Part 2 out of 3
Kitchens are as quick to seize upon these things and gossip
about them as drawing rooms are. And because Miss Gussie Fink had
always worn a little air of aloofness to all except Heiny, the
kitchen was the more eager to make the most of its morsel. Each
turned it over under his tongue--Tony, the Crook, whom Miss Fink
had scorned; Francois, the entree cook, who often forgot he was
married; Miss Sweeney, the bar-checker, who was jealous of Miss
Fink's complexion. Miss Fink heard, and said nothing. She only
knew that there would be no dear figure waiting for her when the
night's work was done. For two weeks now she had put on her hat
and coat and gone her way at one o'clock alone. She discovered
that to be taken home night after night under Heiny's tender escort
had taught her a ridiculous terror of the streets at night now that
she was without protection. Always the short walk from the car to
the flat where Miss Fink lived with her mother had been a glorious,
star-lit, all too brief moment. Now it was an endless and
terrifying trial, a thing of shivers and dread, fraught with horror
of passing the alley just back of Cassidey's buffet. There had
even been certain little half-serious, half-jesting talks about the
future into which there had entered the subject of a little
delicatessen and restaurant in a desirable neighborhood, with Heiny
in the kitchen, and a certain blonde, neat, white-shirtwaisted
person in charge of the desk and front shop.
She and her mother had always gone through a little formula
upon Miss Fink's return from work. They never used it now.
Gussie's mother was a real mother--the kind that wakes up when you
"That you, Gussie?" Ma Fink would call from the bedroom, at
the sound of the key in the lock.
"It's me, ma."
"Heiny bring you home?"
"There's a bit of sausage left, and some pie if----"
"Oh, I ain't hungry. We stopped at Joey's downtown and had a
cup of coffee and a ham on rye. Did you remember to put out the
For two weeks there had been none of that. Gussie had learned
to creep silently into bed, and her mother, being a mother, feigned
To-night at her desk Miss Gussie Fink seemed a shade cooler,
more self-contained, and daisylike than ever. From somewhere at
the back of her head she could see that Heiny was avoiding her desk
and was using the services of the checker at the other end of the
room. And even as the poison of this was eating into her heart she
was tapping her forefinger imperatively on the desk before her and
saying to Tony, the Crook:
"Down on the table with that tray, Tony--flat. This may be a
busy little New Year's Eve, but you can't come any of your
sleight-of-hand stuff on me." For Tony had a little trick of
concealing a dollar-and-a-quarter sirloin by the simple method of
slapping the platter close to the underside of his tray and holding
it there with long, lean fingers outspread, the entire bit of
knavery being concealed in the folds of a flowing white napkin in
the hand that balanced the tray. Into Tony's eyes there came a
baleful gleam. His lean jaw jutted out threateningly.
"You're the real Weissenheimer kid, ain't you?" he sneered.
"Never mind. I'll get you at recess."
"Some day," drawled Miss Fink, checking the steak, "the
house'll get wise to your stuff and then you'll have to go back to
the coal wagon. I know so much about you it's beginning to make me
uncomfortable. I hate to carry around a burden of crime."
"You're a sorehead because Heiny turned you down and now----"
"Move on there!" snapped Miss Fink, "or I'll call the steward
to settle you. Maybe he'd be interested to know that you've been
counting in the date and your waiter's number, and adding 'em in at
the bottom of your check."
Tony, the Crook, turned and skimmed away toward the
dining-room, but the taste of victory was bitter in Miss Fink's
Midnight struck. There came from the direction of the Pink
Fountain Room a clamor and din which penetrated the thickness of
the padded doors that separated the dining-room from the kitchen
beyond. The sound rose and swelled above the blare of the
orchestra. Chairs scraped on the marble floor as hundreds rose to
their feet. The sound of clinking glasses became as the jangling
of a hundred bells. There came the sharp spat of hand-clapping,
then cheers, yells, huzzas. Through the swinging doors at the end
of the long passageway Miss Fink could catch glimpses of dazzling
color, of shimmering gowns, of bare arms uplifted, of flowers, and
plumes, and jewels, with the rosy light of the famed pink fountain
casting a gracious glow over all. Once she saw a tall young fellow
throw his arm about the shoulder of a glorious creature at the next
table, and though the door swung shut before she could see it, Miss
Fink knew that he had kissed her.
There were no New Year's greetings in the kitchen back of the
Pink Fountain Room. It was the busiest moment in all that busy
night. The heat of the ovens was so intense that it could be felt
as far as Miss Fink's remote corner. The swinging doors between
dining-room and kitchen were never still. A steady stream of
waiters made for the steam tables before which the white-clad chefs
stood ladling, carving, basting, serving, gave their orders,
received them, stopped at the checking-desk, and sped
dining-roomward again. Tony, the Crook, was cursing at one of the
little Polish vegetable girls who had not been quick enough about
the garnishing of a salad, and she was saying, over and over again,
in her thick tongue:
"Aw, shod op yur mout'!"
The thud-thud of Miss Fink's checking-stamp kept time to
flying footsteps, but even as her practised eye swept over the tray
before her she saw the steward direct Henri toward her desk, just
as he was about to head in the direction of the minor
checking-desk. Beneath downcast lids she saw him coming. There
was about Henri to-night a certain radiance, a sort of electrical
elasticity, so nimble, so tireless, so exuberant was he. In the
eyes of Miss Gussie Fink he looked heartbreakingly handsome in his
waiter's uniform--handsome, distinguished, remote, and infinitely
desirable. And just behind him, revenge in his eye, came Tony.
The flat surface of the desk received Henri's tray. Miss Fink
regarded it with a cold and business-like stare. Henri whipped his
napkin from under his left arm and began to remove covers,
dexterously. Off came the first silver, dome-shaped top.
"Guinea hen," said Henri.
"I seen her lookin' at you when you served the little necks,"
came from Tony, as though continuing a conversation begun in some
past moment of pause, "and she's some lovely doll, believe me."
Miss Fink scanned the guinea hen thoroughly, but with a
detached air, and selected the proper stamp from the box at her
elbow. Thump! On the broad pasteboard sheet before her appeared
the figures $1.75 after Henri's number.
"Think so?" grinned Henri, and removed another cover. "One
"I bet some day we'll see you in the Sunday papers, Heiny,"
went on Tony, "with a piece about handsome waiter runnin' away with
beautiful s'ciety girl. Say; you're too perfect even for a
Thump! Thirty cents.
"Quit your kiddin'," said the flattered Henri. "One endive,
Thump!" Next!" said Miss Fink, dispassionately, yawned, and
smiled fleetingly at the entree cook who wasn't looking her way.
Then, as Tony slid his tray toward her: "How's business, Tony?
H'm? How many two-bit cigar bands have you slipped onto your own
private collection of nickel straights and made a twenty-cent
But there was a mist in the bright brown eyes as Tony the
Crook turned away with his tray. In spite of the satisfaction of
having had the last word, Miss Fink knew in her heart that Tony had
"got her at recess," as he had said he would.
Things were slowing up for Miss Fink. The stream of hurrying
waiters was turned in the direction of the kitchen bar now. From
now on the eating would be light, and the drinking heavy. Miss
Fink, with time hanging heavy, found herself blinking down at the
figures stamped on the pasteboard sheet before her, and in spite of
the blinking, two marks that never were intended for a checker's
report splashed down just over the $1.75 after Henri's number. A
lovely doll! And she had gazed at Heiny. Well, that was to be
expected. No woman could gaze unmoved upon Heiny. "A lovely
"Hi, Miss Fink!" it was the steward's voice. "We need you
over in the bar to help Miss Sweeney check the drinks. They're
coming too swift for her. The eating will be light from now on;
just a little something salty now and then."
So Miss Fink dabbed covertly at her eyes and betook herself
out of the atmosphere of roasting, and broiling, and frying, and
stewing; away from the sight of great copper kettles, and glowing
coals and hissing pans, into a little world fragrant with mint,
breathing of orange and lemon peel, perfumed with pineapple,
redolent of cinnamon and clove, reeking with things spirituous.
Here the splutter of the broiler was replaced by the hiss of the
siphon, and the pop-pop of corks, and the tinkle and clink of ice
"Hello, dearie!" cooed Miss Sweeney, in greeting, staring hard
at the suspicious redness around Miss Fink's eyelids. "Ain't you
sweet to come over here in the headache department and help me out!
Here's the wine list. You'll prob'ly need it. Say, who do you
suppose invented New Year's Eve? They must of had a imagination
like a Greek 'bus boy. I'm limp as a rag now, and it's only
two-thirty. I've got a regular cramp in my wrist from checkin'
quarts. Say, did you hear about Heiny's crowd?"
"No," said Miss Fink, evenly, and began to study the first
page of the wine list under the heading "Champagnes of Noted
"Well," went on Miss Sweeney's little thin, malicious voice,
"he's fell in soft. There's a table of three, and they're drinkin'
1874 Imperial Crown at twelve dollars per, like it was Waukesha
ale. And every time they finish a bottle one of the guys pays for
it with a brand new ten and a brand new five and tells Heiny to
keep the change. Can you beat it?"
"I hope," said Miss Fink, pleasantly, "that the supply of 1874
will hold out till morning. I'd hate to see them have to come down
to ten dollar wine. Here you, Tony! Come back here! I may be a
new hand in this department but I'm not so green that you can put
a gold label over on me as a yellow label. Notice that I'm
checking you another fifty cents."
"Ain't he the grafter!" laughed Miss Sweeney. She leaned
toward Miss Fink and lowered her voice discreetly. "Though I'll
say this for'm. If you let him get away with it now an' then,
he'll split even with you. H'm? O, well, now, don't get so high
and mighty. The management expects it in this department. That's
why they pay starvation wages."
An unusual note of color crept into Miss Gussie Fink's smooth
cheek. It deepened and glowed as Heiny darted around the corner
and up to the bar. There was about him an air of suppressed
excitement -- suppressed, because Heiny was too perfect a waiter to
"Not another!" chanted the bartenders, in chorus.
"Yes," answered Henri, solemnly, and waited while the wine
cellar was made to relinquish another rare jewel.
"O, you Heiny!" called Miss Sweeney, "tell us what she looks
like. If I had time I'd take a peek myself. From what Tony says
she must look something like Maxine Elliot, only brighter."
