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The day of days


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Title:TheDayofDays
AnExtravaganza
Author:LouisJosephVance
Illustrator:ArthurWilliamBrown
ReleaseDate:May20,2005[EBook#15873]
Language:English

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THEDAYOFDAYS
BYLOUISJOSEPHVANCE
THEDAYOFDAYS

THEDESTROYINGANGEL
THEBANDBOX
CYNTHIA-OF-THE-MINUTE
NOMAN'SLAND
THEFORTUNEHUNTER
THEPOOLOFFLAME
THEBRONZEBELL
THEBLACKBAG
THEBRASSBOWL
THEPRIVATEWAR
TERENCEO'ROURKE

"WhatIwanttosayis—willyoubemyguestatthetheatretonight?"
WhatIwanttosayis—willyoubemyguestatthetheatretonight?"





THEDAYOFDAYS
ANEXTRAVAGANZA
By


LOUISJOSEPHVANCE
AUTHOROF"THEBRASSBOWL,""THEBLACKBAG,""THEBANDBOX,""
THEDESTROYINGANGEL,"ETC.

WITHILLUSTRATIONSBYARTHURWILLIAMBROWN
BOSTON
LITTLE,BROWN,ANDCOMPANY
1913
Copyright,1912,1913,
BYLOUISJOSEPHVANCE.
Allrightsreserved,includingthoseoftranslationintoforeignlanguages,
includingtheScandinavian.
Published,February,1913
Reprinted,March,1913
THEUNIVERSITYPRESS,CAMBRIDGE,MASS.,U.S.A.


CONTENTS
CHAPTER


I.
II.
III.
IV.
V.
VI.
VII.
VIII.
IX.
X.
XI.
XII.
XIII.
XIV.
XV.
XVI.
XVII.
XVIII.
XIX.
XX.
XXI.
XXII.
XXIII.

THEDUB
INSPIRATION
THEGLOVECOUNTER
ALIKELYSTORY
THECOMICSPIRIT
SPRINGTWILIGHT
AFTERMATH
WHEELSOFCHANCE
THEPLUNGER
UNDERFIRE
BURGLARYUNDERARMS
THELADYOFTHEHOUSE
RESPECTABILITY
WHEREANGELSFEARTOTREAD
SUCHSTUFFASPLOTSAREMADEOF
BEELZEBUB
INABALCONY
THEBROOCH
NEMESIS
NOVEMBER
THESORTIE
TOGETHER
PERCEVALUNASHAMED



ILLUSTRATIONS
"WhatIwanttosayis—willyoubemyguestatthetheatretonight?"
"You are the one woman in a thousand who knows enough to look before she
shoots!"
Facingher,heliftedhisscarletvisor.
HewasRedNovember.





THEDAYOFDAYS



I
THEDUB
"Smell,"P.Sybaritemusedaloud....
For an instant he was silent in depression. Then with extraordinary
vehemencehecontinuedcrescendo:"Stupid-stagnant-sepulchral-sempiternallysticky-Smell!"
Hepausedforbothbreathandwords—ponderedwithbendedhead,knitting
hisbrowsforbiddingly.
"Supremely squalid, sinisterly sebaceous, sombrely sociable Smell!" he
pursuedviolently.
Momentarily his countenance cleared; but his smile was as fugitive as the
favourofprinces.
Vindictively champing the end of a cedar penholder, he groped for
expression:"Stygian...sickening...surfeiting...slovenly...sour...."
Heshookhisheadimpatientlyandclawedtheimpregnatedatmospherewith
atragichand.
"Stench!"heperoratedinavoicetremulouswithemotion.
Eventhatcomprehensivemonosyllablewasfarfromsatisfactory.
"Oh,what'stheuse?"P.Sybaritedespaired.
Alliterationcouldnomore;hismother-tongueitselfseemedpoverty-stricken,
hisnativewitinadequate.Withdecentmeeknessheownedhimselfunfitforthe
tasktowhichhehadsethimself.
"I'monlyadub,"hegroaned—"apoor,God-forsaken,prematurelyagedand
indigentdub!"


