THE STREETS OF NEW YORK
A SERIES OF STORIES AND SKETCHES PORTRAYING MANY SINGULAR PHASES OF METROPOLITAN LIFE
LEMUEL ELY QUIGG
With Fifty-three Illustrations by Harry Beard
NEW YORK: CASSELL PUBLISHING COMPANY 104 & 106 FOURTH AVENUE
By O. M. DUNHAM,
All rights reserved.
Press W. L. Mershon & Co., Rahway, N. J.
I. MR. RICKETTY, 1
II. MR. JAYRES, 20
III. BLUDOFFSKI, 43
IV. MAGGIE, 65
V. THE HON. DOYLE O'MEAGHER, 87
VI. THE SAME (concluded), 107
VII. MR. GALLIVANT, 126
VIII. TULITZ, 148
IX. MR. MCCAFFERTY, 170
X. MR. MADDLEDOCK, 189
XI. MR. WRANGLER, 211
XII. MR. CINCH, 242
XIII. GRANDMOTHER CRUNCHER, 271
Mr. Ricketty is composed of angles. From his high silk hat worn into dulness, through his black frock coat worn into brightness, along each leg of his broad-checked trowsers worn into rustiness, down into his flat, multi-patched boots, he is a long series of unrelieved angles.
Tipped on the back of his head, but well down over it, he wears an antique high hat, which has assumed that patient, resigned expression occasionally to be observed in the face of some venerable mule, which, having long and hopelessly struggled to free herself of a despicable bondage, at last bows submissively to the inevitable and trudges bravely on till she dies in her tracks.
Everything about Mr. Ricketty, indeed, appears to have an individual expression. His heavily lined, indented brow comes out in a sharp angle over his snappy black eyes, which, sunk far within their sockets, look just like black beans in an elsewise empty eggshell.
His nose is sharp, thin, pendent, and exceedingly ample in its proportions, and it comes inquiringly out from his face as if employed by the rest of his features as a sort of picket sentinel.
It is that uncommonly knowing nose to which the prudent observer of Mr. Ricketty would give his closest attention. He would look at the acute interior angle which it formed at the eyes, and think it much too acute to be pleasant and much too interior to be pretty. He would look at the obtuse exterior angle which it formed on its bridge, and wonder how any humane parent could have permitted such a development to grow before his very eyes when by one quick and dexterous strike with a flat-iron it might have been remedied. He would look at the angle of incidence made by the sun's rays on one side of his nose and then at the angle of reflection on the other, and find himself lost in amazement that anything so thin could produce so dark a shadow.
It is a most uncomfortable nose. It had a way of hanging protectingly over his heavy dark-brown mustache, which, in its turn, hangs protectingly over his thin, wide lips, so as to make it disagreeably certain that they can open and shut, laugh, snap, and sneer without any one being the wiser.
Upon lines almost parallel with those of his nose, his sharp chin extends out and down, fitting by means of another angle upon his long neck, wherein his Adam's apple, like the corner of a cube, wanders up and down at random. Under his side-whiskers the outlines of his square jaws are faintly to be traced, holding in position a pair of hollow cheeks that end directly under his eyes in a little knob of ruddy flesh.
Mr. Ricketty is walking along the Bowery. His step is light and easy, and an air pervades him betokening peace and serenity of mind. In one hand he carries a short rattan stick, which he twirls in his fingers carelessly. His little black eyes travel further and faster than his legs, and rove up and down and across the Bowery ceaselessly. He stops in front of a building devoted, according to the signs spread numerously about it, to a variety of trade.
The fifth floor is occupied by a photographer, the fourth by a dealer in picture frames, the third and the second are let out for offices. Over the first hangs the gilded symbol of the three balls and the further information, lettered on a signboard, "Isaac Buxbaum, Money to Loan." The basement is given over to a restaurant-keeper whose identity is fixed by the testimony of another signboard, bearing the two words, "Butter-cake Bob's." Mr. Ricketty's little black eyes wander for an instant up and down the front of the building, and then he trips lightly down the basement steps into the restaurant.
A score or more of small tables fastened securely to the floor—for many, as Bob often said, "comes here deep in liquor an' can't tell a white-pine table from a black felt hat"—were disposed about the room at measured distances from each other, equipped with four short-legged stools, a set of casters, and a jar of sugar, all so firmly fixed as to baffle both cupidity and nervousness. On walls, posts, and pillars were hung a number of allusions to the variety and excellence of Bob's larder.
It was represented that coffee and cakes could be obtained for the trifling sum of ten cents, that corned-beef hash was a specialty, and that as for Bob's chicken soup it was the best in the Bowery. Apparently attracted by this statement, Mr. Ricketty sat down, and intimated to a large young man who presented himself that he was willing to try the chicken soup together with a cup of coffee.
The young man lifted his head and shouted vociferously toward the ceiling, "Chicken in de bowl, draw one!"
"My friend," said Mr. Ricketty, "what a noble pair of lungs you've got and what a fine quality of voice."
The young man grinned cheerfully.
"I am tempted to lavish a cigar on you," continued Mr. Ricketty, "in token of my regard for those lungs. A cigar represents to me a large amount of capital, but it shall all be yours if you'll just step upstairs and see if my old friend, Ike Buxbaum, is in."
"He aint in," said the waiter.
"How do you know?"
"I jist seen him goin' down de street."
"Who runs his business when he adjourns to the street."
"Dunno. Guess it's his wife."
"Aha! the beauteous Becky?"
"I dunno; I've seen a woman in dere."
"You're sure Ike has gone off, are you?"
"Didn't I say I seen him?"
"True. I am answered. My friend, there's the cigar. There, too, are the fifteen cents wherewith to pay for my frugal luncheon. Look upon the luncheon when it comes as yours. I bethink me of an immediate engagement," and rising abruptly Mr. Ricketty hastened out of the restaurant into the street.
He glanced quickly through the pawnshop window and made out the figure of a woman standing within among the shadows. He adjusted his hat to his head and a winsome smile to his countenance, and entered.
"Good-morning!" he said, breezily, to the young woman who came forward, "where's Ike?"
"Gone out," she answered, looking him over carefully.
"Tut, tut, tut," said Mr. Ricketty, as if utterly annoyed and disappointed. "That's too bad. Will he be gone long?"
"All the morning."
"Will he now? Well, I'll call again," and Mr. Ricketty started for the door. He stopped when he had gone a step or two, however, and, wheeling about, looked earnestly at Becky.
"Let me see," he said, "you must be Ike's wife. You must be the fair and radiant Becky. There's no doubt of it, not the least, now, is there?"
"Well, what if there aint?" said Becky, coolly.
"Why if there aint you ought to know me. You ought to have heard Ike speaking of his friend Ricketty. You ought to have heard him telling of what a good-for-nothing old fool I am. If you are Becky, then you and I are old friends."
"S'posin' we be," said Becky, "what then?"
"To be sure," Mr. Ricketty replied, "what then? Then, Becky, fair daughter of Israel, I've a treasure for you. I always lay my treasure at the feet of my friends. This may not be wise; it may not be the way to grow rich; but it is Steve Ricketty's way, and he can't help it. I have a treasure here now for you. It has taken months of suffering and sorrow to induce me to part with it. Around it cluster memories of other and brighter days. Look!"
Mr. Ricketty produced a string of large and beautiful pearls. They were evidently of the very finest quality, and Becky's black eyes sparkled as she caught their radiance.
"See," said Mr. Ricketty, "see the bedazzling heirloom. Full oft, sweet Jewess, have I held it to my bosom, have I bedewed it with my tears—"
"Oh, yes," interrupted Becky, with a satirical smile, "that's what's made the colors so fine, I suppose."
"Becky, do not taunt me," Mr. Ricketty answered, reproachfully. "This is a sad hour to me. What'll you give for it?"
"Where did it come from?" asked Becky, shrewdly. "We like to know what we're doing when we buy pearl necklaces at retail."
"It was my mother's," replied Mr. Ricketty, touching his handkerchief to his eyes. "When she breathed her last she placed these pearls about my neck. 'Stephen,' she said, 'keep them for my sake.'"
Becky hesitated. Not that she was at all impressed with this story of how the necklace came into Mr. Ricketty's possession. She was fully alive to the risk she ran in entering into any bargain with gentlemen of Mr. Ricketty's appearance, but the luster of the pearls burned in Becky's eyes.
"Well," she said, with a vast assumption of indifference, "I'll give you fifty dollars for them."
Mr. Ricketty cast forth at her one long, scornful look and then started to go out.
"Oh, well," she called after him, "I'll be liberal. I'll make it a hundred."
"No, Becky, you wont. You'll not get that glorious relic for the price of a champagne supper. I will die. I will take my pearls and go and jump off the bridge, and together we'll float with the turning tide out into the blue sea. Adieu, Rebecca, so beautiful and yet so cold, adieu! How could Heaven have made thy face so fair, thine eyes so full of light, thy ruddy lips so merry, but thy heart so hard! I press thy hand for the last time, fair Rebecca—"
"Well, I like that," cried Becky; "seeing that it's the first. You're very gay for a man of your years, and you'd best keep your fine words for them that wants 'em,—I don't"; and Becky withdrew her hand, detaining, however, the pearls within it.
Becky was not ill-favored. Her black, silky hair, as fine as a Skye terrier's, curled around a comely head. Her complexion was soft and dark, and her figure light and easy in its movement. These peculiarities, together with her way of fondling the pearls, did not escape Mr. Ricketty's calculating observation.
"Becky," he began blandly.
"Who told you to call me 'Becky'?" she angrily demanded.
"Daughter of Canaan, lend me thine ear, itself as fair as any of these gems of the Southern Sea."
"Oh, come off!" said Becky.
"It has cost me many pangs to bring these jewels here—"
"And you're going to sell them at so much the pang, I s'pose."