Henri turned. He saw Miss Fink. A curious little expression
came into his eyes--a Heiny look, it might have been called, as he
regarded his erstwhile sweetheart's unruffled attire, and clear
skin, and steady eye and glossy hair. She was looking past him in
that baffling, maddening way that angry women have. Some of
Henri's poise seemed to desert him in that moment. He appeared a
shade less debonair as he received the precious bottle from the
wine man's hands. He made for Miss Fink's desk and stood watching
her while she checked his order. At the door he turned and looked
over his shoulder at Miss Sweeney.
"Some time," he said, deliberately, "when there's no ladies
around, I'll tell you what I think she looks like."
And the little glow of color in Miss Gussic Fink's smooth
cheek became a crimson flood that swept from brow to throat.
"Oh, well," snickered Miss Sweeney, to hide her own
discomfiture, "this is little Heiny's first New Year's Eve in the
dining-room. Honest, I b'lieve he's shocked. He don't realize
that celebratin' New Year's Eve is like eatin' oranges. You got to
let go your dignity t' really enjoy 'em."
Three times more did Henri enter and demand a bottle of the
famous vintage, and each time he seemed a shade less buoyant. His
elation diminished as his tips grew greater until, as he drew up at
the bar at six o'clock, he seemed wrapped in impenetrable gloom.
"Them hawgs sousin' yet?" shrilled Miss Sweeney. She and Miss
Fink had climbed down from their high stools, and were preparing to
leave. Henri nodded, drearily, and disappeared in the direction of
the Pink Fountain Room.
Miss Fink walked back to her own desk in the corner near the
dining-room door. She took her hat off the hook, and stood
regarding it, thoughtfully. Then, with a little air of decision,
she turned and walked swiftly down the passageway that separated
dining-room from kitchen. Tillie, the scrub-woman, was down on her
hands and knees in one corner of the passage. She was one of a
small army of cleaners that had begun the work of clearing away the
debris of the long night's revel. Miss Fink lifted her neat skirts
high as she tip-toed through the little soapy pool that followed in
the wake of Tillie, the scrub-woman. She opened the swinging doors
a cautious little crack and peered in. What she saw was not
pretty. If the words sordid and bacchanalian had been part of Miss
Fink's vocabulary they would have risen to her lips then. The
crowd had gone. The great room contained not more than half a
dozen people. Confetti littered the floor. Here and there a
napkin, crushed and bedraggled into an unrecognizable ball, lay
under a table. From an overturned bottle the dregs were dripping
drearily. The air was stale, stifling, poisonous.
At a little table in the center of the room Henri's three were
still drinking. They were doing it in a dreadful and businesslike
way. There were two men and one woman. The faces of all three
were mahogany colored and expressionless. There was about them an
awful sort of stillness. Something in the sight seemed to sicken
Gussie Fink. It came to her that the wintry air outdoors must be
gloriously sweet, and cool, and clean in contrast to this. She was
about to turn away, with a last look at Heiny yawning behind his
hand, when suddenly the woman rose unsteadily to her feet,
balancing herself with her finger tips on the table. She raised
her head and stared across the room with dull, unseeing eyes, and
licked her lips with her tongue. Then she turned and walked half
a dozen paces, screamed once with horrible shrillness, and crashed
to the floor. She lay there in a still, crumpled heap, the folds
of her exquisite gown rippling to meet a little stale pool of wine
that had splashed from some broken glass. Then this happened.
Three people ran toward the woman on the floor, and two people ran
past her and out of the room. The two who ran away were the men
with whom she had been drinking, and they were not seen again. The
three who ran toward her were Henri, the waiter, Miss Gussie Fink,
checker, and Tillie, the scrub-woman. Henri and Miss Fink reached
her first. Tillie, the scrub-woman, was a close third. Miss
Gussie Fink made as though to slip her arm under the poor bruised
head, but Henri caught her wrist fiercely (for a waiter) and pulled
her to her feet almost roughly.
"You leave her alone, Kid," he commanded.
Miss Gussie Fink stared, indignation choking her utterance.
And as she stared the fierce light in Henri's eyes was replaced by
the light of tenderness.
"We'll tend to her," said Henri; "she ain't fit for you to
touch. I wouldn't let you soil your hands on such truck." And
while Gussie still stared he grasped the unconscious woman by the
shoulders, while another waiter grasped her ankles, with Tillie,
the scrub-woman, arranging her draperies pityingly around her, and
together they carried her out of the dining-room to a room beyond.
Back in the kitchen Miss Gussie Fink was preparing to don her
hat, but she was experiencing some difficulty because of the way in
which her fingers persisted in trembling. Her face was turned
away from the swinging doors, but she knew when Henri came in. He
stood just behind her, in silence. When she turned to face him she
found Henri looking at her, and as he looked all the Heiny in him
came to the surface and shone in his eyes. He looked long and
silently at Miss Gussie Fink--at the sane, simple, wholesomeness of
her, at her clear brown eyes, at her white forehead from which the
shining hair sprang away in such a delicate line, at her
immaculately white shirtwaist, and her smooth, snug-fitting collar
that came up to the lobes of her little pink ears, at her creamy
skin, at her trim belt. He looked as one who would rest his
eyes--eyes weary of gazing upon satins, and jewels, and rouge, and
carmine, and white arms, and bosoms.
"Gee, Kid! You look good to me," he said.
"Do I--Heiny?" whispered Miss Fink.
"Believe me!" replied Heiny, fervently. "It was just a case
of swelled head. Forget it, will you? Say, that gang in there
to-night--why, say, that gang----"
"I know," interrupted Miss Fink.
"Going home?" asked Heiny.
"Suppose we have a bite of something to eat first," suggested
Miss Fink glanced round the great, deserted kitchen. As she
gazed a little expression of disgust wrinkled her pretty nose--the
nose that perforce had sniffed the scent of so many rare and
"Sure," she assented, joyously, "but not here. Let's go
around the corner to Joey's. I could get real chummy with a cup of
good hot coffee and a ham on rye."
He helped her on with her coat, and if his hands rested a
moment on her shoulders who was there to see it? A few sleepy,
wan-eyed waiters and Tillie, the scrub-woman. Together they
started toward the door. Tillie, the scrubwoman, had worked her
wet way out of the passage and into the kitchen proper. She and
her pail blocked their way. She was sopping up a soapy pool with
an all-encompassing gray scrub-rag. Heiny and Gussie stopped a
moment perforce to watch her. It was rather fascinating to see how
that artful scrub-rag craftily closed in upon the soapy pool until
it engulfed it. Tillie sat back on her knees to wring out the
water-soaked rag. There was something pleasing in the sight.
Tillie's blue calico was faded white in patches and at the knees it
was dark with soapy water. Her shoes were turned up ludicrously at
the toes, as scrub-women's shoes always are. Tillie's thin hair
was wadded back into a moist knob at the back and skewered with a
gray-black hairpin. From her parboiled, shriveled fingers to her
ruddy, perspiring face there was nothing of grace or beauty about
Tillie. And yet Heiny found something pleasing there. He could
not have told you why, so how can I, unless to say that it was,
perhaps, for much the same reason that we rejoice in the wholesome,
safe, reassuring feel of the gray woolen blanket on our bed when we
wake from a horrid dream.
"A Happy New Year to you," said Heiny gravely, and took his
hand out of his pocket.
Tillie's moist right hand closed over something. She smiled
so that one saw all her broken black teeth.
"The same t' you," said Tillie. "The same t' you."
ONE OF THE OLD GIRLS
All of those ladies who end their conversation with you by wearily
suggesting that you go down to the basement to find what you seek,
do not receive a meager seven dollars a week as a reward for their
efforts. Neither are they all obliged to climb five weary flights
of stairs to reach the dismal little court room which is their
home, and there are several who need not walk thirty-three blocks
to save carfare, only to spend wretched evenings washing out
handkerchiefs and stockings in the cracked little washbowl, while
one ear is cocked for the stealthy tread of the Lady Who Objects.
The earnest compiler of working girls' budgets would pass
Effie Bauer hurriedly by. Effie's budget bulged here and there
with such pathetic items as hand-embroidered blouses, thick club
steaks, and parquet tickets for Maude Adams. That you may
visualize her at once I may say that Effie looked twenty-four--from
the rear (all women do in these days of girlish simplicity in hats
and tailor-mades); her skirts never sagged, her shirtwaists were
marvels of plainness and fit, and her switch had cost her sixteen
dollars, wholesale (a lady friend in the business). Oh, there was
nothing tragic about Effie. She had a plump, assured style, a keen
blue eye, a gift of repartee, and a way of doing her hair so that
the gray at the sides scarcely showed at all. Also a knowledge of
corsets that had placed her at the buying end of that important
department at Spiegel's. Effie knew to the minute when coral beads
went out and pearl beads came in, and just by looking at her
blouses you could tell when Cluny died and Irish was born. Meeting
Effie on the street, you would have put her down as one of the many
well-dressed, prosperous-looking women shoppers--if you hadn't
looked at her feet. Veteran clerks and policemen cannot disguise
Effie Bauer's reason for not marrying when a girl was the same
as that of most of the capable, wise-eyed, good-looking women one
finds at the head of departments. She had not had a chance. If
Effie had been as attractive at twenty as she was at--there, we
won't betray confidences. Still, it is certain that if Effie had
been as attractive when a young girl as she was when an old girl,
she never would have been an old girl and head of Spiegel's corset
department at a salary of something very comfortably over one
hundred and twenty-five a month (and commissions). Effie had
improved with the years, and ripened with experience. She knew her
value. At twenty she had been pale, anaemic and bony, with a
startled-faun manner and bad teeth. Years of saleswomanship had
broadened her, mentally and physically, until she possessed a wide
and varied knowledge of that great and diversified subject known as
human nature. She knew human nature all the way from the fifty-
nine-cent girdles to the twenty-five-dollar made-to-orders. And if
the years had brought, among other things, a certain hardness about
the jaw and a line or two at the corners of the eyes, it was not
surprising. You can't rub up against the sharp edges of this world
and expect to come out without a scratch or so.
So much for Effie. Enter the hero. Webster defines a hero in
romance as the person who has the principal share in the
transactions related. He says nothing which would debar a
gentleman just because he may be a trifle bald and in the habit of
combing his hair over the thin spot, and he raises no objections to
a matter of thickness and color in the region of the back of the
neck. Therefore Gabe I. Marks qualifies. Gabe was the gentleman
about whom Effie permitted herself to be guyed. He came to Chicago
on business four times a year, and he always took Effie to the
theater, and to supper afterward. On those occasions, Effie's
gown, wrap and hat were as correct in texture, lines, and paradise
aigrettes as those of any of her non-working sisters about her. On
the morning following these excursions into Lobsterdom, Effie would
confide to her friend, Miss Weinstein, of the lingeries and
"l was out with my friend, Mr. Marks, last evening. We went
to Rector's after the show. Oh, well, it takes a New Yorker to
know how. Honestly, I feel like a queen when I go out with him.
