chauffeurs! It’s too easy.”
“No, you don’t. Mike. In the first place, most of the tickets for the series were bought in advance. In the second place . . .” It took me an hour to show him why the customers shouldn’t be shot like roosting hens. Even then
he didn’t believe me. I finally told him that to do that now would sour the public before we'd even won the Cup match, let alone the National Championship which would give us the big drawing power we needed for the professional stuff in Madison Square Garden. He finally gave down, growling all the way.
“Only,” he grumbled. “I don’t like this leaving important decisions to strangers. Suppose Buggsy Flynn slips in a loaded linesman on us. or offers to make things right with the referee for a close decision at the plate?”
“Impossible,” I said emphatically. “Amateur tennis is all wrong in some things, but nobody questions the honesty of officials.”
“I do.” said Mike simply. "I question the honesty of every man born of woman. Some are dishonest in one way. some in another. Some are dishonest only with themselves —and they are the biggest saps of all But you can't tell me that a screwball game like this doesn’t attract screwball operators in the judges’ stand, as well as screwball jocks who ride for the purses.”
“It still stands.” I repeated firmly. “Tennis is different from any other sport you happen to have dabbled in, Mike.
I know that you have rigged them all—boxing, wrestling, baseball, football, bike racing. But you'll find out that— ”
“That they’re run by men,” he interrupted with a coarse laugh, “and that’s enough for Uncle Mike.” He rubbed his cowcatcher jaw reflectively. “I wish I knew what play that Buggsy Flynn was thinking up. I know him too well to imagine that he’s 'letting the best man win’ as the book says. When Buggsy has a meal ticket, that ticket becomes the best man. automatic.”
WE HAD a couple of days rest before the last two singles matches. Everybody seemed to think that the Cup was in the bag. For how, they asked, could both Bill and Farnham lose to the Germans? Mike Bergen was apparently the only person who worried about it.
“I’ve seen too many things happen.” was all he would say when pressed for a reason. “Especially with guys like Buggsy Flynn in the corners.”
We all felt pretty good, however, when Bill took the court against Count von Zach for the first match. He looked like a million dollars used to look. The stands were packed, a brisk little breeze snapped the flags, and the sun was shining like everything. I sat with Mike and Thoiteen, watching Mike’s little shoe-button eyes click over the stands like comptometers.
“This is killing me. Irish.” he sighed. “All this dough to the house. And to think I set the whole thing up.”
“You’ll get it back, twice over,” I consoled him. “In the Garden and on the road with the boys. There they go — Bill’s won the serve.”
Mike wagged his bullet head pessimistically. “Yeah, yeah. But they don’t pay off on futures. I wish this was over, right now.”
Bill started by taking the first set at 6-3. All his shots were working. The count shook his head as they changed courts, but he was a slow starter and tenacious as a bulldog. He knew he’d get better as they went along, and get better he did. Control came; he chased Bill from side to side until Mike said, “Gee, you can almost see them bare feet smoking.”
Bill worked it up to 3-5, but the count put on the pressure to win the set with the next game. The crowd unbent with a tremendous hand.
“I don’t like it.” grumbled Mike.
The count started with service, but Bill broke it. Then he won his own, with the aid of two sizzling aces that hit the canvas backstop like a slap in the face. The count shrugged, helplessly. There was no stopping the kid now. Bill bagged the set in twelve minutes flat.
“Maybe,” panted the count, as they sponged off at the little table beneath the referee’s chair, “it is the cocoanut milk you drink, hein?"
Bill grinned. “Maybe. 'Fry some?”
The German took a pull from the topped cocoanut which Lefty extended. “No,” he grimaced, “it cannot be that. Nothing so bad could make something so good as the way you play now.”
“Hey,” said Mike, pointing, “look at that guy behind Lefty, that tall one in the grey suit !”
“You mean that official with the badge?” I asked. “Official my eye !” snorted Mike. “That’s Stub Farley -he worked with Buggsy in the old alky days over in Jersey. They canned him in Maryland on a horse-doping charge. I didn’t even know he was out yet.”
Another official chatted with Farley— a thin, personable chap with a dark, devil-may-care look to him. They stood there, while Bill and Von Zach walked into the dressing rooms for a brief rest. Mike scowled. “If Stub Farley is an official of this Lace Handkerchief League. I’m Mother Machree. He’s got no more business down there than— than I have. What’s more, I don’t like it. What’s still more, 1 think I’ll send Thoiteen down there to punch him right smack in the eye.”
“Shh. not so loud,” I begged. “People are looking. Take
“I’m crazy to listen to you.” said Mike rebelliously. “Where that guy goes, there goes trouble. He must have stole that badge. What's more. I’ll bet you that Buggsy is behind his being there. I don’t like it.”
Privately. I didn’t either. But there wasn’t much we could do about it. We couldn't afford to shove in and start punching on suspicion. The cops would have rushed us all out. Leaving Mike muttering, I forced my way down through the packed aisles. I wanted to tell Lefty to watch his step. But by the time I squeezed down. Bill and the count were out there selecting their bats again, and Stub Farley had disappeared.
What followed sent 7,(XX) people home shaking their heads in bewilderment.
Bill started right in where he had left off. He banged smoking drives off both sides. His delicate trap shots drifted over the net like thistledown. His service was a thundering weapon that jounced the crowd to its feet. Three games fell to him before the German could even start to pull himself together. Then something happened to Bill—quick, like ihal.