"For hours together have I walked up and down the Bowery, trying to rouse my feeble courage. But when I would stop under the three golden balls, I seemed to see a sneer on every passer's lips. They were all saying, 'There goes Steve Ricketty, about to sell his fond mother's pearls.' The thought choked me, Becky, it burned my filial heart."
"Don't seem as if it did your cheek no harm," observed Becky dryly.
"But when I saw your face through the window there, so beautiful and sympathetic, I said to myself, 'There is a true woman. She will feel for me and my grief.' Suppose we make it two hundred and fifty. Come, Becky, the pearls are yours for two hundred and fifty."
"Am I deceived? No, no, it can't be true. I will not believe—"
"I'll tell you what I'll do. I'll give you two hundred to get rid of you."
Mr. Ricketty picked up a little hand-glass that lay upon the counter and placed it before her face.
"Look there," he said, "and tell me what it is that makes Rebecca so heartless. Not those lustrous eyes, so frank and warm; not that—"
"Oh, now, stop that."
"Not that sensitive, shapely nose—"
"Well, I thank goodness it's got no such bulge on it as yours."
"Not those refined lips, arched like the love-god's bow and many times as dangerous; not those cheeks—those soft peach-tinted cheeks, telling in dainty blushes—"
"Oh, six bright stars!"
"Of a soul pure as a sunbeam—"
"Now, I want you to stop and go 'way. I wont take your old pearls at any price."
"Not that brow—that fair, enameled brow—nor yet that creamy throat. Think, sweet Becky, just how these pearls would look clasped with their diamond catch about that creamy throat. I fear to show you lest their luster pale. But yet, I will! See!" and catching up the jewels he threw them about her neck and held the glass steadily before her.
Becky looked. It was evidently not a new idea to Becky. She had all along been considering just the situation Mr. Ricketty proposed, and when he finally dropped the pearls and struck an attitude of profound admiration, Becky snatched the prize from her neck, slid it into a drawer under the counter, and drew a leather purse from the safe behind her. She had begun to count out the money, when a figure passing the window caught her eye.
"There!" she said sharply. "You've been bothering me so long that Ike's come back, and we've got to go through a scene. Two hundred and fifty dollars! It'll break Ike's heart."
Mr. Ricketty snatched the pocket-book from her hands, coolly extracted bills to the amount of two hundred and fifty dollars, returned the book, and whipped out his handkerchief. As the Jew entered he beheld a man leaning against his counter holding a wad of greenbacks in his hand and sobbing violently.
Apparently summoning all his resolution, Mr. Ricketty dried his eyes and fervently grasped the money-lender's hand.
"Ikey, my boy," he said, "I leave my all with you. I go from your door, Ikey, like one who treads alone some banquet hall deserted. I have sold you my birthright, dear boy, for a mess of pottage—a mere mess of pottage—a paltry two hundred and fifty dollars."
Ikey turned pale. "Pecky!" he cried, "who vas der fool mans und vat he means apoudt der dwo huntered und feefty tollars, hey?"
"Well may you call me a fool, Ikey; I can't deny it. I can't even lift my voice in protest. No man in his sober senses would have sold that necklace of glorious gems for such a miserable pittance. Here, Ikey, take back your money and give me my pearls."
He held out the greenbacks with one hand, while with the other he placed his handkerchief to his eyes, of which with great dexterity he reserved a considerable corner for the purposes of observation. At the same time, Becky, well knowing that she had bought the pearls for a sum which, though probably more than her husband would have consented to give, was still far less than their value, handed him the necklace.
The pawnbroker looked from money to jewels and from jewels to money with an expression of curiously mingled grief and greed. Finally, taking Ricketty by the coat-tails, he dragged him towards the door, saying, "I nefer go pack by anydings vat mine vife does, meester, but ven you haf shewels some more, yust coom along ven I vas der shtore py mineselluf, hey?"
Mr. Ricketty shook his hand effusively. "I will, Ikey, I will. These women are very unsatisfactory to deal with. Au revoir, Ikey! Au revoir, madam!" and bowing with the utmost urbanity to the genial Becky, he strode into the street.
It was easy to see, as Mr. Ricketty wandered aimlessly down the Bowery, that his humor was entirely amiable. The knobs of ruddy flesh under his twinkling black eyes were encircled by a set of merry wrinkles, and his mustache had expanded far across his face.
He had gone as far as Canal Street, and was just about to turn the corner, when he heard a low, chirping sort of whistle. All in a second his face changed its expression. The merry wrinkles melted and his mustache drew itself compactly together. But he did not turn his head or alter his gait. He walked on for several steps until he heard the whistle again, and this time its tone was sharp. He stopped, wheeled around, and encountered two men.
One of these was a darkly tinted, strongly built man, with big brown eyes, tremendous arms, and an oppressive manner. To him Mr. Ricketty at once addressed himself.
"Ah, my dear Inspector!" he cried gayly. "I'm amazingly happy to see you. You're looking so well and hearty."
"Yes, Steve," replied the darkly tinted man, "I'm feeling fairly well, Steve, and how is it with you?"
"I haven't happened to meet you recently, Steve."
"Well, no, Inspector. I've been West, but my brother's death—"
"I never knew you had a brother, Steve?"
"Oh, yes, Inspector; and a charming fellow he was. He died last week and—"
"Was he honest, Steve?"
"As honest as a quart measure."
"And did he tell the truth?"
"Like a sun-dial."
"Then it's an almighty pity he died, for you need that kind of man in your family, Steve."
Mr. Ricketty closed one of his little black eyes, and drew down the ends of his mustache, but beyond this indirect method of communicating his thoughts he made no reply to this observation.
"I suppose you're not contemplating a very long stay in the city, Steve?" suggested the Inspector.
"N—n—no," said Mr. Ricketty.
"You seem in doubt?"
"No, I guess I'll return to the West this afternoon."
"Well, on the whole, I shouldn't wonder if that wouldn't be best. Your brother's estate can be settled up, I fancy, without you?"
"It aint very large."
"Well, then, good-by, Steve, and, mind now, this afternoon."
"All right, Inspector; good-by!"
As Mr. Ricketty disappeared down Canal Street, the inspector of police turned to his friend and said: "That fellow was a clergyman once, and they say he used to preach brilliant sermons."
Bootsey Biggs was a Boy. From the topmost hair of his shocky head to the nethermost sole of his tough little feet, Bootsey Biggs was a Boy. Bootsey was on his way to business. He had come to his tenement home in Cherry Street, just below Franklin Square, to partake of his noonday meal. He had climbed five flights of tenement-house stairs, equal to about thirty flights of civilized stairs, and procuring the key of his mother's room from Mrs. Maguinness, who lived in the third room beyond, where it was always left when Mrs. Biggs went out to get her papers, he had entered within the four walls that he called his home.
Spread upon the little pine table that stood in one corner was his luncheon all ready for him, and after clambering into the big dry-goods box originally purchased for a coal-bin, but converted under the stress of a recent emergency into the baby's crib, and after kissing and poking and mauling and squeezing the poor little baby into a mild convulsion, Bootsey had gone heartily at work upon his luncheon.
He was now satisfied. His stomach was full of boiled cabbage, and his soul was full of peace. He clambered back into the dry-goods box and renewed his guileless operations on the baby. By all odds the baby was the most astonishing thing that had ever come under Bootsey's observation, and the only time during which Bootsey was afforded a fair and uninterrupted opportunity of examining the baby was that period of the day which Mr. Jayres, Bootsey's employer, was wont to term "the noonday hour."
Long before Bootsey came home for his luncheon, Mrs. Biggs was off for her stand in front of "The Sun" building, where she conducted a large and, let us hope, a lucrative business in the afternoon newspapers, so that Bootsey and the baby were left to enjoy the fulness of each other's society alone and undisturbed.
To Bootsey's mind the baby presented a great variety of psychological and other problems. He wondered what could be the mental operation that caused it to kink its nose in that amazing manner, why it should manifest such a persistent desire to swallow its fist, what could be the particular woe and grievance that suddenly possessed its little soul and moved it to pucker up its mouth and yell as though it saw nothing but despair as its earthly portion?
Bootsey had debated these and similar questions until two beats upon the clock warned him that, even upon the most liberal calculation, the noonday hour must be looked upon as gone. Then he rolled the baby up in one corner of the box and started back to the office.
It was Mr. Absalom Jayres's office to which Bootsey's way tended, and a peculiarity about it that had impressed both Mr. Jayres and Bootsey was that Bootsey could perform a given distance of which it was the starting-point in at least one-tenth the time required to perform the same distance of which it was the destination. This was odd, but true.
After taking leave of the baby and locking it in, all snugly smothered at the bottom of its dry-goods box, Bootsey delivered the key of the room to Mrs. Maguinness and descended into the court. Here he found two other boys involved in a difficulty. Things had gone so far that Bootsey saw it would be a waste of time to try to ascertain the merits of the controversy—his only and obvious duty being to hasten the crisis.
"Hi! Shunks!" he cried, "O'll betcher Jakey kin lick ye!"
The rapidity with which this remark was followed by offensive movements on Shunks's part proved how admirably it had been judged.
"Kin he!" screamed Shunks. "He's nawfin' but a Sheeny two-fer!"
Jakey needed no further provocation, and with great dexterity he crowded his fists into Shunks's eyes, deposited his head in Shunks's stomach, and was making a meritorious effort to climb upon Shunks's shoulders, when a lordly embodiment of the law's majesty hove gracefully into sight. Bootsey yelled a shrill warning, and himself set the example of flight.
