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The Motormaniacs
by Lloyd Osbourne
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"'Specially the way you'll work!" exclaimed Grace Sinclair.

"I am going to help Miss Drayton in the filing department," said Sattie. "Put a letter from an F man into an F drawer, and from a G man into a G drawer, and from an H man into an H drawer, and from an I man into an I drawer—"

"Oh, stop!" cried Dolly Hemingway, warningly.

"And from a J man into a J drawer," continued Sattie drearily, "and from a K man into—"

The hurried passing of the chocolate creams in her direction brought about a welcome silence.

"What's your plan, Miss Sinclair?" Inquired Mr. Bassity.

"Oh, Grace has a snap," said Sattie in thick, chocolate-cream accents.

"My Despardoux car!" exclaimed Grace. "It holds five, you know, and I'm going every day to the I.B.&Q. depot and take passengers. Hang out a little card: Beautiful Stackport, Two Hours' Ride for One Dollar; Children Half-Price!"

"No chauffeur?" asked Coal Oil Johnny.

"Of course not. In that case it would be the money he earned —not mine!"

"I don't think I'd do that," said Coal Oil Johnny.

"It matters so little what you think!" said Grace.

"But all alone?" objected Bassity.

"I told you it holds five," said Miss Sinclair.

"I shall make it a point to go every trip," said Coal Oil Johnny.

"Indeed you shan't," protested Grace. "The basis of the whole idea is that no friends are allowed. It's to be genuine money-making without favoritism or the personal element, and I think it's splendidly original and American."

Coal Oil Johnny looked at her and slowly shook his head.

"Don't do it," he said seriously. "Please don't do it."

"But I please will, thank you," she returned; "and I'm going to make more money out of it than anybody."

"What does your father say?" he asked,

"Offered me a hundred dollars not to!"

"Then I suppose it wouldn't be any good offering two hundred."

"Not in the least—nor two thousand!"

Coal Oil Johnny sighed, and puffed away at his cigar.

"See here," he said at last, "why wouldn't it be a bright idea to give me lessons—at so much a lesson—on how to behave, and that kind of thing!"

Sattie Felton clapped her hands together excitedly.

"I take him, I take him!" she cried. "I spoke first, girls, and it beats filing all hollow." In her eagerness she jumped up and ran to Coal Oil Johnny, as though to hold him tight and prevent his being snatched away from her by the others. Poor Bassity had hoped to fall into other hands, and his face showed his disappointment.

"I hoped—" he stammered. "I thought perhaps—"

"No, Sattie spoke first," said Miss Hemingway, detecting incipient rebellion, "and, anyway, she deserves to have you, for her plan wasn't any good and was hardly better than getting a present of the money from her father!"

"What can I charge him?" exclaimed Sattie. "What are lessons worth, Dolly—good long ones?"

"Five dollars each, or fifty for a course of twelve," replied that reliable authority. "Diploma, elegantly tinted for framing, one dollar!"

"It isn't too much, is it?" asked Sattie anxiously of Mr. Bassity. "I don't want to rob you, you know, and even half would be more than I could get by filing."

"Oh, it's cheap," said Coal Oil Johnny, attempting to seem cheerful. "I never expected to become a social favorite for anything under a hundred. Only I wish you wouldn't try your way," he added aside to Miss Sinclair. "I mean it in all earnestness. If I had a sister—"

"You'd keep her in a red morocco case, and only show her in peeps to people of guaranteed respectability," said Grace, continuing his sentence for him. "That's always the way with imaginary sisters. But the real ones like to jump in and help the old world along!"

"Oh, but do take a chauffeur," he pleaded.

Miss Sinclair gave him a mocking smile.

"Would you mind my running my own little show in my own little way?" she observed sweetly.

He blew out a large smoke-ring and did not reply. His honest, sunburned face assumed a far-away expression. Coal Oil Johnny was thinking!

In the line of cabs and omnibuses that stood outside the I.B.&Q. depot was a Despardoux car, dazzling the eye with brass, and reflecting the passing throng in the deep, ruby, red of its highly polished surface. Its only occupant was Miss Grace Sinclair, suffocating in a leather coat, and with her shy, pretty face well concealed behind an automobile mask. At the side of the car, neatly pinned to one of the long rawhide baskets, was the following invitation to the public:

BEAUTIFUL STACKPORT TWO HOURS' RIDE FOR $1 CHILDREN 1/2 PRICE

But the public who had possibly already seen beautiful Stackport for themselves, or who, maybe, were withheld by the lack of the necessary dollar—the public, jostling past in an intermittent stream, and coy as always in the investment of its cash, disregarded the allurements of the Despardoux, and scarcely deigned even to look its way. A few of its members, however, of a chatty and mechanical turn, were willing to volunteer a vast deal of random conversation with less than no encouragement; but the man with the dollar, the man who desired to see beautiful Stackport, the man who thirsted for a two hours' ride—children half-price—was yet to come.

Grace Sinclair had waited an hour. Her first eager expectancy had given way to a heartbreaking consciousness of failure. She felt herself humiliated, less for herself than for her Despardoux. She had thrown down her pearls, and the swine (true to tradition) were treating them in the time-honored manner. At last, when hope was nearly dead within her breast, it was suddenly revived by the appearance of a rustic gentleman, who, stopping as though he had received a galvanic shock, opened his mouth as he slowly spelled out the notice on the basket. It was plain he was from the country, for his reddish whiskers were untrimmed, his hair long and straggling, his clothes of an extraordinary and antique design; and, moreover, under his arm he carried a coal-oil box, slatted across the front, which contained a live rooster. It was a pity that so sturdy a representative of the agricultural classes should have worn spectacles, and blue ones at that, and he had a troubled, peering, blind look that caused Grace a momentary pang. But he seemed a jolly, hearty fellow in spite of his infirmity, and coming up to her he gave her a broad and confidential smile.

"About this burd," he began, in a rich, friendly drawl, indicating the rooster. "Be there any trouble about the burd coming, too?"

"Not a particle," said Miss Sinclair.

"Hey?" said the stranger. "Hey?"

"Glad to have it," said Miss Sinclair, trying to suit her English to the intelligence of the plain people.

"But no monkey business?" said the gentleman from the country. "No half-price rung on me later? No extry for live stock?"

"One dollar, and no charge for rooster," said Grace in her most matter-of-fact tones.

From a capacious and inner pocket the stranger produced a venerable wallet, and from the venerable wallet a dollar bill.

"A lot of money for just whizzing through the air," he remarked genially, handing it to her. "I could fall off my barn for nothing, and as like as not be less hurt than when you've got through with me!"

"I'll get you back all right," said Miss Sinclair.

The stranger showed symptoms of wanting to climb into the tonneau by way of the mud-guard; and his enthusiasm was unbounded when he was directed to the door.

"Gosh!" he exclaimed, seating himself luxuriously on the cushions. "Gosh! but they've got these things down fine! I never read the Poultry Gazette of a Saturday night without saying to myself, what next? Every day some new way of being killed, or some old way improved! My! but this is the dandiest of all!"

"There isn't the least danger if people are careful," said Grace, gazing out of the corner of her eye at three very loud and offensively jocular young men, their straw hats tilted at the back of their heads, who had also been arrested by the notice on the basket. They were flashily dressed, with race-tout written all over them, and their keen, impudent, tallowy faces filled her with sudden misgiving.

"Let's try the old hell-wagon," said one.

"If people are only careful," repeated Grace forlornly.

"I dug four automobeelists out of a ditch once," observed the rural gentleman. "One had his leg broke, and the others were scratched something awful—but perhaps they weren't careful!"

"Say, we want to see beautiful Stackport," said one of the touts, clambering into the front seat beside Grace.

"Get out of that and give your place to a handsomer man," cried another, trying to pull him out by the legs.

The scuffle ended in the triumph of number one, who turned to Grace and addressed her in a hoarse, ironical voice.

"Never you mind them," he said. "They're only a pair of cheap skates who've won out a little on the track, and are blowing it in."

"Cock-a-doodle-doo!" exclaimed another, poking his fingers through the bars at the rooster.

"Wind her up, young chafer!" exclaimed the third.

"The fare is one dollar in advance," said Grace Sinclair, whose heart was sinking within her.

Then there ensued a humorous altercation in which they tried to beat her down to seventy-five cents. But Grace, remaining firm, finally received her three dollars, though they made it a point of honor to pay her in the smallest change they could muster. One fun-maker turned in three post-cards and a two-cent stamp; while another convulsed the company on the curb, now five deep and swelling rapidly, by volunteering to give his necktie in lieu of a quarter. It was no small relief to Grace when at last they rode out of the depot amid the cheers of the multitude, and took their swift way down Fairfield Avenue. But the three young rowdies, far from subsiding, egged one another on to fresh enormities. They would whoop at every passing automobile, shout audible remarks about the personal appearance of its occupants, tell an old gentleman, cautiously picking his way across the street, to skin out or they'd take his leg off! It was a wild and mortifying progress, and as the streets gradually gave way to country roads, and Grace anticipated that the worst was over, the three young men discovered a new means of making themselves objectionable. They insisted on stopping at every roadhouse, tooting loudly for the bartender to come out and serve them, and tossing off, in the course of a dozen miles, an uncountable number of glasses of beer.