He seemed to lose that lightning reflex quality, so vital to top-flight tennis. He hesitated on the baseline. His anticipation blurred: the count began to catch him out of position. Before we knew it, the score was three all. Then, holding the service, Bill made a double fault. Lefty covered his eyes and moaned.
Bill served again, after what seemed a long time. “Fault!” barked the referee. Von Zach crouched, tense and waiting.
Bill shook his head like a befuddled swimmer. With obvious effort, like a slow-motion picture, he tossed the ball high and whanged it. “Fault !” cried the referee again. Two successive double faults! At this point! Lefty started out on the court, but the referee waved him back. Bill leaned over, braced his hands on his bare knees, like a man examining the grass. Beneath his tan, I could see the kid’s face it was white as chalk.
The count stared, then looked up at the referee. Officials hastily flocked around Bill. In the midst of the enquiry, his legs slowly melted and he sank to the ground, his racket dropping from his hand. Lefty tore over with the water pail. The count hurdled the net. jabbering in German. Confusion and questions flew. 1 glanced up to see Uncle Mike flailing helplessly in the packed aisles—he hadn’t a Chinaman’s chance of getting down. A doctor took one searching look.
“This man can't play,” he said. “He’s sick.”
"What is it, Doc?” begged Lefty, voice quavering with concern. "He ain’t et nothing wrong.”
The doctor lifted one of Bill’s lids, peer«! into the blank brown eye. Then he frowned, snapped his little black case. “Take him out of here at once. I'll go along.”
“But." said Lefty, “the match. How about the— ” “Match!” retorted the doc. "This man couldn’t hold a teas|xx>n. let alone a tennis racket! Call an ambulance and stand back.”
’VLT’FLL, that was that. After long conferences, the * V referee awarded the match to Von Zach by default, though the German protested that he would prefer not to accept it. Lefty and I wrapped Bill in blankets and went along to the hospital, the siren groaning mournfully through the red traffic lights.
“Now.” sighed Lefty, “all we need to have happen is for that other Heinie to beat Farnham. That would make everything just dandy.”
But Kreutz wasn’t quite up to it. While we were waiting in the anteroom of the hospital, a radio flash announced that Farnham had kept the Cup for Uncle Sam through a four-set victory. Then the doc strolled out, looking thoughtful and mysterious, as doctors love to do.
"Next to the electric light.” he said, "the stomach pump is probably man’s greatest and least-recognized contribution to science. In fact. 1 might go so far as to— ”
“Is he okay?” exclaimed Lefty. "Can I go in?”
“Yes, but don’t talk much. That boy has had quite a wallop.”
When Lefty had gone, 1 said. “How about it, Doc? What was it?”
He polished his glasses with that air of terrific concentration which only doctors and marble-shooting champions have mastered. “You a friend of his?”
“None better.” I said.
“Well, I am not sure,” he said, measuring each word with a medicine dropper. “And 1 refuse to be quoted. If he were a racehorse. I would be inclined to hazard a guess that someone has slipped him a pill in his drinking bucket. But that, of course, is most unlikely. Don’t you think so?” I told him I thought so. But on the way back to the hotel. I thought about Stub Farley hanging down there around that table. The more I thought about it. the more convinced I became that from now on we would lx* playing for keeps and no holds barred. When I passed the Babs, tipped back in chairs outside Mike’s door, I knew something was up. They were chuckling and shaking their knobby heads.
“Yeah, the boss is in.” said Jake, with his terrifying jack-o’-lantern grin. “In the hay. Hey-hey!”
“He met Buggsy Flynn coming out of the rink,” amended Louie. “The boss was just going to knock him into next
week when someone laid a fist alongside Mike’s ear-it woulda kill«! anyone else.”
“Phew !” I whistled. “Where was Thoiteen?”
They slapped one another in uncontrollable mirth. “Under the stands with Stub Farley, he says. Haw-haw! I’d say he was mostly under Stub. You could rent the shanty on his left eye for a three-room walk-up!”
Jake hit me on the back. “You know, Irish, things are lookin’ up again. Maybe this tennis racket ain’t going to be so sissy, after all.” Jake was more clairvoyant than he knew.
Well, nobody except us knew what had really happened. Bill said, later, that he never felt better until he went dizzy. He remembered taking a couple of quick swallows out of his cocoanut shell just before starting play again that was all.
“That Stub!” Mike kept repeating. “How’d you like to have his nerve in a front tooth, hey?”
“We’ll keep the boys out of tournaments until the Nationals,” I said to Alike and Lefty. “That’s the Big Apple we’ve got to knock off. If we can wrap that one up, we’ll pack the Garden to the skylights.”
nrilAT’S what we did, too. Though our boys hadn’t had a -*• real match since the Cavis Cup, we had them in the pink for the Nationals. Lefty hired a couple of professionals who played with them every day, way out on Long Island where they weren’t bothered by crowds. This abrupt withdrawal from competition didn’t do us any harm with the public, either. On the contrary, it whetted the fans’ appetite. I kept speculation stirred to fever heat in the papers. “Has Layoff Hurt the Islanders?” Some experts thought “Yes,” others “No.” Articles broke in the magazines. It was rumored that Bill and Barney were homesick, overplayed. Mike’s come-on men began to set up big betting pools—the gamblers were edging in. Overnight, sceptical Broadway became conscious of one more interesting way in which to clean up, or lose its thirty-nine-cent polo shirt. Lawn tennis, for the first time, began to assume the aspects of a “mob spectacle sport” with all the trimmings, savory and otherwise.
