Part 3 out of 6
eighty-three degrees Fahrenheit hotter than it looked. In the
intermission caused by this disaster his agile mind skipped a few
chapters of the story, and, when he was able to speak again, he
said, "So then there was a lot of trouble. Everything broke loose!"
"Why?" Archie was puzzled. "Did the management object to her
bringing the dog to rehearsal?"
"A lot of good that would have done! She does what she likes in the
"Then why was there trouble?"
"You weren't listening," said Mr. Benham, reproachfully. "I told
you. This dog came snuffling up to where I was sitting--it was quite
dark in the body of the theatre, you know--and I got up to say
something about something that was happening on the stage, and
somehow I must have given it a push with my foot."
"I see," said Archie, beginning to get the run of the plot. "You
kicked her dog."
"Pushed it. Accidentally. With my foot."
"I understand. And when you brought off this kick--"
"Push," said Mr. Benham, austerely.
"This kick or push. When you administered this kick or push--"
"It was more a sort of light shove."
"Well, when you did whatever you did, the trouble started?"
Mr. Benham gave a slight shiver.
"She talked for a while, and then walked out, taking the dog with
her. You see, this wasn't the first time it had happened."
"Good Lord! Do you spend your whole time doing that sort of thing?"
"It wasn't me the first time. It was the stage-manager. He didn't
know whose dog it was, and it came waddling on to the stage, and he
gave it a sort of pat, a kind of flick--"
"NOT a slosh," corrected Mr. Benham, firmly. "You might call it a
tap--with the promptscript. Well, we had a lot of difficulty
smoothing her over that time. Still, we managed to do it, but she
said that if anything of the sort occurred again she would chuck up
"She must be fond of the dog," said Archie, for the first time
feeling a touch of goodwill and sympathy towards the lady.
"She's crazy about, it. That's what made it so awkward when I
happened--quite inadvertently--to give it this sort of accidental
shove. Well, we spent the rest of the day trying to get her on the
'phone at her apartment, and finally we heard that she had come
here. So I took the next train, and tried to persuade her to come
back. She wouldn't listen. And that's how matters stand."
"Pretty rotten!" said Archie, sympathetically.
"You can bet it's pretty rotten--for me. There's nobody else who can
play the part. Like a chump, I wrote the thing specially for her. It
means the play won't be produced at all, if she doesn't do it. So
you're my last hope!"
Archie, who was lighting a cigarette, nearly swallowed it.
"I thought you might persuade her. Point out to her what a lot hangs
on her coming back. Jolly her along, YOU know the sort of thing!"
"But, my dear old friend, I tell you I don't know her!"
Mr. Benham's eyes opened behind their zareba of glass.
"Well, she knows YOU. When you came through the lobby just now she
said that you were the only real human being she had ever met."
"Well, as a matter of fact, I did take a fly out of her eye. But--"
"You did? Well, then, the whole thing's simple. All you have to do
is to ask her how her eye is, and tell her she has the most
beautiful eyes you ever saw, and coo a bit."
"But, my dear old son!" The frightful programme which his friend had
mapped out stunned Archie. "I simply can't! Anything to oblige and
all that sort of thing, but when it comes to cooing, distinctly
"Nonsense! It isn't hard to coo."
"You don't understand, laddie. You're not a married man. I mean to
say, whatever you say for or against marriage--personally I'm all
for it and consider it a ripe egg--the fact remains that it
practically makes a chappie a spent force as a cooer. I don't want
to dish you in any way, old bean, but I must firmly and resolutely
decline to coo."
Mr. Benham rose and looked at his watch.
"I'll have to be moving," he said. "I've got to get back to New York
and report. I'll tell them that I haven't been able to do anything
myself, but that I've left the matter in good hands. I know you will
do your best."
"Think," said Mr. Benham, solemnly, "of all that depends on it! The
other actors! The small-part people thrown out of a job! Myself--but
no! Perhaps you had better touch very lightly or not at all on my
connection with the thing. Well, you know how to handle it. I feel I
can leave it to you. Pitch it strong! Good-bye, my dear old man, and
a thousand thanks. I'll do the same for you another time." He moved
towards the door, leaving Archie transfixed. Half-way there he
turned and came back. "Oh, by the way," he said, "my lunch. Have it
put on your bill, will you? I haven't time to stay and settle. Good-
RALLYING ROUND PERCY
It amazed Archie through the whole of a long afternoon to reflect
how swiftly and unexpectedly the blue and brilliant sky of life can
cloud over and with what abruptness a man who fancies that his feet
are on solid ground can find himself immersed in Fate's gumbo. He
recalled, with the bitterness with which one does recall such
things, that that morning he had risen from his bed without a care
in the world, his happiness unruffled even by the thought that
Lucille would be leaving him for a short space. He had sung in his
bath. Yes, he had chirruped like a bally linnet. And now--
Some men would have dismissed the unfortunate affairs of Mr. George
Benham from their mind as having nothing to do with themselves, but
Archie had never been made of this stern stuff. The fact that Mr.
Benham, apart from being an agreeable companion with whom he had
lunched occasionally in New York, had no claims upon him affected
him little. He hated to see his fellowman in trouble. On the other
hand, what could he do? To seek Miss Silverton out and plead with
her--even if he did it without cooing--would undoubtedly establish
an intimacy between them which, instinct told him, might tinge her
manner after Lucille's return with just that suggestion of Auld Lang
Syne which makes things so awkward.
His whole being shrank from extending to Miss Silverton that inch
which the female artistic temperament is so apt to turn into an ell;
and when, just as he was about to go in to dinner, he met her in the
lobby and she smiled brightly at him and informed him that her eye
was now completely recovered, he shied away like a startled mustang
of the prairie, and, abandoning his intention of worrying the table
d'hote in the same room with the amiable creature, tottered off to
the smoking-room, where he did the best he could with sandwiches and
Having got through the time as best he could till eleven o'clock, he
went up to bed.
The room to which he and Lucille had been assigned by the management
was on the second floor, pleasantly sunny by day and at night filled
with cool and heartening fragrance of the pines. Hitherto Archie had
always enjoyed taking a final smoke on the balcony overlooking the
woods, but, to-night such was his mental stress that he prepared to
go to bed directly he had closed the door. He turned to the cupboard
to get his pyjamas.
His first thought, when even after a second scrutiny no pyjamas were
visible, was that this was merely another of those things which
happen on days when life goes wrong. He raked the cupboard for a
third time with an annoyed eye. From every hook hung various
garments of Lucille's, but no pyjamas. He was breathing a soft
malediction preparatory to embarking on a point-to-point hunt for
his missing property, when something in the cupboard caught his eye
and held him for a moment puzzled.
He could have sworn that Lucille did not possess a mauve neglige.
Why, she had told him a dozen times that mauve was a colour which
she did not like. He frowned perplexedly; and as he did so, from
near the window came a soft cough.
Archie spun round and subjected the room to as close a scrutiny as
that which he had bestowed upon the cupboard. Nothing was visible.
The window opening on to the balcony gaped wide. The balcony was
This time there was no possibility of error. The cough had come from
the immediate neighbourhood of the window.
Archie was conscious of a pringly sensation about the roots of his
closely-cropped back-hair, as he moved cautiously across the room.
The affair was becoming uncanny; and, as he tip-toed towards the
window, old ghost stories, read in lighter moments before cheerful
fires with plenty of light in the room, flitted through his mind. He
had the feeling--precisely as every chappie in those stories had
had--that he was not alone.
Nor was he. In a basket behind an arm-chair, curled up, with his
massive chin resting on the edge of the wicker-work, lay a fine
"Urrf!" said the bulldog.
"Good God!" said Archie.
There was a lengthy pause in which the bulldog looked earnestly at
Archie and Archie looked earnestly at the bulldog.
Normally, Archie was a dog-lover. His hurry was never so great as to
prevent him stopping, when in the street, and introducing himself to
any dog he met. In a strange house, his first act was to assemble
the canine population, roll it on its back or backs, and punch it in
the ribs. As a boy, his earliest ambition had been to become a
veterinary surgeon; and, though the years had cheated him of his
career, he knew all about dogs, their points, their manners, their
customs, and their treatment in sickness and in health. In short, he
loved dogs, and, had they met under happier conditions, he would
undoubtedly have been on excellent terms with this one within the
space of a minute. But, as things were, he abstained from
fraternising and continued to goggle dumbly.
And then his eye, wandering aside, collided with the following
objects: a fluffy pink dressing-gown, hung over the back of a chair,
an entirely strange suit-case, and, on the bureau, a photograph in a
silver frame of a stout gentleman in evening-dress whom he had never
seen before in his life.
Much has been written of the emotions of the wanderer who, returning
to his childhood home, finds it altered out of all recognition; but
poets have neglected the theme--far more poignant--of the man who
goes up to his room in an hotel and finds it full of somebody else's
dressing-gowns and bulldogs.