H'm? Oh, nothing like that, girlie. I never could see that
marriage thing. Just good friends."
Gabe had been coming to Chicago four times a year for six
years. Six times four are twenty-four. And one is twenty-five.
Gabe's last visit made the twenty-fifth.
"Well, Effie," Gabe said when the evening's entertainment had
reached the restaurant stage, "this is our twenty-fifth
anniversary. It's our silver wedding, without the silver and the
wedding. We'll have a bottle of champagne. That makes it almost
legal. And then suppose we finish up by having the wedding. The
silver can be omitted."
Effie had been humming with the orchestra, holding a lobster
claw in one hand and wielding the little two-pronged fork with the
other. She dropped claw, fork, and popular air to stare
open-mouthed at Gabe. Then a slow, uncertain smile crept about her
lips, although her eyes were still unsmiling.
"Stop your joking, Gabie," she said. "Some day you'll say
those things to the wrong lady, and then you'll have a
breach-of-promise suit on your hands."
"This ain't no joke, Effie," Gabe had replied. "Not with me it
ain't. As long as my mother selig lived I wouldn't ever marry a
Goy. It would have broken her heart. I was a good son to her, and
good sons make good husbands, they say. Well, Effie, you want to
try it out?"
There was something almost solemn in Effie's tone and
expression. "Gabie," she said slowly, "you're the first man that's
ever asked me to marry him."
"That goes double," answered Gabe.
"Thanks," said Effie. "That makes it all the nicer."
"Then---- Gabe's face was radiant. But Effie shook her head
"You're just twenty years late," she said.
"Late!" expostulated Gabe. "I ain't no dead one yet."
Effie pushed her plate away with a little air of decision,
folded her plump arms on the table, and, leaning forward, looked
Gabe I. Marks squarely in the eyes.
"Gabie," she said gently, "I'll bet you haven't got a hundred
dollars in the bank----"
"But----" interrupted Gabe.
"Wait a minute. I know you boys on the road. Besides your
diamond scarf pin and your ring and watch, have you got a cent over
your salary? Nix. You carry just about enough insurance to bury
you, don't you? You're fifty years old if you're a minute, Gabie,
and if I ain't mistaken you'd have a pretty hard time of it getting
ten thousand dollars' insurance after the doctors got through with
you. Twenty-five years of pinochle and poker and the fat of the
land haven't added up any bumps in the old stocking under the
"Say, looka here," objected Gabe, more red-faced than usual,
"I didn't know was proposing to no Senatorial investigating
committee. Say, you talk about them foreign noblemen being
mercenary! Why, they ain't in it with you girls to-day. A feller
is got to propose to you with his bank book in one hand and a bunch
of life-insurance policies in the other. You're right; I ain't
saved much. But Ma selig always had everything she wanted. Say,
when a man marries it's different. He begins to save."
"There!" said Effie quickly. "That's just it. Twenty years
ago I'd have been glad and willing to start like that, saving and
scrimping and loving a man, and looking forward to the time when
four figures showed up in the bank account where but three bloomed
before. I've got what they call the home instinct. Give me a yard
or so of cretonne, and a photo of my married sister down in Iowa,
and I can make even a boarding-house inside bedroom look like a
place where a human being could live. If I had been as wise at
twenty as I am now, Gabie, I could have married any man I pleased.
But I was what they call capable. And men aren't marrying capable
girls. They pick little yellow-headed, blue-eyed idiots that don't
know a lamb stew from a soup bone when they see it. Well, Mr. Man
didn't show up, and I started in to clerk at six per. I'm earning
as much as you are now. More. Now, don't misunderstand me, Gabe.
I'm not throwing bouquets at myself. I'm not that kind of a girl.
But I could sell a style 743 Slimshape to the Venus de Milo
herself. The Lord knows she needed one, with those hips of hers.
I worked my way up, alone. I'm used to it. I like the excitement
down at the store. I'm used to luxuries. I guess if I was a man
I'd be the kind thy call a good provider--the kind that opens wine
every time there's half an excuse for it, and when he dies his
widow has to take in boarders. And, Gabe, after you've worn tai-
lored suits every year for a dozen years, you can't go back to
twenty-five-dollar ready-mades and be happy."
"You could if you loved a man," said Gabe stubbornly.
The hard lines around the jaw and the experienced lines about
the eyes seemed suddenly to stand out on Effie's face.
"Love's young dream is all right. But you've reached the age
when you let your cigar ash dribble down onto your vest. Now me,
I've got a kimono nature but a straight-front job, and it's kept me
young. Young! I've got to be. That's my stock in trade. You
see, Gabie, we're just twenty years late, both of us. They're not
going to boost your salary. These days they're looking for kids on
the road--live wires, with a lot of nerve and a quick come-back.
They don't want old-timers. Why, say, Gabie, if I was to tell you
what I spend in face powder and toilette water and hairpins alone,
you'd think I'd made a mistake and given you the butcher bill
instead. And I'm no professional beauty, either. Only it takes
money to look cleaned and pressed in this town."
In the seclusion of the cafe corner, Gabe laid one plump,
highly manicured hand on Effie's smooth arm. "You wouldn't need to
stay young for me, Effie. I like you just as you are, with
out the powder, or the toilette water, or the hair-pins."
His red, good-natured face had an expression upon it that was
touchingly near patient resignation as he looked up into Effie's
sparkling countenance. "You never looked so good to me as you do
this minute, old girl. And if the day comes when you get
lonesome--or change your mind--or----"
Effie shook her head, and started to draw on her long white
gloves. "I guess I haven't refused you the way the dames in the
novels do it. Maybe it's because I've had so little practice. But
I want to say this, Gabe. Thank God I don't have to die knowing
that no man ever wanted me to be his wife. Honestly, I'm that
grateful that I'd marry you in a minute if I didn't like you so
"I'll be back in three months, like always," was all that Gabe
said. "I ain't going to write. When I get here we'll just take in
a show, and the younger you look the better I'll like it."
But on the occasion of Gabe's spring trip he encountered a
statuesque blonde person where Effie had been wont to reign.
"Miss--er Bauer out of town?"
The statue melted a trifle in the sunshine of Gabe's
"Miss Bauer's ill," the statue informed him, using a heavy
Eastern accent. "Anything I can do for you? I'm taking her
"Why--ah--not exactly; no," said Gabe. "Just a temporary
indisposition, I suppose?"
"Well, you wouldn't hardly call it that, seeing that she's
been sick with typhoid for seven weeks."
"Typhoid!" shouted Gabe.
"While I'm not in the habit of asking gentlemen their names,
I'd like to inquire if yours happens to be Marks--Gabe I. Marks?"
"Sure," said Gabe. "That's me."
"Miss Bauer's nurse telephones down last week that if a
gentleman named Marks--Gabe I. Marks--drops in and inquires for
Miss Bauer, I'm to tell him that she's changed her mind."
On the way from Spiegel's corset department to the car, Gabe
stopped only for a bunch of violets. Effie's apartment house
reached, he sent up his card, the violets, and a message that the
gentleman was waiting. There came back a reply that sent Gabie up
before the violets were relieved of their first layer of tissue
Effie was sitting in a deep chair by the window, a flowered
quilt bunched about her shoulders, her feet in gray knitted bedroom
slippers. She looked every minute of her age, and she knew it, and
didn't care. The hand that she held out to Gabe was a limp, white,
fleshless thing that seemed to bear no relation to the plump, firm
member that Gabe had pressed on so many previous occasions.
Gabe stared at this pale wraith in a moment of alarm and
"You're looking--great!" he stammered. "Great! Nobody'd
believe you'd been sick a minute. Guess you've just been stalling
for a beauty rest, what?"
Effie smiled a tired little smile, and shook her head slowly.
"You're a good kid, Gabie, to lie like that just to make me
feel good. But my nurse left yesterday and I had my first real
squint at myself in the mirror. She wouldn't let me look while she
was here. After what I saw staring back at me from that glass a
whole ballroom full of French courtiers whispering sweet nothings
in my ear couldn't make me believe that I look like anything but a
hunk of Roquefort, green spots included. When I think of how my
clothes won't fit it makes me shiver."
"Oh, you'll soon be back at the store as good as new. They
fatten up something wonderful after typhoid. Why, I had a
"Did you get my message?" interrupted Effie.
"I was only talking to hide my nervousness," said Gabe, and
started forward. But Effie waved him away.
"Sit down," she said. "I've got something to say." She
looked thoughtfully down at one shining finger nail. Her lower lip
was caught between her teeth. When she looked up again her eyes
were swimming in tears. Gabe started forward again. Again Effie
waved him away.
"It's all right, Gabie. I don't blubber as a rule. This
fever leaves you as weak as a rag, and ready to cry if any one says
`Boo!' I've been doing some high-pressure thinking since nursie
left. Had plenty of time to do it in, sitting here by this window
all day. My land! I never knew there was so much time. There's
been days when I haven't talked to a soul, except the nurse and the
chambermaid. Lonesome! Say, the amount of petting I could stand
would surprise you. Of course, my nurse was a perfectly good
nurse--at twenty-five per. But I was just a case to her. You
can't expect a nurse to ooze sympathy over an old maid with the
fever. I tell you I was dying to have some one say `Sh-sh-sh!'
when there was a noise, just to show they were interested.
Whenever I'd moan the nurse would come over and stick a thermometer
in my mouth and write something down on a chart. The boys and
girls at the store sent flowers. They'd have done the same if I'd
died. When the fever broke I just used to lie there and dream, not
feeling anything in particular, and not caring much whether it was
day or night. Know what I mean?"
Gabie shook a sympathetic head.
There was a little silence. Then Effie went on. "I used to
think I was pretty smart, earning my own good living, dressing as
well as the next one, and able to spend my vacation in Atlantic
City if I wanted to. I didn't know I was missing anything. But
while I was sick I got to wishing that there was somebody that
belonged to me. Somebody to worry about me, and to sit up
nights--somebody that just naturally felt they had to come
tiptoeing into my room every three or four minutes to see if I was
sleeping, or had enough covers on, or wanted a drink, or something.
I got to thinking what it would have been like if I had a husband
and a--home. You'll think I'm daffy, maybe."