Had it not been for the presence of the farmer, seated placidly in the tonneau of the car with the rooster on his lap, Grace would have been terrified at her predicament. But his large, friendly bulk, his heavy shoulders, his big hands and honest face were immensely comforting to her. He resisted all the importunities of the others to drink with them, refusing with the greatest good-nature, and maintaining throughout a certain aloofness and detachment. They called him Judge Hayseed, and guyed him mercilessly; but his deep, hearty laugh never showed the least sign of resentment, even when imaginary misadventures, of the blow-out-the-gas order, were fathered on him.

In the midst of an unceasing and vociferous hilarity, as they were bowling along at twelve miles an hour, which Grace would have made twenty if the engine hadn't worked so queerly, she felt the sharp dig of a finger against her back, and one of the young men cried out: "Say, young chafer, you've plunked a tire!"

She stopped the car and got out, and there, sure enough, one of the rear tires presented itself to her view in a state of melancholy collapse. It had picked up a horseshoe together with the three jagged nails adhering to it, and was patently, hopelessly, irretrievably punctured. Grace had seen a hundred repairs made on the road, but up to now she had never put her hands to the task herself. She brimmed over with the most correct theory, but had invariably relegated the practice to a skilful young man. As she dejectedly scanned the faces of her passengers, and met nothing in return but blank and dispirited stares, she manfully got out her little jack and started in on her own account. But she had hardly raised the wheel free from the ground, and was in the act of unscrewing the valve, when the wrench was suddenly taken out of her hand by Judge Hayseed, who asked in a very businesslike manner if there was an inner tube in the kit.

"I took notice of a feller doing this on my farm once," he drawled, "and it's kind of stuck in my head ever since." It had certainly stuck remarkably well, for the farmer attacked the shoe with the precision of a veteran. Loosening the lugs, and using the two strippers against each other with adroitness and strength, he quickly reached the point where he could easily draw out the inner tube.

When the tire was pumped up, and Grace was again about to take her place at the steering-wheel, the farmer sprang a fresh surprise.

"Hold on a minute," he said. "What's been making you miss so horribly on the off cylinder?"

"Oh, the whole engine has been acting like the dickens," she returned distressfully. "It hasn't been developing half its power. It's in one of its mean humors to-day, and behaving like a pig."

"Couldn't you take off that front thing and let's see what's the trouble?" said the countryman, jumping back into his drawl.

And then, wrench in hand, he made a prolonged examination of the machinery. Then he turned over the engine and listened; then he turned over the engine again and listened some more. Then he crawled in under the wagon, reappearing with a lick of grease over one eye.

"It gets me," he said. "I ran a little oil out of the crank-case on general principles, and chased up the magnets—but everything's tip-top as far as I can see!"

"Suppose you crank up and let's try again," said the girl.

But the car went worse than ever. Instead of missing occasionally the engine began to run now in gasps. Just when Grace waited for it to die altogether it would give another cough and take another spurt ahead, progressing the car in a series of agonizing little rushes, every one promising to be the last. To add to Grace's discomfiture there was a fairly steep hill looming in front of them, and she foresaw their being stalled at the bottom. They made another stop. A pair of new spark-plugs was put in, but, instead of improving, the gasping got gaspier than ever. Still another stop, to replace the high tension wires.

But no improvement was effected. A weird, whizzling sound added itself to the other noises. Every gasp brought them nearer the hill, where, at the foot, the engine gave one awful hiccough and died dead.

"We might manage to crawl home the way we came," said Grace, at her wits' end.

"No, there's only one thing to do," said the farmer decisively, "and that's to start all over again and ferret out the trouble."

He got out again. So did Grace. So did the three touts. So did the rooster. It was a depressing moment.

Grace took off her long coat, laid it on one side of the road, and deposited her cap, mask and gauntlets. It would take time to put the car to rights, and she didn't wish to be hampered. Her dark, glowing, girlish face came as a revelation to the three sports. She had been hidden behind so much glass and leather that the transformation was startling. The horsy gentlemen uttered murmurs of surprise and gratification. One of them sidled up to her with a leer.

"We've had a bum ride in your bum wagon," he said, "and now you've stuck us down here nine miles from the nearest beer! You've a lot to answer for, you have."

"I shall certainly return your money," returned Grace coldly. "I can't do more than that, can I?"

"Oh, yes, you can, you wicked little chafer," he said, giving a wink over his shoulder to his companions. "What's the matter with a kiss?" And with that he passed his arm around her waist.

What happened next happened quicker than it takes to write it. The farmer's right hand descended on the young man's collar, and his left executed a succession of slaps on the young man's countenance, which, for vigor and swiftness, could not have been done better by machinery. Then he trailed him to one side of the road, still shaking him in an iron grasp, and kicked him into the ditch.

"Help!" roared the young man repeatedly in the course of these proceedings. "Help!"

This brought to the rescue his two friends, who, for the last instant, had been too spellbound to move. The farmer squared his fists and received the newcomers on his knuckles. He was a clean hitter, and from the way he pirouetted and skipped you would have said he could dance, too. The three young sports, considerably the worse for wear, fled pell-mell for the barbed-wire fence that bordered the road, and went over it in the twinkling of an eye. Only a few bits of what they would probably have called "nobby pants," speckled here and there on the barbs, betrayed to later wayfarers this new instance of man's inhumanity to man.

"Do you know, we have never looked at the contact-box," said the farmer, returning to the car quite calmly to take up the interrupted thread of his conversation.

The tears were streaming down Grace's face, and her voice was scarcely controllable.

"It's a b-brush s-s-system," she said, "and it has always worked b-b-beautifully, and I never could have f-f-forgiven myself if they had h-h-hurt you!"

The farmer did not hear more than half the sentence. He was on his knees peering down into the works. Suddenly he raised his head with an expression of triumph.

Bing! A stone struck one of the kerosene lamps with a vicious crash.

Bing! Another just missed the countryman's rumpled hair.

Bing! A mud-guard shook with a loud and tinny reverberation.

The enemy, lined up in the neighboring field, and yelling shrilly, were opening up a rear-guard action with artillery.

"The contact-box is upside down," cried the farmer. "I can't see how it ever worked at all. Yank me out a screw-driver quick!"

The contact-box was on the exposed side. The farmer tried to hunch himself into the least compass possible, but his broad back and powerful frame interfered with his efforts to make a human hedgehog of himself. He was hit twice, once by a grazing shot that brought out blood on his cheek, the other a stinger on the hand.

"Scratch up a few rocks," he called to Grace, doggedly continuing his work, and keeping a careful eye on the screws he was taking out.

She got a dozen or so, and passed them over to him in a piece of chamois leather taken from the tool kit. He caught it up and ran for the fence, the enemy retiring precipitately out of range. But if he made no bull's-eyes he had a pleasant sense, for a moment or two, of dominating the situation. Then he returned hurriedly to the car.

"I wonder if you and I couldn't push her around," he said to Grace. "They'll be back again in a minute, and then it will be altogether too sunny on this side." The pair of them laid on to the spokes of the driving-wheels, and with a yeo-heave-yeo managed to head the Despardoux in the direction of its native Stackport. Then the farmer settled to work again, Grace scurried about searching for ammunition, and the three young touts rained shower on shower of stones. If ever delicate adjustments were made under difficulties, it was on that Despardoux on that fateful occasion. The only alleviation of an otherwise intolerable situation was the magnificent behavior of the contact-box, which now, right side up and readjusted, showed every symptom of meaning to do its duty.

It was anxiously put to the test, and, on the engine being started, the farmer and Grace were rewarded by the chippetty, chippetty, chippetty, chippetty of perfect sparking and combustion.

The farmer rolled back the enemy, recovered Grace's coat and his own rooster, seated himself at the wheel, gave the girl a hand in, threw in his clutches and speeded up.

"Slow down!" cried Grace. "Slow down, please. I want to leave their horrid money on the road."

"Not on your life," said the farmer. "That three dollars belongs to the St. John's Home for Incurable Children!"

"You oughtn't to know anything about the St. John's Home," said Grace.

"Oh, I forgot—I don't," he retorted brazenly. "Only that three dollars is going to stay on board this car. If anybody ever earned three dollars by the sweat of their brow I guess it was you and me!"

Grace put her hands up to his head and deliberately drew off his hat, drew off his red wig, drew off his red whiskers, and tossed them all back into the tonneau.

"Are you sorry I came?" said Coal Oil Johnny.

"There are some emotions that can not be put into words," she answered. "I won't try to say anything. I can't. But if I should ever seem unkind, or distant, or forgetful, or anything but the joy of your whole future existence—just you say contact-box, and I'll melt!"



JONES



I

I could have taken "No" like a man, and would have gone away decently and never bothered her again. I told her so straight out in the first angry flush of my rejection—but this string business, with everything left hanging in the air, so to speak, made a fellow feel like thirty cents.

"It simply means that I'm engaged and you are not," I said.

"It's nothing of the kind," she returned tearfully. "You're as free as free, Ezra. You can go away this moment, and never write, or anything!"

Her lips trembled as she said this, and I confess it gave me a kind of savage pleasure to feel that it was still in my power to hurt her.

It may sound unkind, but still you must admit that the whole situation was exasperating. Here was five-foot-five of exquisite, blooming, twenty-year-old American girlhood sending away the man she confessed to care for, because, forsooth, she would not marry before her elder sister! I always thought it was beautiful of Freddy (she was named Frederica, you know) to be always so sweet and tender and grateful about Eleanor; but sometimes gratitude can be carried altogether too far, even if you are an orphan, and were brought up by hand. Eleanor was thirty-four if a day—a nice enough woman, of course, and college bred, and cultivated, and clever—but her long suit wasn't good looks. She was tall and bony; worshiped genius and all that; and played the violin.

"No," repeated Freddy, "I shall never, never marry before Eleanor. It would mortify her—I know it would—and make her feel that she herself had failed. She's awfully frank about those things, Ezra—surprisingly frank. I don't see why being an old maid is always supposed to be so funny, do you? It's touching and tragic in a woman who'd like to marry and who isn't asked!"

"But Eleanor must have had heaps of offers," I said, "surely—"

"Just one."

"Well, one's something," I remarked cheerfully. "Why didn't she take him then?"

"She told me only last night that she was sorry she hadn't!"

Here, at any rate, was something to chew on. I saw a gleam of hope. Why shouldn't Eleanor marry the only one—and make us all happy!

"That was three years ago," said Freddy.

"I have loved you for four," I retorted. I was cross with disappointment. To be dashed to the ground, you know, just as I was beginning—"Tell me some more about him," I went on. I'm a plain business man and hang on to an idea like a bulldog; once I get my teeth in they stay in, for all you may drag at me and wallop me with an umbrella—metaphorically speaking, of course.

"Tell me his name, where he lives, and all."

"We were coming back from Colorado, and there was some mistake about our tickets. They sold our Pullman drawing-room twice over—to Doctor Jones and his mother, and also to ourselves. You never saw such a fight—and that led to our making friends, and his proposing to Eleanor!"

"Then why in Heaven's name didn't she" (it was on the tip of my tongue to say "jump at him ") "take him?"

"She said she couldn't marry a man who was her intellectual inferior."

"And was he?"

"Oh, he was a perfect idiot—but nice, and all that, and tremendously in love with her. Pity, wasn't it?"

"The obvious thing to do is to chase him up instantly. Where did you say he lived?"

"His mother told me he was going to New York to practise medicine."

"But didn't you ever hear from him again? I mean, was that the end of it all?"

"Yes?"

"Then you don't even know if he has married since?"

"No,"

"Nor died?"

"No."

"Nor anything at all?"

"No."

"What was his first name?"

"Wait a moment . . . let me think yes, it was Harry."

"Just Harry Jones, then, New York City?"

Freddy laughed forlornly.

"But he must have had antecedents," I cried out. "There are two ways of doing this Sherlock Holmes business—backward and forward, you know. Let's take Doctor Jones backward. As they say in post-office forms—what was his place of origin?"

"New York City."

"He begins there and ends there, does he, then?"

"Yes."

"But how sure are you that Eleanor would marry him if I did manage to find him and bring him back?"

"I'm not sure at all."

"No, but Freddy, listen—it's important. You told me yourself that she—I want the very identical words she used."

Freddy reflected.

"She said she was almost sorry she hadn't accepted that silly doctor!"

"That doesn't seem much, does it?" I remarked gloomily.

"Oh, from Eleanor it does, Ezra. She said it quite seriously. She always hides her feelings under a veil of sarcastic humor, you know."

"You're certainly a very difficult family to marry," I said.

"Being an orphan—" she began.

"Well, I'm going to find that Jones if I—"

"Ezra, dear boy, you're crazy. How could you think for a moment that—"

"I'm off, little girl. Good-by!"

"Wait a second, Ezra!"

She rose and went into the next room, reappearing with something in her hand. She was crying and smiling both at once. I took the little case she gave me—it was like one of those things that pen-knives are put in and looked at her for an explanation.

"It's the h-h-hindleg of a j-j-jack-rabbit," she said, "shot by a g-g-grave at the f-f-full of the moon. It's supposed to be l-l-lucky. It was given to me by a naval officer who got drowned. It's the only way I can h-h-help you!"

And thus equipped I started bravely for New York.



II

In the directory I found eleven pages of Joneses; three hundred and eighty-four Henry Joneses; and (excluding seventeen dentists) eighty-seven Doctor Henry Joneses. I asked one of the typists in the office to copy out the list, and prepared to wade in. We were on the eve of a labor war, and it was exceedingly difficult for me to get away. As the managing partner of Hodge & Westoby, boxers (not punching boxers, nor China boxers, but just plain American box-making boxers), I had to bear the brunt of the whole affair, and had about as much spare time as you could heap on a ten-cent piece. I had to be firm, conciliatory, defiant and tactful all at once, and every hour I took off for Jonesing threatened to blow the business sky-high. It was a tight place and no mistake, and it was simply jackrabbit hindleg luck that pulled me through!

My first Jones was a hoary old rascal above a drug store. He was a hard man to get away from, and made such a fuss about my wasting his time with idle questions that I flung him a dollar and departed. He followed me down to my cab and insisted on sticking in a giant bottle of his Dog-Root Tonic. I dropped it overboard a few blocks farther on, and thought that was the end of it till the whole street began to yell at me, and a policeman grabbed my horse, while a street arab darted up breathless with the Dog-Root Tonic. I presented it to him, together with a quarter, the policeman darkly regarding me as an incipient madman.

The second Jones was a man of about thirty, a nice, gentlemanly fellow, in a fine offce. I have usually been an off-hand man in business, accustomed to quick decisions and very little beating about the bush. But I confess I was rather nonplussed with the second Jones. How the devil was I to begin? His waiting-room was full of people, and I hardly felt entitled to sit down and gas about one thing and the other till the chance offered of leading up to the Van Coorts. So I said I had some queer, shooting sensations in the chest. In five minutes he had me half-stripped and was pounding my midriff in. And the questions that man asked! He began with my grandparents, roamed through my childhood and youth, dissected my early manhood, and finally came down to coffee and what I ate for breakfast.

Then it was my turn.

I asked him, as a starter, whether he had ever been in Colorado?

No, he hadn't.

After forty-five minutes of being hammered, and stethoscoped, and punched, and holding my breath till I was purple, and hopping on one leg, he said I was a very obscure case of something with nine syllables!

"At least, I won't be positive with one examination," he said; "but kindly come tomorrow at nine, when I shall be more at leisure to go into the matter thoroughly."

I paid him ten dollars and went sorrowfully away.

The third Jones was too old to be my man; so was the fourth; the fifth had gone away the month before, leaving no address; the sixth, however, was younger and more promising. I thought this time I'd choose something easier than pains in the chest. I changed them to my left hand. I was going to keep my clothes on, anyhow. But it wasn't any use. Off they came. After a decent interval of thumping and grandfathers, and what I had for breakfast, I managed to get in my question:

"Ever in Colorado, Doctor?"

"Oh, dear me, no!"

Another ten dollars, and nothing accomplished

The seventh Jones was again too old; the eighth was a pale hobbledehoy; the ninth was a loathsome quack; the tenth had died that morning; the eleventh was busy; the twelfth was a veterinary surgeon; the thirteenth was an intern living at home with his widowed sister. Colorado? No, the widowed sister was positive he had never been there. The fourteenth was a handsome fellow of about thirty-five. He looked poor and threadbare, and I had a glimpse of a shabby bed behind a screen. Patients obviously did not often come his way, and his joy at seeing me was pitiful. I had meant to try a bluff and get in my Colorado question this time free of charge; but I hadn't the heart to do it. Slight pains in the head seemed a safe complaint.

After a few questions he said he would have to make a thorough physical examination.

"No clothes off!" I protested.

"It's essential," he said, and went on with something about the radio-activity of the brain, and the vasomotor centers. The word motor made me feel like a sick automobile. I begged to keep my clothes on; I insisted; I promised to come tomorrow; but it wasn't any good, and in a few minutes he was hitting me harder than either of the two before. Maybe I was more tender! He electrocuted me extra from a switchboard, ran red-hot needles into my legs, and finally, after banging me around the room, said I was the strongest and wellest man who had ever entered his office.

"There's a lot of make-believe in medicine," he said; "but I'm one of those poor devils who can't help telling a patient the truth. There's nothing whatever the matter with you, Mr. Westoby, except that your skin has a slightly abrased look, and I seem to notice an abnormal sensitiveness to touch"

"Were you ever in Colorado, Doctor?" I asked while he was good enough to help me into my shirt.