Bulldogs! Archie's heart jumped sideways and upwards with a wiggling
movement, turning two somersaults, and stopped beating. The hideous
truth, working its way slowly through the concrete, had at last
penetrated to his brain. He was not only in somebody else's room,
and a woman's at that. He was in the room belonging to Miss Vera
He could not understand it. He would have been prepared to stake the
last cent he could borrow from his father-in-law on the fact that he
had made no error in the number over the door. Yet, nevertheless,
such was the case, and, below par though his faculties were at the
moment, he was sufficiently alert to perceive that it behoved him to
He leaped to the door, and, as he did so, the handle began to turn.
The cloud which had settled on Archie's mind lifted abruptly. For an
instant he was enabled to think about a hundred times more quickly
than was his leisurely wont. Good fortune had brought him to within
easy reach of the electric-light switch. He snapped it back, and was
in darkness. Then, diving silently and swiftly to the floor, he
wriggled under the bed. The thud of his head against what appeared
to be some sort of joist or support, unless it had been placed there
by the maker as a practical joke, on the chance of this kind of
thing happening some day, coincided with the creak of the opening
door. Then the light was switched on again, and the bulldog in the
corner gave a welcoming woofle.
"And how is mamma's precious angel?"
Rightly concluding that the remark had not been addressed to himself
and that no social obligation demanded that he reply, Archie pressed
his cheek against the boards and said nothing. The question was not
repeated, but from the other side of the room came the sound of a
"Did he think his muzzer had fallen down dead and was never coming
The beautiful picture which these words conjured up filled Archie
with that yearning for the might-have-been which is always so
painful. He was finding his position physically as well as mentally
distressing. It was cramped under the bed, and the boards were
harder than anything he had ever encountered. Also, it appeared to
be the practice of the housemaids at the Hotel Hermitage to use the
space below the beds as a depository for all the dust which they
swept off the carpet, and much of this was insinuating itself into
his nose and mouth. The two things which Archie would have liked
most to do at that moment were first to kill Miss Silverton--if
possible, painfully--and then to spend the remainder of his life
After a prolonged period he heard a drawer open, and noted the fact
as promising. As the old married man, he presumed that it signified
the putting away of hair-pins. About now the dashed woman would be
looking at herself in the glass with her hair down. Then she would
brush it. Then she would twiddle it up into thingummies. Say, ten
minutes for this. And after that she would go to bed and turn out
the light, and he would be able, after giving her a bit of time to
go to sleep, to creep out and leg it. Allowing at a conservative
estimate three-quarters of--
Archie stiffened. For an instant a feeble hope came to him that this
remark, like the others, might be addressed to the dog.
"Come out from under that bed!" said a stern voice. "And mind how
you come! I've got a pistol!"
"Well, I mean to say, you know," said Archie, in a propitiatory
voice, emerging from his lair like a tortoise and smiling as
winningly as a man can who has just bumped his head against the leg
of a bed, "I suppose all this seems fairly rummy, but--"
"For the love of Mike!" said Miss Silverton.
The point seemed to Archie well taken and the comment on the
situation neatly expressed.
"What are you doing in my room?"
"Well, if it comes to that, you know--shouldn't have mentioned it if
you hadn't brought the subject up in the course of general chit-
chat--what are you doing in mine?"
"Well, apparently there's been a bloomer of some species somewhere,
but this was the room I had last night," said Archie.
"But the desk-clerk said that he had asked you if it would be quite
satisfactory to you giving it up to me, and you said yes. I come
here every summer, when I'm not working, and I always have this
"By Jove! I remember now. The chappie did say something to me about
the room, but I was thinking of something else and it rather went
over the top. So that's what he was talking about, was it?"
Miss Silverton was frowning. A moving-picture director, scanning her
face, would have perceived that she was registering disappointment.
"Nothing breaks right for me in this darned world," she said,
regretfully. "When I caught sight of your leg sticking out from
under the bed, I did think that everything was all lined up for a
real find ad. at last. I could close my eyes and see the thing in
the papers. On the front page, with photographs: 'Plucky Actress
Captures Burglar.' Darn it!"
"Fearfully sorry, you know!"
"I just needed something like that. I've got a Press-agent, and I
will say for him that he eats well and sleeps well and has just
enough intelligence to cash his monthly cheque without forgetting
what he went into the bank for, but outside of that you can take it
from me he's not one of the world's workers! He's about as much
solid use to a girl with aspirations as a pain in the lower ribs.
It's three weeks since he got me into print at all, and then the
brightest thing he could thing up was that my favourite breakfast-
fruit was an apple. Well, I ask you!"
"Rotten!" said Archie.
"I did think that for once my guardian angel had gone back to work
and was doing something for me. 'Stage Star and Midnight Marauder,'
" murmured Miss Silverton, wistfully. "'Footlight Favourite Foils
"Bit thick!" agreed Archie, sympathetically. "Well, you'll probably
be wanting to get to bed and all that sort of rot, so I may as well
be popping, what! Cheerio!"
A sudden gleam came into Miss Silverton's compelling eyes.
"Wait! I've got an idea!" The wistful sadness had gone from her
manner. She was bright and alert. "Sit down!"
"Sure. Sit down and take the chill off the arm-chair. I've thought
Archie sat down as directed. At his elbow the bulldog eyed him
gravely from the basket.
"Do they know you in this hotel?"
"Know me? Well, I've been here about a week."
"I mean, do they know who you are? Do they know you're a good
"Well, if it comes to that, I suppose they don't. But--"
"Fine!" said Miss Silverton, appreciatively. "Then it's all right.
We can carry on!"
"Why, sure! All I want is to get the thing into the papers. It
doesn't matter to me if it turns out later that there was a mistake
and that you weren't a burglar trying for my jewels after all. It
makes just as good a story either way. I can't think why that never
struck me before. Here have I been kicking because you weren't a
real burglar, when it doesn't amount to a hill of beans whether you
are or not. All I've got to do is to rush out and yell and rouse the
hotel, and they come in and pinch you, and I give the story to the
papers, and everything's fine!"
Archie leaped from his chair.
"I say! What!"
"What's on your mind?" enquired Miss Silverton, considerately.
"Don't you think it's a nifty scheme?"
"Nifty! My dear old soul! It's frightful!"
"Can't see what's wrong with it," grumbled Miss Silverton. "After
I've had someone get New York on the long-distance 'phone and give
the story to the papers you can explain, and they'll let you out.
Surely to goodness you don't object, as a personal favour to me, to
spending an hour or two in a cell? Why, probably they haven't got a
prison at all out in these parts, and you'll simply be locked in a
room. A child of ten could do it on his head," said Miss Silverton.
"A child of six," she emended.
"But, dash it--I mean--what I mean to say--I'm married!"
"Yes?" said Miss Silverton, with the politeness of faint interest.
"I've been married myself. I wouldn't say it's altogether a bad
thing, mind you, for those that like it, but a little of it goes a
long way. My first husband," she proceeded, reminiscently, "was a
travelling man. I gave him a two-weeks' try-out, and then I told him
to go on travelling. My second husband--now, HE wasn't a gentleman
in any sense of the word. I remember once--"
"You don't grasp the point. The jolly old point! You fail to grasp
it. If this bally thing comes out, my wife will be most frightfully
Miss Silverton regarded him with pained surprise.
"Do you mean to say you would let a little thing like that stand in
the way of my getting on the front page of all the papers--WITH
photographs? Where's your chivalry?"
"Never mind my dashed chivalry!"
"Besides, what does it matter if she does get a little sore? She'll
soon get over it. You can put that right. Buy her a box of candy.
Not that I'm strong for candy myself. What I always say is, it may
taste good, but look what it does to your hips! I give you my honest
word that, when I gave up eating candy, I lost eleven ounces the
first week. My second husband--no, I'm a liar, it was my third--my
third husband said--Say, what's the big idea? Where are you going?"
"Out!" said Archie, firmly. "Bally out!"
A dangerous light flickered in Miss Silverton's eyes.
"That'll be all of that!" she said, raising the pistol. "You stay
right where you are, or I'll fire!"
"I mean it!"
"My dear old soul," said Archie, "in the recent unpleasantness in
France I had chappies popping off things like that at me all day and
every day for close on five years, and here I am, what! I mean to
say, if I've got to choose between staying here and being pinched in
your room by the local constabulary and having the dashed thing get
into the papers and all sorts of trouble happening, and my wife
getting the wind up and--I say, if I've got to choose--"
"Suck a lozenge and start again!" said Miss Silverton.
"Well, what I mean to say is, I'd much rather take a chance of
getting a bullet in the old bean than that. So loose it off and the
best o' luck!"
Miss Silverton lowered the pistol, sank into a chair, and burst into
"I think you're the meanest man I ever met!" she sobbed. "You know
perfectly well the bang would send me into a fit!"
"In that case," said Archie, relieved, "cheerio, good luck, pip-pip,
toodle-oo, and good-bye-ee! I'll be shifting!"
"Yes, you will!" cried Miss Silverton, energetically, recovering
with amazing swiftness from her collapse. "Yes, you will, I by no
means suppose! You think, just because I'm no champion with a
pistol, I'm helpless. You wait! Percy!"