Gabie took Effie's limp white hand in his, and stroked it
gently. Effie's face was turned away from him, toward the noisy
"I used to imagine how he'd come home at six, stamping his
feet, maybe, and making a lot of noise the way men do. And then
he'd remember, and come creaking up the steps, and he'd stick his
head in at the door in the funny, awkward, pathetic way men have in
a sick room. And he'd say, `How's the old girl to-night? I'd
better not come near you now, puss, because I'll bring the cold
with me. Been lonesome for your old man?'
"And I'd say, `Oh, I don't care how cold you are, dear. The
nurse is downstairs, getting my supper ready.'
"And then he'd come tiptoeing over to my bed, and stoop down,
and kiss me, and his face would be all cold, and rough, and his
mustache would be wet, and he'd smell out-doorsy and smoky, the way
husbands do when they come in. And I'd reach up and pat his cheek
and say, `You need a shave, old man.'
"`I know it,' he'd say, rubbing his cheek up against mine.
"`Hurry up and wash, now. Supper'll be ready.'
"`Where are the kids?' he'd ask. `The house is as quiet as
the grave. Hurry up and get well, kid. It's darn lonesome without
you at the table, and the children's manners are getting something
awful, and I never can find my shirts. Lordy, I guess we won't
celebrate when you get up! Can't you eat a little something
nourishing for supper--beefsteak, or a good plate of soup, or
"Men are like that, you know. So I'd say then: `Run along,
you old goose! You'll be suggesting sauerkraut and wieners next.
Don't you let Millie have any marmalade to-night. She's got a
"And then he'd pound off down the hall to wash up, and I'd
shut my eyes, and smile to myself, and everything would be all
right, because he was home."
There was a long silence. Effie's eyes were closed. But two
great tears stole out from beneath each lid and coursed their slow
way down her thin cheeks. She did not raise her hand to wipe them
Gabie's other hand reached over and met the one that already
"Effie," he said, in a voice that was as hoarse as it was
"H'm?" said Effie.
"Will you marry me?"
"I shouldn't wonder," replied Effie, opening her eyes. "No,
don't kiss me. You might catch something. But say, reach up and
smooth my hair away from my forehead, will you, and call me a
couple of fool names. I don't care how clumsy you are about it.
I could stand an awful fuss being made over me, without being
Three weeks later Effie was back at the store. Her skirt
didn't fit in the back, and the little hollow places in her cheeks
did not take the customary dash of rouge as well as when they had
been plumper. She held a little impromptu reception that extended
down as far as the lingeries and up as far as the rugs. The old
sparkle came back to Effie's eye. The old assurance and vigor
seemed to return. By the time that Miss Weinstein, of the French
lingeries, arrived, breathless, to greet her Effie was herself
"Well, if you're not a sight for sore eyes, dearie," exclaimed
Miss Weinstein. "My goodness, how grand and thin you are! I'd be
willing to take a course in typhoid myself, if I thought I could
lose twenty-five pounds."
"I haven't a rag that fits me," Effie announced proudly.
Miss Weinstein lowered her voice discreetly. "Dearie, can you
come down to my department for a minute? We're going to have a
sale on imported lawnjerie blouses, slightly soiled, from nine to
eleven to-morrow. There's one you positively must see.
Hand-embroidered, Irish motifs, and eyeleted from soup to nuts, and
"I've got a fine chance of buying hand-made waists, no matter
how slightly soiled," Effie made answer, "with a doctor and nurse's
bill as long as your arm."
"Oh, run along!" scoffed Miss Weinstein. "A person would
think you had a husband to get a grouch every time you get reckless
to the extent of a new waist. You're your own boss. And you know
your credit's good. Honestly, it would be a shame to let this
chance slip. You're not getting tight in your old age, are you?"
"N-no," faltered Effie, "but----"
"Then come on," urged Miss Weinstein energetically. "And be
thankful you haven't got a man to raise the dickens when the bill
"Do you mean that?" asked Effie slowly, fixing Miss Weinstein
with a thoughtful eye.
"Surest thing you know. Say, girlie, let's go over to Klein's
for lunch this noon. They have pot roast with potato pfannkuchen
on Tuesdays, and we can split an order between us."
"Hold that waist till to-morrow, will you?" said Effie. "I've
made an arrangement with a--friend that might make new clothes
impossible just now. But I'm going to wire my party that the
arrangement is all off. I've changed my mind. I ought to get an
answer to-morrow. Did you say it was a thirty-six?"
MAYMEYS FROM CUBA
There is nothing new in this. It has all been done before. But
tell me, what is new? Does the aspiring and perspiring summer
vaudeville artist flatter himself that his stuff is going big?
Then does the stout man with the oyster-colored eyelids in the
first row, left, turn his bullet head on his fat-creased neck to
remark huskily to his companion:
"The hook for him. R-r-r-rotten! That last one was an old
Weber'n Fields' gag. They discarded it back in '91. Say, the good
ones is all dead, anyhow. Take old Salvini, now, and Dan Rice.
Them was actors. Come on out and have something."
Does the short-story writer felicitate himself upon having
discovered a rare species in humanity's garden? The Blase Reader
flips the pages between his fingers, yawns, stretches, and remarks
to his wife:
"That's a clean lift from Kipling--or is it Conan Doyle?
Anyway, I've read something just like it before. Say, kid, guess
what these magazine guys get for a full page ad.? Nix. That's just
like a woman. Three thousand straight. Fact."
To anticipate the delver into the past it may be stated that
the plot of this one originally appeared in the Eternal Best
Seller, under the heading, "He Asked You For Bread, and Ye Gave Him
a Stone." There may be those who could not have traced my
plagiarism to its source.
Although the Book has had an unprecedentedly long run it is
said to be less widely read than of yore.
Even with this preparation I hesitate to confess that this is
the story of a hungry girl in a big city. Well, now, wait a
minute. Conceding that it has been done by every scribbler from
tyro to best seller expert, you will acknowledge that there is the
possibility of a fresh viewpoint--twist--what is it the sporting
editors call it? Oh, yes--slant. There is the possibility of
getting a new slant on an old idea. That may serve to deflect the
line of the deadly parallel.
Just off State Street there is a fruiterer and importer who
ought to be arrested for cruelty. His window is the most
fascinating and the most heartless in Chicago. A line of
open-mouthed, wide-eyed gazers is always to be found before it.
Despair, wonder, envy, and rebellion smolder in the eyes of those
gazers. No shop window show should be so diabolically set forth as
to arouse such sensations in the breast of the beholder. It is a
work of art, that window; a breeder of anarchism, a destroyer of
contentment, a second feast of Tantalus. It boasts peaches, dewy
and golden, when peaches have no right to be; plethoric, purple
bunches of English hothouse grapes are there to taunt the
ten-dollar-a-week clerk whose sick wife should be in the hospital;
strawberries glow therein when shortcake is a last summer's memory,
and forced cucumbers remind us that we are taking ours in the form
of dill pickles. There is, perhaps, a choice head of cauliflower,
so exquisite in its ivory and green perfection as to be fit for a
bride's bouquet; there are apples so flawless that if the garden of
Eden grew any as perfect it is small wonder that Eve fell for them.
There are fresh mushrooms, and jumbo cocoanuts, and green almonds;
costly things in beds of cotton nestle next to strange and
marvelous things in tissue, wrappings. Oh, that window is no place
for the hungry, the dissatisfied, or the man out of a job. When
the air is filled with snow there is that in the sight of
muskmelons which incites crime.
Queerly enough, the gazers before that window foot up the
same, year in, and year out, something after this fashion:
Item: One anemic little milliner's apprentice in coat and
shoes that even her hat can't redeem.
Item: One sandy-haired, gritty-complexioned man, with a
drooping ragged mustache, a tin dinner bucket, and lime on his
Item: One thin mail carrier with an empty mail sack, gaunt
cheeks, and an habitual droop to his left shoulder.
Item: One errand boy troubled with a chronic sniffle, a
shrill and piping whistle, and a great deal of shuffling foot-work.
Item: One negro wearing a spotted tan topcoat, frayed
trousers and no collar. His eyes seem all whites as he gazes.
Enough of the window. But bear it in mind while we turn to
Jennie. Jennie's real name was Janet, and she was Scotch. Canny?
Not necessarily, or why should she have been hungry and out of a
job in January?
Jennie stood in the row before the window, and stared. The
longer she stared the sharper grew the lines that fright and
under-feeding had chiseled about her nose, and mouth, and eyes.
When your last meal is an eighteen-hour-old memory, and when that
memory has only near-coffee and a roll to dwell on, there is
something in the sight of January peaches and great strawberries
carelessly spilling out of a tipped box, just like they do in the
fruit picture on the dining-room wall, that is apt to carve sharp
lines in the corners of the face.
The tragic line dwindled, going about its business. The man
with the dinner pail and the lime on his boots spat, drew the back
of his hand across his mouth, and turned away with an ugly look.
(Pork was up to $14.25, dressed.)
The errand boy's blithe whistle died down to a mournful dirge.
He was window-wishing. His choice wavered between the juicy pears,
and the foreign-looking red things that looked like oranges, and
weren't. One hand went into his coat pocket, extracting an apple
that was to have formed the piece de resistance of his noonday
lunch. Now he regarded it with a sort of pitying disgust, and bit
into it with the middle-of-the-morning contempt that it deserved.
The mail carrier pushed back his cap and reflectively
scratched his head. How much over his month's wage would that
green basket piled high with exotic fruit come to?
Jennie stood and stared after they had left, and another line
had formed. If you could have followed her gaze with dotted lines,
as they do in the cartoons, you would have seen that it was not the
peaches, or the prickly pears, or the strawberries, or the
muskmelon or even the grapes, that held her eye. In the center of
that wonderful window was an oddly woven basket. In the basket
were brown things that looked like sweet potatoes. One knew that
they were not. A sign over the basket informed the puzzled gazer
that these were maymeys from Cuba.
Maymeys from Cuba. The humor of it might have struck Jennie
if she had not been so Scotch, and so hungry. As it was, a slow,
sullen, heavy Scotch wrath rose in her breast. Maymeys from Cuba.
The wantonness of it! Peaches? Yes. Grapes, even, and pears
and cherries in snow time. But maymeys from Cuba--why, one did not
even know if they were to be eaten with butter, or with vinegar, or
in the hand, like an apple. Who wanted maymeys from Cuba? They
had gone all those hundreds of miles to get a fruit or vegetable
thing--a thing so luxurious, so out of all reason that one did not
know whether it was to be baked, or eaten raw. There they lay, in
their foreign-looking basket, taunting Jennie who needed a quarter.