For ten interminable years the aspiration to do justice to the Genius of the
Place had smouldered in his humble bosom; to-day for the first time he had
attemptedtoformulateameetapostrophetothatGodofhisForlornDestiny;and
now he chewed the bitter cud of realisation that all his eloquence had proved
hopelesslypoorandlameandhalting.
Perchedonthepolishedseatofaverytallstool,hisslenderlegsfraternising
with itslegs in apparentlyinextricableintimacy;sharpelbows diggingintothe
nickedandink-stainedbedofacounting-housedesk;chinsomesixinchesabove
the pages of a huge leather-covered ledger, hair rumpled and fretful, mouth
doleful,eyesdisconsolate—hegloomed...
On this the eve of his thirty-second birthday and likewise the tenth
anniversary of his servitude, the appearance of P. Sybarite was elaborately
normal—varying,asitdid,butslightlyfromoneyear's-endtotheother.
Hisoccupationhadfittedhisheadandshoulderswithadeceptivebutnone
thelessperennialstoop.Hismeanshadendowedhimwithasingleoutwornsuit
of ready-made clothing which, shrinking sensitively on each successive
application of the tailor's sizzling goose, had come to disclose his person with
disconcerting candour—sleeves too short, trousers at once too short and too
narrow, waistcoat buttons straining over his chest, coat buttons refusing to
recognise a buttonhole save that at the waist. Circumstances these that added
measurablytohisapparentage,lendinghimthesemblanceofmaturityattained
whilestillintheshellofyouth.
The ruddy brown hair thatching his well-modelled head, his sanguine
colouring, friendly blue eyes and mobile lips suggested Irish lineage; and his
hands which, though thin and clouded with smears of ink, were strong and
graceful(liketheslenderfeetinhisshabbyshoes)boreoutthesuggestionwith
anaddedhintofgentleblood.
But whatever his antecedents, the fact is indisputable that P. Sybarite, just
then, was most miserable, and not without cause; for the Genius of the Place
heldhissoulinItsmelancholybondage.
ThePlacewasthecounting-roominthewarehouseofMessrs.Whigham&
Wimper,Hides&Skins;andtheGeniusofitwasthereekofhidesbothrawand
dressed—an effluviumincomparable,a passionateindividualistofanodour,as


richastheimaginationofaneditorofSundaysupplements,asrareasareticent
author,asfriendlyasastraypuppy.
FortenendlessyearsthebodyandsoulofP.Sybaritehadbeenthralltothat
Smell;foracompletedecadehehadinhaleditcontinuouslyninehourseachday,
sixdayseachweek—andhadfeltlonesomewithoutitoneveryseventhday.
Butto-dayallhisbeing was inrevolt,bitterly, hopelesslymutinous against
thisevilandoverbearingGenius....
The warehouse—impregnable lair of the Smell, from which it leered smug
defiance at the sea-sweet atmosphere of the lower city—occupied a walled-in
archoftheBrooklynBridge,frontingonFrankfortStreet,inthatpartofTown
stillknowntoelderinhabitantsas"theSwamp."Aboverumbledtheeverlasting
inter-boroughtraffic;totheright,onrisingground,werehauntsofroaringtypemills grinding an endless grist of news; to the left, through a sudden dip and
down a long decline, a world of sober-sided warehouses, degenerating into
slums, circumscribed by sleepy South Street; all, this afternoon, warm and
languorousinthelazybreezeofasunnyAprilSaturday.
The counting-room was a cubicle contrived by enclosing a corner of the
ground-floor with two walls and a ceiling of match-boarding. Into this
constricted space were huddled two imposing roll-top desks, P. Sybarite's high
counter, and the small flat desk of the shipping clerk, with an iron safe, a
Remington typewriter, a copy-press, sundry chairs and spittoons, a small gasheater, and many tottering columns of dusty letter-files. The window-panes,
encrusted with perennial deposits of Atmosphere, were less transparent than
translucent, and so little the latter that electric bulbs burned all day long
whenevertheskieswereovercast.Also,thewindowswerefixedandsetagainst
the outer air—impregnable to any form of assault less impulsive than a stone
castbyanirresponsiblehand.Adoor,setcraftilyinthemostinconvenientspot
imaginable,affordedbothventilationandaccesstoanaislewhichledtortuously
betweenbalesofhidestodoorsopeninguponawaist-highstage,wheretrucks
backeduptoreceiveandtodeliver.
Immuredinthisretreat,P.Sybaritewasverymuchshutawayfromalljoyof
living—alonewithhisjob(whichatpresentnothingpressed)withGiantDespair
and its interlocutor Ennui, and with that blatant, brutish, implacable Smell of
Smells....