"My name is not Percy."
"I never said it was. Percy! Percy, come to muzzer!"
There was a creaking rustle from behind the arm-chair. A heavy body
flopped on the carpet. Out into the room, heaving himself along as
though sleep had stiffened his joints, and breathing stertorously
through his tilted nose, moved the fine bulldog. Seen in the open,
he looked even more formidable than he had done in his basket.
"Guard him, Percy! Good dog, guard him! Oh, heavens! What's the
matter with him?"
And with these words the emotional woman, uttering a wail of
anguish, flung herself on the floor beside the animal.
Percy was, indeed, in manifestly bad shape. He seemed quite unable
to drag his limbs across the room. There was a curious arch in his
back, and, as his mistress touched him, he cried out plaintively,
"Percy! Oh, what IS the matter with him? His nose is burning!"
Now was the time, with both sections of the enemy's forces occupied,
for Archie to have departed softly from the room. But never, since
the day when at the age of eleven he had carried a large, damp, and
muddy terrier with a sore foot three miles and deposited him on the
best sofa in his mother's drawing-room, had he been able to ignore
the spectacle of a dog in trouble.
"He does look bad, what!"
"He's dying! Oh, he's dying! Is it distemper? He's never had
Archie regarded the sufferer with the grave eye of the expert. He
shook his head.
"It's not that," he said. "Dogs with distemper make a sort of
"But he IS making a snifting noise!"
"No, he's making a snuffling noise. Great difference between
snuffling and snifting. Not the same thing at all. I mean to say,
when they snift they snift, and when they snuffle they--as it were--
snuffle. That's how you can tell. If you ask ME"--he passed his hand
over the dog's back. Percy uttered another cry. "I know what's the
matter with him."
"A brute of a man kicked him at rehearsal. Do you think he's injured
"It's rheumatism," said Archie. "Jolly old rheumatism. That's all
that's the trouble."
"Are you sure?"
"But what can I do?"
"Give him a good hot bath, and mind and dry him well. He'll have a
good sleep then, and won't have any pain. Then, first thing to-
morrow, you want to give him salicylate of soda."
"I'll never remember that."-"I'll write it down for you. You ought
to give him from ten to twenty grains three times a day in an ounce
of water. And rub him with any good embrocation."
"And he won't die?"
"Die! He'll live to be as old as you are!-I mean to say--"
"I could kiss you!" said Miss Silverton, emotionally.
Archie backed hastily.
"No, no, absolutely not! Nothing like that required, really!"
"You're a darling!"
"Yes. I mean no. No, no, really!"
"I don't know what to say. What can I say?"
"Good night," said Archie.
"I wish there was something I could do! If you hadn't been here, I
should have gone off my head!"
A great idea flashed across Archie's brain.
"Do you really want to do something?"
"Then I do wish, like a dear sweet soul, you would pop straight back
to New York to-morrow and go on with those rehearsals."
Miss Silverton shook her head.
"I can't do that!"
"Oh, right-o! But it isn't much to ask, what!"
"Not much to ask! I'll never forgive that man for kicking Percy!"
"Now listen, dear old soul. You've got the story all wrong. As a
matter of fact, jolly old Benham told me himself that he has the
greatest esteem and respect for Percy, and wouldn't have kicked him
for the world. And, you know it was more a sort of push than a kick.
You might almost call it a light shove. The fact is, it was beastly
dark in the theatre, and he was legging it sideways for some reason
or other, no doubt with the best motives, and unfortunately he
happened to stub his toe on the poor old bean."
"Then why didn't he say so?"
"As far as I could make out, you didn't give him a chance."
Miss Silverton wavered.
"I always hate going back after I've walked out on a show," she
said. "It seems so weak!"
"Not a bit of it! They'll give three hearty cheers and think you a
topper. Besides, you've got to go to New York in any case. To take
Percy to a vet., you know, what!"
"Of course. How right you always are!" Miss Silverton hesitated
again. "Would you really be glad if I went back to the show?"
"I'd go singing about the hotel! Great pal of mine, Benham. A
thoroughly cheery old bean, and very cut up about the whole affair.
Besides, think of all the coves thrown out of work--the
thingummabobs and the poor what-d'you-call-'ems!"
"You'll do it?"
"I say, you really are one of the best! Absolutely like mother made!
That's fine! Well, I think I'll be saying good night."
"Good night. And thank you so much!"
"Oh, no, rather not!"
Archie moved to the door.
"Oh, by the way."
"If I were you, I think I should catch the very first train you can
get to New York. You see--er--you ought to take Percy to the vet. as
soon as ever you can."
"You really do think of everything," said Miss Silverton.
"Yes," said Archie, meditatively.
THE SAD CASE OF LOONEY BIDDLE
Archie was a simple soul, and, as is the case with most simple
souls, gratitude came easily to him. He appreciated kind treatment.
And when, on the following day, Lucille returned to the Hermitage,
all smiles and affection, and made no further reference to Beauty's
Eyes and the flies that got into them, he was conscious of a keen
desire to show some solid recognition of this magnanimity. Few
wives, he was aware, could have had the nobility and what not to
refrain from occasionally turning the conversation in the direction
of the above-mentioned topics. It had not needed this behaviour on
her part to convince him that Lucille was a topper and a corker and
one of the very best, for he had been cognisant of these facts since
the first moment he had met her: but what he did feel was that she
deserved to be rewarded in no uncertain manner. And it seemed a
happy coincidence to him that her birthday should be coming along in
the next week or so. Surely, felt Archie, he could whack up some
sort of a not unjuicy gift for that occasion--something pretty ripe
that would make a substantial hit with the dear girl. Surely
something would come along to relieve his chronic impecuniosity for
just sufficient length of time to enable him to spread himself on
this great occasion.
And, as if in direct answer to prayer, an almost forgotten aunt in
England suddenly, out of an absolutely blue sky, shot no less a sum
than five hundred dollars across the ocean. The present was so
lavish and unexpected that Archie had the awed feeling of one who
participates in a miracle. He felt, like Herbert Parker, that the
righteous was not forsaken. It was the sort of thing that restored a
fellow's faith in human nature. For nearly a week he went about in a
happy trance: and when, by thrift and enterprise--that is to say, by
betting Reggie van Tuyl that the New York Giants would win the
opening game of the series against the Pittsburg baseball team--he
contrived to double his capital, what it amounted to was simply that
life had nothing more to offer. He was actually in a position to go
to a thousand dollars for Lucille's birthday present. He gathered in
Mr. van Tuyl, of whose taste in these matters he had a high opinion,
and dragged him off to a jeweller's on Broadway.
The jeweller, a stout, comfortable man, leaned on the counter and
fingered lovingly the bracelet which he had lifted out of its nest
of blue plush. Archie, leaning on the other side of the counter,
inspected the bracelet searchingly, wishing that he knew more about
these things; for he had rather a sort of idea that the merchant was
scheming to do him in the eyeball. In a chair by his side, Reggie
van Tuyl, half asleep as usual, yawned despondently. He had
permitted Archie to lug him into this shop; and he wanted to buy
something and go. Any form of sustained concentration fatigued
"Now this," said the jeweller, "I could do at eight hundred and
"Grab it!" murmured Mr. van Tuyl.
The jeweller eyed him approvingly, a man after his own heart; but
Archie looked doubtful. It was all very well for Reggie to tell him
to grab it in that careless way. Reggie was a dashed millionaire,
and no doubt bought bracelets by the pound or the gross or what not;
but he himself was in an entirely different position.
"Eight hundred and fifty dollars!" he said, hesitating.
"Worth it," mumbled Reggie van Tuyl.
"More than worth it," amended the jeweller. "I can assure you that
it is better value than you could get anywhere on Fifth Avenue."
"Yes?" said Archie. He took the bracelet and twiddled it
thoughtfully. "Well, my dear old jeweller, one can't say fairer than
that, can one--or two, as the case may be!" He frowned. "Oh, well,
all right! But it's rummy that women are so fearfully keen on these
little thingummies, isn't it? I mean to say, can't see what they see
in them. Stones, and all that. Still, there, it is, of course!"
"There," said the jeweller, "as you say, it is, sir."
"Yes, there it is!"
"Yes, there it is," said the jeweller, "fortunately for people in my
line of business. Will you take it with you, sir?"
"No. No, not take it with me. The fact is, you know, my wife's
coming back from the country to-night, and it's her birthday to-
morrow, and the thing's for her, and, if it was popping about the
place to-night, she might see it, and it would sort of spoil the
surprise. I mean to say, she doesn't know I'm giving it her, and all
"Besides," said Reggie, achieving a certain animation now that the
tedious business interview was concluded, "going to the ball-game
this afternoon--might get pocket picked--yes, better have it sent."
"Where shall I send it, sir?"
"Eh? Oh, shoot it along to Mrs. Archibald Moffam, at the Cosmopolis.
Not to-day, you know. Buzz it in first thing to-morrow."
Having completed the satisfactory deal, the jeweller threw off the
business manner and became chatty.