Have I told you how Jennie happened to be hungry and jobless?
Well, then I sha'n't. It doesn't really matter, anyway. The fact
is enough. If you really demand to know you might inquire of Mr.
Felix Klein. You will find him in a mahogany office on the sixth
floor. The door is marked manager. It was his idea to import
Scotch lassies from Dunfermline for his Scotch linen department.
The idea was more fetching than feasible.
There are people who will tell you that no girl possessing a
grain of common sense and a little nerve need go hungry, no matter
how great the city. Don't you believe them. The city has heard
the cry of wolf so often that it refuses to listen when he is
snarling at the door, particularly when the door is next door.
Where did we leave Jennie? Still standing on the sidewalk
before the fruit and fancy goods shop, gazing at the maymeys from
Cuba. Finally her Scotch bump of curiosity could stand it no
longer. She dug her elbow into the arm of the person standing next
"What are those?" she asked.
The next in line happened to be a man. He was a man without
an overcoat, and with his chin sunk deep into his collar, and his
hands thrust deep into his pockets. It looked as though he were
trying to crawl inside himself for warmth.
"Those? That sign says they're maymeys from Cuba."
"I know," persisted Jennie, "but what are they?"
"Search me. Say, I ain't bothering about maymeys from Cuba.
A couple of hot murphies from Ireland, served with a lump of
butter, would look good enough to me."
"Do you suppose any one buys them?" marveled Jennie.
"Surest thing you know. Some rich dame coming by here,
wondering what she can have for dinner to tempt the jaded palates
of her dear ones, see? She sees them Cuban maymeys. `The very
thing!' she says. `I'll have 'em served just before the salad.'
And she sails in and buys a pound or two. I wonder, now, do you
eat 'em with a fruit knife, or with a spoon?"
Jennie took one last look at the woven basket with its foreign
contents. Then she moved on, slowly. She had been moving on for
Most people have acquired the habit of eating three meals a
day. In a city of some few millions the habit has made necessary
the establishing of many thousands of eating places. Jennie would
have told you that there were billions of these. To her the world
seemed composed of one huge, glittering restaurant, with myriads of
windows through which one caught maddening glimpses of ketchup
bottles, and nickel coffee heaters, and piles of doughnuts, and
scurrying waiters in white, and people critically studying menu
cards. She walked in a maze of restaurants, cafes, eating-houses.
Tables and diners loomed up at every turn, on every street, from
Michigan Avenue's rose-shaded Louis the Somethingth palaces, where
every waiter owns his man, to the white tile mausoleums where every
man is his own waiter. Everywhere there were windows full of lemon
cream pies, and pans of baked apples swimming in lakes of golden
syrup, and pots of baked beans with the pink and crispy slices of
pork just breaking through the crust. Every dairy lunch mocked one
with the sign of "wheat cakes with maple syrup and country sausage,
There are those who will say that for cases like Jennie's
there are soup kitchens, Y. W. C. A.'s, relief associations,
policemen, and things like that. And so there are. Unfortunately,
the people who need them aren't up on them. Try it. Plant
yourself, penniless, in the middle of State Street on a busy day,
dive into the howling, scrambling, pushing maelstrom that hurls
itself against the mountainous and impregnable form of the crossing
policeman, and see what you'll get out of it, provided you have the
Desperation gave Jennie a false courage. On the strength of
it she made two false starts. The third time she reached the arm
of the crossing policeman, and clutched it. That imposing giant
removed the whistle from his mouth, and majestically inclined his
head without turning his gaze upon Jennie, one eye being fixed on
a red automobile that was showing signs of sulking at its enforced
pause, the other being busy with a cursing drayman who was having
an argument with his off horse.
Jennie mumbled her question.
Said the crossing policeman:
"Getcher car on Wabash, ride to 'umpty-second, transfer, get
off at Blank Street, and walk three blocks south."
Then he put the whistle back in his mouth, blew two shrill
blasts, and the horde of men, women, motors, drays, trucks, cars,
and horses swept over him, through him, past him, leaving him
Jennie landed on the opposite curbing, breathing hard. What
was that street? Umpty-what? Well, it didn't matter, anyway. She
hadn't the nickel for car fare.
What did you do next? You begged from people on the street.
Jennie selected a middle-aged, prosperous, motherly looking woman.
She framed her plea with stiff lips. Before she had finished her
sentence she found herself addressing empty air. The middle-aged,
prosperous, motherly looking woman had hurried on.
Well, then you tried a man. You had to be careful there. He
mustn't be the wrong kind. There were so many wrong kinds. Just
an ordinary looking family man would be best. Ordinary looking
family men are strangely in the minority. There are so many more
bull-necked, tan-shoed ones. Finally Jennie's eye, grown sharp
with want, saw one. Not too well dressed, kind-faced, middle-aged.
She fell into step beside him.
"Please, can you help me out with a shilling?"
Jennie's nose was red, and her eyes watery. Said the
middle-aged family man with the kindly face:
"Beat it. You've had about enough I guess."
Jennie walked into a department store, picked out the oldest
and most stationary looking floorwalker, and put it to him. The
floorwalker bent his head, caught the word "food," swung about, and
pointed over Jennie's head.
"Grocery department on the seventh floor. Take one of those
Any one but a floorwalker could have seen the misery in
Jennie's face. But to floorwalkers all women's faces are horrible.
Jennie turned and walked blindly toward the elevators. There
was no fight left in her. If the floorwalker had said, "Silk
negligees on the fourth floor. Take one of those elevators up,"
Jennie would have ridden up to the fourth floor, and stupidly gazed
at pink silk and val lace negligees in glass cases.
Tell me, have you ever visited the grocery department of a
great store on the wrong side of State Street? It's a
mouth-watering experience. A department store grocery is a
glorified mixture of delicatessen shop, meat market, and
vaudeville. Starting with the live lobsters and crabs you work
your hungry way right around past the cheeses, and the sausages,
and the hams, and tongues, and head-cheese, past the blonde person
in white who makes marvelous and uneatable things out of gelatine,
through a thousand smells and scents--smells of things smoked, and
pickled, and spiced, and baked and preserved, and roasted.
Jennie stepped out of the elevator, licking her lips. She
sniffed the air, eagerly, as a hound sniffs the scent. She shut
her eyes when she passed the sugar-cured hams. A woman was buying
a slice from one, and the butcher was extolling its merits. Jennie
caught the words "juicy" and "corn-fed."
That particular store prides itself on its cheese department.
It boasts that there one can get anything in cheese from the simple
cottage variety to imposing mottled Stilton. There are cheeses
from France, cheeses from Switzerland, cheeses from Holland. Brick
and parmesan, Edam and limburger perfumed the atmosphere.
Behind the counters were big, full-fed men in white aprons,
and coats. They flourished keen bright knives. As Jennie gazed,
one of them, in a moment of idleness, cut a tiny wedge from a rich
yellow Swiss cheese and stood nibbling it absently, his eyes
wandering toward the blonde gelatine demonstrator. Jennie swayed,
and caught the counter. She felt horribly faint and queer. She
shut her eyes for a moment. When she opened them a woman--a fat,
housewifely, comfortable looking woman--was standing before the
cheese counter. She spoke to the cheese man. Once more his sharp
knife descended and he was offering the possible customer a sample.
She picked it off the knife's sharp tip, nibbled thoughtfully,
shook her head, and passed on. A great, glorious world of hope
opened out before Jennie.
Her cheeks grew hot, and her eyes felt dry and bright as she
approached the cheese counter.
"A bit of that," she said, pointing. "It doesn't look just as
I like it."
"Very fine, madam," the man assured her, and turned the knife
point toward her, with the infinitesimal wedge of cheese reposing
on its blade. Jennie tried to keep her hand steady as she
delicately picked it off, nibbled as she had seen that other woman
do it, her head on one side, before it shook a slow negative. The
effort necessary to keep from cramming the entire piece into her
mouth at once left her weak and trembling. She passed on as the
other woman had done, around the corner, and into a world of
sausages. Great rosy mounds of them filled counters and cases.
Sausage! Sneer, you pate de foies grasers! But may you know the
day when hunger will have you. And on that day may you run into
linked temptation in the form of Braunschweiger Metwurst. May you
know the longing that causes the eyes to glaze at the sight of
Thuringer sausage, and the mouth to water at the scent of Cervelat
wurst, and the fingers to tremble at the nearness of smoked liver.
Jennie stumbled on, through the smells and the sights. That
nibble of cheese had been like a drop of human blood to a
man-eating tiger. It made her bold, cunning, even while it
maddened. She stopped at this counter and demanded a slice of
summer sausage. It was paper-thin, but delicious beyond belief.
At the next counter there was corned beef, streaked fat and lean.
Jennie longed to bury her teeth in the succulent meat and get one
great, soul-satisfying mouthful. She had to be content with her
judicious nibbling. To pass the golden-brown, breaded pig's feet
was torture. To look at the codfish balls was agony. And so
Jennie went on, sampling, tasting, the scraps of food acting only
as an aggravation. Up one aisle, and down the next she went. And
then, just around the corner, she brought up before the grocery
department's pride and boast, the Scotch bakery. It is the store's
star vaudeville feature. All day long the gaping crowd stands
before it, watching David the Scone Man, as with sleeves rolled
high above his big arms, he kneads, and slaps, and molds, and
thumps and shapes the dough into toothsome Scotch confections.
There was a crowd around the white counters now, and the flat
baking surface of the gas stove was just hot enough, and David the
Scone Man (he called them Scuns) was whipping about here and there,
turning the baking oat cakes, filling the shelf above the stove
when they were done to a turn, rolling out fresh ones, waiting on
customers. His nut-cracker face almost allowed itself a pleased
expression--but not quite. David, the Scone Man, was Scotch (I was
going to add, d'ye ken, but I will not).
Jennie wondered if she really saw those things. Mutton pies!
Scones! Scotch short bread! Oat cakes! She edged closer,
wriggling her way through the little crowd until she stood at the
counter's edge. David, the Scone Man, his back to the crowd, was
turning the last batch of oat cakes. Jennie felt strangely
light-headed, and unsteady, and airy. She stared straight ahead,
a half-smile on her lips, while a hand that she knew was her own,
and that yet seemed no part of her, stole out, very, very slowly,
and cunningly, and extracted a hot scone from the pile that lay in
the tray on the counter. That hand began to steal back, more
quickly now. But not quickly enough. Another hand grasped her
wrist. A woman's high, shrill voice (why will women do these
things to each other?) said, excitedly:
"Say, Scone Man! Scone Man! This girl is stealing
A buzz of exclamations from the crowd--a closing in upon
her--a whirl of faces, and counter, and trays, and gas stove.