While passing under the Brooklyn Bridge Bootsey met a couple of Chinamen, and moved by a sudden inspiration he grabbed the cue of one of them, and both he and the Chinaman precipitately sat down. Bootsey recovered quickly and in a voice quivering with rage he demanded to know what the Chinaman had done that for. A large crowd immediately assembled and lent its interest to the solution of this question. It was in vain that the Chinaman protested innocence of any aggressive act or thought. The crowd's sympathies were with Bootsey, and when he insisted that the Mongol had tangled him up in his pig-tail, the aroused populace with great difficulty restrained its desire to demolish the amazed heathens. At last, however, they were permitted to go, followed by a rabble of urchins, and Bootsey proceeded on his way to the office.
Many other interruptions retarded his progress. He had not gone far before he was invited into a game of ball, and this, of course, could not be neglected. The game ending in a general conflict of the players, caused by Bootsey's falling on top of another boy, whom he utterly refused to let up unless it should be admitted that the flattened unfortunate was "out," he issued from the turmoil in time to join in an attack upon a peanut roaster and to avail himself largely of the spoils. Enriched with peanuts, he had got as far as the City Hall Park when a drunken man attracted his attention, and he assisted actively in an effort to convince the drunken man that the Mayor's office was the ferry to Weehawken. It was while engaged in giving these disinterested assurances that he felt himself lifted off his feet by a steady pull at his ears, and looking up he beheld Mr. Jayres.
"You unmitigated little rascal!" cried Mr. Jayres, "where've you been?"
"Nowhere," said Bootsey, in an injured tone.
"Didn't I tell you to get back promptly?"
"Aint I a-getting' back?"
"Aint you a-get—whew!" roared Mr. Jayres, with the utmost exasperation, "how I'd like to tan your plaguey little carcass till it was black and blue! Come on, now," and Mr. Jayres strode angrily ahead.
Bootsey followed. He offered no reply to this savage expression, but from his safe position in the rear he grinned amiably.
Mr. Jayres was large and dark and dirty. His big fat face, shaped like a dumpling, wore a hard and ugly expression. Small black eyes sat under his low, expansive forehead. His cheeks and chin were supposed to be shaven, and perhaps that experience may occasionally have befallen them. His costume was antique. Around his thick neck he wore a soiled choker. His waistcoat was low, and from it protruded the front of a fluted shirt. A dark-blue swallow-tail coat with big buttons and a high collar wrapped his huge body, and over his shoulders hung a heavy mass of black hair, upon which his advanced age had made but a slight impression.
His office was upon the top floor of a building in Murray Street. It was a long, low room. Upon its door was fastened a battered tin sign showing the words: "Absalom Jayres, Counsellor." The walls and ceiling were covered with dusty cobwebs. In one end of the room stood an old wood stove, and near it was a pile of hickory sticks. A set of shelves occupied a large portion of the wall, bearing many volumes, worn, dusty, and eaten with age.
Among them were books of the English peerage, records of titled families, reports of the Court of Chancery in hundreds of testamentary cases, scrap-books full of newspaper clippings concerning American claimants to British fortunes, lists of family estates in Great Britain and Ireland, and many other works bearing upon heraldry, the laws of inheritance, and similar subjects.
Upon the walls hung charts showing the genealogical trees of illustrious families, tracing the descent of Washington, of Queen Victoria, and of other important personages. There was no covering on the floor except that which had accumulated by reason of the absence of broom and mop. A couple of tables, a few dilapidated chairs, a pitcher and a basin, were about all the furniture that the room contained.
Being elderly and huge, it required far more time for Mr. Jayres to make the ascent to his office than for Bootsey. Having this fact in mind, Bootsey sat down upon the first step of the first flight, intending to wait until Mr. Jayres had at least reached the final flight before he started up at all. He failed to communicate his resolution, however, and when Mr. Jayres turned about upon the third floor, hearing no footsteps behind him, he stopped. He frowned. He clinched his fist and swore.
"There'll be murder on me," he said, "I know there will, if that Boy don't do better! Now, where the pestering dickens can he be?"
Mr. Jayres leaned over the bannister and started to call. "Boo—" he roared, and then checked himself. "Drat such a name as that," he said. "Who ever heard of a civilized Boy being called Bootsey? What'll people think to see a man of my age hanging over a bannister yelling 'Bootsey'! No, I must go down and hunt him up. I wonder why I keep that Boy? I wonder why I do it?"
Mr. Jayres turned, and with a heavy sigh he began to descend to the street. On the second landing he met Bootsey smoking a cigarette and whistling. Mr. Jayres did not fly into a passion. He did not grow red and frantic. He just took Bootsey by the hand and led him, step by step, up the rest of the way to the office. He drew him inside, shut the door, and led him over to his own table. Then he sat down, still holding Bootsey's hand, and waited until he had caught his breath.
"Now, then," he said, at last.
"Yez'r," said Bootsey.
"You're a miserable little rogue!" said Mr. Jayres.
Bootsey held his peace.
"I've stood your deviltries till I've got no patience left, and now I'm going to discharge you!"
"Aw, don't," said Bootsey.
"Yes," said Mr. Jayres, "I will; if I don't, the end of it all will be murder. Some time or other I'll be seized of a passion, and there's no telling what'll happen. There's your two dollars to the end of the week—now, go!"
"Aw, now," said Bootsey, "wot's de use? I aint done nawfin'. 'Fi gets bounced mom'll drub me awful! You said you wanted me to take a letter up to Harlem dis afternoon."
"Yes, you scamp! And here's the afternoon half gone."
"O'll have it dere in less 'n no time," pleaded Bootsey.
Mr. Jayres scowled hard at Bootsey and hesitated. But finally he drew the letter from the drawer of his table and handed it over, saying as he did so, "If you aint back here by 5 o'clock, I'll break every bone in your body!"
Bootsey left the office with great precipitation, and as he closed the door behind him, Mr. Jayres glared morosely at a knot-hole in the floor. "Funny about that boy!" he said reflectively. "I don't know as I ever gave in to any living human being before that Boy came along in all my life."
Mr. Jayres turned to his table and began to write, but was almost immediately interrupted by a knock upon the door. He called out a summons to enter, and two people, a man and a woman, came in. The man was large, stolid, and rather vacant in his expression. The woman was small and quick and sharp.
"Well, sir," said Mr. Jayres.
The woman poked the man and told him to speak.
"We've called—" said the man slowly.
"About your advertisement in the paper," added the woman quickly.
"Which paper?" asked Mr Jayres.
"Where's the paper?" asked the man, turning to the woman.
"Here," she replied, producing it.
"Oh, yes, I see," said Mr. Jayres, "it's about the Bugwug estate. What is your name, sir?"
"His name is Tobey, and I'm Mrs. Tobey, and we keeps the Gallinipper Laundry, sir, which is in Washington Place, being a very respectable neighborhood, though the prices is low owing to competition of a party across the street."
"Now, Maggie," said the man, "let me talk."
"Who's hindering you from talking, Tobey? I'm not, and that's certain. The gentleman wanted to know who we were, and I've told him. He'd been a week finding out from you."
"Come, come," said Mr. Jayres sharply, "let's get to business."
"That's what I said," replied Mrs. Tobey, "while I was putting on my things to come down town. 'Tobey,' says I, 'get right to business. Don't be wasting the gentleman's time,' which he always does, sir, halting and hesitating and not knowing what to say, nor ever coming to the point. 'It's bad manners,' says I, 'and what's more, these lawyers,' says I, 'which is very sharp folks, wont stand it,' says I. But I don't suppose I done him much good, for he's always been that way, sir, though I'm sure I've worked my best to spur him up. But a poor, weak woman can't do everything, though you'd think he thought so, if—"
"Oh, now stop, stop, stop!" cried Mr. Jayres, "you mustn't run on so. Your name is Tobey and you have called about the Bugwug property. Well, now, what of it?"
"I want to know is there any money in it," answered Mr. Tobey.
"Now, if you please, sir, just listen to that," cried Mrs. Tobey pityingly. "He wants to know is there money in it! Why, of course, there's money in it, Tobey. You're a dreadful trial to me, Tobey. Didn't the gentleman's advertisement say there was 500,000 pounds in it? Aint that enough? Couldn't you and me get along on 500,000 pounds, or even less, on a pinch?"
"But the question is," said Mr. Jayres, "what claim you have on the Bugwug property. Are you descended from Timothy Bugwug, and if so, how directly and in what remove?"
"That's what we wants you to tell us, sir," replied Mr. Tobey.
"Why, we supposed you'd have it all settled," added his wife. "Aint you a lawyer?"
"Oh, yes, I'm a lawyer," Mr. Jayres suavely replied, "and I can tell you what your claim is if I know your relationship to Timothy Bugwug. He died in 1672, leaving four children, Obediah, Martin, Ezekiel, and Sarah. Obediah died without issue. Martin and Sarah came to America, and Ezekiel was lost at sea before he had married. Now then, where do you come in?"
"My mother—" said Mr. Tobey.
"Was a Bugwug," said Mrs. Tobey. "There's no doubt at all but what all that money belongs to us, and if you've got it you must pay it right away to us, for plenty of use we have for it with six young children a-growing up and prospects of another come April, which as regards me is terrible to think of, though, I suppose, I shouldn't repine, seeing that it's the Lord's will that woman should suffer, which, I must say, it seems to me that they have more than their fair share. However, I don't blame Tobey, for he's a fine man, and a hard-working one, if he hasn't got the gift of speech and is never able to come to the point, though that's not for the lack of having it dinged into his ears, for if I says it once I says it fifty times a day, 'Tobey, will you come to the point?'"
Mr. Jayres took up his pen. "Well, let's see," he said. "What is your full name, Mr. Tobey?"
"William Tobey, sir. I am the son of—"
"Jonathan Tobey and Henrietta Bugwug," continued the lady, "it being so stated in the marriage license which the minister said was for my protection, and bears the likeness of Tobey on one side and mine on the other and clasped hands in the center signifying union, and is now in the left-hand corner of the sixth shelf from the bottom in the china closet and can be produced at any time if it's needful. I've kept it very careful."
"Whose daughter was Henrietta Bugwug?" asked Mr. Jayres.
"Tobey's grandfather's, sir, a very odd old gentleman, though blind, which he got from setting off fireworks on a Fourth of July, and nearly burned the foot off the blue twin, called blue from the color of his eyes, the other being dark-blue, which is the only way we have of telling 'em apart, except that one likes cod liver oil and the other don't, and several times when the blue twin's been sick the dark-blue twin has got all the medicine by squinting up his eyes so as I couldn't make him out and pretending it was him that had the colic, and Mr. Bugwug, that's Tobey's grandfather, lives in Harlem all by himself, because he says there's too much noise and talking in our flat, and I dare say there is, though I don't notice it."
"In Harlem, eh? When did you first hear that you had an interest in the Bugwug estates?"
"Oh, ever so long, and we'd have had the money long ago if it hadn't been that a church burned down a long time ago somewhere in Virginia where one of the Bugwugs married somebody and all the records were lost, though I don't see what that had to do with it, because Tobey's here all ready to take the property, and it stands to reason that he wouldn't have been here unless that wedding had 'a' happened without they mean to insult us, which they'd better not, and wont, if they know when they are well off," and at the very thought of such a thing Mrs. Tobey tossed her head angrily.
"I see," said Mr. Jayres, "I see. And you want me to take the matter in hand, I suppose, and see if I can recover the money, eh?"
"Oh, dear!" said Mrs. Tobey, in a disappointed tone, "I thought from the piece in the paper that the money was all ready for us."
"You mustn't be so impatient," soothingly responded Mr. Jayres, laying his fat finger on his fat cheek and smiling softly. "All in good time. All in good time. The money's where it's safe. You only need to establish your right to it. We must fetch a suit in the Court of Chancery, and that I'll do at once upon looking up the facts. Of course—er—there'll be a little fee."
"A little what?" said Mr. Tobey.
"A little which?" said Mrs. Tobey.
"A little fee," said Mr. Jayres, smiling sweetly. "A mere trifle, I assure you; just enough to defray expenses—say—er—a hundred dollars."
"Oh, dear me!" cried Mrs. Tobey. "This is vexing. To think of coming down town, Tobey, dear, with the expectations of going back rich, and then going back a hundred dollars poorer than we were. I really don't think we'd better do it, Tobey?"
"Ah," said Mr. Jayres, "but think also of the fortune. Two millions and a half! Isn't that worth spending a few hundred dollars for? Just put your mind on it, ma'am."
"I've had my mind on it ever since I seen your piece in the paper," replied Mrs. Tobey, "and a hundred dollars does seem, as you say, little enough to pay for two millions and a half, which would be all I'd ask or wish for, and would put us where we belong, Tobey, which is not in the laundry line competing with an unscrupulous party across the street, though I don't mention names, which perhaps I ought, for the public ought to be warned. It's a party that hasn't any honor at all—"
"I'm sure not," said Mr. Jayres sympathetically. "He is, without doubt, a dirty dog."
"Oh, it isn't a he," Mrs. Tobey replied, "the party is a her."
"Of course, of course," said Mr. Jayres. "And to think that you have to put up with the tricks of a female party directly across the street. Why, it's shameful, ma'am! But if you had that two millions, as you just observed, all that would be over."
"Two million and a half I thought you said it was," said Mrs. Tobey rather sharply.
"Oh, yes, and a half—and a half," the lawyer admitted in a tone of indifference, as much as to say that there should be no haggling about the odd $500,000. "What a pretty pile it is, Mrs. Tobey?"
"I don't know, Tobey, but what we'd better do it," Mrs. Tobey said after a pause. "It aint so very much when you think of what we're to get for it."
"That's the right way to look at it, ma'am. I'll just draw up the receipt, and to-morrow I'll call at the Gallinipper Laundry to get some further particulars necessary to help me make out the papers."
Mr. Tobey seemed to be somewhat at a loss to know precisely what was the net result of the proceedings in which he had thus far taken so small a part, but upon being directed by Mrs. Tobey to produce the hundred dollars, he ventured a feeble remonstrance. This was immediately checked by Mrs. Tobey, who assured him that he knew nothing whatever about such matters and never could come to the point, which he ought to be able to do by this time, for nobody could say but that she had done her part. At last two fifty-dollar bills were deposited in Mr. Jayres's soft palm and a bit of writing was handed over to Mrs. Tobey in exchange for them; and followed by Mr. Jayres's warm insistence that they had never done a better thing in their lives, the Tobeys withdrew.
It was nearly six o'clock when the door of Mr. Jayres's office opened again and the shocky head of Bootsey appeared. Mr. Jayres was waiting for him.
"Here you are at last, you wretched little scamp!" he cried. "Didn't I tell you I'd whale you if you weren't back by five o'clock?"
"I come jest as soon 's I could," said Bootsey. "He was a werry fly ole gen'l'man."
"What did he say?"
"He said he didn't hev no doubts but wot you was a reg'lar villyum an' swin'ler, an' cheat an' blackmailer, an' ef he had de user his eyes an' legs he'd come down yere an' han' you over ter de coppers; dat you aint smart enuff ter get no money outer him, fer he's bin bled by sich coveys like you all he's a-going ter bleed, an' dat he don't b'lieve dere is any sech ting as de Bugwug estate nohow, an' ef yer wants ter keep outen jail yer'd better let him an' his folks alone."
Mr. Jayres scowled until it seemed as if his black eyebrows would meet his bristly upper lip, and then he said: "Bootsey, before you come to the office to-morrow morning you'd better go to the Gallinipper Laundry in Washington Place, and tell a man named Tobey who keeps it, that—er—that I've gone out of town for a few days, Bootsey, on a pressing matter of business."
The friends of Mr. Richard O'Royster always maintained that he was the best of good fellows. Many, indeed, went so far as to say he had no faults whatever; and while such an encomium seems, on the face of it, to be extravagant, its probability is much strengthened by the fact that whatever he had they always came into the possession of sooner or later. If he had any faults, therefore, they must have known it. They would never have allowed anything so valuable as a fault to escape them.
Mr. O'Royster was sitting, one afternoon, in the private office of his bankers, Coldpin & Breaker. Mr. Coldpin sat with him, discussing the advisability of his investing $250,000 in the bonds of the East and West Telegraph Company. It was a safe investment, in Mr. Coldpin's judgment, and Mr. O'Royster was about to order the transaction carried out, when the office door was thrust open and a long, black-bearded, wiry-haired, savage-looking man walked in.
His head was an irregular hump set fixedly on his shoulders so that one almost expected to hear it creak when he moved it. His eyes were little, and curiously stuck on either side of his thick, stumpy nose, as if it were only by the merest accident that they hadn't taken a position back of his ears or up in his forehead or down in his hollow cheeks. His entrance put a sudden and disagreeable stop to the conversation. Mr. O'Royster adjusted his eyeglass and looked with a sort of serene curiosity at the man. Mr. Coldpin moved nervously in his chair.
"Vell," the fellow said, after a pause, "I haf come to sbeak mit you."
"You come very often," replied Mr. Coldpin in a mildly remonstrative tone.
No answer was returned to this suggestion. The intruder simply settled himself on his feet in an obstinate sort of way.
Mr. Coldpin produced a dollar-bill and handed it over, remarking testily, "There, now, I'm very busy!"
"Nein, nein!" said the man. "It vas not enough!"
"I vants dwenty tollar."
"Oh, come now; this wont do at all. You mustn't bother me so. I can't be—"
The man did something with his mouth. Possibly he smiled. Possibly he was malevolently disposed. At all events, whatever his motive or his humor, he did something with his mouth, and straightway his two rows of teeth gleamed forth, his eyes changed their position and also their hue, and the hollows in his cheeks became caverns.
"Great Caesar!" cried Mr. O'Royster. "Look here, my good fellow, now don't! If you must have the money, we'll try to raise it. Don't do that. Take in your teeth, my man, take 'em in right away, and we'll see what we can do about the twenty."
He composed his mouth, reducing it to its normal dimensions and arranging it in its normal shape, whereupon Mr. O'Royster, drawing a roll of bills from his pocket, counted out twenty dollars.
Mr. Coldpin interposed. "You may naturally think, O'Royster," he observed quietly, "that this man has some hold upon me by which he is in a position to extort money. There is no such phase to this remarkable case. I owe him nothing. He is simply in the habit of coming here and demanding money, which I have let him have from time to time in small sums to—well, get rid of him. I think, though, that it's time to stop. You must not give him that $20. I won't permit it. Put it back in—"
The man did something else in a facial way just as defiant of analysis as his previous contortion and equally effective on Mr. O'Royster's nerves. He moved toward Mr. O'Royster and held up his hand for the money. It was slowly yielded up, and without so much as an acknowledgment, the man thrust it into his pocket and stalked out.
Mr. O'Royster watched his misshapen body as it disappeared through the entry. Then he gazed at the banker and finally remarked: "Can't say that your friend pleases me, Coldpin."
"To tell the truth, O'Royster, I live in mortal terror of that creature. He followed me into this room from the street one day and demanded, rather than begged, some money. I scarcely noticed him, telling him I had nothing, when he did something that attracted my attention, and the next minute my flesh began to creep, my backbone began to shake, and I thought I should have spasms. I gave him a handful of change and off he went. Since then, as I told you, he has been coming here every month or so. I'm going to move next May into a building where I can have a more guarded office."
"Odd tale!" said Mr. O'Royster, "deuced odd. Why don't you get a pistol?"
"Well, I have a sort of feeling that it wouldn't hurt him to shoot him. Of course it would, you know, but still—"
"Yes, I know what you mean. He certainly does look as if a pistol would be no adequate defense against him. What you want is a nice, self-cocking, automatic thunderbolt."
They changed the subject, returning to their interrupted business, and having concluded that they talked on until it had grown quite late.
"By Jove!" cried Mr. O'Royster, glancing at his watch, "it's half-past six, and I've a dinner engagement at the club at seven. I must be off. Ring for a cab, wont you?"
The cab arrived in a few moments and Mr. O'Royster hurried out. "Drive me to the Union Club," he said, "and whip up lively."
He sprang in, the cab started off with a whirl, and he turned in his seat to let down the window. A startled look came into his face.
"It's too dark to see well," he said to himself, "and this thing bounces like a tugboat in a gale, but if that ourang-outang wasn't standing under that gaslight yonder, I'll be hanged!"
Mr. O'Royster's was the sort of mind that dwelt lightly and briefly on subjects affecting it disagreeably, and long before he reached the club it had left the ourang-outang far in the distance. In the presence of a jolly company, red-headed duck, burgundy and champagne, it had room for nothing but wit and frolic, to which its inclinations always strongly tended.
The night had far advanced when Mr. O'Royster left the club. He turned into Fifth Avenue, journeying toward Twenty-third Street, and had walked about half the distance when he felt a touch upon his arm. Mr. O'Royster was in that condition when his mental senses acted more quickly than his physical senses. Bringing his eyes to bear upon the spot where he felt the touch, he made out the shape of a big, dirty hand, and following it and the arm above it, he presently ascertained that a man was close at his elbow. He spent several minutes scrutinizing the man's face, and finally he said:
"Ah, I shee. Beg pawdon, dear boy, f'not 'bsherving you b'fore. Mos' happy to renew zhe 'quaintance so auspishously begun 'saffer-noon. H—hic!—'ope you're feeling well. By zhe way, ol' f'llaw, wha' zhure name?"
"Razzer hard name t' pronounce, but easy one t' 'member. Glad 'tain't Dobbins. 'F zenny sing I hate, 's name like Dobb'ns, 'r Wobb'ns, 'r Wigg'ns. Some-pin highly unconventional in name of Bludoffski. Mr. Bludoffski, kindly 'cept 'shurances of my—rhic!—gard!"
Mr. Bludoffski executed a facial maneuver intended possibly for a smile. It excited Mr. O'Royster's attention directly.
"Doffski!" he said, stopping shortly and balancing himself on his legs, "are you sure you're feelin' quite well?"
"Yah, puty vell."
"Zere's no great sorrer gnawin' chure vitals, is zere, Moffski?"
"I vas all ride."
"Not sufferin' f'om any mad r'gret, 'r misplaced love, 'rensing zat kind, eh, Woffski?"
"Feeling jush sames' ushyal?"
"Zen 'sall right. Don't 'pol'gize, 's all right. Zere was somepin' 'n you're looksh made me shink p'raps yu's feeling trifle in'sposed. I am, an' didn't know but what you might be same way. You may've noticed 't I'm jush trifle—er, well, some people ud shay zhrunk, Toffski—rude 'n' dish'gree'ble people dshay zhrunk. P'raps zere 'bout half right, Woffski, but it's zhrude way of putting it. Now, zhen, I want t'ask you queshun. I ask ash frien'. Look 't me carefully and shay, on y'r honor, Loffski, where d'you shin' I'm mos' largely 'tossicated?"
"In der legs," replied Mr. Bludoffski, promptly.
"Shank you. 'S very kind. 'T may not be alt'gesser dignified to be 'tossicated in zhe legs, but 's far besser'n if 'twas in zhe eyes. 'Spise a man 'at looks drunk in's eyes. Pos'ively 'sgusting!"
They had now reached Twenty-third Street, and following his companion's lead, O'Royster crossed unsteadily into Madison Square and through one of the park walks. Presently he halted.
"By zhe way, Woffski," he said, "do you know where we're goin'?"
"Well, zat's what I call lucky. I'm free t' confesh I haven't gotter shingle idea. But 'f you know, 's all right. W'en a man feels himself slightly 'tossicated, 's nozzin' like bein' in comp'ny of f'law 'at knows where 's goin'. 'Parts a highly 'gree'ble feelin' 'f conf'dence. Don't wanter 'splay any 'pert'nent cur'osity, Boffski, but p'raps 's no harm in askin' where 'tis 'at you know you're goin'?"
An expression of disgust crossed Mr. O'Royster's face. "Home?" he inquired. "D' you shay 'home,' Toffski? Haven't you got any uzzer place t' go? Wen a man'sh r'duced t' th' 'str—hic—remity 'f goin' home, must be in dev'lish hard luck."
"Der vhy 've go home," said Bludoffski, "is dot I somedings haf I show you."
"Ah. I shee. Za's diff'rent zing. You're goin' t'show me some-'zin', eh?"
"Picshur? Hope 'taint pichshur, Koffski. I'm ord'narily very fon' of art, but f'law needs good legs t' 'zamine picshur, an' I'm boun'ter confesh my legsh not just 'dapted t'—"
"It vasn't noddings like dot."
"'Taint china, is 't, Boffski? 'Taint Willow Pattern er Crown Derby er zat sorter zing? T' tell truth, Boffski, I aint mush on china. Some people go crashy at er shight er piece nicked china. My wife tol' me zuzzer day she saw piece Crown Derby 'n' fainted dead way, 'n' r'fused t' come to f'r half 'n hour. I said I'd give ton er Crown Derby for bashket champagne 'n' she didn't speak to me rester 'zhe week. Jush shows how shum people—"
"It vasn't shina."
"By zhove, you 'rouse my cur'os'ty, Woffski. If 'tain't picshur er piece pottery, wha' deuce is't?"
"You shall see."
"Myst'ry! Well, I'm great boy f'r myst'ries. Hullo! Zis, zh' place?"
They had walked through Twenty-ninth Street, into Second Avenue, and had reached the center of a gloomy and dismal block. Directly in front of the gloomiest and most dismal house of all Bludoffski had suddenly stopped, and in answer to Mr. O'Royster's exclamation, he drew from his pocket a latch-key and opened the side door.
The entry was dark, but the glimmer of a light was visible at the end of the hall. He did not speak, but motioned with his hand an invitation for Mr. O'Royster to go in. It was accepted, not, however, without a slight manifestation of reluctance. Mr. O'Royster's senses were somewhat clouded, but the shadows of the entry were dark enough to impress even him with a vague feeling of dread.
Bludoffski shut the door behind them carefully and drew a bolt or two. Then he led the way down the hall toward the light. As they advanced voices were heard, one louder than the rest, which broke out in rude interruption, dying down into a sort of murmuring accompaniment.
When they reached the end of the hall Bludoffski opened another door and they entered a large beer saloon. At a score of tables men were sitting, many apparently of German birth. They were smoking pipes, drinking beer, and listening to the hoarse voice of an orator standing in the furthest corner of the room.
He was a little round man with little round eyes, a little round nose, a little round stomach, and little round legs. Though very small in person, his voice was formidable enough, and he appeared to be astonishingly in earnest.
Bludoffski's entrance created a considerable stir. Several persons began to applaud, and some said, "Bravo! bravo!" One sharp-visaged and angular man with black finger-nails, spectacles, and a high tenor voice, cried out with a burst of enthusiasm, "Hail! Dear apostle uf luf!" a sentiment that brought out a general and spontaneous cheer. Mr. O'Royster, apparently under the impression that he was the object of these flattering attentions, bowed and smiled with the greatest cheerfulness and murmured something about this being the proudest moment of his life. He was on the point of addressing some remarks to the bartender, when the little round orator cut in with an energy quite amazing.
"Der zoshul refolushun haf gome, my prudders!" he said. "Der bowder vas all retty der match to be struck mit. Ve neet noddings but ter stretch out mit der hant und der victory dake. Der gabitalist fool himselluf. He say mit himselluf 'I haf der golt und der bower, hey?' He von pig fool. He dinks you der fool vas, und der eye uf him he vinks like der glown py der circus. But yust vait. Vait till der honest sons uf doil rise by deir might oop und smite der blow vich gif liperty to der millions!"
At this there was a wild outburst of applause and a chorus of hoarse shouts: "Up mit der red flag!" "Strike now!" "Anarchy foreffer!"
"Ve vill shtrike, mine prudders," continued the little round orator, growing very ardent and red in the face. "Ve vill no vait long. Ve vill kill! Ve vill burn! Ve vill der togs uf var loose und ride to driumph in der shariot uf fire. Ve vill deir housen pull down deir hets upoud, und der street will run mit der foul plood uf der gabitalist!"
A mighty uproar arose at these gory suggestions, and would not be subdued until all the glasses had been refilled and the enthusiasm that had been aroused was quenched in beer.
Mr. O'Royster had listened to these proceedings with some misgivings. He turned to his companion, who stood solemn and silent by his side, and observed:
"D' I unnerstan' you t' say, Woffski, 't you 's goin' home?"
"Doncher zhink 's mos' time t' go?"
"Ve vas dere now."
"Can't say I'm pleased with your d'mestic surroundings, Boffski. Razzer too mush noise f' man of my temp'ment. Guesh I'll haffer bid you g'night, Boffski."
"Yesh, Boffski, mush go. Gotter 'gagement."
"Vait. I haf not show you yet—"
"T' tell truf, Moffski, I've seen 'nuff. 'F I wasser shee more, might not sleep well. Might have nightmare. Don't shink 's good f' me t' shee too much, ol' f'law."
The little round orator, refreshed and reinvigorated, began again.
"You must arm yoursellef, my prudders. You must haf guns und powder und ball und—"
"Dynamite!" yelled several.
"Yah. Dot vas der drue veapon uf der zoshul refolushun. Dynamite! You must plenty haf. Ve must avenge der murder uf our brudders in Shegaco. Deir innocent plood gries ter heffen for revensh. A t'ousan' lifes vill not der benalty bay. Der goundry must pe drench mit plood. Den vill Anarchy reign subreme ofer de gabitalist vampire! Are you retty?"
The whole crowd rose in a body, banged their glasses viciously on the tables in front of them and shouted: "Ve vas!"
"Den lose no time to rouse your frients. Vake up der laporing mans all eferywhere. Gif dem blenty pomb und der sicnal vatch for, und ven it vas gif shoot und kill und spare nopoddy! Der time for vorts vas gone. Now der time vas for teets!"
"Loffski," whispered Mr. O'Royster, "really must 'scuse me, Loffski, but 's time er go. I have sorter feelin' 's if I's gettin' 'tossercated in zhe eyes. Always know 's time er go when I have zat feelin'. F' I'd know chure home 's in place like zis I'd asked you t' go t' mine where zere's more r—hic—pose."
There was a door behind them near the bar, and Bludoffski, opening it, motioned Mr. O'Royster to go in ahead. He obeyed, not without reluctance, and the Anarchist followed. Two tables covered with papers, a bed and several chairs were in the room, together with many little jars, bits of gaspipe, lumps of sulphur, phosphorus and lead.
"Sit down," said Bludoffski.
Mr. O'Royster sat.
"I am an Anarchist," Bludoffski began.
"'S very nice," Mr. O'Royster replied. "I 's zhinkin' uzzer day 'bout bein' Anarchis' m'self, but Mrs. O'Royster said she's 'fraid m' health washn't good 'nuff f' such—hic—heavy work."
"You hear der vorts uf dot shbeaker und you see der faces uf der men. Vat you t'ink it mean? Hey? It mean var upon der reech. It mean Nye Yorick in ashes—"
"Wha's use? Don't seem t' me s' t' would pay. Of course, ol' f'law, whatever you says, goes. But 't seems t' me—"
"You can safe all dot var. You can der means be uf pringing aboud der reign uf anarchy mitout der shtrike uf von blow. Eferypody vill lif und pe habby."
"Boffski," said Mr. O'Royster, after a pause, during which he seemed to be making a violent effort to gather his intellectual forces. "Zere's no doubt I'm 'tossercated in zhe eyes. W'en a man's eyes 'fected by champagne, he's liter'ly no good. Talk to me 'bout zis t'mor', Woffski. Subjec's too 'mportant to be d'scussed unner present conditions."
"Nein! nein! You can safe der vorlt uf you vill. Von vort from you vill mean peace. Midoutdt dot vort oceans of plood vill be spill."
"Woffski, you ev'dently zhink I zhrunker'n I am. I'm some zhrunk, Woffski, I know, some zhrunk, but 'taint 's bad's you zhink."
"I vill sbeak more blain."
"Do, ol' f'law, 'f you please."
"It vas selfishness vot der vorld make pad. It was being ignorant und selfish vot crime und bofferty pring to der many und vealth und ease to der few. Der beoples tondt see dot. Tey tondt know vot Anarchy mean. It vas all rest, all peace, nopoddy pad, no var, no bestilence. Dot is Anarchy, hey?
"I haf my life gif to der cause uf Anarchy. I haf dravel der vorlt over shbeaking, wriding, delling der beoples to make vay for der zoshul refolushun. Uf dey vill not, ve must der reech kill. We must remofe dem vich stand py der roat und stay der march of civilization. Some say 'Make haste! kill! kill!' I say, 'Nein, vait, gif der wretched beoples some chance to be safe. Tell dem vot is Anarchy. Etjucade dem.'
"Vell, den, dey listen to me. Dey say, 'Ve bow der vill before uf Herr Bludoffski, whose vordt vas goot. Ve vait. But how long? Ah, dat I can not tell. But I have decide I make von appeal. I gif der vorlt von chance to come ofer to Anarchy and be save. Ha! Se! I haf write a pook! I haf say der pook inside all apout Anarchy. I haf tell der peauties of der commune, vere no selfishness vas, no law, but efery man equal und none petter as some udder. I haf describe it all. Nopody can dot pook reat mitout he say ven he lay him down, 'I vil be an Anarchist.'"
Mr. Bludoffski had become intensely interested in his own remarks. He picked his manuscripts from the table and caressed them lovingly.
"See," he said, "dere vas der pook vich make mankind brudders. I tell you how you help. I vas poor. I haf no money. I lif on noddings, und dem noddings I peg. Ven I see you und you dot money gif me, I say 'Dis man he haf soul! He shall be save.' Den I say more as dot. I say he shall join his hand mit me. He shall print him, den million copies, send him de vorlt ofer, in all der lankviches, to all der peoples. Dink uf dot! You shall be great Anarchist as I. Ve go down mit fame togedder!"
He paused for Mr. O'Royster's reply, trembling with fanatical excitement. The reply was somewhat slow in coming. Mr. O'Royster, when his companion began to talk, had leaned his head on his arm and closed his eyes. He had preserved this attitude throughout the address and was now breathing hard.
"Vell!" said Bludoffski, impatiently.
Mr. O'Royster drew a more resonant breath, long, deep and mellow.
"He sleep!" cried Bludoffski, in scornful fury. "Der tog! He sleep ven I tell him—"
He sprang up, ran across the room and returned with a huge carving-knife. "I vill kill him!" he cried, and, indeed, made start to do it. But as suddenly he checked himself, tossed the knife on the floor, muttering, "Bah, he not fit to kill," and opened the door into the saloon. The Anarchist meeting had ended, but several persons were still sitting around the tables, drinking beer. He called to two of these, and said, in a tone of almost pitiful despair:
"Take dot man home. I not know who he vas. I not know vere he lif. Somebotty fin' oud. Look his pockets insite. Ask der boleecemans. Do any dings, but take him avay. He haf no soul, no mind, no heart, no noddings!"
Wrapped in contemplation and but little else, probably because his stock of contemplation largely exceeded his stock of else, Mr. Dootleby wandered down the Bowery. Midnight sounded out from the spire in St. Mark's Church just as Mr. Dootleby, having come from Broadway through Astor Place, turned about at the Cooper Union.
There was a touch of melancholy in Mr. Dootleby's expression as he looked down the big, brilliant Bowery, glowing with the light of a hundred electric burners and myriads of gas-jets, and seething with unnatural activity. He stopped a moment in the shadow thrown by the booth of a coffee and cake vender, and looked attentively into the faces of the throngs that passed him. He seemed to be thinking hard.
In truth, it is a suggestive place, is the Bowery. Day and night are all the same to it. It never gets up and it never goes to bed. It never takes a holiday. It never keeps Lent. It indulges in no sentiments. It acknowl-edges no authority that bids it remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy. But from year's end to year's end it bubbles, and boils, and seethes, and frets while the daylight lasts, and in the glare of its brighter night it plunges headlong into carousal!
Mr. Dootleby had a great habit of walking at night, though he seldom came down town so far as this. His apartments were in Harlem, and usually, after he had taken his dinner and played a rubber of whist, he found himself sufficiently exercised by a stroll as far as Forty-second Street. But to-night he felt a trifle restless, and journeyed on.
Though his hair was nearly white and his face somewhat deeply furrowed, Mr. Dootleby's tall heavy figure stood straight toward the zenith, and moved with an ease and celerity that many a younger man had envied. With his antecedents I am not entirely familiar, but they say he was always eccentric. I, for my part, shall like him none the less for this. They say he was rich once, but that he never knew how to take care of his money, and what part of it he did not give away slipped off of its own accord.
They say he was past fifty when he married, and his bride was a young woman, and when they went off together he was as frisky as a young fellow of twenty-three. Then, they say, she died, and after that he took but little interest in things, spending his time chiefly in such amiable pursuits as the entertainment of the children playing in Central Park, and the writing of an occasional article for the scientific papers, on "The Peculiar Behavior of Alloys."
Despite the dinginess of his costume, Mr. Dootleby was a handsome old man, and he looked very out of place on the Bowery. Not that good looks are wanting in the Bowery, for many a crownless Cleopatra mingles with its crowds. But Mr. Dootleby, as he stood in the shadow of the coffee-vender's booth, seemed to be the one kind of being necessarily incongruous with the midnight Bowery spectacle.
Mr. Dootleby stood and looked for full twenty minutes. In some of the faces that passed him he saw only a careless sensuality brightened by the flush of excitement. Others, somewhat older, were full of brazen coarseness, and others, older still, bore that pitiful look of hopeless regret, quickly changing to one that says as plainly as can be that the time for thinking and caring has gone. Upon many was stamped the brand of inborn infamy, their only inheritance.
Some hunted souls went by, their manner jaded and hapless, their steps nervous and irresolute, and their eyes sweeping the streets before them, never resting, never closed. A few as they passed scowled at him—even at him, as if there were not one in all this world upon whom they had not declared war. Want had marked most of them with unmistakable lines, and crossing these were often others telling that they knew no better than they did.
Mr. Dootleby watched awhile and then went on, pausing occasionally at the corners to peer through the dark side streets, up at the big tenement-houses—those ugly nurseries of vice—from whose black shadows came many of these that had been christened into crime. But in the Bowery itself there was no gloomy spot. Light streamed from every window, and flooded the pavements. The street-cars whirled along. Even the bony creatures that drew them caught the spirit of this feverish thoroughfare. From every other doorway, shielded by cloth or wicker screens, came the sounds of twanging harps and scraping fiddles, the click of glasses and the shrill chatter and laughter of discordant voices.