We had a bad turn of luck right here. It all happened— as so many things happen— because of this business of love. Mary had driven out by back roads one afternoon to ask Bill if he would play in some charity match she was running.
“Any time,” said the goof, hanging worshipfully on the side of her car. “Any place.”
“Will you play Harold Farnham?” enquired Mary. “Just a couple of sets, because Aunty needs money so badly for this thing.”
"For you.” said Bill in that doglike manner so offensive to normal people, “I would play him with one hand, and the Germans with the other. On a court of broken glass.” “Fool !” grinned Mary, liking it a lot. “Can I count on it, then? Next Friday, at the Windward Country Club?” "The word of a Goodall is good, madam, all through the Old Saouth.”
“I know,” said Mary. “But we’re up here now, in the cold, cold Naorth. I am assuming that the word of a Goodall is not subject to change of temperature or mood— or whims of the management?”
“Your assumption, madam, is correct,” said Bill. “My service is at yo’ service, in any service you select.”
On Friday Bill strolled down with a bag. and informed Alike he was going to shoot a couple of charity sets for Alary and would be back for supper. Alike said, “Youyou’re going to— say that again, please.”
Bill said it.
"Not today, young feller.” said Uncle Alike. “Or any other day for charity. We’re in business now, or hadn’t you heard?”
Bill’s ears got red. “Do you mean to tell me I can’t keep a promise I made to Alary?”
“If it’s that crazy, I do. Do you think I have raised you lx)ys from the cocoanut-milk bottle just for the fun of watching you develop like them Dionnes?”
Bill picked up his bag very firmly. “In that case, I guess we’d better end our relations,” he said stiffly. “Right now.” We all jumped up and hollered then. All but Alike, who sat still. His little black eyes never blinked and his face was hard as a bank lobby.
"Ihjt down that bag, son. You and I are in business together. We have a contract. It states that you will play when and with whom I tell you to play, and that you will fulfill your obligations with me— to the letter. In exchange for dough. I’m keeping my part, and you’ll keep yours.” Their eyes locked in a long hostile clash. But Bill had a stubborn streak too. and he was in love. He said very quietly, “And if I don’t?”
“This,” said Mike. He grabbed Bill and thrust him into the nearest bedroom, all in one swift move. The kid didn’t even have time to raise a finger. Alike locked the door.
“Aw get*, chief, you shouldn’t do that,” protested Thoiteen. “You’ll hoit his feelings and— ”
“Bang!” went Mike’s fist. Thoiteen hit the floor so hard his socks changed feet in midair. Alike looked at the rest of us. We weren’t saying a thing. “Anybody else object to the way I run this company?”
Lefty became occupied with straightening a chair. I cleared my throat and lit a cigarette. The Babs chuckled;
next to tearing a hat apart they liked to see someone busted on the biscuit. It didn't matter whom, just so he hit the deck. “That dope. Thoiteen,” said Jake. “He never could get them hands up in time.”
Alike lit a cigar, ran a hand through his close-cropped hair. “Doggone it!” he exclaimed ruefully. “Everything’s going wrong. Is it my fault?” He glared at us.
“You been worried the past month, chief,” said Jake. Then to the rest of us, “Gee, the cops flang Alike’s numbers manager in the sneezer even Stinky couldn’t spring him.” Louie nodded. “We been having building trouble, too. All those Long Island lots we sold to suckers out West are coming back on us. and the lots are under water.”
“Yeah,” said Jake. “It’s them heavy rains—mostly.” “I wish I wasn’t so impulsive,” said Alike. “On the other hand, I can’t work with anyone who won’t do what I say.”
Alike motioned the Babs outside Bill’s door. “Don’t let him out today,” he said severely. “A contract between gentlemen is something to be lived up to. Every young man must learn that.” He caught me smothering a grin, winked and strode out, followed by Jake.
“Alike is right, at that.” said Barney, when the smoke had cleared away. “Being nuts about a girl is fine, but you can’t let it interfere with business. When I get my haberdashery store. I won’t even give Rosie’s old man ten per cent off on a new collar, and I’m nuts about Rosie.”
Mary called up late that afternoon, and conducted pretty much of a crackling one-sided conversation with Bill. We listened over the banister, feeling sorry for him—we’d all been on some such spot one time or another. He tried hard to get in a word.
“But I tell you I couldn't come ... I couldn’t come for a lot of reasons . . . Yes, I know I promised. I intended to come, too ... I tell you I couldn’t. Something came up out here and . . . Oh, don’t talk that way, dear. You know I love . . . No, I don’t think any more of Mike than I do of you —don’t be silly. It is just that I promised him . . . I can explain it all in five minutes, darling. . . . Besides, you went to a dance with that twirp Farnham after the Cup match and . . . Let me see you and explain. It’s nothing for you to be sore at me about, Alary. I wanted to— operator, you’ve cut me off.”
But she hadn’t. Mary had cut him off. Nor could he get her back. On this sour note, our main hope for cash and glory headed for Forest Hills two days later, and a sadderlooking youth you couldn’t picture. He and Mike made up, for underneath it all they were genuinely fond of each other, and Bill was fair-minded enough to see Alike’s side of the thing.