"Oh, yes, I know Colorado well!"

My heart beat high.

"Some friends of mine were out there three years ago," I said. "Wouldn't it be strange if by any chance the Van Coorts—"

"Oh, I left Denver when I was fifteen."

Five dollars!

The fifteenth Jones was a doctor of divinity; the sixteenth was a tapeworm specialist; the seventeenth was too old, the eighteenth was too old, the nineteenth was too old—a trio of disappointing patriarchs. The twentieth painted out black eyes; the twenty-first was a Russian who could scarcely speak any English. He said he had changed his name from Karaforvochristophervitch to something more suited to American pronunciation. He seemed to think that Jones gave him a better chance. I sincerely hope it did. He told me that all the rest of the Jones family was in Siberia, but that he was going to bomb them out! The twenty-second was a negro. The twenty-third—! He was a tall, youngish man, narrow-shouldered, rather commonplace-looking, with beautiful blue eyes, and a timid, winning, deprecatory manner. I told him I was suffering from insomnia. After raking over my grandfathers again and bringing the family history down by stages to the very moment I was shown into his office he said he should have to ask me to undergo a thorough physical—! But I was tired of being slapped and punched and breathed on and prodded, and was bold enough to refuse point-blank. I'd rather have the insomnia! We worked up quite a fuss about it, for there was something tenacious in the fellow, for all his mild, kind, gentle ways; and I had all I could do to get off by pleading press of business. But I wasn't to escape scot-free. Medical science had to get even somehow. He compromised by stinging my eye out with belladonna. Have you ever had belladonna squirted in your eye? Well, don't!

He was sitting at the table, writing out some cabalistic wiggles that stood for bromide of potassium, when I remarked casually that it was strange how well I could always sleep in Colorado.

He laid down the pen with a sigh.

"A wonderful state—Colorado," I observed.

"To me it's the land of memories," he said. "Sad, beautiful, irrevocable memories—try tea for breakfast—do you read Browning? Then you will remember that line: 'Oh, if I—' And I insist on your giving up that cocktail before dinner."

"Some very dear friends of mine were once in Colorado," I said. "Morristown people—the Van Coorts."

"The Van Coorts!"

Doctor Jones sprang from his chair, his thin, handsome face flushing with excitement.

"Do you mean to say that you know Eleanor Van Coort?" he gasped.

"All my life."

He dropped back into the chair again and mumbled something about cigars. I was only to have blank a day. In his perturbation I believe he limited me to a daily box. He was trying—and trying very badly—to conceal the emotions I had conjured up.

"They were talking about you only yesterday," I went on. "That is, if it was you! A Pullman drawing-room-"

"And a mistake about the tickets," he broke out. "Yes, yes, it's they all right. Talking about me, did you say? Did Eleanor—I mean, did Miss Van Coort—express—?"

"She was wondering how she could find you," I said. "You see, they're busy getting up a house-party and she was running over her men. 'If I only knew where that dear Doctor Jones was,' she said, and then asked me, if by any possible chance—"

His fine blue eyes were glistening with all sorts of tender thoughts. It was really touching. And I was in love myself, you know.

"So she has remained unmarried!" he exclaimed softly. "Unmarried—after all these years!"

"She's a very popular girl," I said. "She's had dozens of men at her feet—but an unfortunate attachment, something that seems to go back to about three years ago, has apparently determined her to stay out of the game!"

Doctor Jones dropped his head on his hands and murmured something that sounded like "Eleanor, Eleanor!" Then he looked up with one of the most radiant smiles I ever saw on a man's face. "I hope I'm not presuming on a very short acquaintance," he said, "but the fact is—why should I not tell you?—Miss Van Coort was the woman in my life!"

I explained to him that Freddy was the woman in mine.

Then you ought to have seen us fraternize!

In twenty minutes I had him almost convinced that Eleanor had loved him all these years. But he worried a lot about a Mr. Wise who had been on the same train, and a certain Colonel Hadow who had also paid Eleanor attention. Jones was a great fellow for wanting to be sure. I pooh-poohed them out of the way and gave him the open track. Then, indeed, the clouds rolled away. He beamed with joy. In his rich gush of friendship he recurred to the subject of my insomnia with a new-born enthusiasm. He subdivided all my symptoms. He dived again into my physical being. He consulted German authorities. I squirmed and lied and resisted all I could, but he said he owed me an eternal debt that could only be liquidated by an absolute cure. He wanted to tie me up and shoot me with an X-ray. He ordered me to wear white socks. He had a long, terrifying look at a drop of my blood. He jerked hairs out of my head to sample my nerve force. He said I was a baffling subject, but that he meant to make me well if it took the last shot in the scientific locker. And he wound up at last by refusing point-blank to be paid a cent!

I waltzed away on air to write an account of the whole affair to Freddy, and dictate a plan of operations. I was justified in feeling proud of myself. Most men would have tamely submitted to their fate instead of chasing up all the Joneses of Jonesville! Freddy sent me an early answer—a gay, happy, overflowing little note—telling me to try and engage Doctor Jones for a three-day house-party at Morristown. I was to telegraph when he could come, and was promised an official invitation from Mrs. Matthewman. (She was the aunt, you know, that they lived with —one of those old porcelain ladies with a lace cap and a rent-roll.) However, I could not do anything for two days, for we had reached a crisis in the labor troubles, and matters were approaching the breaking point. We were threatened with one of those "sympathetic" strikes that drive business men crazy. There was no question at issue between ourselves and our employees; but the thing ramified off somewhere to the sugar vacuum-boiler riveters' union. Finally the S.Y.B.R.U. came to a settlement with their bosses, and peace was permitted to descend on Hodge & Westoby's.

I took immediate advantage of it to descend myself on Doctor Jones. He received me with open arms and an insomniacal outburst. He had been reading up; he had been seeing distinguished confreres; he had been mastering the subject to the last dot, and was panting to begin. I hated to dampen such friendship and ardor by telling him that I had completely recovered. Under the circumstances it seemed brutal—but I did it. The poor fellow tried to argue with me, but I insisted that I now slept like a top. It sounded horribly ungrateful. Here I was spurning the treasures of his mind, and almost insulting him with my disgusting good health. I swerved off to the house-party; Eleanor's delight, and so on; Mrs. Matthewman's pending invitation; the hope that he might have an early date free—

He listened to it all in silence, walking restlessly about the office, his blue eyes shining with a strange light. He took up a bronze paper-weight and gazed at it with an intensity of self-absorption.

"I can't go," he said.

"Oh, but you have to," I exclaimed.

"Mr. Westoby," he resumed, "I was foolish enough to back a friend's credit at a store here. He has skipped to Minnesota, and I am left with three hundred and four dollars and seventy-five cents to pay. To take a three days' holiday would be a serious matter to me at any time, but at this moment it is impossible."

I gave him a good long look. He didn't strike me as a borrowing kind of man. I should probably insult him by volunteering. Was there ever anything so unfortunate?

"I can't go," he repeated with a little choke.

"You may never have another opportunity," I said. "Eleanor is doing a thing I should never have expected from one of her proud and reserved nature. The advances of such a woman—"

He interrupted me with a groan.

"If it wasn't for my mother I'd throw everything to the winds and fly to her," he burst out. "But I have a mother—a sainted mother, Mr. Westoby—her welfare must always be my first consideration!"

"Is there no chance of anything turning up?" I said. "An appendicitis case—an outbreak of measles? I thought there was a lot of scarlatina just now."

He shook his head dejectedly.

"Doctor," I began again, "I am pretty well fixed myself. I'm blessed with an income that runs to five figures. If all goes the way it should we shall be brothers-in-law in six months. We are almost relations. Give me the privilege of taking over this small obligation—"

I never saw a man so overcome. My proposal seemed to tear the poor devil to pieces. When he spoke his voice was trembling.

"You don't know what it means to me to refuse," he said. "My self-respect my—my . . . " And then he positively began to weep!

"You said three hundred and four dollars and seventy-five cents, I believe?"

He waved it from him with a long, lean hand.

"I can not do it," he said; "and, for God's sake, don't ask me to!"

I argued with him for twenty minutes; I laid the question before him in a million lights; I racked him with a picture of Eleanor, so deeply hurt, so mortified, that in her recklessness and despair she would probably throw herself away on the first man that offered! This was his chance, I told him; the one chance of his life; he was letting a piece of idiotic pride wreck the probable happiness of years. He agreed with me with moans and weeps. He had the candor of a child and the torrential sentiment of a German musician. Three hundred and four dollars and seventy-five cents stood between him and eternal bliss, and yet he waved my pocketbook from him! And all the while I saw myself losing Freddy.

I went away with his "No, no, no!" still ringing in my ears.

At the club I found a note from Freddy. She pressed me to lose no time. Mrs. Matthewman was talking of going to Europe, and of course she and Eleanor would have to accompany her. Eleanor, she said, had ordered two new gowns and had brightened up wonderfully. "Only yesterday she told me she wished that silly doctor would hurry up and come—and that, you know, from Eleanor is almost a declaration!"