Here and there, in front of a bewildering canvas, upon which, in the gayest of gay colors, mountainous fat women, prodigious giants, scaly mermaids, wild men from Zululand, living skeletons, and three-headed girls were painted, stood clamorous gentlemen in tights, urgently importuning passers-by to enter the establishments they represented, whereof the glories and mysteries could be but too feebly told in words. And upon the sidewalks all about him, swarms of itinerant musicians, instantaneous photographers, dealers in bric-a-brac, toilet articles, precious stones, soda water, and other needful and nutritious wares, urged themselves upon Mr. Dootleby's attention.
He walked leisurely on, moralizing as he went, until he had passed Chatham Square, and had got into the somberer district below. He turned a corner somewhere, thinking to walk around the block and find his way back into the Bowery. But the more corners he rounded the more he found ever at his elbow, and the conviction began to make its way into his mind that he had lost his bearings.
The block in which he was now wandering was quite dark and dismal, save for a single gas-jet hanging almost hidden within a dirty globe, over some steep steps that led into a cellar. Mr. Dootleby concluded to stop there and ask his way. As he approached the cellar, he heard what seemed to be cries of distress. They grew more distinct, and accompanying them were the dull sounds of blows and the harsh accents of a man's voice, evidently permeated with rage.
Mr. Dootleby ran down the steps and flung the door open, presenting his eyes with a spectacle that made his blood run cold. The room was long and narrow. At one end and near the door was a bar fitted up with a few black bottles and broken tumblers, a keg or two of beer, and some boxes of cigars. Along the walls stood a couple of benches, and further on were half a dozen little rooms, partitioned from each other, all opening into the bar-room. On the benches six girls were lolling about, dressed in gaudy tights, and with them were three or four men. The room was hot to suffocation, and the smell from the dim and dirty lamps that stood on each end of the bar, together with the foul tobacco-smoke with which the atmosphere was saturated, combined to make the place disgusting and poisonous.
All these conditions Mr. Dootleby took in at his first glance, and his second fell upon two figures in the center of the room, from whom had proceded the noises he had heard. One was that of a girl cowering on her knees and moaning in a voice from which reason had clearly departed. A big, unconscionably brutal-looking man stood over her, holding her down by her hair, which, braided in a single plait, was wound about his hand. He had just thrown the stick upon the floor with which he had been beating her, and was drawing from the stove a red-hot poker.
Mr. Dootleby was not of an excitable temperament ordinarily, but his senses were so affected by the horrors he saw and the pestilential air he breathed that his head began to swim, and only by an especial draft upon his resolution was he able to command himself. There was a pause consequent upon his entrance, and his quick eyes made good use of it.
He saw that the girl had already been half murdered, and that her assailant was a short, thick-set old man, with the eyes of a snake and the neck of a bull. He saw that the men on the bench, all beastly specimens, were contemplating her torture with an indifference that would have shamed the grossest savage. Several of the women, too—the older ones—were looking on with scarcely the sign of a protest in their faces, and only one, a mere child, seemed to feel a genuine sense of terror and sympathy.
Mr. Dootleby threw open his coat, tightened his grasp on his walking-stick, and said, very quietly: "What are you doing?"
The fellow wheeled quickly around. He looked with intense malice at Mr. Dootleby, and then shouted at one of the women, "Why didencher lock de door like I toljer, you fool?"
Mr. Dootleby did not wait for either of these questions to be answered. He sprang into action with all the agility and ferocity of a young panther. The handle of his cane was a huge knob of carved ivory. He brought it directly on the head of the ruffian in a blow of tremendous force, and as the fellow staggered, Mr. Dootleby grasped the poker, turning it so that its heated end touched his antagonist's arm. Of course, the man loosened his hold, and in an instant more dropped upon the floor. Then Mr. Dootleby, keenly alive to the necessity of improving every second, caught the prostrate girl by the arm and threw her behind him toward the open door. "Run for your life!" he said.
But she didn't run. She couldn't run, and while she was struggling to get upon her feet, the fellow recovered himself and emitted a roar that acted on her terrified soul as if it had been a blow. She fell incontinently upon her back in a dead swoon.
Mr. Dootleby's situation was perilous. He had hoped by a sudden and overwhelming attack to stun the man and get the girl out into the street. But the man's quick recovery and the girl's exhaustion left him in almost as bad a situation as ever, and he glanced apprehensively at the party upon the benches.
They had scarcely stirred! One of the men, indeed, had risen, and was standing with his hands in his pockets and something in the nature of an amused smile upon his face. The others had so far shifted their positions as to be the better able to see whatever went on, and only one of them manifested the slightest desire to take a hand in the proceedings. This was the little girl of twelve or fourteen. She was intensely excited, and in the moment's pause that succeeded Mr. Dootleby's onslaught she dashed across the room, and lifting the head of the unconscious girl, rested it on her knee, and stroked it soothingly.
"Good for you, my child!" said Mr. Dootleby. "Try to bring her to."
The hideous old scoundrel, as he now turned again to confront Mr. Dootleby, was more hideous than ever. Blood from the wound in his head was trickling over his face, into which the fury of a legion of devils was concentrated. "Sissy!" he bellowed, "go back to yer bench!"
"Don't do it, my child," said Mr. Dootleby. "You're all right. Run outside if it gets too dangerous for you in here."
The fellow gathered himself together, evidently intending to dash past Mr. Dootleby toward the bar beyond. But Mr. Dootleby lifted the poker ominously. "Stand back!" he cried.
A slight chuckle came from the man who had risen from the bench. "Dey don't seem ter be no flies on dis party, Pete!" he said, with a broad grin.
Pete's answer was a scowl and an oath.
"W'y doncher come on, an' help me do him up?" he snorted.
"Wot ud be de use? I t'ink he kin get away wid you, Pete, an' I wanter see de fun. He's chain lightnin', ole man, an' you better be sure of yer holt."
"I'll give all dere is on him if you'll help, Dick!" said Pete.
Mr. Dootleby took his watch, his gold pencil, and a dollar or so in change from his pockets, and tossed them toward Dick.
"That's all I've got," he said. "Now, let us alone."
Dick slid the coins in his pocket and carefully examined the gold watch. "Dere's a good 'eal er sportin' blood in de old gen'l'man, Pete; a good 'eal er sportin' blood," he remarked, with the utmost cheerfulness. "Bein' a sportin' man myself I ainter goin' back on a frien'."
"You're goin' back on your word fast enough!" said Pete bitterly.
"No, I aint. I toljer I wouldn't bodder you. I didn't guarantee nobody else. You sed she was yourn, and you was goin' to make her promise to quit young Swiggsy. I offered to match you five dollars agin de gurl, an' I said if you was to win I wouldn't trouble you. You said if I winned I could have her. All right. I lost, an' I give up my good money. Den you went ter work wallopin' de gurl. You'd er kilt her if dis covey hadn't er lit in. All right, dat wasn't no fault er mine. An' fur all me, he kin stick dat blazin' iron clear down yer t'roat, an' I'll set yere an' take it in widout winkin'."
Mr. Dootleby listened intently to this speech. It afforded him an inkling of the situation.
"Is this girl your daughter?" he said.
Pete was in no humor to parley. He could only growl and swear. When he had relieved himself without, enlightening Mr. Dootleby, Dick spoke again.
"She ain't nobody's darter, ole gent, but he sez she's his gurl. She been keepin' comp'ny wid young Swiggsy, an' she wont promise not ter. Dat's de whole biznuss. De harder he walloped, de more she wouldn't promise."
Mr. Dootleby felt in his arms the strength of a whole army corps. "Look here," he said to Dick, "will you promise me fair play?"
"Dey wont nobody interfere widjer," Dick replied. "I'll be de empire, an' I t'ink I kin referee a mill 'long er de bes'. Sail right in, ole gent. The gurl stan's fer de di'mun' belt. If you knocks out yer man, she's yourn. If he licks you, an' has any strength left, he kin go on wid his wallopin'."
"Sissy's" soothing hand and the fresh air coming through the door had brought back life into the girl's limp body. She was still weak and prostrate, lying at full length on the floor, with her head supported upon Sissy's shoulder.
She was a brilliant type of the ignorant and vicious population which overflows the tenements in certain downtown districts and furnishes the largest element in the city's criminal society. Her eyes were large, and must have been, under better conditions, full of light and expression.
Even now, when great lumps, dark and burning with inflammation, stood out upon her forehead, and heavy sashes of black circled her eyes, while all the rest of her face was white and bloodless and cruelly distorted with pain—even now there was a kind of beauty about her that gave her rank above the class to which conditions, more forceful than laws, condemned her.
Condemned? Yes, condemned; why not? What did she know of the science of morals, of souls, or revelations, or higher laws? Who had ever mentioned these things to her. What had she to do with questions of right and wrong? What was right to her but gratification, or wrong but want? What was passion but nature pent up, or crime but congested nature suddenly set free?
She spoke a Christian tongue. She wore a Christian dress. Her heart answered to the same emotions that quicken or deaden the beat of other breasts. She had tears to shed, hopes to excite, passions to burn, desires to gratify. Nature had denied her none of the faculties that give beauty, and grace and dignity and sweetness to another. Even as she lay stretched on the floor of a dive in the heart of a Christian city, but remoter from influences that encourage the good and repress the bad in her nature than if she were standing in the darkest jungle of Africa—even there, degraded, ignorant, and infinitely wretched, she was a martyr to the very virtues, truth and constancy, of which she knew the least!
Some such reflections as these were flitting through Mr. Dootleby's mind as he glanced down upon her, and then turned to his enraged antagonist, who was standing ever alert for a chance to recover his victim.
"Look here," said Mr. Dootleby. "Let's come to terms about this affair. You can see for yourself that the girl is half dead. You don't want to kill her outright, I'm sure."
"'Tain't no biznuss of yourn if I do," the old man savagely replied.
"Maybe not. But cool off, now, and be reasonable. You'll be sorry enough for what you've done already, and if you were to do more you'd have to stand your trial for murder."
"'Twont be for murderin' her w'en I gits in de jug. But I'll murder you if yer don't leave dis place right off."
"I'm not going to leave till I take her with me."
"Den you wont never leave alive."
Pete whipped a knife from his pocket and rushed at Mr. Dootleby, intending to overwhelm him by a sudden and furious attack. The ivory cane again came into action. It struck the muscular part of Pete's arm just below the shoulder. The knife did not reach its destination, but it inflicted an ugly wound in Mr. Dootleby's hand. Without noticing this, he closed in on his foe, pouring all the resources of his powerful frame into a dozen fierce and well-directed blows. The spectators upon the benches, however indifferent while the brute had been maltreating a defenseless girl, were now seized with a panic. Two of the men slunk out into the street. The girls rushed to their rooms, threw on their coats and street dresses, and escaped also. The battle continued for several minutes, each man fighting, as he knew, for his life.
Pete was a great human beast. He was far stronger than Mr. Dootleby, but not nearly so quick and dexterous. The blow on his right arm placed him at a great disadvantage. Mr. Dootleby knew he could not fight long. Every second drew heavily upon his vitality. But he made no useless expenditure of his strength. His blows were intelligently directed toward the accomplishment of a specific object in the disabling of his enemy, and each of them did its appointed work. At last exposing himself by a sudden lunge, Pete was thrown, and he did not rise. He was unconscious.
So was Mr. Dootleby—almost. His head swam and he leaned heavily against the wall for support. The blood was dripping from several ugly wounds, but he revived as he heard Dick remark: "Dat was a beauterful mill. All right. Bein' a sportin' man myself, I t'ink I knows a good mill w'en I sees one. De di'mun' belt, ole man, is yourn. All right. Hello! W'y, where's de trophy gone?"
Mr. Dootleby opened his one available eye, and saw that the only persons in the room were himself, his beaten enemy, and Dick.
"What's this mean?" he cried. "You pledged your word on fair dealings."
Dick called on all the saints to witness that he did not know where the girl had gone. "De whole crowd cleared out," he said, "w'en de hustlin' begun. But she can'ter gone fur. I reckon if you go out in de street you'll fin' her and de kid wot's helpin' her around somewheres. I'll sponge off Pete, an' try ter patch up wot's lef' of him. All right."
Mr. Dootleby was not slow to act upon this suggestion. He bent over the still prostrate Pete and tried to ascertain if his pulse was beating. It not being immediately apparent whether it was or not, and Mr. Dootleby not caring about it a great deal anyhow, he caught up his hat and coat and hurried away.
Sissy was watching for him from behind a tree across the street, and she came toward him running.
"Maggie's in de alley, sir, yonder by de lamp, layin' dere an' moanin', an' I t'ink dey's sumpin' wrong wid her," said Sissy.
She led him to the spot beyond which they had not been able to escape, where Maggie was lying with the light from the street lamp shining full in her face. Her dress was torn at the neck, for she had not been costumed as the others were, and the cold, wintry night-air was blowing on her bare throat and breast. Her big eyes had lost their dimness, and were blazing with a fire kindled by a wild imagination. Mr. Dootleby took off his hat and knelt upon the alley stones, and threw his arms around her shoulders, supporting her. She looked through him at some one not present but beyond.
"I didn't do it, Swiggsy, an' he couldn't 'a' made me if he'd burned my eyes out like he said he was goin' to!" she whispered faintly. "But he used me rough, Swiggsy, an' I'm—just—a little—bit—tired."
"Good God in Heaven!" murmured Mr. Dootleby, "look upon this wavering soul in Thy full compassion. She is tired, so very, very tired."
"And, Swiggsy, let's go somewheres where he can't fin' me, cause I'm fearful of him. An' you'll get steady work, Swiggsy, tendin' bar, an' then—"
She closed her eyes, and for several moments lay silent and still.
The sound was faint now, and Mr. Dootleby bent low to catch it.
"I suspicion something ails me in my side, an' I'm falling, falling, falling—— Ketch me, Swiggsy, hold me—I'm honest wid you, don't you know it. Tell me so, and say it loud, so's I can hear. I'll be good to you when I get—rested."
The street is empty. Not a sound is heard. Not a footfall. Not a voice. The world is sleeping, dreaming of its own ambitions. Stars of the night, are you watching here?
"You said you t'ought I was pretty, Swiggsy, an' it made me so glad an' happy, 'cause I wants you to think I'm pretty—ah! where are you going! Come back! come back! come back! Don't leave me all alone, please, please don't, for I'm falling again, fast, faster all the time, an' I'll soon fall—"
She opened her eyes wide—wider than ever. She looked into Mr. Dootleby's face and smiled. She lifted her hand and dropped it heavily into his. Her head dropped on his shoulder. She had fallen—out of human sight!
THE HON. DOYLE O'MEAGHER.
At this particular moment the Hon. Doyle O'Meagher is a busy man. Tammany Hall's nominating convention is shortly to be held, and Mr. O'Meagher is putting the finishing touches upon the ticket which he has decided that the convention shall adopt. The ticket, written down upon a sheet of paper, is before him, together with a bottle of whisky and a case of cigars, and the finishing touches consist of little pencil-marks placed opposite the candidates' names, indicating that they have visited Mr. O'Meagher and have duly paid over their several campaign assessments—a preliminary formality which Mr. O'Meagher enforces with strict impartiality. The amount of each assessment depends entirely upon Mr. O'Meagher's sense of the fitness of things. To dispute Mr. O'Meagher's sense in this particular is looked upon as treason and rebellion. In the case of the Hon. Thraxton Wimples, the intended candidate for the Supreme Court, the assessment is $20,000.
Mr. Wimples is a little man of profound learning and ancient lineage. Mr. O'Meagher is a man of indifferent learning and no lineage to speak of. Mr. Wimples's grandfather had signed the Declaration of Independence, and had moved on three separate occasions that the Continental Congress do now adjourn, while no reason whatever existed, other than the one most obvious but least apt to occur to any one, for supposing that Mr. O'Meagher had ever had a grandfather at all. And yet, as Mr. Wimples, though on the threshold of great dignity and power, walks into Mr. O'Meagher's presence, he find himself all of a tremble, and glows and chills chase each other up and down his spinal column.
"Ah, Mr. O'Meagher," he says, "good-morning! Good-morning! Happy to see you so—er—well. Charming day, so warm for the—er—season."
"Yes," says Mr. O'Meagher, "so it be."
"I received your notification of the high—er—honor, you propose to confer on me."
"Yes," says Mr. O'Meagher, "you're the man for the place."
"So kind of you to—er—say so. You mentioned that the—er—assessment was—"
"Twenty thousand dollars," says Mr. O'Meagher, with great promptness.
"Just so," says Mr. Wimples, "just so."
"And you've called to pay it," says Mr. O'Meagher, taking up his list and his pencil. "I've been expecting you."
"Ah, yes, to be sure, of course. I was going to propose a—er—settlement."
"A what?" says Mr. O'Meagher sharply.
Mr. Wimples mops his brow. "The fact is," he says, "I don't happen to have so considerable a sum as $20,000 at the—er—moment, and I was thinking of suggesting that I just pay you, say, $10,000 down, and give you two—er—notes."
"'Twont do," says Mr. O'Meagher, shaking his head and fetching his pencil down upon the table with a smart tap, "'twont do at all."
"Eh? Indorsed, you know, by—"
"Mr. Wimples, that $20,000 in hard cash must be in my hands by six o'clock to-night, or your name goes off the ticket."
"O—er—Lud!" says Mr. Wimples, sadly.
"By six P. M."
"But, my dear Mr. O'Meagher—"
"Or your name goes off the ticket."
Mr. Wimples groaned, grasped the whisky bottle, poured out a copious draught, tossed it down his throat, bowed meekly, and withdrew. In the vestibule he met the Hon. Perfidius Ruse, the Mayor of the city, whose term of office was about to expire, and as to whose renomination there was going on a heated controversy. Mr. Ruse was a reformer. It was as a reformer that he had been elected two years before. At that time Mr. O'Meagher found himself menaced by a strange peril. It had been alleged by jealous enemies that he was corrupt, and they called loudly for reform. At first, Mr. O'Meagher experienced some difficulty in understanding what was meant by corrupt and what by reform. His mission in life, as he understood it, was to name the individuals who should hold the city's offices and to control their official acts in the interest of Tammany Hall, and he had great difficulty in comprehending how it could be anybody's business that he had grown rich performing his mission. But perceiving that a large and dangerous class of voters was clamoring for a reformer, he concluded to humor it if he could find a good safe reformer on whom he could rely. In this emergency he had produced the Hon. Perfidius Ruse.
It cannot be said that Mr. O'Meagher regarded the Ruse experiment as entirely satisfactory. Mr. Ruse had certainly reformed several things, and with considerable adroitness and skill, but there were many who said that his reforms had all been made with an eye single to the glory of the Hon. Perfidius Ruse, and with a view to the establishment of a personal influence hostile to the man who made him. The time had now come for the test of strength. Concerning his ultimate intentions, the Hon. Doyle O'Meagher was cold, silent, and reserved.
"How are you, Mr. Mayor?" said the crestfallen Mr. Wimples, as he came upon the reformer in the vestibule. "Going up to see the—er—Boss?"
"I was thinking of it, yes. How's he feeling?"
"Ugly. He's in a dev'lish uncompromising—er—humor. If you were going to ask anything of him I advise you to—er, not."
"Thank you. I only intend to suggest some matters in the interest of reform."
"I wish you well. But—er—go slow."
Mr. O'Meagher did not rise to greet his distinguished visitor. He simply drew a chair close to his own, poured out a glass of whisky, and said, "Hello!"
"I thought I'd just drop in, Mr. O'Meagher," said the Mayor, "to say a word or two about the situation. What are the probabilities?"