“Women,” sighed Alike as Lefty’s car departed for the battle. “What ain’t they into, anyhow? Men would be better off without ’em.”
WHAT went on behind the scenes of the sacrosanct American Lawn Tennis Association’s National Singles Championship that year was just something! Alike Bergen and Buggsy Flynn, holding the aces, began to give the tennis fathers some idea of what Big Tennis Business really meant. They established a limited mutual truce to put the squeeze on Edgerton, Holloway & Company. For the first time, those gentlemen, accustomed to monopoly, began to get an inkling of the elementary principles of free competition.
“You should have heard Rumple-puss scream,” laughed Alike, “when I told him there might be mice let loose in the stands unless a certain company got the printing of the programs. He had me threw out again.”
“Yeah,” said Thoiteen, “but you got the order. He called up later. He’s catching on.”
“Buggsy grabbed the straw cushion concession.” continued Mike. “He told Holloway that careless delivery men might drop some nasty acid on the cushions unless his boys were apperr.ted to keep an eye on things.”
“Holloway had him pinched,” chuckled Thoiteen. “But they didn’t have enough on Buggsy to thread a needle wit. He was sprung in two hours, laughin’ the buttons off his vest.”
“But the thing that really killed Rumple-puss,” said Alike, crossing his feet on his Chislewood Arms desk, “was having to pay the press to take pictures. You certainly lined the press up, Irish.”
“It was like shooting fish in an eyecup.” I said modestly. “Those badgers have been shoving the boys around for years —they’ve been aching for a chance to get even.” Alike sipped a drink reminiscently.
“That little Rumple-puss. he’s got nerve, though. Pushed his way in here last night, right past the Babs and the torpedoes. Said he had heard I was paying some players in his tournament, and that if that was the case he'd call the whole thing off and prosecute me. Of course I denied it — told him I wras just a fan. He had nothing on me.”
“He was after me too,” I said. “Demanded to know what I meant by refusing to let Bill play in his wife’s charity match. I ducked that by blaming the trainer, who’d said Bill got dizzy spells from playing too much. Then, just to take his mind off himself. I told him I was thinking of suing him for having poisoned water on hand for the Cavis Cup match, which nearly cost us the life of America’s best player. That was news to him—he snapped shut like a mousetrap after that.”
“But the little guy has nerve,” repeated Mike grudgingly. “What’s more, he acted pretty much on the level. Darn if I don’t think he’s more than half honest—he really loves that cockeyed game!”
“Don’t get sentimental. Mike,” I warned. “You’ve got too much to lose.” “Don’t tell me.” sighed Mike. His big frame sagged gloomily. “All my shows seem to be springing leaks at the joints right now. We even had to chase out a couple of guys who made serious business mistakes last week. They let out some estimates for sewer piping to the wrong parties over in Queens. But how’s Bill shaping up?”
Lefty shook his head and rattled his glass. “He’s off his feed. You know, picking at things and asking for ice cream. This love stuff has got him all gummed up. He loafed through four sets out there today in the second round; didn’t seem to care whether school kept or not. If he acts like that day after tomorrow, this fellow Whitmore will singe the whiskers right off him. He’s no bum.”
“Holy catfish!” exclaimed Mike. “You mean that?”
“That’s for you,” said Lefty. “From me. Right out of the pump.”
"XiflKE got up to stamp around Lefty ^ and Thoiteen lolled back shooting air pistols at Goldie’s canaries as they dipped about the room. A warm September breeze ruffled the curtains and I, for one. wished the w hole thing w as over.
It was becoming too complicated. The burlesque show promotions, in retrospect, were as simple and satisfactory as building a house of children’s blocks. But now we had so many lines out, so many divergent stories to support, that not even Mike could remember them all. I didn’t like Buggsy P'lynn’s being in on it, either. Bill and Barney were swell kids, and Mary was a—well, Mary was just Mary, and I hated doing anything that would drop me a peg in her book. However, I’d asked for it, been delighted to get it, and had to go through with it. Mike had paid me handsomely, and I was a little bit concerned, privately, that I had become so fond of him as a man. There was only one Mike Bergen.
My meditations were fractured, at length, by Lefty. “Hey, this is serious. If we don’t get a bright idea that will snap young Romeo out of his funk and get it pretty quick—we’re never going to need another, that’s all ”
I finally dredged up one that was, all agreed, sound from every angle. And, like most great ideas, almost ridiculously simple. One with the old universal unchanging common denominator of all human emotion— jealousy.
"Great!” exclaimed Mike. "You run the ’Rumors Department,’ Irish. Get phony interviews with Farnham set up in print—stating how he is going to whop the everlasting bejaspers out of Bill next time they meet. Follow it up with Society Section fluí! hinting at an engagement between ‘Top-ranking Tennis Star and Beautiful Niece of Prominent Official.’ Paste up snapshots of Mary and that big dope, and print them on newspaper stock.”
“Now we’re rollin’,” grinned Thoiteen, rubbing his paws. “Then just leave ’em around, careless like, where Bill will see ’em—hey. boss?”
Mike hit me a crack on the back. ■‘Golly, when 1 look back and think of all the guys I’d like to have slew on the account ol dames—well, 1 don’t see how we can lose out here.”