"So you are going to the ball-game? It should be an interesting
Reggie van Tuyl, now--by his own standards--completely awake, took
exception to this remark.
"Not a bit of it!" he said, decidedly. "No contest! Can't call it a
contest! Walkover for the Pirates!"
Archie was stung to the quick. There is that about baseball which
arouses enthusiasm and the partisan spirit in the unlikeliest
bosoms. It is almost impossible for a man to live in America and not
become gripped by the game; and Archie had long been one of its
warmest adherents. He was a whole-hearted supporter of the Giants,
and his only grievance against Reggie, in other respects an
estimable young man, was that the latter, whose money had been
inherited from steel-mills in that city, had an absurd regard for
the Pirates of Pittsburg.
"What absolute bally rot!" he exclaimed. "Look what the Giants did
to them yesterday!"
"Yesterday isn't to-day," said Reggie.
"No, it'll be a jolly sight worse," said Archie. "Looney Biddle'll
be pitching for the Giants to-day."
"That's just what I mean. The Pirates have got him rattled. Look
what happened last time."
Archie understood, and his generous nature chafed at the innuendo.
Looney Biddle--so-called by an affectionately admiring public as the
result of certain marked eccentricities--was beyond dispute the
greatest left-handed pitcher New York had possessed in the last
decade. But there was one blot on Mr. Biddle's otherwise stainless
scutcheon. Five weeks before, on the occasion of the Giants'
invasion of Pittsburg, he had gone mysteriously to pieces. Few
native-born partisans, brought up to baseball from the cradle, had
been plunged into a profounder gloom on that occasion than Archie;
but his soul revolted at the thought that that sort of thing could
ever happen again.
"I'm not saying," continued Reggie, "that Biddle isn't a very fair
pitcher, but it's cruel to send him against the Pirates, and
somebody ought to stop it. His best friends should interfere. Once a
team gets a pitcher rattled, he's never any good against them again.
He loses his nerve."
The jeweller nodded approval of this sentiment.
"They never come back," he said, sententiously.
The fighting blood of the Moffams was now thoroughly stirred. Archie
eyed his friend sternly. Reggie was a good chap--in many respects an
extremely sound egg--but he must not be allowed to talk rot of this
description about the greatest left-handed pitcher of the age.
"It seems to me, old companion," he said, "that a small bet is
indicated at this juncture. How about it?"
"Don't want to take your money."
"You won't have to! In the cool twilight of the merry old summer
evening I, friend of my youth and companion of my riper years, shall
be trousering yours."
Reggie yawned. The day was very hot, and this argument was making
him feel sleepy again.
"Well, just as you like, of course. Double or quits on yesterday's
bet, if that suits you."
For a moment Archie hesitated. Firm as his faith was in Mr. Biddle's
stout left arm, he had not intended to do the thing on quite this
scale. That thousand dollars of his was earmarked for Lucille's
birthday present, and he doubted whether he ought to risk it. Then
the thought that the honour of New York was in his hands decided
him. Besides, the risk was negligible. Betting on Looney Biddle was
like betting on the probable rise of the sun in the east. The thing
began to seem to Archie a rather unusually sound and conservative
investment. He remembered that the jeweller, until he drew him
firmly but kindly to earth and urged him to curb his exuberance and
talk business on a reasonable plane, had started brandishing
bracelets that cost about two thousand. There would be time to pop
in at the shop this evening after the game and change the one he had
selected for one of those. Nothing was too good for Lucille on her
"Right-o!" he said. "Make it so, old friend!"
Archie walked back to the Cosmopolis. No misgivings came to mar his
perfect contentment. He felt no qualms about separating Reggie from
another thousand dollars. Except for a little small change in the
possession of the Messrs. Rockefeller and Vincent Astor, Reggie had
all the money in the world and could afford to lose. He hummed a gay
air as he entered the lobby and crossed to the cigar-stand to buy a
few cigarettes to see him through the afternoon.
The girl behind the cigar counter welcomed him with a bright smile.
Archie was popular with all the employes of the Cosmopolis.
"'S a great day, Mr. Moffam!"
"One of the brightest and best," Agreed Archie. "Could you dig me
out two, or possibly three, cigarettes of the usual description? I
shall want something to smoke at the ball-game."
"You going to the ball-game?"
"Rather! Wouldn't miss it for a fortune."
"Absolutely no! Not with jolly old Biddle pitching."
The cigar-stand girl laughed amusedly.
"Is he pitching this afternoon? Say, that feller's a nut? D'you know
"Know him? Well, I've seen him pitch and so forth."
"I've got a girl friend who's engaged to him!"
Archie looked at her with positive respect. It would have been more
dramatic, of course, if she had been engaged to the great man
herself, but still the mere fact that she had a girl friend in that
astounding position gave her a sort of halo.
"No, really!" he said. "I say, by Jove, really! Fancy that!"
"Yes, she's engaged to him all right. Been engaged close on a coupla
"I say! That's frightfully interesting! Fearfully interesting,
"It's funny about that guy," said the cigar-stand girl. "He's a nut!
The fellow who said there's plenty of room at the top must have been
thinking of Gus Biddle's head! He's crazy about m' girl friend, y'
know, and, whenever they have a fuss, it seems like he sort of flies
right off the handle."
"Goes in off the deep end, eh?"
"Yes, SIR! Loses what little sense he's got. Why, the last time him
and m' girl friend got to scrapping was when he was going on to
Pittsburg to play, about a month ago. He'd been out with her the day
he left for there, and he had a grouch or something, and he started
making low, sneaky cracks about her Uncle Sigsbee. Well, m' girl
friend's got a nice disposition, but she c'n get mad, and she just
left him flat and told him all was over. And he went off to
Pittsburg, and, when he started in to pitch the opening game, he
just couldn't keep his mind on his job, and look what them assassins
done to him! Five runs in the first innings! Yessir, he's a nut all
Archie was deeply concerned. So this was the explanation of that
mysterious disaster, that weird tragedy which had puzzled the
sporting press from coast to coast.
"Good God! Is he often taken like that?"
"Oh, he's all right when he hasn't had a fuss with m' girl friend,"
said the cigar-stand girl, indifferently. Her interest in baseball
was tepid. Women are too often like this--mere butterflies, with no
concern for the deeper side of life.
"Yes, but I say! What I mean to say, you know! Are they pretty pally
now? The good old Dove of Peace flapping its little wings fairly
briskly and all that?"
"Oh, I guess everything's nice and smooth just now. I seen m' girl
friend yesterday, and Gus was taking her to the movies last night,
so I guess everything's nice and smooth."
Archie breathed a sigh of relief.
"Took her to the movies, did he? Stout fellow!"
"I was at the funniest picture last week," said the cigar-stand
girl. "Honest, it was a scream! It was like this--"
Archie listened politely; then went in to get a bite of lunch. His
equanimity, shaken by the discovery of the rift in the peerless
one's armour, was restored. Good old Biddle had taken the girl to
the movies last night. Probably he had squeezed her hand a goodish
bit in the dark. With what result? Why, the fellow would be feeling
like one of those chappies who used to joust for the smiles of
females in the Middle Ages. What he meant to say, presumably the
girl would be at the game this afternoon, whooping him on, and good
old Biddle would be so full of beans and buck that there would be no
Encouraged by these thoughts, Archie lunched with an untroubled
mind. Luncheon concluded, he proceeded to the lobby to buy back his
hat and stick from the boy brigand with whom he had left them. It
was while he was conducting this financial operation that he
observed that at the cigar-stand, which adjoined the coat-and-hat
alcove, his friend behind the counter had become engaged in
conversation with another girl.
This was a determined looking young woman in a blue dress and a
large hat of a bold and flowery species, Archie happening to attract
her attention, she gave him a glance out of a pair of fine brown
eyes, then, as if she did not think much of him, turned to her
companion and resumed their conversation--which, being of an
essentially private and intimate nature, she conducted, after the
manner of her kind, in a ringing soprano which penetrated into every
corner of the lobby. Archie, waiting while the brigand reluctantly
made change for a dollar bill, was privileged to hear every word.
"Right from the start I seen he was in a ugly mood. YOU know how he
gets, dearie! Chewing his upper lip and looking at you as if you
were so much dirt beneath his feet! How was _I_ to know he'd lost
fifteen dollars fifty-five playing poker, and anyway, I don't see
where he gets a licence to work off his grouches on me. And I told
him so. I said to him, 'Gus,' I said, 'if you can't be bright and
smiling and cheerful when you take me out, why do you come round at
all? Was I wrong or right, dearie?"
The girl behind the counter heartily endorsed her conduct. "Once you
let a man think he could use you as a door-mat, where were you?"
"What happened then, honey?"
"Well, after that we went to the movies."
Archie started convulsively. The change from his dollar-bill leaped
in his hand. Some of it sprang overboard and tinkled across the
floor, with the brigand in pursuit. A monstrous suspicion had begun,
to take root in his mind.