Some of my best friends happened to be in the club. It occurred to me that poor Nevill was diabetic, and that Charley Crossman had been boring everybody about his gout. I buttonholed them both, and laid my unfortunate predicament before them. I said I'd pay all the expenses. In fact, the more they could make it cost the better I'd be pleased.

"What," roared Nevill, "put myself in the hands of a young fool so that he may fill his empty pockets with your money! Where do I come in? Good heavens, Westoby, you're crazy! Think what would happen to me if it came to Doctor Saltworthy's ears? He'd never have anything more to do with me!"

Charley Crossman was equally rebellious and unreasonable.

"I guess you've never had the gout," he said grimly.

"But Charley, old man," I pleaded, "all that you'd have to do would be to let him talk to you. I don't ask you to suffer for it. Just pay—that's all—pay my money!"

"I'm awfully easily talked into things," said Charley. (There was never such a mule on the Produce Exchange.) "He'd be saying, 'Take this'—and I'm the kind of blankety-blank fool that would take it!"

Then I did a mean thing. I reminded Crossman of having backed some bills of his—big bills, too—at a time when it was touch and go whether he'd manage to keep his head above water.

"Westoby," he replied, "don't think that time has lessened my sense of that obligation. I'd cut off my right hand to do you a good turn. But for heaven's sake, don't ask me to monkey with my gout!"

The best I could get out of him was the promise of an anemic servant-girl. Nevill generously threw in a groom with varicose veins. Small contributions, but thankfully received.

"Now, what you do," said Nevill, "is to go round right off and interview Bishop Jordan. He has sick people to burn!"

But I said Jones would get on to it if I deluged him with the misery of the slums.

"That's just where the bishop comes in," said Nevill. "There isn't a man more in touch with the saddest kind of poverty in New York—the decent, clean, shrinking poverty that hides away from all the deadhead coffee and doughnuts. If I was in your fix I'd fall over myself to reach Jordan!"

"Yes, you try Jordan," said Charley, who, I'm sure, had never heard of him before.

"Then it's me for Jordan," said I.

I went down stairs and told one of the bell-boys to look up the address in the telephone-book. It seemed to me he looked pale, that boy.

"Aren't you well, Dan?" I said.

"I don't know what's the matter with me, sir. I guess it must be the night work."

I gave him a five-dollar bill and made him write down 1892 Eighth Avenue on a piece of paper.

"You go and see Doctor Jones first thing," I said. "And don't mention my name, nor spend the money on Her Mad Marriage."

I jumped into a hansom with a pleasant sense that I was beginning to make the fur fly.

"That's a horrible cold of yours, Cabby," I said as we stopped at the bishop's door and I handed him up a dollar bill. "That's just the kind of a cold that makes graveyards hum!"

"I can't shake it off, sir," he said despondently. "Try what I can, and it's never no use!"

"There's one doctor in the world who can cure anything," I said; "Doctor Henry Jones, 1892 Eighth Avenue. I was worse than you two weeks ago, and now look at me! Take this five dollars, and for heaven's sake, man, put yourself in his hands quick."

Bishop Jordan was a fine type of modern clergyman. He was broad-shouldered mentally as well as physically, and he brought to philanthropic work the thoroughness, care, enthusiasm and capacity that would have earned him a fortune in business.

"Bishop," I said, "I've come to see if I can't make a trade with you!"

He raised his grizzled eyebrows and gave me a very searching look.

"A trade," he repeated in a holding-back kind of tone, as though wondering what the trap was.

"Here's a check for one thousand dollars drawn to your order," I went on. "And here's the address of Doctor Henry Jones, 1892 Eighth Avenue. I want this money to reach him via your sick people, and that without my name being known or at all suspected."

"May I not ask the meaning of so peculiar a request?"

"He's hard up," I said, "and I want to help him. It occurred to me that I might make you—er—a confederate in my little game, you know."

His eyes twinkled as he slowly folded up my check and put it in his pocket.

"I don't want any economy about it, Bishop," I went on. "I don't want you to make the best use of it, or anything of that kind. I want to slap it into Doctor Jones' till, and slap it in quick"

"Would you consider two weeks—?"

"Oh, one, please!"

"It is understood, of course, that this young man is a duly qualified and capable physician, and that in the event of my finding it otherwise I shall be at liberty to direct your check to other uses?"

"Oh, I can answer for his being all right, Bishop. He's thoroughly up-to-date, you know; does the X-ray act; and keeps the pace of modern science."

"You say you can answer for him," said the bishop genially. "Might I inquire who you are."

"I'm named Westoby—Ezra Westoby—managing partner of Hodge & Westoby, boxers."

"I like boxers," said the bishop in the tone of a benediction, rising to dismiss me. "I like one thousand dollar checks, too. When you have any more to spare just give them a fair wind in this direction!"

I went out feeling that the Episcopal Church had risen fifty per cent in my esteem. Bishops like that would make a success of any denomination. I like to see a fellow who's on to his job.

I gave Jones a week to grapple with the new developments, and then happened along. The anteroom was full, and there was a queue down the street like a line of music-loving citizens waiting to hear Patti. Nice, decent-looking people, with money in their hands. (I always like to see a cash business, don't you?) I guess it took me an hour to crowd my way up stairs, and even then I had to buy a man out of the line.

Jones was carrying off the boom more quietly than I cared about. He wore a curt, snappy air. I don't know why, but I felt misgivings as I shook hands with him.

Of course I commented on the rush.

"The Lord only knows what's happened to my practice," he said. "The blamed thing has gone up like a rocket. It seems to me there must be a great wave of sickness passing over New York just now."

"Everybody's complaining," I said.

This reminded him of my insomnia till I cut him short.

"What's the matter with our going down to the Van Coorts' from Saturday to Tuesday," I said. "They haven't given up the hope of seeing you there, Doctor, and the thing's still open."

Then I waited for him to jump with joy.

He didn't jump a bit. He shook his head. He distinctly said "No."

"I told you it was the money side of it that bothered me," he explained. "So it was at the time, for, of course, I couldn't foresee that my practice was going to fill the street and call for policemen to keep order. But, my dear Westoby, after giving the subject a great deal of consideration I have come to the conclusion that it would be too painful for me to revive those —those—unhappy emotions I was just beginning to recover from!"

"I thought you loved her!" I exclaimed.

"That's why I've determined not to go," he said. "I have outlived one refusal. How do I know I have the strength, the determination, the hardihood to undergo the agonies of another?"

It seemed a feeble remark to say that faint heart never won fair lady. I growled it out more like a swear than anything else. I was disgusted with the chump.

"She's the star above me," he said; "and I am crushed by my own presumption. Is there any such fool as the man that breaks his heart twice for the impossible?"

"But it isn't impossible," I cried.

"Hasn't she—as far as a woman can—hasn't she called you back to her? What more do you expect her to do? A woman's delicacy forbids her screaming for a man! I think Eleanor has already gone a tremendous way in just hinting—"

"You may be right," he said pathetically; "but then you may also be wrong. The risk is too terrible for me to run. It will comfort me all my life to think that perhaps; she does love me in secret!"

"Do you mean to say you're going to give it all up?" I roared.

"You needn't get so warm about it," he returned. "After all, I have some justification in thinking she doesn't care."

"What on earth do you suppose she invited you for, then?"

"Well, it would be different," he said, "if I had a note from her —a flower—some little tender reminder of those dear old dead days in the Pullman!"

"She's saving up all that for Morristown," I said.

For the first time in our acquaintance Doctor Jones looked at me with suspicion. His blue eyes clouded. He was growing a little restive under my handling.

"You seem to make the matter a very personal one," he observed.

"Well, I love Freddy," I explained. "It naturally brings your own case very close to me. And then I am so positive that you love Eleanor and that Eleanor loves you. Put yourself in my place, Doctor! Do you mean that you'd do nothing to bring two such noble hearts together?"

He seized my hand and wrung it effusively. He really did love Eleanor, you know. The only fault with him was his being so darned humble about it. He was eaten up with a sense of his own inferiority. And yet I could see he was just tingling to go to Morristown. Of course, I crowded him all I could, but the best I could accomplish was his promise to "think it over." I hated to leave him wabbling, but patients were scuffling at the door and fighting on the stairs.

The next thing I did was to get Freddy on the long-distance 'phone.

"Freddy," I said, after explaining the situation, "you must get Eleanor to telegraph to him direct!"

"What's the good of asking what she won't do?" bubbled the sweet little voice.

"Can't you persuade her?"

"I know she won't do it!"

"Then you must forge it," I said desperately. "It needn't be anything red-hot, you know. But something tender and sincere: 'Shall be awfully disappointed if you don't come,' or, 'There was a time when you would not have failed me!"'

"It's impossible."

"Then he won't budge a single inch!" I replied.

"Ezra?"

"Darling!"

"Suppose I just signed the telegram Van Coon?"

"The very thing!"

"If he misunderstood it—I mean if he thought it really came from Eleanor—there couldn't be any fuss about it afterward, could there?"

"And, of course, you'll send the official invitation from Mrs. Matthewman besides?"

"For Saturday?"

"Yes, Saturday!"

"And you'll come?"

"Just watch me!"

"Ezra, are you happy?"

"That depends on Jones."

"Oh, isn't it exciting?"

"I have the ring in my pocket—"

"But touch wood, won't you?"

"Freddy?"

"Yes—"

"What's the matter with getting some for-get-me-nots and mailing them to Jones in an envelope?"

"All right, I'll attend to it. Eighteen ninety-two Eighth Avenue, isn't it?"

"Be sure it is forget-me-nots, you know. Don't mix up the language of flowers, and send him one that says: 'I'm off with a handsomer man,' or,' You needn't come round any more!'"

"Oh, Ezra, Eleanor is really getting quite worked up!"

"So am I!"

"Wouldn't it be perfectly splendid if—Switch off quick, here's aunt coming!"

"Mayn't I even say I love you?"

"I daren't say it back, Ezra—she's calling."

"But do you?"

"Yes, unfortunately—"

"Why unfortun—?"

Buzz-buzz-swizzleum-bux-bux!—Aunt had cut us off. However, short as my little talk with Freddy had been, it brightened my whole day.

Late the same afternoon, I went back to Doctor Jones. I was prepared to find him uplifted, but I hadn't counted on his being maudlin. The fellow was drunk, positively drunk—with happiness. His tongue ran on like a mill-stream. I had to sit down and have the whole Pullman-car episode inflicted on me a second time. I was shown the receipt-slip. I was shown the telegram from Eleanor. I was shown with a whoop the forget-me-nots! Then he was going on Saturday? I asked. He said he guessed it would take an earthquake to keep him away, and a pretty big earthquake, too! . . . Oh, it was a great moment, and all the greater because I was tremendously worked up, too. I saw Freddy floating before me, my sweet, girlish, darling Freddy, holding out her arms while Jones gassed and gassed and gassed.

I left him taking phenacetin for his headache.



III

The house-party had grown a little larger than was originally intended. On Saturday night we sat down twelve to dinner. Doctor Jones and I shared a room together, and I must say whatever misgivings I might have had about him wore away very quickly on closer acquaintance. In the first place he looked well in evening dress, carrying himself with a sort of shy, kind air that became him immensely. At table he developed the greatest of conversational gifts—that of the appreciative and intelligent listener. I heard one of the guests asking Eleanor who was that charming young man. Freddy and I hugged each other (I mean metaphorically, of course) and gloried in his success. In the presence of an admirer (such is the mystery of women) Eleanor instantly got fifteen points better looking, and you wouldn't have known her for the same girl. Freddy thought it was the two-hundred-and-fifty-dollar gown she wore, but I could see it was deeper than that. She was thawing in the sunshine of love, and I'll do Doctor Jones the justice to say that he didn't hide his affection under a bushel. It was generous enough for everybody to bask in, and in his pell-mell ardor he took us all to his bosom. The women loved him for it, and entered into a tacit conspiracy to gain him the right-of-way to wherever Eleanor was to be found. In fact, he followed her about like a dog, and she could scarcely move without stepping on him.

Sunday was even better. One of the housemaids drank some wood alcohol by mistake for vichy water, and the resulting uproar redounded to Jones' coolness, skill and despatch. He dominated the situation and—well, I won't describe it, this not being a medical work, and the reader probably being a good guesser. Mrs. Matthewman remarked significantly that it must be nice to be the wife of a medical man—one would always have the safe feeling of a doctor at hand in case anything happened at night! Eleanor said it was a beautiful profession that had for its object the alleviation of human pain. Freddy. jealously tried to get in a good word for boxers, but nobody would listen to her except me. It was all Jones, Jones, Jones, and the triumphs of modern medicine. Altogether he sailed through that whole day with flying colors, first with the housemaid, and then afterward at church, where he was the only one that knew what Sunday after Epiphany it was. He made it plainer than ever that he was a model young man and a pattern. Mrs. Matthewman compared him to her departed husband, and talked about old-fashioned courtesy and the splendid men of her youth. Everybody fell over everybody else to praise him. It was a regular Jones boom. People began to write down his address, and ask him if he'd be free Thursday, or what about Friday, and started to book seats in advance.

That evening, as I was washing my hands before dinner and cheerfully whistling Hiawatha, I became conscious that Jones was lolling back on a sofa at the dark end of the room. What particularly arrested my attention was a groan—a hollow, reverberatory groan—preceded by a pack of heartrending sighs. It worried me—when everything seemed to be going so well. He had every right to be whistling Hiawatha, too.

"What's the matter, Jones?" said I.

He keeled over on the sofa, and groaned louder than ever.

"It isn't possible—that she's refused you?" I exclaimed. He muttered something about his mother.

"Well, what about your mother?" I said.

"Westoby," he returned, "I guess I was the worst kind of fool ever to put my foot into this house."

That was nice news, wasn't it? Just as I was settling in my head to buy that Seventy-second Street place, and alter the basement into a garage!

"You see, old man, my mother would never consent to my marrying Eleanor. I'm in the position of having to choose between her and the woman I love. And I owe so much to my mother, Westoby. She stinted herself for years to get me through college; she hardly had enough to eat; she . . . " Then he groaned a lot more.

"I can't think that your mother—a—mother like yours, Jones—would consent to stand between you and your lifelong happiness. It's morbid—that's what I call it—morbid, just to dream of such a thing."

"There's Bertha," he quavered.

"Great Scott, and who's Bertha?"

"The girl my mother chose for me two years ago—Bertha McNutt, you know. She'd really prefer me not to marry at all, but if I must—it's Bertha, Westoby—Bertha or nothing!"

"It's too late to say that now, old fellow"

"It's not too late for me to go home this very night."

"Well, Jones," I broke out, "I can't think you'd do such a caddish thing as that. Think it over for a minute. You come down here; you sweep that unfortunate girl off her feet; you make love to her with the fury of a stage villain; you force her to betray her very evident partiality for you—and then you have the effrontery to say: 'Good-by. I'm off.'"

"My mother—" he began.

"You simply can not act so dishonorably, Jones."

He sat silent for a little while.

"My mother—" he started in again finally.

"Surely your mother loves you?" I demanded.

"That's the terrible part of it, Westoby, she—"

"Pooh!"

"She stinted herself to get me through col—"

"Then why did you ever come here?"

"That's just the question I'm asking myself now."

"I don't see that you have any right to assume all that about your mother, anyway. Eleanor Van Coort is a woman of a thousand—unimpeachable social position—a little fortune of her own—accomplished, handsome, charming, sought after—why, if you managed to win such a girl as that your mother would walk on air."

"No, she wouldn't. Bertha—"

"You're a pretty cheap lover," I said. "I don't set up to be a little tin hero, but I'd go through fire and water for my girl. Good heavens, love is love, and all the mothers—"

He let out a few more groans.

"Then, see here, Jones," I went on, "you owe some courtesy to our hostesses. If you went away to-night it would be an insult. Whatever you decide to do later, you've simply got to stay here till Tuesday morning!"

"Must I?" he said, in the tone of a person who is ordered not to leave the sinking ship.

"A gentleman has to," I said.

He quavered out a sort of acquiescence, and then asked me for the loan of a white tie. I should have loved to give him a bowstring instead, with somebody who knew how to operate it. He was a fluff, that fellow—a tarnation fluff!



IV

It was a pretty glum evening all round. Most of them thought that Jones had got the chilly mitt. Eleanor looked pale and undecided, not knowing what to make of Jones' death's-head face. She was resentful and pitying in turns, and I saw all the material lying around for a first-class conflagration. Freddy was a bit down on me, too, saying that a smoother method would have ironed out Jones, and that I had been headlong and silly. She cried over it, and wouldn't kiss me in the dark; and I was goaded into saying—Well, the course of true love ran in bumps that night. There was only one redeeming circumstance, and that was my managing to keep Jones and Eleanor apart. I mean that I insisted on being number three till at last poor Eleanor said she had a headache, and forlornly went up to bed.

Jones was still asleep when I got up the next morning at six and dressed myself quietly so as not to awake him. It was now Monday, and you can see for yourself there was no time to spare. I gave the butler a dollar, and ordered him to say that unexpected business had called me away without warning, but that I should be back by luncheon. I rather overdid the earliness of it all. At least, I hove off 1892 Eighth Avenue at eight-fifteen A. M. I loitered about; looked at pawnshop windows; gave a careful examination to a forty-eight-dollars-ninety-eight-cent complete outfit for a four-room flat; had a chat with a policeman; assisted at a runaway; advanced a nickel to a colored gentleman in distress; had my shoes shined by another; helped a child catch an escaped parrot—and still it wasn't nine! Idleness is a grinding occupation, especially on Eighth Avenue in the morning.

Mrs. Jones was a thin, straight-backed, brisk old lady, with a keen tongue, and a Yankee faculty for coming to the point. I besought her indulgence, and laid the whole Eleanor matter before her—at least, as much of it as seemed wise. I appeared in the role of her son's warmest admirer and best friend.

"Surely you won't let Harry ruin his life from a mistaken sense of his duty to you?"

"Duty, fiddlesticks!" said she. "He's going to marry Bertha McNutt!"

"But he doesn't want to marry Bertha McNutt!"

"Then he needn't marry anybody."

She seemed to think this a triumphant answer. Indeed, in some ways I must confess it was. But still I persevered.

"It puts me out to have him shilly-shallying around like this," she said. "I'll give him a good talking to when he gets back. This other arrangement has been understood between Mrs. McNutt and myself for years."

She was an irritating person. I found it not a little difficult to keep my temper with her. It's easier to fight dragons than to temporize with them and appeal to their better nature. I appealed and appealed. She watched me with the same air of interested detachment that one gives to a squirrel revolving in a cage. I could feel that she was flattered; her sense of power was agreeably tickled; my earnestness and despair enhanced the zest of her reiterated refusals. I was a very nice young man, but her son was going to marry Bertha McNutt or marry nobody!

Then I tried to draw a lurid picture of his revolt from her apron-strings.

"Oh, Harry's a good boy," she said. "You can't make me believe that two days has altered his whole character. I'll answer for his doing what I want."

I felt a precisely similar conviction, and my heart sank into my shoes.

At this moment there was a tap at the door, and another old lady bounced in. She was stout, jolly-looking and effusive. The greetings between the pair were warm, and they were evidently old friends. But underneath the new-comer's gush and noise I was dimly conscious of a sort of gay hostility. She was exultant and frightened, both at once, and her eyes were sparkling.

"Well, what do you think?" she cried out, explosively.

Mrs. Jones' lips tightened. There was a mean streak in that old woman. I could see she was feeling for her little hatchet, and was getting out her little gun.

"Bertha!" exploded the old lady. "Bertha—"

(Mysterious mental processes at once informed me that this was none other than Bertha's mother.)

Mrs. Jones was coolly taking aim. I was reminded of that old military dictum: "Don't shoot till you see the whites of their eyes!"

"Bertha," vociferated the old lady fiercely—"Bertha has been secretly married to Mr. Stuffenhammer for the last three months!"

Another series of kinematographic mental processes informed me that Mr. Stuffenhammer was an immense catch.

"Twenty thousand dollars a year, and her own carriage," continued Mrs. McNutt gloatingly. "You could have knocked me down with a feather. Bertha is such a considerate child; she insisted on marrying secretly so that she could tone it down by degrees to poor Harry; though there was no engagement or anything like that, she could not help feeling of course that she owed it to the dear boy to gradually"

Mrs. Jones never turned a hair or moved a muscle.

"You needn't pity Harry," she said. "I've just got the good news that he's engaged to one of the sweetest and richest girls in Morristown."

I jumped for my hat and ran.



V

You never saw anybody so electrified as Jones. For a good minute he couldn't even speak. It was like bringing a horseback reprieve to the hero on the stage. He repeated "Stuffenhammer, Stuffenhammer," In tones that Henry Irving might have envied, while I gently undid the noose around his neck. I led him under a tree and told him to buck up. He did so—slowly and surely—and then began to ask me agitated questions about proposing. He deferred to me as though I had spent my whole life Bluebearding through the social system. He wanted to be coached how to do it, you know. I told him to rip out the words—any old words—and then kiss her.

"Don't let there be any embarrassing pause," I said. "A girl hates pauses."

"It seems a great liberty," he returned. "It doesn't strike me as r-r-respectful."

"You try it," I said. "It's the only way."

"I'll be glad when it's over," he remarked dreamily.

"Whatever you do, keep clear of set speeches;" I went on. "Blurt it out, no matter how badly—but with all the fire and ginger in you."

He gazed at me like a dead calf.

"Here goes," he said, and started on a trembling walk toward the house.

I don't know whether he was afraid, or didn't get the chance, or what it was; but at any rate the afternoon wore on without the least sign of his coming to time. I kept tab on him as well as I could—checkers with Miss Drayton—half an hour writing letters —a long talk with the major—and finally his getting lost altogether in the shrubbery with an old lady. Freddy said the suspense was killing her, and was terribly despondent and miserable. I couldn't interest her in the Seventy-second Street house at all. She asked what was the good of working and worrying, and figuring and making lists—when in all probability it would be another girl that would live there. She had an awfully mean opinion of my constancy, and was intolerably philosophical and Oh-I-wouldn't-blame-you-the-least-little—bit -if-you-did-go-off-and-marry-somebody-else! She took a pathetic pleasure in loving me, losing me, and then weeping over the dear dead memory. She said nobody ever got what they wanted, anyway; and might she come, when she was old and ugly and faded and weary, to take care of my children and be a sort of dear old aunty in the Seventy-second Street house. I said certainly not, and we had a fight right away.

As we were dressing for dinner that night I took Jones to task, and tried to stiffen him up. I guess I must have mismanaged it somehow, for he said he'd thank me to keep my paws out of his affairs, and then went into the bath-room, where he shaved and growled for ten whole minutes. I itched to throw a bootjack at him, but compromised on doing a little growling myself. Afterward we got into our clothes in silence, and as he went out first he slammed the door.

It was a disheartening evening. We played progressive euchre for a silly prize, and we all got shuffled up wrong and had to stay so. Then the major did amateur conjuring till we nearly died. I was thankful to sneak out-of-doors and smoke a cigar under the starlight. I walked up and down, consigning Jones to—well, where I thought he belonged. I thought of the time I had wasted over the fellow—the good money—the hopes—I was savage with disappointment, and when I heard Freddy softly calling me from the veranda I zigzagged away through the trees toward the lodge gate. There are moments when a man is better left alone. Besides, I was in one of those self-tormenting humors when it is a positive pleasure to pile on the agony. When you're eighty-eight per cent miserable it's hell not to reach par. I was sore all over, and I wanted the balm—the consolation—to be found in the company of those cold old stars, who have looked down in their time on such countless generations of human asses. It gave me a wonderful sense of fellowship with the past and future.

I was reflecting on what an infinitesimal speck I was in the general scheme of things, when I heard the footfall of another human speck, stumbling through the dark and carrying a dress-suit case. It was Jones himself, outward bound, and doing five knots an hour. I was after him in a second, doing six.

"Jones!" I cried.

He never even turned round.

I grabbed him by the arm. He wasn't going to walk away from me like that.

"Where are you going?" I demanded.

"Home!"

"But say, stop; you can't do that. It's too darned rude. We don't break up till tomorrow."

"I'm breaking up now," he said.

"Bu—"

"Let go my arm—!"

Oh, but, my dear chap—"I began.

"Don't you dear chap me!"

We strode on in silence. Even his back looked sullen, and his face under the gaslights.

"Westoby," he broke out suddenly, "if there's one thing I'm sensitive about it is my name. Slap me in the face, turn the hose on me, rip the coat off my back—and you'd be astounded by my mildness. But when it comes to my name I—I'm a tiger!"

"A tiger," I repeated encouragingly.

"It all went swimmingly," he continued in a tone of angry confidence. "For five seconds I was the happiest man in the United States. I—I did everything you said, you know, and I was dumfounded at my own success. S-s-she loves me, Westoby."

I gazed inquiringly at the dress-suit case.

"We don't belong to any common Joneses. We're Connecticut Joneses. In fact, we're the only Joneses—and the name is as dear to me, as sacred, as I suppose that of Westoby is, perhaps, to you. And yet—and yet do you know what she actually said to me? Said to me, holding my hand, and, and that the only thing she didn't like about me was my name."

I contrived to get out, "Good heavens!" with the proper astonishment.

"I told her that Van Coort didn't strike me as being anything very extra."

"Wouldn't it have been wiser to—?"

"Oh, for myself, I'd do anything in the world for her. But a fellow has to show a little decent pride. A fellow owes something to his family, doesn't he? As a man I love the ground she walks on; as a Jones—well, if she feels like that about it—I told her she had better wait for a De Montmorency."

"But she didn't say she wouldn't marry you, did she?"

"N-o-o-o!"

"She didn't ask you to change your name, did she?"

"N-o-o-o!"

"And do you mean to say that just for one unfortunate remark—a remark that any one might have made in the agitation of the moment—you're deliberately turning your back on her, and her broken heart!"

"Oh, she's red-hot, too, you know, over what I said about the Van Coorts."

"She couldn't have realized that you belonged to the Connecticut Joneses. I didn't know it!"

"Well, it's all off now," he said.

It was a mile to the depot. For Jones it was a mile of reproaches, scoldings, lectures and insults. For myself I shall ever remember it as the mile of my life. I pleaded, argued, extenuated and explained. My lifelong happiness—Freddy —the Seventy-second Street house—were walking away from me in the dark while I jerked unavailingly at Jones' coat-tails. The whole outfit disappeared into a car, leaving me on the platform with the ashes of my hopes. Of all obstinate, mulish, pig headed, copper-riveted—

I was lucky enough to find Eleanor crying softly to herself in a corner of the veranda. The sight of her tears revived my fainting courage. I thought of Bruce and the spider, and waded in.

"Eleanor," I said, "I've just been seeing poor Jones off."

She sobbed out something to the effect that she didn't care.

"No, you can't care very much," I said, "or you wouldn't send a man like that—a splendid fellow—a member of one of the oldest and proudest families of Connecticut to his death."

"Death?"

"Well, he's off for Japan to-morrow. They're getting through fifty doctors a week out there at the front. They're shot down faster than they can set them up."

I was unprepared for the effect of this on Eleanor. For two cents she would have fainted then and there. It's awful to hear a woman moan, and clench her teeth, and pant for breath.

"Oh, Eleanor, can't you do anything?"

"I am helpless, Ezra. My pride—my woman's pride"

"Oh, how can you let such trifles stand between you? Think of him out there, in his tattered Japanese uniform—so far from home, so lonely, so heartbroken—standing undaunted in that rain of steel, while—"

"Oh, Ezra, stop! I can't bear it! I can't bear it!"

"Is the love of three years to be thrown aside like an old glove, just because—"

Her face was so wild and strained that the lies froze upon my tongue.

"Oh, Ezra, I could follow him barefooted through the snow if only he—"

"He's leaving Grand Central to-morrow at ten forty-five," I said.

She fumbled at her neck, and almost tore away the diamond locket that reposed there.

"Take him this," she whispered hoarsely. "Take it to him at once, and say I sent it. Say that I beg him to return—that my pride crumbles at the thought of his going away so far into danger."

I put the locket carefully into my pocket.

"And, Eleanor, try and don't rub him the wrong way about his name. Is it worth while? There have to be Joneses, you know."

"Tell him," she burst out, "tell him—oh, I never meant to wound him—truly, I didn't . . . a name that's good enough for him is good enough for me!"

The next morning at nine I pulled up my Porcher-Mufflin car before Jones' door. He was sitting at his table reading a book, and he made no motion to rise as I came in. He gave me a pale, expressionless stare instead, such as an ancient Christian might have worn when the call-boy told him the lions were ready in the Colosseum. Resignation, obstinacy and defiance—all nicely blended under a turn-the-other-cheek exterior. He looked woebegone, and his thin, handsome face betrayed a sleepless night and a breakfastless morning. I could feel that my presence was the last straw to this unfortunate medical camel.

I threw in a genial remark about the weather, and took a seat.

Jones hunched himself together, and squirmed a sad little squirm.

"Mr. Westoby," he said, "I once made use of a very strong expression in regard to you. I said, if you remember, that I'd be obliged if you'd keep your paws—"

"Don't apologize," I interrupted. "I forgot it long ago."

"You've taken me up wrong," he continued drearily. "I should like you to consider the remark repeated now. Yes, sir, repeated."

"Oh, bosh!" I exclaimed.

"You have a very tough epidermis," he went on. "Quite the toughest epidermis I have met with in my whole professional career. A paper adequately treating your epidermis would make a sensation before any medical society."

Somehow I couldn't feel properly insulted. The whole business struck me as irresistibly comical. I lay back in my chair—my uninvited chair—and roared with laughter.

I couldn't forbear asking him what treatment he'd recommend.

He pointed to the door, and said laconically: "Fresh air."

I retorted by laying the diamond locket before him.

"My dear fellow," I said, as he gazed at it transfixed, "don't let us go on like a pair of fools. Eleanor charged me to give you this, and beg you to return."

I don't believe he heard me at all. That flashing trinket was far more eloquent than any words of mine. He laid his head in his hands beside it, and his whole body trembled with emotion. He trembled and trembled, till finally I got tired of waiting. I poked him in the back, and reminded him that my car was waiting down stairs. He rose with a strange, bewildered air, and submitted like a child to be led into the street. He had the locket clenched in his hand, and every now and then he would glance at it as though unable to believe his eyes. I shut him into the tonneau, and took a seat beside my chauffeur.

"Let her out, James," I said.

James let her out with a vengeance. There was a sunny-haired housemaid at the Van Coorts' . . . and it was a crack, new four-cylinder car with a direct drive on the top speed. Off we went like the wind, jouncing poor Jones around the tonneau like a pea in a pill-box. But he didn't care. Was he not seraphically whizzing through space, obeying the diamond telegram of love? In the general whizzle and bang of the whole performance he even ventured to raise his voice in song, and I could overhear him behind me, adding a lyrical finish to the hum of the machinery. It was a walloping run, and we only throttled down on the outskirts of Morristown. You see I had to coach him about that Japanese war business, or else there might be trouble! So I leaned over the back seat and gently broke it to him I thought I had managed it rather well. I felt sure he could understand, I said, the absolute need of a little—embellishing and—

"Let me out," he said.

I feverishly went on explaining.

"If you don't let me out I'll climb out," he said, and began to make as good as his word over the tonneau.

Of course, there was nothing for it but to stop the car.

Jones deliberately descended and headed for New York.

I ran after him, while the chauffeur turned the car round and slowly followed us both. It was a queer procession. First Jones, then I, then the car.

Finally I overtook him.

"Jones," I panted. "Jones."

He muttered something about Ananias, and speeded up.

"But it was an awfully tight place," I pleaded. "Something had to be done; you must make allowances; it was the first thing that came into my head—and you must admit that it worked, Jones. Didn't she send you the locket? Didn't she—?"

"What a prancing, show-of, matinee fool you've made me look!" he burst out. "I have an old mother to support. I have an increasing practice. I have already attracted some little attention in my chosen field—eye, ear and throat. A nice figure I'd cut, traipsing around battle-fields in a kimono, and looking for a kindly bullet to lay me low. If I were ever tempted by such a thing—which God forbid—wouldn't I prefer to spread bacilli on buttered toast?"

"I never thought of that," I said humbly.

"I have known retail liars," he went on. "But I guess you are the only wholesaler in the business. When other people are content with ones and twos you get them out in grosses, packed for export!"

He went on slamming me like this for miles. Anybody else would have given him up as hopeless. I don't want to praise myself, but if I have one good quality it's staying power. I pleaded and argued, and expostulated and explained, with the determination of a man whose back is to the wall. I wasn't going to lose Freddy so long as there was breath in my body. However, it wasn't the least good in the world. Jones was as impervious as sole-leather, and as unshaken as a marble pillar.

Then I played my last card.

I told him the truth! Not the whole truth, of course, but within ten per cent of it. About Freddy, you know, and how she was determined not to marry before her elder sister, and how Eleanor's only preference seemed to be for him, and how with such a slender clue to work on I had engineered everything up to this point.

"If I have seemed to you intolerably prying and officious," I said, "well, at any rate, Jones, there's my excuse. It rests with you to give me Freddy or take her from me. Turn back, and you'll make me the happiest man alive; go forward, and—and—"

I watched him out of the corner of my eye.

His tread lost some of its elasticity. He was short-circuiting inside. Positively he began to look sort of sympathetic and human.

"Westoby," he said at last, in a voice almost of awe, "when they get up another world's fair you must have a building to yourself. You're colossal, that's what you are!"

"I'm only in love," I said.

"Well, that's the love that moves mountains," he said. "If anybody had told me that I should . . . " He stopped irresolutely on the word.

"Oh, to think I have to stand for all that rot!" he bleated.

I was too wise to say a word. I simply motioned James to switch the car around and back up. I shooed Jones into the tonneau and turned the knob on him. He snuggled back in the cushions, and smiled—yes, smiled—with a beautiful, blue-eyed, faraway, indulgent expression that warmed me like spring sunshine. Not that I felt absolutely safe even yet—of course I couldn't—but still—

We ran into Freddy and Eleanor at the lodge gates. I had already telephoned the former to expect us, so as to have everything fall out naturally when the time came. We stopped the car, and descended—Jones and I—and he walked straight off with Eleanor, while I side-stepped with Freddy.

She and I were almost too excited to talk.

It was now or never, you know, and there was an awfully solemn look about both their backs that was either reassuring or alarming—we couldn't decide quite which. Freddy and I simply held our breath and waited.

Finally, after an age, Jones and Eleanor turned, still close in talk, still solemn and enigmatical, and drew toward us very slowly and deliberately. When they bad got quite close, and the tension was at the breaking point, Eleanor suddenly made a little rush, and, with a loud sob, threw her arms round Freddy's neck.

Jones fidgeted nervously about, and seemed to quail under my questioning eyes. It was impossible to tell whether things had gone right or not. I waited for him to speak . . . I saw words forming themselves hesitatingly on his lips . . . he bent toward me quite confidentially.

"Say, old man," he whispered, "is there any place around here where a fellow can buy an engagement ring?"

THE END

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