We clinked glasses while Thoiteen cried, “To the guy who has started more wars and got more guys into debt than any other gent who ever lived—Daniel J Cupid !” Then we went over to Lindy’s for cheese blintzes. Mike felt so good he ate eleven, and had terrible indigestion for a week. And next day 1 showed Bill a “clipping” headed “Farnham Calls Goodall a Bum,” and thought he’d hit the ceiling.
He snapi>ed out of it without a word and proceeded to go through that field like a hot knife through butter. Took Farnham in the semifinals, and the court in five tough sets to wind things up right. Even Barney might have got by Farnham, except for a certain brass-lunged stranger who yelled, “You stink!” just when he was poised for a winning shot. It took us weeks to find out that the guy was a novelty of Buggsy P'lynn’s— a ventriloquist with a loud-speaker voice. Even the cops in that part of the stand couldn't locate him. Or maybe they didn’t try hard enough. Buggsy didn’t mind shelling out when he was playing for keeps.
HPHE NEXT four months w-hizzed by * in a reel of wild events. Mike, of course, had had an option on the Garden for our pro debut for months. He didn’t tell anybody what attraction he was going to promote, and he got the option through a dummy, in the first place. Mike was always pretty much out of sight until the right moment came to move in and show his five aces.
He threw a big “Tennis Victory Ball” after Forest Hills. You never saw such a display as that which graced the Bergen Imperial Suite in the Chislewood Arms, not even in the movies. F'lunkies in white silk tennis costumes —at least three to a guest. Champagne—enough to float the Queen Mary. Movie stars, prizefighters, politicians, a police inspector, in fact all “the boys.” Platoons of gorgeous girls from the night clubs, knee-deep in sable, with mink a dime a dozen.
Headliners did their turns. The same turns that brought them a couple of grand a night before the footlights or under the whites on a hot-spot floor. The World’s Champion Lady Shot matched her skill in the gallery with Val Andretta and Trigger Spitzer, of the home club. A famous swing band went stark raving crazy in the ballroom, led by Goldie in a silver mesh dress that weighed thirty-two pounds, three ounces. Thoiteen checked his coat and vest to squire her through a Tenth Avenue version of the rhumba, their differences buried for the evening. Over it all beamed Uncle Mike, exuding cigars and backslaps, his muscles straining the seams of his $200 dinner clothes.
The only persons ill at ease were the two guests of honor, Bill and Barney. Mr. DeWitt Clinton F'ink. a distinguished figure with snowy mane and immaculate white dinner jacket, did them a “Poor Boy to President” speech which made the Gettysburg Address seem like the noonhour vaporings of an elevator starter. As he sketched the rise and bitter struggles of our lads, mascara ran like ink. Toughies who would laughingly evict an aged widow from a Bergen apartment covertly wiped their eyes and reached over to pat Bill’s shoulders. It was terrific. It might still be going on—for Stinky enjoyed his forensics as much as anyone—had not Mike rung the gong on him.
“Hey, save some of that, Stinky. I just heard that our Jersey brewery has been padlocked, and Stump Barr’s screamin’ for bail.”
The orator froze, arm upraised in the middle of a fine rolling hyperbole. Then he called for his opera hat and hurried out.
During the ice cream (cast in miniature molds of the Cavis Cup) I missed Bill. Excusing myself with real regret from the detaining clutch of a certain Miss "Zuzu” Stedman. whose phone number had somehow become inscribed on my shirt front with lipstick, I stepped out on the terrace.
The night was indescribably lovely—as unreal as the scene within. A threequarter stage moon bathed the,city, whose feebly competing lights spread below like a casket of flung jewels. Hearing voices, I felt my way through Uncle Mike’s transplanted pines. It was Bill Goodall, leaning on the rail—talking to Goldie.
“1 just can’t understand it,” he said. “After the last game I looked up, and she was leaving. She turned as though she were going to speak, then someone took her arm, and she went out with the crowd. I can’t understand it, Goldie. Not after all the fun we’ve had together and all. Except for that one row. of course.”
"And what then?” asked Goldie. Her sardonic voice held a strangely tender note, as though it belonged to another woman—a younger, different one. She tossed back a lock of hair and the soft light was very kind to her face. I realized, for the first time, how beautiful she must have been.
Bill sighed. "She just went away, that’s all. I phoned all day. Finally I called her office, and the girl said she had gone to Bermuda for a vacation with her aunt, who isn’t well, I just can’t understand it. You
wouldn’t treat a fellow like that, would
I could see Goldie’s cheek curve as she smiled. "Who, me? Why, I used to shuttle my beaux around like a fiddler’s elbow! That’s half the fun for a girl. Once they catch you, they take you for granted. She'll come back, don’t you worry. She’s just mad about that charity match.”
"They say Farnham is going dow n there next week, to play in some tournament or other. I can’t believe she likes him so darn much. No matter what I see in the papers.”
“That stand-in for a chalk mark? Hah !”
“Her relatives seem to think he’s pretty hot,” Bill said moodily.
"He’s a house fighter, that’s all.” said Goldie. “If he didn’t play ball with that little group of termites who run the racket, Edgerton wouldn’t let him carry his niece’s bundles.”
This clean-cut edict appeared to cheer Bill slightly. “You really think so? Then why haven’t I heard from her? She’s been gone a week and ten—-no, twelve—hours, right this minute.”
Goldie laughed, kindly. "A week and twelve hours! That’s nothing—plain .nothing Give the girl a little rest, Romeo. Let her get tired of the boat boys. Don’t even write her. She’ll get fed up Take it from me—I know girls.”
“You really think so, Goldie?”
She patted his arm. “If I were a gambling woman, I would bet you my right leg against a last year’s calendar pad.” She looked at him, sidewise. “Only, let me give you one word of advice, gained from a long and mostly misspent life. Don’t ever give up. Don’t ever let this Farnham, or any other punk, put it over on you. For women never change in this one important respect; they want the best man. So whether you’re shooting for tennis or marbles, or fighting, or love—just don’t quit, ever. Be the best in the show-, if you bust a lung doing it.”
Young Bill swallowed, then set his jaw and looked out over the city to where the night really began. “You bet!” he swore softly. “I’ll show ’em. And I’ll show her, too. None of ’em are going to get me down!” And that was the spirit which steeled Bill Goodall over the weeks preceding the ail-important debut in the Garden.
nrilE uproar in which the Cavis Cup had ended had left things ripe for a resumption of the feud. Many who witnessed the count’s triumph over Bill on that occasion contended that the German was the better man. Others swore that Bill had been the victim of some sort of underhand work; they didn’t know just what.
Instead of trying to make it appear onesided, I kept writing commendatory letters to the press about the Germans. Naturally, I signed some friend’s name to these communications. Then, when they appeared, I would refute them with fury and logic, signing someone else’s name. As the weeks sped by, I hardly knewwhich side I was on. Until Buggsy George Flynn hired a press agent of his own.
“Now,” grinned Mike, “you’ve got someone your own weight to push around. Flynn’s man, Stedberg, is one smart little mokkie! They tell me he could get Hitler elected mayor of Hester Street. You better get hot.”
The news leaked out about the Germans then too, but they were supposed to be simon-pure amateurs until the first of the year. “Supposed” is right; we knew what Buggsy was paying them, and it was plenty. What’s more, they were worth it. Society fought over them.
"I have a pretty good hunch,” I told Mike one night as we drove downtown to bail out one of his policy executives, “that Farnham has signed up with Buggsy too I saw his picture yesterday, sitting at the wheel of a new car as long as a Pullman. And since Farnham didn't come through in either the Cup or the Nationals, the Old Guard can’t be as palsy-walsy with him as they used to be.”
“They’ll stick, though,” Mike said. “And that’s great. You’ve got to have fighters with followings, or you get no gate. This is lining up just the way I figured it —us against the café crowd and the studies who have always owned the game. Only we're something new—we’re a big novelty. Kind of like a rassler with a monocle or a long beard was at first, remember? We’re bringing ’em what they think is South Sea atmosphere, but strie.ly under the Stars and Stripes.”
Two weeks later my phone rang one evening. I didn’t answer it, being pleasantly occupied listening to the salty reminiscences of Miss Zuzu Stedman. But when telegram after telegram slid under the door, I dragged myself back to the world. They all read the same.
“Get Over Here Quick. Signed, Cecelia.” “That’sMike,” I sighed. “Sorry, honey, the bugle calls.” I grabbed my hat and left.
rT"*HE minute Jake opened the door, angry voices hit me like a spatter of shrapnel. “Mr. Flynn is here,” murmured Jake, from the extreme corner of his mouth. “Also Mr. Farley. Also Mr. Stedboig. They’ve got Mike crazy.”
The three visitors were very much at ease in Mike’s deep chairs. They sprawled, without even the formality of removing their hats. Buggsy George, with his closeset eyes and hoarse voice, was holding forth. Mike paced irritably around, billowing clouds of smoke. Thoiteen leaned against the door, thumbs in vest. Buggsy threw me a, “H’ya, Charley.” Having no memory for names, he called everybody “Charley,” including his mother. He went on, holding up a sheet of newsprint.
“Well, what do you say? Stedberg here has got the drop on you guys at last. Do we show you up now as a—as—what’s that name again. Yussel?”
“ ‘Impostor,’ ” supplied Mr. Stedberg. a ferretlike individual with a nose like your elbow. "They’ve been imposing on the American public ever since they landed those two beavers. Calling them ‘Pacific Islanders’ when one was hatched down South and the other on West 158th Street.” “Yeah,” continued Buggsy with hoarse indignation. He helped himself to a cigar from Mike’s humidor. “Pulling that stuff on people, Charley. You ought to be ashamed.”
“What’s it all about?” I said. “I’m just in from Jersey.”
“Haw-haw,” laughed Buggsy. “Look at Snow White, will you? I’ll tell you what’s it about. Stedboig here got pally with — what’s that name?”
“ ‘Ulysses Grant Shapiro, up in the Bronx, where I live.”
“Why, that must be the father of Barney’s Rosie,” I said. “Imagine.”
That sent the three of them off into another fit. Mike said, with that bland Bergen manner which no one but Mike in a tight place could assume:
“Stedberg, here, got that poor old gentleman cockeyed a few days ago. So cockeyed, in fact, that he spilled the story of all the sacrifices we had made in order to give poor boys a chance to make a little money playing professional tennis.” Stedberg eyed me as a bus conductor eyes the man who tenders him a five-dollar bill.
“I have copies of affidavits from Shapiro that you paid him five hundred dollars not to let the story out. I also have copies of the story which he planned to release when you gave him the word —in case you ever did.”
“Well,” and my voice was dry-. “So what?”
“This,” said Buggsy. “Either you birds can make us a cash offer—and a good one — to forget the story, or out she comes. Once it’s out. you’re through.”
“Nuts!” snapped Mike. “You can't wash out the best tennis player in the country with any crummy piece in the newspapers. Besides, these boys are straight as a string. They never took a cent from me for anything.”
"Hmm,” said Buggsy. “Living on air like the katydids all this time. I suppose?” Mike flushed. “Not at all. Mr. Epstein has been learning English from Bill—he's a college guy. And Barney—he never had any schooling —well, he’s been sort of learning it from Lefty. Lefty has simply given them enough to live on in exchange. A loan against culture, you might say.” They howled at that one. Even I couldn’t restrain a grin. So Mike joined in —lie knew when to shift his course. He slapped his big hands down on the table and said, “Haw kay, boys. We’ll skip that one. I’ll come clean with you. We’re all in business on this thing—right?
“Right,” he continued. “Now. if you spring this story at this time, you’ll simply kill the goose that is going to lay those 22-karat eggs for us both later on. If you steer the suckers off our boys, you’ll have nobody to throw in there with those Heinies of yours. The match wouldn’t draw flies in a slaughterhouse with the doors open. What’s more, I happen to hold the option on the hall for the only free date that month. Now—what’s it worth to you to forget this ridiculous story about our boys?”
Buggsy thought it over. “Not a cent less than ten G’s,” he said firmly.
Mike’s eyes bulged. “Ten G’s! Why. Buggsy, you must be nuts!”
“Naw,” said Buggsy. “You’re the paper-doll guy around here. Thinking you could outsmart me like that. Take it or leave it.”
Mike raved, but he knew they had him. He was just stalling, trying to think up an out. At last he said. “Well, give me a week to think it over. A week won’t make any difference, one way or the other. What do you say?”
Buggsy went into conference with the staff. “I’ll give you four days,” he said. “If you don’t shower down by then, out goes the story, and your racket along with it.” He rose. “Come on, boys.”
Jake slammed the door behind them. Mike looked at me. “Well, Irish?” They all looked at me. hard.
“Easy.” I said. “We’ll just break the story ourselves—but tomorrow! We’ll beat them to the punch—defrost the boys from those whiskers, and tell the jxjp-eyed world. I can just see those headlines:
“TENNIS CHAMPS SHED WHISKERS!
“Game’s Greatest Hoax Reveals PacificIslanders as Poor but Honest Homebreds—Solons in Hiding—Pro Debut Sellout Assured.”
“One hundred per cent,” grinned Mike, rubbing his hands. “I can just see Edgerton’s face—and Holloway’s! That ‘Poor Boy Background’ stuff will just about finish them.”
“Right! I’ll handle the news stories as though I’d planned the whole thing for a test case. Just to see whether American Lawn Tennis was run by a tight little clique—or whether any good unknown player from the other side of the tracks could get a square shake, regardless.” “Slick-o!” chuckled Mike. “That’ll put it straight up to the Edgertons and the Holloways. They’ll have to stick with that story, and won’t it kill ’em?”
“Won’t it kill Buggsy, though !” grinned Thoiteen. getting up. “Sitting home with his dime bank all ready for those ten G’s while we print his story.”
When our story broke, it was a sensation. It was a double sensation for Buggsy Flynn. He called up Mike, who listened happily. At its conclusion he said, “Why, pal, I never gave you my word. I don’t go around giving my word to every Tom, Dick and Heel. You must have misunderstood. So long, pal—see you at the races.”
The press stormed my hotel and I showered them with releases. There might be some small corner of the civilized world that wouldn’t know we were playing the other gang in the Garden on January 25th. but I couldn't tell you where that corner might be.
‘XJ’EANTIME, during the feverish days remaining, the money rolled in. I serialized our heroes’ lives for a leading weekly, which sold out the instant it hit the stands. The boys and I split fifty-fifty, with twenty-five per cent out for Mike, of course. We made newsreels. We endorsed everything from shredded cocoanut to razor blades to steamship lines. A columnist with a skull for statistics announced that the only persons whose pictures had appeared more often than the boys’ during the month of December were Father Divine and Adolf Hitler. Yes. sir, we were up there shaking that tree while the shaking was good.
“We’re going to run this show like the real heavyweight attraction it is,” Mike announced one day. “No more free practice sessions.”
“You mean,” I said, “that you’re going to try to charge admission to watch a tennis practice?”
“You’re getting warm, Irish.” Mike could be sarcastic when he felt like it. “Two bits a head—same as at the big fight camps.” He wasn’t fooling, either.
He rented a mid-town armory and I strung a huge painted banner across the front of it, reading:
“TONIGHT AND EVERY NIGHT: WORLD’S TENNIS CHAMPS TRAINING: DANCING CONTESTS FOR CASH PRIZES: MUSIC BY SHAG SHEA’S TOMCATS: 50 BEAUTIFUL HOSTESSES.”
“How do you like it?” I said at the preview.
Mike squinted. “You left out one thing, Irish. Bingo. No all-day-sucker is happy without his Bingo today.” So we added the Bingo to our circus. Later we added slot machines. Mike had had so many places closed by the new D.A. that we had more machines rattling around than a deb has charm bracelets. His summonses, too. were keeping Stinky Fink on the jump.