"Well, we got good seats, but--well, you know how it is, once things
start going wrong. You know that hat of mine, the one with the
daisies and cherries and the feather--I'd taken it off and given it
him to hold when we went in, and what do you think that fell'r'd
done? Put it on the floor and crammed it under the seat, just to
save himself the trouble of holding it on his lap! And, when I
showed him I was upset, all he said was that he was a pitcher and
not a hatstand!"
Archie was paralysed. He paid no attention to the hat-check boy, who
was trying to induce him to accept treasure-trove to the amount of
forty-five cents. His whole being was concentrated on this frightful
tragedy which had burst upon him like a tidal wave. No possible room
for doubt remained. "Gus" was the only Gus in New York that
mattered, and this resolute and injured female before him was the
Girl Friend, in whose slim hands rested the happiness of New York's
baseball followers, the destiny of the unconscious Giants, and the
fate of his thousand dollars. A strangled croak proceeded from his
"Well, I didn't say anything at the moment. It just shows how them
movies can work on a girl's feelings. It was a Bryant Washburn film,
and somehow, whenever I see him on the screen, nothing else seems to
matter. I just get that goo-ey feeling, and couldn't start a fight
if you asked me to. So we go off to have a soda, and I said to him,
'That sure was a lovely film, Gus!' and would you believe me, he
says straight out that he didn't think it was such a much, and he
thought Bryant Washburn was a pill! A pill!" The Girl Friend's
penetrating voice shook with emotion.
"He never!" exclaimed the shocked cigar-stand girl.
"He did, if I die the next moment! I wasn't more than half-way
through my vanilla and maple, but I got up without a word and left
him. And I ain't seen a sight of him since. So there you are,
dearie! Was I right or wrong?"
The cigar-stand girl gave unqualified approval. What men like Gus
Biddle needed for the salvation of their souls was an occasional
good jolt right where it would do most good.
"I'm glad you think I acted right, dearie," said the Girl Friend. "I
guess I've been too weak with Gus, and he's took advantage of it. I
s'pose I'll have to forgive him one of these old days, but, believe
me, it won't be for a week."
The cigar-stand girl was in favour of a fortnight.
"No," said the Girl Friend, regretfully. "I don't believe I could
hold out that long. But, if I speak to him inside a week, well--!
Well, I gotta be going. Goodbye, honey."
The cigar-stand girl turned to attend to an impatient customer, and
the Girl Friend, walking with the firm and decisive steps which
indicate character, made for the swing-door leading to the street.
And as she went, the paralysis which had pipped Archie relased its
hold. Still ignoring the forty-five cents which the boy continued to
proffer, he leaped in her wake like a panther and came upon her just
as she was stepping into a car. The car was full, but not too full
for Archie. He dropped his five cents into the box and reached for a
vacant strap. He looked down upon the flowered hat. There she was.
And there he was. Archie rested his left ear against the forearm of
a long, strongly-built young man in a grey suit who had followed him
into the car and was sharing his strap, and pondered.
Of course, in a way, the thing was simple. The wheeze was, in a
sense, straightforward and uncomplicated. What he wanted to do was
to point out to the injured girl all that hung on her. He wished to
touch her heart, to plead with her, to desire her to restate her
war-aims, and to persuade her--before three o'clock when that
stricken gentleman would be stepping into the pitcher's box to loose
off the first ball against the Pittsburg Pirates--to let bygones be
bygones and forgive Augustus Biddle. But the blighted problem was,
how the deuce to find the opportunity to start. He couldn't yell at
the girl in a crowded street-car; and, if he let go of his strap and
bent over her, somebody would step on his neck.
The Girl Friend, who for the first five minutes had remained
entirely concealed beneath her hat, now sought diversion by looking
up and examining the faces of the upper strata of passengers. Her
eye caught Archie's in a glance of recognition, and he smiled
feebly, endeavouring to register bonhomie and good-will. He was
surprised to see a startled expression come into her brown eyes. Her
face turned pink. At least, it was pink already, but it turned
pinker. The next moment, the car having stopped to pick up more
passengers, she jumped off and started to hurry across the street.
Archie was momentarily taken aback. When embarking on this business
he had never intended it to become a blend of otter-hunting and a
moving-picture chase. He followed her off the car with a sense that
his grip on the affair was slipping. Preoccupied with these
thoughts, he did not perceive that the long young man who had shared
his strap had alighted too. His eyes were fixed on the vanishing
figure of the Girl Friend, who, having buzzed at a smart pace into
Sixth Avenue, was now legging it in the direction of the staircase
leading to one of the stations of the Elevated Railroad. Dashing up
the stairs after her, he shortly afterwards found himself suspended
as before from a strap, gazing upon the now familiar flowers on top
of her hat. From another strap farther down the carriage swayed the
long young man in the grey suit.
The train rattled on. Once or twice, when it stopped, the girl
seemed undecided whether to leave or remain. She half rose, then
sank back again. Finally she walked resolutely out of the car, and
Archie, following, found himself in a part of New York strange to
him. The inhabitants of this district appeared to eke out a
precarious existence, not by taking in one another's washing, but by
selling one another second-hand clothes.
Archie glanced at his watch. He had lunched early, but so crowded
with emotions had been the period following lunch that he was
surprised to find that the hour was only just two. The discovery was
a pleasant one. With a full hour before the scheduled start of the
game, much might be achieved. He hurried after the girl, and came us
with her just as she turned the comer into one of those forlorn New
York side-streets which are populated chiefly by children, cats,
desultory loafers, and empty meat-tins.
The girl stopped and turned. Archie smiled a winning smile.
"I say, my dear sweet creature!" he said. "I say, my dear old thing,
"Is that so?" said the Girl Friend.
"I beg your pardon?"
"Is that so?"
Archie began to feel certain tremors. Her eyes were gleaming, and
her determined mouth had become a perfectly straight line of
scarlet. It was going to be difficult to be chatty to this girl. She
was going to be a hard audience. Would mere words be able to touch
her heart? The thought suggested itself that, properly speaking, one
would need to use a pick-axe.
"If you could spare me a couples of minutes of your valuable time--"
"Say!" The lady drew herself up menacingly. "You tie a can to
yourself and disappear! Fade away, or I'll call a cop!"
Archie was horrified at this misinterpretation of his motives. One
or two children, playing close at hand, and a loafer who was trying
to keep the wall from falling down, seemed pleased. Theirs was a
colourless existence and to the rare purple moments which had
enlivened it in the past the calling of a cop had been the unfailing
preliminary. The loafer nudged a fellow-loafer, sunning himself
against the same wall. The children, abandoning the meat-tin round
which their game had centred, drew closer.
"My dear old soul!" said Archie. "You don't understand!"
"Don't I! I know your sort, you trailing arbutus!"
"No, no! My dear old thing, believe me! I wouldn't dream!"
"Are you going or aren't you?"
Eleven more children joined the ring of spectators. The loafers
stared silently, like awakened crocodiles.
"But, I say, listen! I only wanted--"
At this point another voice spoke.
The word "Say!" more almost than any word in the American language,
is capable of a variety of shades of expression. It can be genial,
it can be jovial, it can be appealing. It can also be truculent The
"Say!" which at this juncture smote upon Archie's ear-drum with a
suddenness which made him leap in the air was truculent; and the two
loafers and twenty-seven children who now formed the audience were
well satisfied with the dramatic development of the performance. To
their experienced ears the word had the right ring.
Archie spun round. At his elbow stood a long, strongly-built young
man in a grey suit.
"Well!" said the young man, nastily. And he extended a large,
freckled face toward Archie's. It seemed to the latter, as he backed
against the wall, that the young man's neck must be composed of
india-rubber. It appeared to be growing longer every moment. His
face, besides being freckled, was a dull brick-red in colour; his
lips curled back in an unpleasant snarl, showing a gold tooth; and
beside him, swaying in an ominous sort of way, hung two clenched red
hands about the size of two young legs of mutton. Archie eyed him
with a growing apprehension. There are moments in life when, passing
idly on our way, we see a strange face, look into strange eyes, and
with a sudden glow of human warmth say to ourselves, "We have found
a friend!" This was not one of those moments. The only person Archie
had ever seen in his life who looked less friendly was the sergeant-
major who had trained him in the early days of the war, before he
had got his commission.
"I've had my eye on you!" said the young man.
He still had his eye on him. It was a hot, gimlet-like eye, and it
pierced the recesses of Archie's soul. He backed a little farther
against the wall.
Archie was frankly disturbed. He was no poltroon, and had proved the
fact on many occasions during the days when the entire German army
seemed to be picking on him personally, but he hated and shrank from
anything in the nature of a bally public scene.
"What," enquired the young man, still bearing the burden of the
conversation, and shifting his left hand a little farther behind his
back, "do you mean by following this young lady?"
Archie was glad he had asked him. This was precisely what he wanted
"My dear old lad--" he began.
In spite of the fact that he had asked a question and presumably
desired a reply, the sound of Archie's voice seemed to be more than
the young man could endure. It deprived him of the last vestige of
restraint. With a rasping snarl he brought his left fist round in a
sweeping semicircle in the direction of Archie's head.
Archie was no novice in the art of self-defence. Since his early
days at school he had learned much from leather-faced professors of
the science. He had been watching this unpleasant young man's eyes
with close attention, and the latter could not have indicated his
scheme of action more clearly if he had sent him a formal note.
Archie saw the swing all the way. He stepped nimbly aside, and the
fist crashed against the wall. The young man fell back with a yelp
"Gus!" screamed the Girl Friend, bounding forward.
She flung her arms round the injured man, who was ruefully examining
a hand which, always of an out-size, was now swelling to still
A sudden chill gripped Archie. So engrossed had he been with, his
mission that it had never occurred to him that the love-lorn pitcher
might have taken it into his head to follow the girl as well in the
hope of putting in a word for himself. Yet such apparently had been
the case. Well, this had definitely torn it. Two loving hearts were
united again in complete reconciliation, but a fat lot of good that
was. It would be days before the misguided Looney Biddle would be
able to pitch with a hand like that. It looked like a ham already,
and was still swelling. Probably the wrist was sprained. For at
least a week the greatest left-handed pitcher of his time would be
about as much use to the Giants in any professional capacity as a
cold in the head. And on that crippled hand depended the fate of all
the money Archie had in the world. He wished now that he had not
thwarted the fellow's simple enthusiasm. To have had his head
knocked forcibly through a brick wall would not have been pleasant,
but the ultimate outcome would not have been as unpleasant as this.
With a heavy heart Archie prepared to withdraw, to be alone with his
At this moment, however, the Girl Friend, releasing her wounded
lover, made a sudden dash for him, with the plainest intention of
blotting him from the earth.
"No, I say! Really!" said Archie, bounding backwards. "I mean to
In a series of events, all of which had been a bit thick, this, in
his opinion, achieved the maximum of thickness. It was the extreme
ragged, outside edge of the limit. To brawl with a fellow-man in a
public street had been bad, but to be brawled with by a girl--the
shot was not on the board. Absolutely not on the board. There was
only one thing to be done. It was dashed undignified, no doubt, for
a fellow to pick up the old waukeesis and leg it in the face of the
enemy, but there was no other course. Archie started to run; and, as
he did so, one of the loafers made the mistake of gripping him by
the collar of his coat.
"I got him!" observed the loafer.-There is a time for all things.
This was essentially not the time for anyone of the male sex to grip
the collar of Archie's coat. If a syndicate of Dempsey, Carpentier,
and one of the Zoo gorillas had endeavoured to stay his progress at
that moment, they would have had reason to consider it a rash move.
Archie wanted to be elsewhere, and the blood of generations of
Moffams, many of whom had swung a wicked axe in the free-for-all
mix-ups of the Middle Ages, boiled within him at any attempt to
revise his plans. There was a good deal of the loafer, but it was
all soft. Releasing his hold when Archie's heel took him shrewdly on
the shin, he received a nasty punch in what would have been the
middle of his waistcoat if he had worn one, uttered a gurgling bleat
like a wounded sheep, and collapsed against the wall. Archie, with a
torn coat, rounded the corner, and sprinted down Ninth Avenue.
The suddenness of the move gave him an initial advantage. He was
halfway down the first block before the vanguard of the pursuit
poured out of the side street. Continuing to travel well, he skimmed
past a large dray which had pulled up across the road, and moved on.
The noise of those who pursued was loud and clamorous in the rear,
but the dray hid him momentarily from their sight, and it was this
fact which led Archie, the old campaigner, to take his next step.
It was perfectly obvious--he was aware of this even in the novel
excitement of the chase--that a chappie couldn't hoof it at twenty-
five miles an hour indefinitely along a main thoroughfare of a great
city without exciting remark. He must take cover. Cover! That was
the wheeze. He looked about him for cover.
"You want a nice suit?"
It takes a great deal to startle your commercial New Yorker. The
small tailor, standing in his doorway, seemed in no way surprised at
the spectacle of Archie, whom he had seen pass at a conventional
walk some five minutes before, returning like this at top speed. He
assumed that Archie had suddenly remembered that he wanted to buy
This was exactly what Archie had done. More than anything else in
the world, what he wanted to do now was to get into that shop and
have a long talk about gents' clothing. Pulling himself up abruptly,
he shot past the small tailor into the dim interior. A confused
aroma of cheap clothing greeted him. Except for a small oasis behind
a grubby counter, practically all the available space was occupied
by suits. Stiff suits, looking like the body when discovered by the
police, hung from hooks. Limp suits, with the appearance of having
swooned from exhaustion, lay about on chairs and boxes. The place
was a cloth morgue, a Sargasso Sea of serge.
Archie would not have had it otherwise. In these quiet groves of
clothing a regiment could have lain hid.
"Something nifty in tweeds?" enquired the business-like proprietor
of this haven, following him amiably into the shop, "Or, maybe, yes,
a nice serge? Say, mister, I got a sweet thing in blue serge that'll
fit you like the paper on the wall!"
Archie wanted to talk about clothes, but not yet.
"I say, laddie," he said, hurriedly. "Lend me, your ear for half a
jiffy!" Outside the baying of the pack had become imminent. "Stow me
away for a moment in the undergrowth, and I'll buy anything you
He withdrew into the jungle. The noise outside grew in volume. The
pursuit had been delayed for a priceless few instants by the arrival
of another dray, moving northwards, which had drawn level with the
first dray and dexterously bottled up the fairway. This obstacle had
now been overcome, and the original searchers, their ranks swelled
by a few dozen more of the leisured classes, were hot on the trail
"You done a murder?" enquired the voice of the proprietor, mildly
interested, filtering through a wall of cloth. "Well, boys will be
boys!" he said, philosophically. "See anything there that you like?
There some sweet things there!"
"I'm inspecting them narrowly," replied Archie. "If you don't let
those chappies find me, I shouldn't be surprised if I bought one."
"One?" said the proprietor, with a touch of austerity.
"Two," said Archie, quickly. "Or possibly three or six."
The proprietor's cordiality returned.
"You can't have too many nice suits," he said, approvingly, "not a
young feller like you that wants to look nice. All the nice girls
like a young feller that dresses nice. When you go out of here in a
suit I got hanging up there at the back, the girls 'll be all over
you like flies round a honey-pot."
"Would you mind," said Archie, "would you mind, as a personal favour
to me, old companion, not mentioning that word 'girls'?"
He broke off. A heavy foot had crossed the threshold of the shop.
"Say, uncle," said a deep voice, one of those beastly voices that
only the most poisonous blighters have, "you seen a young feller run
"Young feller?" The proprietor appeared to reflect. "Do you mean a
young feller in blue, with a Homburg hat?"
"That's the duck! We lost him. Where did he go?"
"Him! Why, he come running past, quick as he could go. I wondered
what he was running for, a hot day like this. He went round the
corner at the bottom of the block."
There was a silence.
"Well, I guess he's got away," said the voice, regretfully.
"The way he was travelling," agreed the proprietor, "I wouldn't be
surprised if he was in Europe by this. You want a nice suit?"
The other, curtly expressing a wish that the proprietor would go to
eternal perdition and take his entire stock with him, stumped out.
"This," said the proprietor, tranquilly, burrowing his way to where
Archie stood and exhibiting a saffron-coloured outrage, which
appeared to be a poor relation of the flannel family, "would put you
back fifty dollars. And cheap!"
"Sixty, I said. I don't speak always distinct."
Archie regarded the distressing garment with a shuddering horror. A
young man with an educated taste in clothes, it got right in among
his nerve centres.
"But, honestly, old soul, I don't want to hurt your feelings, but
that isn't a suit, it's just a regrettable incident!"
The proprietor turned to the door in a listening attitude.
"I believe I hear that feller coming back," he said.
"How about trying it on?" he said. "I'm not sure, after all, it
isn't fairly ripe."
"That's the way to talk," said the proprietor, cordially. "You try
it on. You can't judge a suit, not a real nice suit like this, by
looking at it. You want to put it on. There!" He led the way to a
dusty mirror at the back of the shop. "Isn't that a bargain at
seventy dollars? ... Why, say, your mother would be proud if she
could see her boy now!"
A quarter of an hour later, the proprietor, lovingly kneading a
little sheaf of currency bills, eyed with a fond look the heap of
clothes which lay on the counter.
"As nice a little lot as I've ever had in my shop!" Archie did not
deny this. It was, he thought, probably only too true.
"I only wish I could see you walking up Fifth Avenue in them!"
rhapsodised the proprietor. "You'll give 'em a treat! What you going
to do with 'em? Carry 'em under your arm?" Archie shuddered
strongly. "Well, then, I can send 'em for you anywhere you like.
It's all the same to me. Where'll I send 'em?"
Archie meditated. The future was black enough as it was. He shrank
from the prospect of being confronted next day, at the height of his
misery, with these appalling reach-me-downs.
An idea struck him.
"Yes, send 'em," he said.
"What's the name and address?"
"Daniel Brewster," said Archie, "Hotel Cosmopolis."
It was a long time since he had given his father-in-law a present.
Archie went out into the street, and began to walk pensively down a
now peaceful Ninth Avenue. Out of the depths that covered him, black
as the pit from pole to pole, no single ray of hope came to cheer
him. He could not, like the poet, thank whatever gods there be for
his unconquerable soul, for his soul was licked to a splinter. He
felt alone and friendless in a rotten world. With the best
intentions, he had succeeded only in landing himself squarely
amongst the ribstons. Why had he not been content with his wealth,
instead of risking it on that blighted bet with Reggie? Why had he
trailed the Girl Friend, dash her! He might have known that he would
only make an ass of himself, And, because he had done so, Looney
Biddle's left hand, that priceless left hand before which opposing
batters quailed and wilted, was out of action, resting in a sling,
careened like a damaged battleship; and any chance the Giants might
have had of beating the Pirates was gone--gone--as surely as that
thousand dollars which should have bought a birthday present for
A birthday present for Lucille! He groaned in bitterness of spirit.
She would be coming back to-night, dear girl, all smiles and
happiness, wondering what he was going to give her tomorrow. And
when to-morrow dawned, all he would be able to give her would be a
kind smile. A nice state of things! A jolly situation! A thoroughly
good egg, he did NOT think!
It seemed to Archie that Nature, contrary to her usual custom of
indifference to human suffering, was mourning with him. The sky was
overcast, and the sun had ceased to shine. There was a sort of
sombreness in the afternoon, which fitted in with his mood. And then
something splashed on his face.
It says much for Archie's pre-occupation that his first thought, as,
after a few scattered drops, as though the clouds were submitting
samples for approval, the whole sky suddenly began to stream like a
shower-bath, was that this was simply an additional infliction which
he was called upon to bear, On top of all his other troubles he
would get soaked to the skin or have to hang about in some doorway.
He cursed richly, and sped for shelter.
The rain was setting about its work in earnest. The world was full
of that rending, swishing sound which accompanies the more violent
summer storms. Thunder crashed, and lightning flicked out of the
grey heavens. Out in the street the raindrops bounded up off the
stones like fairy fountains. Archie surveyed them morosely from his
refuge in the entrance of a shop.
And then, suddenly, like one of those flashes which were lighting up
the gloomy sky, a thought lit up his mind.
"By Jove! If this keeps up, there won't be a ball-game to-day!"
With trembling fingers he pulled out his watch. The hands pointed to
five minutes to three. A blessed vision came to him of a moist and
disappointed crowd receiving rain-checks up at the Polo Grounds.
"Switch it on, you blighters!" he cried, addressing the leaden
clouds. "Switch it on more and more!"
It was shortly before five o'clock that a young man bounded into a
jeweller's shop near the Hotel Cosmopolis--a young man who, in spite
of the fact that his coat was torn near the collar and that he oozed
water from every inch of his drenched clothes, appeared in the
highest spirits.. It was only when he spoke that the jeweller
recognised in the human sponge the immaculate youth who had looked
in that morning to order a bracelet.
"I say, old lad," said this young man, "you remember that jolly
little what-not you showed me before lunch?"
"The bracelet, sir?"
"As you observe with a manly candour which does you credit, my dear
old jeweller, the bracelet. Well, produce, exhibit, and bring it
forth, would you mind? Trot it out! Slip it across on a lordly
"You wished me, surely, to put it aside and send it to the
The young man tapped the jeweller earnestly on his substantial
"What I wished and what I wish now are two bally separate and dashed
distinct things, friend of my college days! Never put off till to-
morrow what you can do to-day, and all that! I'm not taking any more
chances. Not for me! For others, yes, but not for Archibald! Here
are the doubloons, produce the jolly bracelet Thanks!"
The jeweller counted the notes with the same unction which Archie
had observed earlier in the day in the proprietor of the second-hand
clothes-shop. The process made him genial.
"A nasty, wet day, sir, it's been," he observed, chattily.
Archie shook his head.
"Old friend," he said, "you're all wrong. Far otherwise, and not a
bit like it, my dear old trafficker in gems! You've put your finger
on the one aspect of this blighted p.m. that really deserves credit
and respect. Rarely in the experience of a lifetime have I
encountered a day so absolutely bally in nearly every shape and
form, but there was one thing that saved it, and that was its merry
old wetness! Toodle-oo, laddie!"
"Good evening, sir," said the jeweller.
ARCHIE ACCEPTS A SITUATION
Lucille moved her wrist slowly round, the better to examine the new
"You really are an angel, angel!" she murmured.
"Like it?" said Archie complacently.
"LIKE it! Why, it's gorgeous! It must have cost a fortune."
"Oh, nothing to speak of. Just a few hard-earned pieces of eight.
Just a few doubloons from the old oak chest."
"But I didn't know there were any doubloons in the old oak chest."
"Well, as a matter of fact," admitted Archie, "at one point in the
proceedings there weren't. But an aunt of mine in England--peace be
on her head!--happened to send me a chunk of the necessary at what
you might call the psychological moment."
"And you spent it all on a birthday present for me! Archie!" Lucille
gazed at her husband adoringly. "Archie, do you know what I think?"
"You're the perfect man!"
"No, really! What ho!"
"Yes," said Lucille firmly. "I've long suspected it, and now I know.
I don't think there's anybody like you in the world."
Archie patted her hand.
"It's a rummy thing," he observed, "but your father said almost
exactly that to me only yesterday. Only I don't fancy he meant the
same as you. To be absolutely frank, his exact expression was that
he thanked God there was only one of me."
A troubled look came into Lucille's grey eyes.
"It's a shame about father. I do wish he appreciated you. But you
mustn't be too hard on him."
"Me?" said Archie. "Hard on your father? Well, dash it all, I don't
think I treat him with what you might call actual brutality, what! I
mean to say, my whole idea is rather to keep out of the old lad's
way and curl up in a ball if I can't dodge him. I'd just as soon be
hard on a stampeding elephant! I wouldn't for the world say anything
derogatory, as it were, to your jolly old pater, but there is no
getting away from the fact that he's by way of being one of our
leading man-eating fishes. It would be idle to deny that he
considers that you let down the proud old name of Brewster a bit
when you brought me in and laid me on the mat."
"Anyone would be lucky to get you for a son-in-law, precious."
"I fear me, light of my life, the dad doesn't see eye to eye with
you on that point. No, every time I get hold of a daisy, I give him
another chance, but it always works out at 'He loves me not!'"
"You must make allowances for him, darling."
"Right-o! But I hope devoutly that he doesn't catch me at it. I've a
sort of idea that if the old dad discovered that I was making
allowances for him, he would have from ten to fifteen fits."
"He's worried just now, you know."
"I didn't know. He doesn't confide in me much."
"He's worried about that waiter."
"What waiter, queen of my soul?"
"A man called Salvatore. Father dismissed him some time ago."
"Probably you don't remember him. He used to wait on this table."
"And father dismissed him, apparently, and now there's all sorts of
trouble. You see, father wants to build this new hotel of his, and
he thought he'd got the site and everything and could start building
right away: and now he finds that this man Salvatore's mother owns a
little newspaper and tobacco shop right in the middle of the site,
and there's no way of getting him out without buying the shop, and
he won't sell. At least, he's made his mother promise that she won't
"A boy's best friend is his mother," said Archie approvingly. "I had
a sort of idea all along--"
"So father's in despair."
Archie drew at his cigarette meditatively.
"I remember a chappie--a policeman he was, as a matter of fact, and
incidentally a fairly pronounced blighter--remarking to me some time
ago that you could trample on the poor man's face but you mustn't be
surprised if he bit you in the leg while you were doing it.
Apparently this is what has happened to the old dad. I had a sort of
idea all along that old friend Salvatore would come out strong in
the end if you only gave him time. Brainy sort of feller! Great pal
of mine."-Lucille's small face lightened. She gazed at Archie with
proud affection. She felt that she ought to have known that he was
the one to solve this difficulty.
"You're wonderful, darling! Is he really a friend of yours?"
"Absolutely. Many's the time he and I have chatted in this very
"Then it's all right. If you went to him and argued with him, he
would agree to sell the shop, and father would be happy. Think how
grateful father would be to you! It would make all the difference."
Archie turned this over in his mind.
"Something in that," he agreed.
"It would make him see what a pet lambkin you really are!"
"Well," said Archie, "I'm bound to say that any scheme which what
you might call culminates in your father regarding me as a pet
lambkin ought to receive one's best attention. How much did he offer
Salvatore for his shop?"
"I don't know. There is father.--Call him over and ask him."
Archie glanced over to where Mr. Brewster had sunk moodily into a
chair at a neighbouring table. It was plain even at that distance
that Daniel Brewster had his troubles and was bearing them with an
ill grace. He was scowling absently at the table-cloth.
"YOU call him," said Archie, having inspected his formidable
relative. "You know him better."
"Let's go over to him."
They crossed the room. Lucille sat down opposite her father.-Archie
draped himself over a chair in the background.