Jennie dropped with a crash, the warm scone still grasped in her
Just before the ambulance came it was the blonde lady of the
impossible gelatines who caught the murmur that came from Jennie's
white lips. The blonde lady bent her head closer. Closer still.
When she raised her face to those other faces crowded near, her
eyes were round with surprise.
"'S far's I can make out, she says her name's Mamie, and she's
from Cuba. Well, wouldn't that eat you! I always thought they was
THE LEADING LADY
The leading lady lay on her bed and wept.
Not as you have seen leading ladies weep, becomingly, with
eyebrows pathetically V-shaped, mouth quivering, sequined bosom
heaving. The leading lady lay on her bed in a red-and-blue-striped
kimono and wept as a woman weeps, her head burrowing into the
depths of the lumpy hotel pillow, her teeth biting the pillow-case
to choke back the sounds so that the grouch in the next room might
Presently the leading lady's right hand began to grope about
on the bedspread for her handkerchief. Failing to find it, she sat
up wearily, raising herself on one elbow and pushing her hair back
from her forehead--not as you have seen a leading lady pass a lily
hand across her alabaster brow, but as a heart-sick woman does it.
Her tears and sniffles had formed a little oasis of moisture on the
pillow's white bosom so that the ugly stripe of the ticking showed
through. She gazed down at the damp circle with smarting, swollen
eyes, and another lump came up into her throat.
Then she sat up resolutely, and looked about her. The leading
lady had a large and saving sense of humor. But there is nothing
that blunts the sense of humor more quickly than a few months of
one-night stands. Even O. Henry could have seen nothing funny
about that room.
The bed was of green enamel, with fly-specked gold trimmings.
It looked like a huge frog. The wall-paper was a crime. It
represented an army of tan mustard plasters climbing up a
chocolate-fudge wall. The leading lady was conscious of a feeling
of nausea as she gazed at it. So she got up and walked to the
window. The room faced west, and the hot afternoon sun smote full
on her poor swollen eyes. Across the street the red brick walls of
the engine-house caught the glare and sent it back. The firemen,
in their blue shirt-sleeves, were seated in the shade before the
door, their chairs tipped at an angle of sixty. The leading lady
stared down into the sun-baked street, turned abruptly and made as
though to fall upon the bed again, with a view to forming another
little damp oasis on the pillow. But when she reached the center
of the stifling little bedroom her eye chanced on the electric
call-button near the door. Above the electric bell was tacked a
printed placard giving information on the subjects of laundry,
ice-water, bell-boys and dining-room hours.
The leading lady stood staring at it a moment thoughtfully.
Then with a sudden swift movement she applied her forefinger to the
button and held it there for a long half-minute. Then she sat down
on the edge of the bed, her kimono folded about her, and waited.
She waited until a lank bell-boy, in a brown uniform that was
some sizes too small for him, had ceased to take any interest in
the game of chess which Bauer and Merkle, the champion firemen
chess-players, were contesting on the walk before the open doorway
of the engine-house. The proprietor of the Burke House had
originally intended that the brown uniform be worn by a diminutive
bell-boy, such as one sees in musical comedies. But the available
supply of stage size bell-boys in our town is somewhat limited and
was soon exhausted. There followed a succession of lank bell-boys,
with arms and legs sticking ungracefully out of sleeves and
"Come!" called the leading lady quickly, in answer to the lank
youth's footsteps, and before he had had time to knock.
"Ring?" asked the boy, stepping into the torrid little room.
The leading lady did not reply immediately. She swallowed
something in her throat and pushed back the hair from her moist
forehead again. The brown uniform repeated his question, a trifle
irritably. Whereupon the leading lady spoke, desperately:
"Is there a woman around this place? I don't mean dining-room
girls, or the person behind the cigar-counter."
Since falling heir to the brown uniform the lank youth had
heard some strange requests. He had been interviewed by various
ladies in varicolored kimonos relative to liquid refreshment,
laundry and the cost of hiring a horse and rig for a couple of
hours. One had even summoned him to ask if there was a Bible in
the house. But this latest question was a new one. He stared,
leaning against the door and thrusting one hand into the depths of
his very tight breeches pocket.
"Why, there's Pearlie Schultz," he said at last, with a grin.
"Who's she?" The leading lady sat up expectantly.
The expectant figure drooped. "Blonde? And Irish crochet
collar with a black velvet bow on her chest?"
"Who? Pearlie? Naw. You mustn't get Pearlie mixed with the
common or garden variety of stenos. Pearlie is fat, and she wears
specs and she's got a double chin. Her hair is skimpy and she
don't wear no rat. W'y no traveling man has ever tried to flirt
with Pearlie yet. Pearlie's what you'd call a woman, all right.
You wouldn't never make a mistake and think she'd escaped from the
first row in the chorus."
The leading lady rose from the bed, reached out for her
pocket-book, extracted a dime, and held it out to the bell-boy.
"Here. Will you ask her to come up here to me? Tell her I
After he had gone she seated herself on the edge of the bed
again, with a look in her eyes like that which you have seen in the
eyes of a dog that is waiting for a door to be opened.
Fifteen minutes passed. The look in the eyes of the leading
lady began to fade. Then a footstep sounded down the hall. The
leading lady cocked her head to catch it, and smiled blissfully.
It was a heavy, comfortable footstep, under which a board or two
creaked. There came a big, sensible thump-thump-thump at the door,
with stout knuckles. The leading lady flew to answer it. She
flung the door wide and stood there, clutching her kimono at the
throat and looking up into a red, good-natured face.
Pearlie Schultz looked down at the leading lady kindly and
benignantly, as a mastiff might look at a terrier.
"Lonesome for a bosom to cry on?" asked she, and stepped into
the room, walked to the west windows, and jerked down the shades
with a zip-zip, shutting off the yellow glare. She came back to
where the leading lady was standing and patted her on the cheek,
"You tell me all about it," said she, smiling.
The leading lady opened her lips, gulped, tried again, gulped
again--Pearlie Schultz shook a sympathetic head.
"Ain't had a decent, close-to-nature powwow with a woman for
weeks and weeks, have you?"
"How did you know?" cried the leading lady.
"You've got that hungry look. There was a lady drummer here
last winter, and she had the same expression. She was so dead sick
of eating her supper and then going up to her ugly room and reading
and sewing all evening that it was a wonder she'd stayed good. She
said it was easy enough for the men. They could smoke, and play
pool, and go to a show, and talk to any one that looked good to
'em. But if she tried to amuse herself everybody'd say she was
tough. She cottoned to me like a burr to a wool skirt. She
traveled for a perfumery house, and she said she hadn't talked to
a woman, except the dry-goods clerks who were nice to her trying to
work her for her perfume samples, for weeks an' weeks. Why, that
woman made crochet by the bolt, and mended her clothes evenings
whether they needed it or not, and read till her eyes come near
going back on her."
The leading lady seized Pearlie's hand and squeezed it.
"That's it! Why, I haven't talked--really talked--to a real
woman since the company went out on the road. I'm leading lady of
the `Second Wife' company, you know. It's one of those small cast
plays, with only five people in it. I play the wife, and I'm the
only woman in the cast. It's terrible. I ought to be thankful to
get the part these days. And I was, too. But I didn't know it
would be like this. I'm going crazy. The men in the company are
good kids, but I can't go trailing around after them all day.
Besides, it wouldn't be right. They're all married, except Billy,
who plays the kid, and he's busy writing a vawdeville skit that he
thinks the New York managers are going to fight for when he gets
back home. We were to play Athens, Wisconsin, to-night, but the
house burned down night before last, and that left us with an open
date. When I heard the news you'd have thought I had lost my
mother. It's bad enough having a whole day to kill but when I
think of to-night," the leading lady's voice took on a note of
hysteria, "it seems as though I'd----"
"Say," Pearlie interrupted, abruptly, "you ain't got a real
good corset-cover pattern, have you? One that fits smooth over the
bust and don't slip off the shoulders? I don't seem able to get my
hands on the kind I want."
"Have I!" yelled the leading lady. And made a flying leap
from the bed to the floor.
She flapped back the cover of a big suit-case and began
burrowing into its depths, strewing the floor with lingerie,
newspaper clippings, blouses, photographs and Dutch collars.
Pearlie came over and sat down on the floor in the midst of the
litter. The leading lady dived once more, fished about in the
bottom of the suit-case and brought a crumpled piece of paper
triumphantly to the surface.
"This is it. It only takes a yard and five-eighths. And
fits! Like Anna Held's skirts. Comes down in a V front and
back--like this. See? And no fulness. Wait a minute. I'll show
you my princess slip. I made it all by hand, too. I'll bet you
couldn't buy it under fifteen dollars, and it cost me four dollars
and eighty cents, with the lace and all."
Before an hour had passed, the leading lady had displayed all
her treasures, from the photograph of her baby that died to her new
Blanche Ring curl cluster, and was calling Pearlie by her first
name. When a bell somewhere boomed six o'clock Pearlie was being
instructed in a new exercise calculated to reduce the hips an inch
"My land!" cried Pearlie, aghast, and scrambled to her feet as
nimbly as any woman can who weighs two hundred pounds.
"Supper-time, and I've got a bunch of letters an inch thick to get
out! I'd better reduce that some before I begin on my hips. But
say, I've had a lovely time."
The leading lady clung to her. "You've saved my life. Why,
I forgot all about being hot and lonely and a couple of thousand
miles from New York. Must you go?"
"Got to. But if you'll promise you won't laugh, I'll make a
date for this evening that'll give you a new sensation anyway.
There's going to be a strawberry social on the lawn of the
parsonage of our church. I've got a booth. You shed that kimono,
and put on a thin dress and those curls and some powder, and I'll
introduce you as my friend, Miss Evans. You don't look Evans, but
this is a Methodist church strawberry festival, and if I was to
tell them that you are leading lady of the `Second Wife' company
they'd excommunicate my booth."
"A strawberry social!" gasped the leading lady. "Do they
still have them?" She did not laugh. "Why, I used to go to
strawberry festivals when I was a little girl in----"
"Careful! You'll be giving away your age, and, anyway, you
don't look it. Fashions in strawberry socials ain't changed much.
Better bathe your eyes in eau de cologne or whatever it is they're
always dabbing on 'em in books. See you at eight."