“The only way I’ll ever get out of the red,” he sighed, “is to start that European War and sell these gigs for junk.” He rubbed his greying thatch reminiscently. “Only the way my luck’s running now, I’d be the first guy they’d have back in them trenches again. And once was enough for your Uncle Mike—I think of those big rats every time I see that Buggsy Flynn! Haw!”
Buggsy, meanwhile, was not idle. Following our lead, they hired a hall up in the York ville section, where the natives live on things ending in “wurst,” and brush their teeth with umlauts. The Germans were emperors there, and Farnham drew the Social Register fledglings. But they lacked a sense of showmanship and we kept several jumps ahead.
We had several visits from Old Rumplepuss Edgerton. He couldn’t seem to realize that his days of wielding the sceptre were one with the mustache cup and the high-wheel bike.
“Now, listen. Pop,” said Mike finally. “You boys with the club ties had the racket long enough. You used it to the hilt. You were tough with the players, the customers, the press and the boys with the cameras. The clubs grabbed the receipts. The players who drew the crowds for you got nothing—or as little as you could give ’em. Why it took the first small promoters as long as it did to put the thing on an honest professional basis, I’ll never know.”
“I won’t have it!” roared Rumple-puss. “My sole interest in tennis lies in keeping the game clean and honest. I—”
Mike looked at him. “Look out, Pop, or you’ll blow a fuse.” He turned to me. I was watching the scene, feeling rather uncomfortable. “You know, Irish, the funny part about it is that I more than half believe this little guy.”
That finished Edgerton. He jumped up. screamed up into Mike’s face, and banged out.
“Funny,” mused Mike, “how we all kid ourselves, isn’t it?”
“Well, I’m not kidding myself any longer,” said a voice from the door. It was Bill Goodall, looking restless and unhappy. “I wish I’d never seen a tennis racket. Mike. I’m tired of being stared at and regarded as a freak. I’m sick of having bums give me the Bronx cheer when I miss a shot. I’m not worth any part of what you pay me. and I’d like to call the whole thing off and get back to work. I don’t like saying this, Mike, but it’s true.”
MIKE’S steel-wool eyebrows jumped in surprise. “You mean you don’t like making a pile of dough, son?”
“No.” said Bill, “it isn’t that, at all. I’d love to make it in my own line. And some day I will. I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately. And I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m just wasting my time playing games when I ought to be working at the job which I’m going to follow. I suppose that sounds silly, doesn’t it?”
“Well, maybe a touch impractical,” smiled Mike, who knew when to go easy. “If I’m satisfied with the deal—and I am -—I’d like you to be, too, Bill. We’re going to make a killing at the Garden. Even with the new Bergen price scale, it’s a sellout. They’ll be hanging from the rafters by their fingernails. I figure we’ll net about—”
"What’s money?” interrupted Bill moodily. “Money —• money — money. That’s all people around here talk about.” Mike blinked. He was shrewd as they come, but quite incapable of grasping an original idea like that.
"Oh, money’s not so bad,” he said, pulling a face at me as Bill stared out into the early January dusk. “Buys nice cheese blintzes with sour cream, for one thing. Then, it’s handy for new promotions. Can’t tell when some inventor will come in with a patent for a wireless bird cage, for instance, or a new machine for card games.”
“Then again,” I said, "it’s nice to have in case a man gets a crazy notion that he wants to get married. Isn’t that right, Mike?”
“Most expensive hobby there is,” said Mike solemnly, “except maybe owning a circus. Yes, sir, marriage can rim you into a lot of dough.”
Bill perked up a bit, in a melancholy fashion. He had evidently given the subject some thought, at one time or another.
"Well, I’ll stick in the game till I cash in at the Garden and beat Farnham,” he said. “Then I’ll go far away by myself where there’s neither tennis nor women.”
“Haw kay,” said Mike. He looked almost mellow. “Just wait till we take the Bark away from the Park Avenue Hirams. I figure to make my expenses to date, and a nice clean-up in addition, for this one show.”
“That’s all right for you,” Bill said. “But how about after that? All this road trip stuff you’ve been talking about?” Alike smoked a spell. “Tell you what I ’ll do, son. I’ll make you a bargain—something I don’t often let myself do. If this Garden show doesn’t come off 100 per cent satisfactory to you—-and I know it will— you can call the whole thing off then and there. Am I Santy Claus now, or ain’t I?” “You—you’re all right, Mike.” said Bill with real feeling. “I told Mr. Edgerton that when he threatened to go out and tell everybody you were a big crook.”
Mike waved his cigar. “Shucks—EveryIxxly knows that. In fact, I’m afraid it’s even getting around to the District Attorney’s office. I’m beginning to think, from all the attentions lie’s showering down of late, that that feller don’t like me.”
“Maybe,” I said, “you ought to give him a little of that ‘Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder’ stuff, Mike. Maybe you ought to take a trip.”
“I’ve thought of that. But I don’t think I could leave now. Even with my influence, I have been having passport trouble. I don’t know what the country is coming to.”
“I think it’s in a bad way,” mooned young Bill. “Everything’s bad.”
The world didn’t appear any better to him during the days that followed either. Farnham. his rival in both love and tennis, apparently remained in favor with Mary Edgerton, and with the newspaper editors who printed tennis news and players’ photographs, too.