"Father, dear," said Lucille. "Archie has got an idea."
"Archie?" said Mr. Brewster incredulously.
"This is me," said Archie, indicating himself with a spoon. "The
tall, distinguished-looking bird."
"What new fool-thing is he up to now?"
"It's a splendid idea, father. He wants to help you over your new
"Wants to run it for me, I suppose?"
"By Jove!" said Archie, reflectively. "That's not a bad scheme! I
never thought of running an hotel. I shouldn't mind taking a stab at
"He has thought of a way of getting rid of Salvatore and his shop."
For the first time Mr. Brewster's interest in the conversation
seemed to stir. He looked sharply at his son-in-law.
"He has, has he?" he said.
Archie balanced a roll on a fork and inserted a plate underneath.
The roll bounded away into a corner.
"Sorry!" said Archie. "My fault, absolutely! I owe you a roll. I'll
sign a bill for it. Oh, about this sportsman Salvatore, Well, it's
like this, you know. He and I are great pals. I've known him for
years and years. At least, it seems like years and years. Lu was
suggesting that I seek him out in his lair and ensnare him with my
diplomatic manner and superior brain power and what not."
"It was your idea, precious," said Lucille.
Mr. Brewster was silent.--Much as it went against the grain to have
to admit it, there seemed to be something in this.
"What do you propose to do?"
"Become a jolly old ambassador. How much did you offer the chappie?"
"Three thousand dollars. Twice as much as the place is worth. He's
holding out on me for revenge."
"Ah, but how did you offer it to him, what? I mean to say, I bet you
got your lawyer to write him a letter full of whereases,
peradventures, and parties of the first part, and so forth. No good,
"Don't call me old companion!"
"All wrong, laddie! Nothing like it, dear heart! No good at all,
friend of my youth! Take it from your Uncle Archibald! I'm a student
of human nature, and I know a thing or two."
"That's not much," growled Mr. Brewster, who was finding his son-in-
law's superior manner a little trying.
"Now, don't interrupt, father," said Lucille, severely. "Can't you
see that Archie is going to be tremendously clever in a minute?"
"He's got to show me!"
"What you ought to do," said Archie, "is to let me go and see him,
taking the stuff in crackling bills. I'll roll them about on the
table in front of him. That'll fetch him!" He prodded Mr. Brewster
encouragingly with a roll. "I'll tell you what to do. Give me three
thousand of the best and crispest, and I'll undertake to buy that
shop. It can't fail, laddie!"
"Don't call me laddie!" Mr. Brewster pondered. "Very well," he said
at last. "I didn't know you had so much sense," he added grudgingly.
"Oh, positively!" said Archie. "Beneath a rugged exterior I hide a
brain like a buzz-saw. Sense? I exude it, laddie; I drip with it."
There were moments during the ensuing days when Mr. Brewster
permitted himself to hope; but more frequent were the moments when
he told himself that a pronounced chump like his son-in-law could
not fail somehow to make a mess of the negotiations. His relief,
therefore, when Archie curveted into his private room and announced
that he had succeeded was great.
"You really managed to make that wop sell out?"
Archie brushed some papers off the desk with a careless gesture, and
seated himself on the vacant spot.
"Absolutely! I spoke to him as one old friend to another, sprayed
the bills all over the place; and he sang a few bars from
'Rigoletto,' and signed on the dotted line."
"You're not such a fool as you look," owned Mr. Brewster.
Archie scratched a match on the desk and lit a cigarette.
"It's a jolly little shop," he said. "I took quite a fancy to it.
Full of newspapers, don't you know, and cheap novels, and some
weird-looking sort of chocolates, and cigars with the most fearfully
attractive labels. I think I'll make a success of it. It's bang in
the middle of a dashed good neighbourhood. One of these days
somebody will be building a big hotel round about there, and that'll
help trade a lot. I look forward to ending my days on the other side
of the counter with a full set of white whiskers and a skull-cap,
beloved by everybody. Everybody'll say, 'Oh, you MUST patronise that
quaint, delightful old blighter! He's quite a character.'"
Mr. Brewster's air of grim satisfaction had given way to a look of
discomfort, almost of alarm. He presumed his son-in-law was merely
indulging in badinage; but even so, his words were not soothing.
"Well, I'm much obliged," he said. "That infernal shop was holding
up everything. Now I can start building right away."
Archie raised his eyebrows.
"But, my dear old top, I'm sorry to spoil your daydreams and stop
you chasing rainbows, and all that, but aren't you forgetting that
the shop belongs to me? I don't at all know that I want to sell,
"I gave you the money to buy that shop!"
"And dashed generous of you it was, too!" admitted Archie,
unreservedly. "It was the first money you ever gave me, and I shall
always, tell interviewers that it was you who founded my fortunes.
Some day, when I'm the Newspaper-and-Tobacco-Shop King, I'll tell
the world all about it in my autobiography."
Mr. Brewster rose dangerously from his seat.
"Do you think you can hold me up, you--you worm?"
"Well," said Archie, "the way I look at it is this. Ever since we
met, you've been after me to become one of the world's workers, and
earn a living for myself, and what not; and now I see a way to repay
you for your confidence and encouragement. You'll look me up
sometimes at the good old shop, won't you?" He slid off the table
and moved towards the door. "There won't be any formalities where
you are concerned. You can sign bills for any reasonable amount any
time you want a cigar or a stick of chocolate. Well, toodle-oo!"
"How much do you want for that damned shop?"
"I don't want money.-I want a job.-If you are going to take my life-
work away from me, you ought to give me something else to do."
"You suggested it yourself the other day. I want to manage your new
"Don't be a fool! What do you know about managing an hotel?"
"Nothing. It will be your pleasing task to teach me the business
while the shanty is being run up."
There was a pause, while Mr. Brewster chewed three inches off a pen-
"Very well," he said at last.
"Topping!" said Archie. "I knew you'd, see it. I'll study your
methods, what! Adding some of my own, of course. You know, I've
thought of one improvement on the Cosmopolis already."
"Improvement on the Cosmopolis!" cried Mr. Brewster, gashed in his
"Yes. There's one point where the old Cosmop slips up badly, and I'm
going to see that it's corrected at my little shack. Customers will
be entreated to leave their boots outside their doors at night, and
they'll find them cleaned in the morning. Well, pip, pip! I must be
popping. Time is money, you know, with us business men."
BROTHER BILL'S ROMANCE
"Her eyes," said Bill Brewster, "are like--like--what's the word I
He looked across at Lucille and Archie. Lucille was leaning forward
with an eager and interested face; Archie was leaning back with his
finger-tips together and his eyes closed. This was not the first
time since their meeting in Beale's Auction Rooms that his brother-
in-law had touched on the subject of the girl he had become engaged
to marry during his trip to England. Indeed, Brother Bill had
touched on very little else: and Archie, though of a sympathetic
nature and fond of his young relative, was beginning to feel that he
had heard all he wished to hear about Mabel Winchester. Lucille, on
the other hand, was absorbed. Her brother's recital had thrilled
"Like--" said Bill. "Like--"
"Stars?" suggested Lucille.
"Stars," said Bill gratefully. "Exactly the word. Twin stars shining
in a clear sky on a summer night. Her teeth are like--what shall I
"Pearls. And her hair is a lovely brown, like leaves in autumn. In
fact," concluded Bill, slipping down from the heights with something
of a jerk, "she's a corker. Isn't she, Archie?"
Archie opened his eyes.
"Quite right, old top!" he said. "It was the only thing to do."
"What the devil are you talking about?" demanded Bill coldly. He had
been suspicious all along of Archie's statement that he could listen
better with his eyes shut.
"Eh? Oh, sorry! Thinking of something else."
"You were asleep."
"No, no, positively and distinctly not. Frightfully interested and
rapt and all that, only I didn't quite get what you said."
"I said that Mabel was a corker."
"Oh, absolutely in every respect."
"There!" Bill turned to Lucille triumphantly. "You hear that? And
Archie has only seen her photograph. Wait till he sees her in the
"My dear old chap!" said Archie, shocked. "Ladies present! I mean to
"I'm afraid that father will be the one you'll find it hard to
"Yes," admitted her brother gloomily.
"Your Mabel sounds perfectly charming, but--well, you know what
father is. It IS a pity she sings in the chorus."
"She-hasn't much of a voice,"-argued Bill-in extenuation.
"All the same--"
Archie, the conversation having reached a topic on which he
considered himself one of the greatest living authorities--to wit,
the unlovable disposition of his father-in-law--addressed the
meeting as one who has a right to be heard.
"Lucille's absolutely right, old thing.--Absolutely correct-o! Your
esteemed progenitor is a pretty tough nut, and it's no good trying
to get away from it.-And I'm sorry to have to say it, old bird, but,
if you come bounding in with part of the personnel of the ensemble
on your arm and try to dig a father's blessing out of him, he's
extremely apt to stab you in the gizzard."
"I wish," said Bill, annoyed, "you wouldn't talk as though Mabel