At eight o'clock Pearlie's thump-thump sounded again, and the
leading lady sprang to the door as before. Pearlie stared. This
was no tear-stained, heat-bedraggled creature in an unbecoming
red-striped kimono. It was a remarkably pretty woman in a white
lingerie gown over a pink slip. The leading lady knew a thing or
two about the gentle art of making-up!
"That just goes to show," remarked Pearlie, "that you must
never judge a woman in a kimono or a bathing suit. You look
nineteen. Say, I forgot something down-stairs. Just get your
handkerchief and chamois together and meet in my cubbyhole next to
the lobby, will you? I'll be ready for you."
Down-stairs she summoned the lank bell-boy. "You go outside
and tell Sid Strang I want to see him, will you? He's on the bench
with the baseball bunch."
Pearlie had not seen Sid Strang outside. She did not need to.
She knew he was there. In our town all the young men dress up in
their pale gray suits and lavender-striped shirts after supper on
summer evenings. Then they stroll down to the Burke House, buy a
cigar and sit down on the benches in front of the hotel to talk
baseball and watch the girls go by. It is astonishing to note the
number of our girls who have letters to mail after supper. One
would think that they must drive their pens fiercely all the
afternoon in order to get out such a mass of correspondence.
The obedient Sid reached the door of Pearlie's little office
just off the lobby as the leading lady came down the stairs with a
spangled scarf trailing over her arm. It was an effective
"Why, hello!" said Pearlie, looking up from her typewriter as
though Sid Strang were the last person in the world she expected to
see. "What do you want here? Ethel, this is my friend, Mr. Sid
Strang, one of our rising young lawyers. His neckties always match
his socks. Sid, this is my friend, Miss Ethel Evans, of New York.
We're going over to the strawberry social at the M. E. parsonage.
I don't suppose you'd care about going?"
Mr. Sid Strang gazed at the leading lady in the white lingerie
dress with the pink slip, and the V-shaped neck, and the spangled
scarf, and turned to Pearlie.
"Why, Pearlie Schultz!" he said reproachfully. "How can you
ask? You know what a strawberry social means to me! I haven't
missed one in years!"
"I know it," replied Pearlie, with a grin. "You feel the same
way about Thursday evening prayer-meeting too, don't you? You can
walk over with us if you want to. We're going now. Miss Evans and
I have got a booth."
Sid walked. Pearlie led them determinedly past the rows of
gray suits and lavender and pink shirts on the benches in front of
the hotel. And as the leading lady came into view the gray suits
stopped talking baseball and sat up and took notice. Pearlie had
known all those young men inside of the swagger suits in the days
when their summer costume consisted of a pair of dad's pants cut
down to a doubtful fit, and a nondescript shirt damp from the
swimming-hole. So she called out, cheerily:
"We're going over to the strawberry festival. I expect to see
all you boys there to contribute your mite to the church carpet."
The leading lady turned to look at them, and smiled. They
were such a dapper, pink-cheeked, clean-looking lot of boys, she
thought. At that the benches rose to a man and announced that they
might as well stroll over right now. Whenever a new girl comes to
visit in our town our boys make a concerted rush at her, and
develop a "case" immediately, and the girl goes home when her visit
is over with her head swimming, and forever after bores the girls
of her home town with tales of her conquests.
The ladies of the First M. E. Church still talk of the money
they garnered at the strawberry festival. Pearlie's out-of-town
friend was garnerer-in-chief. You take a cross-eyed, pock-marked
girl and put her in a white dress, with a pink slip, on a green
lawn under a string of rose-colored Japanese lanterns, and she'll
develop an almost Oriental beauty. It is an ideal setting. The
leading lady was not cross-eyed or pock-marked. She stood at the
lantern-illumined booth, with Pearlie in the background, and dis-
pensed an unbelievable amount of strawberries. Sid Strang and the
hotel bench brigade assisted. They made engagements to take
Pearlie and her friend down river next day, and to the ball game,
and planned innumerable picnics, gazing meanwhile into the leading
lady's eyes. There grew in the cheeks of the leading lady a flush
that was not brought about by the pink slip, or the Japanese
lanterns, or the skillful application of rouge.
By nine o'clock the strawberry supply was exhausted, and the
president of the Foreign Missionary Society was sending wildly
down-town for more ice-cream.
"I call it an outrage," puffed Pearlie happily, ladling
ice-cream like mad. "Making a poor working girl like me slave all
evening! How many was that last order? Four? My land! that's the
third dish of ice-cream Ed White's had! You'll have something to
tell the villagers about when you get back to New York."
The leading lady turned a flushed face toward Pearlie. "This
is more fun than the Actors' Fair. I had the photograph booth last
year, and I took in nearly as much as Lil Russell; and goodness
knows, all she needs to do at a fair is to wear her
diamond-and-pearl stomacher and her set-piece smile, and the men
just swarm around her like the pictures of a crowd in a McCutcheon
When the last Japanese lantern had guttered out, Pearlie
Schultz and the leading lady prepared to go home. Before they
left, the M. E. ladies came over to Pearlie's booth and personally
congratulated the leading lady, and thanked her for the interest
she had taken in the cause, and the secretary of the Epworth League
asked her to come to the tea that was to be held at her home the
following Tuesday. The leading lady thanked her and said she'd
come if she could.
Escorted by a bodyguard of gray suits and lavender-striped
shirts Pearlie and her friend, Miss Evans, walked toward the hotel.
The attentive bodyguard confessed itself puzzled.
"Aren't you staying at Pearlie's house?" asked Sid tenderly,
when they reached the Burke House. The leading lady glanced up at
the windows of the stifling little room that faced west.
"No," answered she, and paused at the foot of the steps to the
ladies' entrance. The light from the electric globe over the
doorway shone on her hair and sparkled in the folds of her spangled
"I'm not staying at Pearlie's because my name isn't Ethel
Evans. It's Aimee Fox, with a little French accent mark over the
double E. I'm leading lady of the `Second Wife' company and old
enough to be--well, your aunty, anyway. We go out at one-thirty
THAT HOME-TOWN FEELING
We all have our ambitions. Mine is to sit in a rocking-chair on
the sidewalk at the corner of Clark and Randolph Streets, and watch
the crowds go by. South Clark Street is one of the most
interesting and cosmopolitan thoroughfares in the world (New
Yorkers please sniff). If you are from Paris, France, or Paris,
Illinois, and should chance to be in that neighborhood, you will
stop at Tony's news stand to buy your home-town paper. Don't
mistake the nature of this story. There is nothing of the
shivering-newsboy-waif about Tony. He has the voice of a fog-horn,
the purple-striped shirt of a sport, the diamond scarf-pin of a
racetrack tout, and the savoir faire of the gutter-bred. You'd
never pick him for a newsboy if it weren't for his chapped hands
and the eternal cold-sore on the upper left corner of his mouth.
It is a fascinating thing, Tony's stand. A high wooden
structure rising tier on tier, containing papers from every corner
of the world. I'll defy you to name a paper that Tony doesn't
handle, from Timbuctoo to Tarrytown, from South Bend to South
Africa. A paper marked Christiania, Norway, nestles next to a
sheet from Kalamazoo, Michigan. You can get the War Cry, or Le
Figaro. With one hand, Tony will give you the Berlin Tageblatt,
and with the other the Times from Neenah, Wisconsin. Take your
choice between the Bulletin from Sydney, Australia, or the Bee from
But perhaps you know South Clark Street. It is honeycombed
with good copy--man-size stuff. South Clark Street reminds one of
a slatternly woman, brave in silks and velvets on the surface, but
ragged, and rumpled and none too clean as to nether garments. It
begins with a tenement so vile, so filthy, so repulsive, that the
municipal authorities deny its very existence. It ends with a
brand-new hotel, all red brick, and white tiling, and Louise Quinze
furniture, and sour-cream colored marble lobby, and oriental rugs
lavishly scattered under the feet of the unappreciative guest from
Kansas City. It is a street of signs, is South Clark. They vary
all the way from "Banca Italiana" done in fat, fly-specked letters
of gold, to "Sang Yuen" scrawled in Chinese red and black.
Spaghetti and chop suey and dairy lunches nestle side by side.
Here an electric sign blazons forth the tempting announcement of
lunch. Just across the way, delicately suggesting a means of
availing one's self of the invitation, is another which announces
"Loans." South Clark Street can transform a winter overcoat into
hamburger and onions so quickly that the eye can't follow the hand.
Do you gather from this that you are being taken slumming?
Not at all. For the passer-by on Clark Street varies as to color,
nationality, raiment, finger-nails, and hair-cut according to the
locality in which you find him.
At the tenement end the feminine passer-by is apt to be
shawled, swarthy, down-at-the-heel, and dragging a dark-eyed,
fretting baby in her wake. At the hotel end you will find her
blonde of hair, velvet of boot, plumed of head-gear, and prone to
have at her heels a white, woolly, pink-eyed dog.
The masculine Clark Streeter? I throw up my hands. Pray
remember that South Clark Street embraces the dime lodging house,
pawnshop, hotel, theater, chop-suey and railway office district,
all within a few blocks. From the sidewalk in front of his
groggery, "Bath House John" can see the City Hall. The trim,
khaki-garbed enlistment officer rubs elbows with the lodging house
bum. The masculine Clark Streeter may be of the kind that begs a
dime for a bed, or he may loll in manicured luxury at the
marble-lined hotel. South Clark Street is so splendidly
Copy-hunting, I approached Tony with hope in my heart, a smile
on my lips, and a nickel in my hand.
"Philadelphia--er--Inquirer?" I asked, those being the city
and paper which fire my imagination least.
Tony whipped it out, dexterously.
I looked at his keen blue eye, his lean brown face, and his
punishing jaw, and I knew that no airy persiflage would deceive
him. Boldly I waded in.
"I write for the magazines," said I.
"Do they know it?" grinned Tony.
"Just beginning to be faintly aware. Your stand looks like a
story to me. Tell me, does one ever come your way? For instance,
don't they come here asking for their home-town paper--sobs in
their voice--grasp the sheet with trembling hands--type swims in a
misty haze before their eyes--turn aside to brush away a tear--all
that kind of stuff, you know?"
Tony's grin threatened his cold-sore. You can't stand on the
corner of Clark and Randolph all those years without getting wise
to everything there is.