To all of these, abruptly and with ceremony, Mr. George Bross, shipping
clerk, introduced himself: a brawny young man in shirt-sleeves, wearing a
visorless cap of soiled linen, an apron of striped ticking, pencils behind both
angular red ears, and a smudge of marking-ink together with a broad irritating
smileuponaclownishcountenance.
Although in receipt of a smaller wage than P. Sybarite (who earned fifteen
dollarsperweek)GeorgesquanderedfifteencentsonnewspaperseverySunday
morningforsheerdelightintheilluminated"funnysheets."
Inonehandheheldanenvelope.
Draping himself elegantly over Mr. Wimper's desk, George regarded P.
Sybaritewithanindulgentandcompassionatesmileandwaggedadoggishhead
at him. From these symptoms inferring that his fellow-employee was in the
throesofawitticism,P.Sybaritecockedanapprehensiveeyeandtightenedhis
thin-lipped,sensitivemouth.
"Oyou—!"saidGeorge;andcheckedtoenjoyarudegiggle.
At this particular moment a mind-reader would have been justified in
regarding P. Sybarite with suspicion. But beyond taking the pen from between
histeethhedidn'tmove;andhesaidnothingatall.
The shipping clerk presently controlled his mirth sufficiently to permit
unctuousenunciationofthefollowingcrypticexclamation:
"OyouPerceval!"
P.Sybariteturnedpale.
"You little rascal!" continued George, brandishing the envelope. "You've
beencunning,youhave;butI'vefoundyououtatlast....Per-ce-val!"
OverthecheeksofP.Sybaritecreptadelicatetintofpink.Hiseyeswavered
andfell.Helooked,andwas,acutelyunhappy.
"You'reaslyone,youare,"Georgegloated—"alwayssignin'yourname'P.
Sybarite' and pretendin' your maiden monaker was 'Peter'! But now we know
you!Takeoffthemwhiskers—Perceval!"


Areallywisemind-readerwouldhavecalledapoliceman,thenandthere;for
mayhemwastheleastofthecrimescontemplatedbyP.Sybarite.Butrestraining
himself,hedidnothingmorethandisentanglehislegs,slipdownfromthetall
stool,andapproachMr.Brosswithanoutstretchedhand.
"Ifthatletter'sforme,"hesaidquietly,"giveithere,please."
"Speciald'liv'ry—justcome,"announcedGeorge,holdingtheletterhigh,out
ofeasyreach,whilehereadinexultantaccentsthetraitorousaddress:"'Perceval
Sybarite, Esquire, Care of Messrs. Whigham and Wimper'! O you Perceval—
Esquire!"
"Givememyletter,"P.Sybariteinsistedwithoutraisinghisvoice.
"GawdknowsI don't want it," protested George. "I got no truck with your
swell friends what know your real name and write to you on per-fumed paper
withmonogramsandeverything."
Heheldtheenvelopeclosetohisnoseandsniffedinecstasyuntilitwastorn
rudelyfromhisgrasp.
"Here!"hecriedresentfully."Where'syourmanners?...Perceval!"
Dumb with impotent rage, P. Sybarite climbed back on his stool, while
Georgesatdownathisdesk,lightedaSweetCaporal(itwasafterthreeo'clock
and both the partners were gone for the day) and with a leer watched the
bookkeepercarefullyslittheenvelopeandwithdrawitsenclosures.
Ignoring him, P. Sybarite ran his eye through the few lines of notably
carelessfemininehandwriting:
MYDEARPERCEVAL,—
Mother & I had planned to take some friends to the theatre to-night and
boughtaboxfortheKnickerbockerseveralweeksago,butnowwehavedecided
togotoMrs.Hadley-Owen'spost-Lentenmasqueradeballinstead,andasnone
ofourfriendscanusethetickets,Ithoughtpossiblyyoumightlikethem.They
sayOtisSkinneriswonderful.Ofcourseyoumaynotcaretositinastagebox
without a dress suit, but perhaps you won't mind. If you do, maybe you know
somebodyelsewhocouldgoproperlydressed.


Youraff'tecousin,
MAEALYS.
ThecolourdeepenedinP.Sybarite'scheeks,andinstantaneouspin-pricksof
fireenlivenedhislong-sufferingeyes.Butagainhesaidnothing.Andsincehis
eyesweredowncast,Georgewasunawareoftheirfitfulincandescence.
Puffingvigorouslyathiscigarette,herockedbackandforthonthehindlegs
of his chair and crowed in jubilation: "Perceval! O you great, big, beautiful
Perc'!"
P. Sybarite made a motion as if to tear the note across, hesitated, and
reconsidered. Through a long minute he sat thoughtfully examining the tickets
presentedhimbyhisaff'tecousin.
InhisearsrangthehideoustumultofGeorge'sjoy:
"Per-ce-val!"
Drawing to him one of the Whigham & Wimper letterheads, P. Sybarite
dippedapen,consideredbriefly,andwroterapidlyandfreelyinaminutehand:
MYDEARMAEALYS:—
Every man has his price. You know mine. Pocketing false pride, I accept
yourbountywithallthegratitudeandhumilitybecominginapoorrelation.And
ifarrestedforappearingintheboxwithouteveningclothes,Ipromisesolemnly
to brazen it out, pretend that I bought the tickets myself—or stole them—and
keepthenewspapersignorantofourkinship.Fearnot—trustme—andenjoythe
masqueasmuchasImeantoenjoy"Kismet."
Andifyouwoulddomethegreatestoffavours—shouldyoueveragainfind
an excuse to write me on any matter, please address me by the initial of my
ridiculous first name only; it is of course impossible for me to live down the
deepdamnationofhavingbeenbornaSybarite;buttheindulgenceofmyfriends
cansavemethefurtherdegradationofbeingknownasPerceval.
Withthanksrenewedandprofound,Iremain,allthingsconsidered,


Remotelyyours,
P.SYBARITE.
Thishesealedandaddressedinastampedenvelope:thenthrusthispeninto
a raw but none the less antique potato; covered the red and black inkwells;
closed the ledger; locked the petty-cash box and put it away; painstakingly
arrangedtheblotters,paste-pot,andalltheclericalparaphernaliaofhisdesk;and
slewedroundonhisstooltoblinkpensivelyatMr.Bross.
That gentleman, having some time since despaired of any response to his
persistent baiting, was now preoccupied with a hand-mirror and endeavours to
erase the smudge of marking-ink from his face by means of a handkerchief
which he now and again moistened in an engagingly natural and unaffected
manner.
"It'snouse,George,"observedP.Sybaritepresently."Ifyou'reinearnestin
thesepublic-spiritedendeavoursto—howwouldyouputit?—toremovethesoil
fromyourmap,takeatipfromanoldhandandgotosoapandwater.Iknowit's
painful,but,believeme,it'stheonlyway."
Georgelookedupinsomesurprise.
"Why, there you are, little Bright Eyes!" he exclaimed with spirit. "I was
beginnin' to be afraid this sittin' would pass off without a visit from Uncle
George's pet control. Had little Perceval any message from the Other Side
th'safternoon?"
"Oneortwo,"assentedP.Sybaritegravely."Tobeginwith,I'mgoingtoshut
upshopinjustfiveminutes;andifyoudon'twanttoshowyourselfonthestreet
lookinglikeadifferenceofopinionbetweenabull-calfandafountainpen—"
"Gotcha," interrupted George, rising and putting away handkerchief and
mirror."I'lldrownmyself,ifyousayso.Anythin'sbetter'nlettingyoutalkmeto
death."
"Onethingmore."
Splashing vigorously at the stationary wash-stand, George looked gloomily
overhisshoulder,andinsepulchralaccentsutteredtheoneword:


"Shoot!"
"Howwouldyouliketogotothetheatreto-night?"
Georgesoapednoisilyhishugeredhands.
"I'dlikeitsohard,"hereplied,"thatI'malreadydatedupforanevenin'of
intellect'al enjoyment. Me and Sammy Holt 'a goin' round to Miner's Eight'
Avenooandbustuptheshow.Youcantrailifyouwanta,butdon'tblamemeif
somebig,coarse,two-fistedguyhearsmecallyouPercevalandpicksonyou."
He bent forward over the bowl, and the cubicle echoed with sounds of
splashing broken by gasps, splutters, and gurgles, until he straightened up,
groped blindly for two yards or so of dark grey roller-towel ornamenting the
adjacentwall,buriedhisfaceinitshospitableobscurity,andpresentlyemerged
to daylight with a countenance bright and shining above his chin, below his
eyebrows,andinfrontofhisears.
"How'sthat?"hedemandedexplosively."Comeoffallright—didn'tit?"
P. Sybarite inclined his head to one side and regarded the outcome of a
reformadministration.
"Youlookalmostnakedaroundthenose,"heremarkedatlength."Butyou'll
do. Don't worry.... When I asked if you'd like to go to the theatre to-night, I
meantit—andImeantaregularshow,ataBroadwayhouse."
"Quityourkiddin',"counteredMr.Brossindulgently."Comealong:Igotan
engagementtowalkhomeandsaveanickel,andso'veyou."
"Waitaminute,"insistedP.Sybarite,withoutmoving."I'minearnestabout
this.Iofferyouaseatinastage-boxattheKnickerbockerTheatreto-night,to
seeOtisSkinnerin'Kismet.'"
George'seyesopenedsimultaneouslywithhismouth.
"Me?"hegasped."Alone?"
P.Sybariteshookhishead."Oneofapartyoffour."


"Whoelse?"Georgedemandedwithpardonablecaution.
"MissPrim,MissLeasing,myself."
Removing his apron of ticking, the shipping clerk opened a drawer in his
desk,tookputapairofcuffs,andbeguntoadjustthemtothewristbandsofhis
shirt.
"Since when did you begin to snuff coke?" he enquired with mild
compassion.
"I'm not joking." P. Sybarite displayed the tickets. "A friend sent me these.
I'll make up the party for to-night as I said, and let you come along—on one
condition."
"Gotoit."
"YoumustpromisemetoquitcallingmePerceval,hereoranyplaceelse,todayandforever!"
George chuckled; paused; frowned; regarded P. Sybarite with narrow
suspicion.
"Andnevertellanybody,either,"addedtheother,indeadlyearnest.
Georgehesitated.
"Well,it'syourname,ain'tit?"hegrumbled.
"That'snotmyfault.I'llbedamnedifI'llbecalledPerceval."
"AndwhatifIkeepon?"
"ThenI'llmakeupmytheatrepartywithoutyou—andbreakyourneckinto
thebargain,"saidP.Sybariteintensely.
"You?" George laughed derisively. "You break my neck? Can the comedy,
beau.Why,Icouldeatyoualive,Perceval."
P.Sybaritegotdownfromhisstool.Hisfacewasalmostcolourless,butfor
twobrightredspots,thesizeofquarters,beneatheithercheek-bone.Hewashalf


a head shorter than the shipping clerk, and apparently about half as wide; but
therewassincerityinhismannerandanominoussnapintheunflinchingstareof
hisblueeyes.
"Pleaseyourself,"hesaidquietly."Only—don'tsayIdidn'twarnyou!"
"Ah-h!"sneeredGeorge,truculentinhisamazement."What'seatin'you?"
"We'regoingtosettlethisquestionbeforeyouleavethiswarehouse.Iwon't
be called Perceval by you or any other pink-eared cross between Balaam's ass
andalaughinghyena."
Mr. Bross gaped with resentment, which gradually overcame his better
judgment.
"Youwon't,eh?"hesaidstridently."I'dliketoknowwhatyou'regoingtodo
tostopme,Perce—"
P.SybaritesteppedquicklytowardhimandGeorge,withagrowl,threwout
hishandsinamannerbaseduponasomewhathazyconceptionoftheformulæ
ofself-defence.Tohissurprise,theopenhandofthesmallermanslippedswiftly
pastwhathecalledhis"guard"andplacedasmart,stingingslapuponlipsopen
toutterthesyllable"val."
Bearing with indignation, he swung his right fist heavily for the head of P.
Sybarite.Somehow,strangely,itmisseditsgoaland...
George Bross sat upon the dusty, grimy floor, batted his eyes, ruefully
rubbedthebackofhishead,andmarvelledatthereverberationsinsideit.
ThenhebecameconsciousofP.Sybaritesomethreefeetdistant,regarding
himwithtight-lippedinterest.
"GoodGod!"Georgeejaculatedwithfeeling."Didyoudothattome?"
"Idid,"returnedP.Sybaritecurtly."Wantmetoproveit?"
"Plenty,thanks,"returnedtheshippingclerkmorosely,ashepickedhimself
upanddustedoffhisclothing."Gee!Yougotawalloplikethekickofamule,
Per—"


"Cutthat!"
"P.S., I mean," George amended hastily. "Why didn't you ever tell me you
wasJeffries'ssparrin'partner?"
"I'mnotandneverwas,andfurthermoreIdidn'thityou,"repliedP.Sybarite.
"All I did was to let you fall over my foot and bump your head on the floor.
You're a clumsy brute, you know, George, and if you tried it another time you
mightdentthatdomeofyours.Betteracceptmyofferandbefriends."
"NevercallyouPer—"
"Don'tsayit!"
"Oh,allright—allright,"Georgeagreedplaintively."AndifIpromise,I'min
onthattheatreparty?"
"That'smyoffer."
"It's hard," George sighed regretfully—"damn' hard. But whatever you say
goes.I'llkeepyoursecret."
"Good!" P. Sybarite extended one of his small, delicately modelled hands.
"Shake,"saidhe,smilingwistfully.




II
INSPIRATION
WhentheyhadlockedintheGeniusofthePlacetobattenuponitselfuntil
seven o'clock Monday morning, P. Sybarite and Mr. Bross, with at least every
outward semblance of complete amity, threaded the roaring congestion in
narrow-chested Frankfort Street, boldly breasted the flood tide of homing
Brooklynites, won their way through City Hall Park, and were presently
swingingshouldertoshoulderupthesunnysideoflowerBroadway.
To be precise, the swinging stride was practised only by Mr. Bross; P.
Sybarite,instinctivelyawarethatanysuchmodeoflocomotionwouldillbecome
one of his inches, contented himself with keeping up—his gait an apparently
effortless, tireless, and comfortable amble, congruent with bowed shoulders,
bended head, introspective eyes, and his aspect in general of patient
preoccupation.
From time to time George, who was maintaining an unnatural and painful
silence,hismentalprocessesstagnantwithwonderanddullresentment,eyedhis
companion askance, with furtive suspicion. Their association was now one of
somesevenyears'standing;anditseemedagrievousthingthat,afterposingso
longasthepatientbuttofhisrudehumour,P.S.shouldhavesosuddenlyturned
andprovedhimselfthebetterman—andthatnotmentallyalone.
"Lis'n—"Georgeinterjectedofasudden.
P.Sybaritestarted."Eh?"heenquiredblankly.
"Iwannaknowwhereyoupickedupallthatclassyfootwork."
"Oh,"returnedP.S.,depreciatory,"Iusedtosparabitwiththefellowswhen
Iwasa—ah—whenIwasyounger."
"Whenyouwasatwhat?"insistedBross,decliningtobefobbedoffwithany
suchflimsyevasion.
"WhenIwasatlibertyto."


"Huh!Youmean,whenyouwasatcollege."
"Pleaseyourself,"saidP.Sybaritewearily.
"Well,youwasatcollegeoncet,wasn'tyou?"
"Iwas,"P.S.admittedwithreluctance;"butInevergraduated.WhenIwas
twenty-oneIhadtoquittogotoworkforWhigham&Wimper."
"G'wan," commented the other. "They ain't been in business twenty-five
years."
"I'monlythirty-one."
"MorenewsforSweeny.You'llneverseefortyagain."
"Thatstatement,"saidP.Sybaritewithsomeasperity,"isanunciviluntruth
dictatedbyaspiritofgratuitouscontentiousness—"
"GoodGod!"criedBrossinalarm."I'mwrongandyou'rerightandIwon't
doitagain—andforgivemeforlivin'!"
"Withpleasure,"agreedP.Sybaritepleasantly....
"It's a funny world," George resumed in philosophic humour, after a time.
"Youwouldn't thinkIcouldworkin thesamedump withyousevenyearsand
onlybestartin'tofindoutthingsaboutyou—liketo-day.Ialwaysthoughtyour
namewasPete—honest."
"Continuetothinkso,"P.Sybariteadvisedbriefly.
"Yourpeoplehadmoney,didn'tthey,oncet?"
"I've been told so, but if true, it only goes to prove there's nothing in the
theoryofheredity...."
"Igotcha,"announcedBross,uponprolongedandpainfulanalysis.
"How?"askedP.Sybarite,whohadfallentothinkingofothermatters.
"Imean,Ijustdroppedtoyourhigh-signtomindmyownbusiness.Allright,


P.S.FarbeitfrommetowantapryintoyourPast.Besides,I'mscaredto—never
cantellwhatI'llturnup—like,f'rinstance,Per—"
"Steady!"
"Likethattheyustacallyouwhenyouwasinnocent,Imean."
To this P. Sybarite made no response; and George subsided into morose
reflections.Itirkedhimsoretorememberhehadbeenworstedbythemeeklittle
slipofabookkeepertrottingsoquietlyathiselbow.
He was a man of his word, was George Bross; not for anything would he
have gone back on his promise to keep secret that afternoon's titillating
discovery; likewise he was a covetous soul, loath to forfeit the promised treat;
withalhewashuman(afterhiskind)andsincereprisalswerenotbarredbytheir
understanding,hebeganthenandtheretoponderthesame.Onewayoranother,
thatday'shumiliationmustbebalanced;elsehemightneveragainholduphis
headinthecompanyofgentlemenofspirit.
But how to compass this desire, frankly puzzled him. It were cowardly to
contemplate knockin' the block off'n P. Sybarite; the disparity of their statures
forebade;moreover,GeorgeentertainedavexatioussuspicionthatP. Sybarite's
explanation on his recent downfall had not been altogether disingenuous; he
didn't quite believe it had been due solely to his own clumsiness and an
adventitiousfoot.
"Thatsortofthingdon'tneverhappen,"Georgeassuredhimselfprivately."I
wasoutclassed,allright,allright.WhatIwannaknowis:where'dhecoupleup
withthering-wisdom?"
Repeated if covert glances at his companion supplied no clue; P. Sybarite's
face remained as uncommunicative as well-to-do relations by marriage; his
shadowy, pale and wistful smile denoted, if anything, only an almost childlike
pleasureinanticipationoftheevening'spromisedamusement.
Suddenly it was borne in upon the shipping clerk that in the probable
arrangement of the proposed party he would be expected to dance attendance
upon Miss Violet Prim, leaving P. Sybarite free to devote himself to Miss
Lessing.WhereuponGeorgescowleddarkly.


"P.S.'s got his nerve with him," he protested privately, "to cop out the one
pippininthehouseallforhislonely.It'sawonderhewouldn'tslipherachanct
toenjoyherselfwithsummon'herownage....
"Not," he admitted ruefully, "that I'd find it healthy to pull any rough stuff
with Vi lookin' on. I don't even like to think of myself lampin' any other skirt
whileViolet'sgotherwickstrimmedandburnin'bright."
Thenhemadeanendtoenvyforthetimebeing,andturnedhisattentionto
morepressingconcerns;butthoughheponderedwithallhismightandmain,it
seemedimpossibletoexcogitateanywaytosquarehisaccountwithP.Sybarite.
Andwhen,atThirty-eighthStreet,thelattermadeanexcusetopartwithGeorge,
instead of going home in his company, the shipping clerk was too thoroughly
disgusted to question the subterfuge. He was, indeed, a bit relieved; the
temporarydissociationpromisedjustsomuchmoretimeforsolitaryconspiracy.
Turning west, he was presently prompted by that arch-comedian Destiny
(disguisedasThirst)todropintoClancey'sforashellofbeer.
Now in Clancey's George found a crumpled copy of the Evening Journal
almostafloatonthehigh-tideofthedregs-drenchedbar.Rescuingthesheet,he
smootheditout,examined(grinning)itsdailymeedofcomics,readeveryword
on the "Sports Page," ploughed through the weekly vaudeville charts, scanned
theadvertisements,andatlengthreviewedthenewscolumnswithalistlesseye.
It may have been the stimulation of his drink, but it was probably nothing
more nor less than jealousy that sparked his sluggish imagination as he
contemplated a two-column reproduction in coarse half-tone of a photograph
entitled "Marian Blessington." Slowly the light dawned upon mental darkness;
slowlyhisgrinbroadenedandbecamefixed—evenashisgreatschemeforthe
confusionandconfoundingofP.Sybaritetookshapeandmatured.
He left Clancey's presently, stepping high, with a mind elate; foretasting
victory; convinced that he harboured within him the makings of a devil of a
fellow, all the essential qualifications of (not to put too fine a point upon it) a
regularwag....




III
THEGLOVECOUNTER
With a feeling of some guilt, becoming in one who stoops to unworthy
artifice,P.SybaritewalkedslowlyonupBroadwayalittleway,thendoubledon
histrail,goingsoftlyuntilaswiftandstealthysurveywestwardfromthecorner
ofThirty-eighthStreetassuredhimthatGeorgewasnotskulkingthereaboutsto
spyuponhim.Thenmendinghispace,heheldbrisklyontowardtheshopping
district.
From afar the clock recently restored to its coign high above unlovely
Greeley Square warned him that his hour was fleeting: in twenty minutes it
would be six o'clock; at six, sharp, Blessington's would close its doors.
Distressed, he scurried on, crossed Thirty-fourth Street, aimed himself
courageously for the wide entrance of the department store, battled manfully
throughtheretreatingarmyoffeminineshoppers—andgainedtheglovecounter
withagoodfifteenminutestospare.
Andtherehehalted,confusedandblushinginrecognitionofcircumstances
asunpropitiousasunforeseen.
Theseconsistedinthreegirlsbehindthecounterandonecustomerbeforeit;
thelattercommandingtheattentionandservicesofafairyoungwomanwitha
pleasantmanner;whileofthetwodisengagedsaleswomen,onebold,disdainful
brunettewaspreoccupiedwithherbackhairandpreparedmutinouslytoignore
anything remotely resembling a belated customer whose demands might busy
herbeyondtheclosinghour,andtheotherhadamerryeyeandareceptivesmile
for the hesitant little man with the funny clothes and the quaint pink face of
embarrassment.Inmostabjectconsternation,P.Sybariteturnedandfled.
Weathering the end of the glove counter and shaping a course through the
aisle that paralleled it, he found himself in a channel of horrors, threatened on
one side by a display of most intimate lingerie, belaced and beribboned
distractingly, on the other by a long rank of slender and gracious (if stolid)
feminine limbs, one and all neatly amputated above their bended knees and
bedight in silken hosiery to shame the rainbow; while to right and left, behind


these impudent revelations, lurked sirens with shameless eyes and mouths of
scarletmockery.
A cold sweat damped the forehead of P. Sybarite. Inconsistently, his face
flamed.Hestaredfixedlydeadaheadandtorethroughthataislelikeadelicateminded jack-rabbit. He thought giggles were audible in his wake; and ere he
couldescapefoundhiswaybarredbyAuthorityandDignityinonewonderfully
frock-coatedperson.
"You were looking for something?" demanded this menace incarnate, in an
awfulvoiceaccompaniedbyaterriblegesture.
P.Sybaritebroughtupstanding,hisnosesixinchesfromandhiseyesheldin
fascinationtotheimitationpearlscarf-pininthebeautifulcravataffectedbyhis
interlocutor.
"Gloves—!"hegaspedguiltily.
"Thisway,ifyouplease."
Withthis,DignityandAuthorityclampedaninexorablehandabouthisupper
arm, swung him round, and piloted him gently but ruthlessly back the way he
hadcome,backtotheglovecounter,wherehewasplanteddirectlyinfrontof
thedashing,darksalesladywithabsorbingbackhairandthemannerofremote
hauteur.
"MissBrady,thisgentlemanwantstoseesomegloves."
The eyes of Miss Brady flashed ominously; as plain as print, they said:
"Does,doeshe?Well,leavehimtome!"
Aloud,shemurmuredfromanincalculabledistance:"Oh,ve-rywell!"
A moment later, looking over the customer's head, she added icily: "What
kind?"
The floor-walker retired, leaving P. Sybarite a free agent but none the less
haunted by a feeling that a suspicious eye was being kept on the small of his
back.Hestammeredsomethingquiteinarticulate.


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