"I'm on," said he, "but I'm afraid I can't accommodate,
girlie. I guess my ear ain't attuned to that sob stuff. What's
that? Yessir. Nossir, fifteen cents. Well, I can't help that;
fifteen's the reg'lar price of foreign papers. Thanks. There, did
you see that? I bet that gink give up fifteen of his last two bits
to get that paper. O, well, sometimes they look happy, and then
again sometimes they--Yes'm. Mississippi? Five cents. Los Vegas
Optic right here. Heh there! You're forgettin' your change!--an'
then again sometimes they look all to the doleful. Say, stick
around. Maybe somebody'll start something. You can't never tell."
And then this happened.
A man approached Tony's news stand from the north, and a woman
approached Tony's news stand from the south. They brought my story
The woman reeked of the city. I hope you know what I mean.
She bore the stamp, and seal, and imprint of it. It had ground its
heel down on her face. At the front of her coat she wore a huge
bunch of violets, with a fleshly tuberose rising from its center.
Her furs were voluminous. Her hat was hidden beneath the cascades
of a green willow plume. A green willow plume would make Edna May
look sophisticated. She walked with that humping hip movement
which city women acquire. She carried a jangling handful of
useless gold trinkets. Her heels were too high, and her hair too
yellow, and her lips too red, and her nose too white, and her
cheeks too pink. Everything about her was "too," from the black
stitching on her white gloves to the buckle of brilliants in her
hat. The city had her, body and soul, and had fashioned her in its
metallic cast. You would have sworn that she had never seen
flowers growing in a field.
Said she to Tony:
"Got a Kewaskum Courier?"
As she said it the man stopped at the stand and put his
question. To present this thing properly I ought to be able to
describe them both at the same time, like a juggler keeping two
balls in the air at once. Kindly carry the lady in your mind's
eye. The man was tall and rawboned, with very white teeth, very
blue eyes and an open-faced collar that allowed full play to an
objectionably apparent Adam's apple. His hair and mustache were
sandy, his gait loping. His manner, clothes, and complexion
breathed of Waco, Texas (or is it Arizona?)
Said he to Tony:
"Let me have the London Times."
Well, there you are. I turned an accusing eye on Tony.
"And you said no stories came your way," I murmured,
"Help yourself," said Tony.
The blonde lady grasped the Kewaskum Courier. Her green plume
appeared to be unduly agitated as she searched its columns. The
sheet rattled. There was no breeze. The hands in the too-black
stitched gloves were trembling.
I turned from her to the man just in time to see the Adam's
apple leaping about unpleasantly and convulsively. Whereupon I
jumped to two conclusions.
Conclusion one: Any woman whose hands can tremble over the
Kewaskum Courier is homesick.
Conclusion two: Any man, any part of whose anatomy can become
convulsed over the London Times is homesick.
She looked up from her Courier. He glanced away from his
Times. As the novelists have it, their eyes met. And there, in
each pair of eyes there swam that misty haze about which I had so
earnestly consulted Tony. The Green Plume took an involuntary step
forward. The Adam's Apple did the same. They spoke
"They're going to pave Main Street," said the Green Plume,
"and Mrs. Wilcox, that was Jeri Meyers, has got another baby girl,
and the ladies of the First M. E. made seven dollars and sixty-nine
cents on their needle-work bazaar and missionary tea. I ain't been
home in eleven years."
"Hallem is trying for Parliament in Westchester and the King
is back at Windsor. My mother wears a lace cap down to breakfast,
and the place is famous for its tapestries and yew trees and family
ghost. I haven't been home in twelve years."
The great, soft light of fellow feeling and sympathy glowed in
the eyes of each. The Green Plume took still another step forward
and laid her hand on his arm (as is the way of Green Plumes the
"Why don't you go, kid?" she inquired, softly.
Adam's Apple gnawed at his mustache end. "I'm the black
sheep. Why don't you?"
The blonde lady looked down at her glove tips. Her lower lip
was caught between her teeth.
"What's the feminine for black sheep? I'm that. Anyway, I'd
be afraid to go home for fear it would be too much of a shock for
them when they saw my hair. They wasn't in on the intermediate
stages when it was chestnut, auburn, Titian, gold, and orange
colored. I want to spare their feelings. The last time they saw
me it was just plain brown. Where I come from a woman who dyes her
hair when it is beginning to turn gray is considered as good as
lost. Funny, ain't it? And yet I remember the minister's wife
used to wear false teeth--the kind that clicks. But hair is
"Dear lady," said the blue-eyed man, "it would make no
difference to your own people. I know they would be happy to see
you, hair and all. One's own people----"
"My folks? That's just it. If the Prodigal Son had been a
daughter they'd probably have handed her one of her sister's mother
hubbards, and put her to work washing dishes in the kitchen. You
see, after Ma died my brother married, and I went to live with him
and Lil. I was an ugly little mug, and it looked all to the
Cinderella for me, with the coach, and four, and prince left out.
Lil was the village beauty when my brother married her, and she
kind of got into the habit of leaving the heavy role to me, and
confining herself to thinking parts. One day I took twenty dollars
and came to the city. Oh, I paid it back long ago, but I've never
been home since. But say, do you know every time I get near a news
stand like this I grab the home-town paper. I'll bet I've kept
track every time my sister-in-law's sewing circle has met for the
last ten years, and the spring the paper said they built a new
porch I was just dying to write and ask'em what they did with the
Virginia creeper that used to cover the whole front and sides of
the old porch."
"Look here," said the man, very abruptly, "if it's money you
"Me! Do I look like a touch? Now you----"
"Finest stock farm and ranch in seven counties. I come to
Chicago once a year to sell. I've got just thirteen thousand
nestling next to my left floating rib this minute."
The eyes of the woman with the green plume narrowed down to
two glittering slits. A new look came into her face--a look that
matched her hat, and heels and gloves and complexion and hair.
"Thirteen thousand! Thirteen thous---- Say, isn't it chilly
on this corner, h'm? I know a kind of a restaurant just around the
"It's no use," said the sandy-haired man, gently. "And I
wouldn't have said that, if I were you. I was going back to-day
on the 5:25, but I'm sick of it all. So are you, or you wouldn't
have said what you just said. Listen. Let's go back home, you and
I. The sight of a Navajo blanket nauseates me. The thought of
those prairies makes my eyes ache. I know that if I have to eat
one more meal cooked by that Chink of mine I'll hang him by his own
pigtail. Those rangy western ponies aren't horseflesh, fit for a
man to ride. Why, back home our stables were-- Look here. I want
to see a silver tea-service, with a coat-of-arms on it. I want to
dress for dinner, and take in a girl with a white gown and smooth
white shoulders. My sister clips roses in the morning, before
breakfast, in a pink ruffled dress and garden gloves. Would you
believe that, here, on Clark Street, with a whiskey sign overhead,
and the stock-yard smells undernose? O, hell! I'm going home."
"Home?" repeated the blonde lady. "Home?" The sagging lines
about her flaccid chin took on a new look of firmness and resolve.
The light of determination glowed in her eyes.
"I'll beat you to it," she said. "I'm going home, too. I'll
be there to-morrow. I'm dead sick of this. Who cares whether I
live or die? It's just one darned round of grease paint, and sky
blue tights, and new boarding houses and humping over to the
theater every night, going on, and humping back to the room again.
I want to wash up some supper dishes with egg on 'em, and set some
yeast for bread, and pop a dishpan full of corn, and put a shawl
over my head and run over to Millie Krause's to get her kimono
sleeve pattern. I'm sour on this dirt and noise. I want to spend
the rest of my life in a place so that when I die they'll put a
column in the paper, with a verse at the top, and all the
neighbors'll come in and help bake up. Here--why, here I'd just be
two lines on the want ad page, with fifty cents extra for `Kewaskum
paper please copy.'"
The man held out his hand. "Good-bye," he said, "and please
excuse me if I say God bless you. I've never really wanted to say
it before, so it's quite extraordinary. My name's Guy Peel."
The white glove, with its too-conspicuous black stitching,
disappeared within his palm.
"Mine's Mercedes Meron, late of the Morning Glory Burlesquers,
but from now on Sadie Hayes, of Kewaskum, Wisconsin. Good-bye
and--well--God bless you, too. Say, I hope you don't think I'm in
the habit of talking to strange gents like this."
"I am quite sure you are not," said Guy Peel, very gravely,
and bowed slightly before he went south on Clark Street, and she
Dear Reader, will you take my hand while I assist you to make
a one year's leap. Whoop-la! There you are.
A man and a woman approached Tony's news stand. You are quite
right. But her willow plume was purple this time. A purple willow
plume would make Mario Doro look sophisticated. The man was
sandy-haired, raw-boned, with a loping gait, very blue eyes, very
white teeth, and an objectionably apparent Adam's apple. He came
from the north, and she from the south.
In story books, and on the stage, when two people meet
unexpectedly after a long separation they always stop short, bring
one hand up to their breast, and say: "You!" Sometimes,
especially in the case where the heroine chances on the villain,
they say, simultaneously: "You! Here!" I have seen people
reunited under surprising circumstances, but they never said,
"You!" They said something quite unmelodramatic, and commonplace,
such as: "Well, look who's here!" or, "My land! If it ain't Ed!
So it was that the Purple Willow Plume and the Adam's Apple
stopped, shook hands, and viewed one another while the Plume said,
"I kind of thought I'd bump into you. Felt it in my bones." And
the Adam's Apple said:
"Then you're not living in Kewaskum--er--Wisconsin?"
"Not any," responded she, briskly. "How do you happen to be
straying away from the tapestries, and the yew trees and the ghost,
and the pink roses, and the garden gloves, and the silver
tea-service with the coat-of-arms on it?"
A slow, grim smile overspread the features of the man. "You
tell yours first," he said.
"Well," began she, "in the first place, my name's Mercedes
Meron, of the Morning Glory Burlesquers, formerly Sadie Hayes of
Kewaskum, Wisconsin. I went home next day, like I said I would.
Say, Mr. Peel (you said Peel, didn't you? Guy Peel. Nice, neat
name), to this day, when I eat lobster late at night, and have
dreams, it's always about that visit home."
"How long did you stay?"
"I'm coming to that. Or maybe you can figure it out yourself
when I tell you I've been back eleven months. I wired the folks I
was coming, and then I came before they had a chance to answer.
When the train reached Kewaskum I stepped off into the arms of a
dowd in a home-made-made-over-year-before-last suit, and a hat that
would have been funny if it hadn't been so pathetic. I grabbed her
by the shoulders, and I held her off, and looked--looked at the
wrinkles, and the sallow complexion, and the coat with the sleeves
in wrong, and the mashed hat (I told you Lil used to be the village
peach, didn't I?) and I says: