If a feller wants to make a success in business
he should be a little up to date, ain't it?"
he should be a little up to date, ain't it?"
POTASH AND PERLMUTTER
POTASH AND PERLMUTTER
J. J. GOULD AND MARTIN JUSTICE
J. J. GOULD AND MARTIN JUSTICE
Garden City New York
DOUBLEDAY, PAGE & COMPANY
DOUBLEDAY, PAGE & COMPANY
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED, INCLUDING THAT OF TRANSLATION
INTO FOREIGN LANGUAGES, INCLUDING THE SCANDINAVIAN
COPYRIGHT, 1911, BY DOUBLEDAY, PAGE & COMPANY
COPYRIGHT, 1909, BY FRANK A. MUNSEY COMPANY
COPYRIGHT, 1910, 1911, BY THE CURTIS PUBLISHING COMPANY
INTO FOREIGN LANGUAGES, INCLUDING THE SCANDINAVIAN
COPYRIGHT, 1911, BY DOUBLEDAY, PAGE & COMPANY
COPYRIGHT, 1909, BY FRANK A. MUNSEY COMPANY
COPYRIGHT, 1910, 1911, BY THE CURTIS PUBLISHING COMPANY
VII. The Raincoat King
XIII. Brothers All
XV. R. S. V. P.
XVII. Firing Miss Cohen
XIX. Aux Italiens
XXI. Man Proposes
· "Mr. Potash," the visitor began, "every merchant is at times confronted with a situation which demands a few appropriate remarks"
"I come down on the subway with Max Linkheimer this morning, Mawruss," Abe Potash said to his partner, Morris Perlmutter, as they sat in the showroom one hot July morning. "That feller is a regular philantropist."
"I bet yer," Morris replied. "He would talk a tin ear on to you if you only give him a chance. Leon Sammet too, Abe, I assure you. I seen Leon in the Harlem Winter Garden last night, and the goods he sold while he was talking to me and Barney Gans, Abe, in two seasons we don't do such a business. Yes, Abe; Leon Sammet is just such another one of them fellers like Max Linkheimer."
"What d'ye mean—'such another one of them fellers like Max Linkheimer'?" Abe repeated. "Between Leon Sammet and Max Linkheimer is the difference like day from night. Max Linkheimer is one fine man, Mawruss."
Morris shrugged. "I didn't say he wasn't," he rejoined. "All I says was that Leon Sammet is another one of them philantro fellers too, Abe. Talks you deef, dumb and blind."
Abe rose to his feet and stared indignantly at his partner.
"I don't know what comes over you lately, Mawruss," he cried. "Seemingly you don't understand the English language at all. A philantropist ain't a schmooser, Mawruss."
"I know he ain't, Abe; but just the same Max Linkheimer is a feller which he got a whole lot too much to say for himself. Furthermore, Abe, my Minnie says Mrs. Linkheimer tells her Max ain't home a single night neither, and when a man neglects his family like that, Abe, I ain't got no use for him at all."
"That's because he belongs to eight lodges," Abe replied. "There ain't a single Sunday neither which he ain't busy with funerals too, Mawruss."
"Is that so?" Morris retorted. "Well, if I would be in the button business, Abe, I would be a philantropist too. A feller's got to belong to eight lodges if he's in the button business, Abe, because otherwise he couldn't sell no goods at all."
"Linkheimer ain't looking to sell goods to lodge brothers, Mawruss. He's too old established a business for that. He's got a heart too, Mawruss. Why the money that feller spends on charity, Mawruss, you wouldn't believe at all. He told me so himself. Always he tries to do good. Only this morning, Mawruss, he was telling me about a young feller by the name Schenkmann which he is trying to find a position for as stock clerk. Nobody would take the young feller on, Mawruss, because he got into trouble with a house in Dallas, Texas, which they claim the young feller stole from them a hundred dollars, Mawruss. But Linkheimer says how if you would give a dawg a bad name, Mawruss, you might just as well give him to the dawgcatcher. So Linkheimer is willing to take a chance on this here feller Schenkmann, and he gives him a job in his own place."
"Dawgs I don't know nothing about at all, Abe," Morris commented. "But I would be willing to give the young feller a show too, Abe, if I would only got plain bone and metal buttons in stock. But when you carry a couple hundred pieces silk goods, Abe, like we do, then that's something else again."
"Well, Mawruss, Gott sei dank we don't got to get a new shipping clerk. Jake has been with us five years now, Mawruss, and so far what I could see he ain't got ambition enough to ask for a raise even, let alone look for a better job."
"You shouldn't congradulate yourself too quick, Abe," Morris replied. "Ambition he's got it plenty, but he ain't got the nerve. We really ought to give the feller a raise, Abe. I mean it. Every time I go near him at all he gives me a look, and the first thing you know, Abe, he would be leaving us."
"Looks we could stand it, Mawruss; but if we would start in giving him a raise there would be no end to it at all. Lass's bleiben. If the feller wants a raise, Mawruss, he should ask for it."
Barely two weeks after the conversation above set forth, however, Jake entered the firm's private office and tendered his resignation.
"Mr. Perlmutter," he said, "I'm going to leave."
"Going to leave?" Morris cried. "What d'ye mean—going to leave?"
"Going to leave?" Abe repeated crescendo. "An idea! You should positively do nothing of the kind."
"It wouldn't be no more than you deserve, Jake, if we would fire you right out of the store," Morris added. "You work for us here five years and then you come to us and say you are going to leave. Did you ever hear of such a thing? If you want it a couple dollars more a week, we would give it to you and fartig. But if you get fresh and come to us and tell us you are going to leave, y'understand, then that's something else again."
"Moost I work for you if I don't want to?" Jake asked.
"'S enough, Jake," Abe said. "We heard enough from you already."
"All right, Mr. Potash," he replied. "But just the same I am telling you, Mr. Potash, you should look for a new shipping clerk, as I bought it a candy, cigar and stationery store on Lenox Avenue, and I am going to quit Saturday sure."
"Well, Abe, what did I told you?" Morris said bitterly, after Jake had left the office. "For the sake of a couple of dollars a week, Abe, we are losing a good shipping clerk."
Abe covered his embarrassment with a mirthless laugh.
"Good shipping clerks you could get any day in the week, Mawruss," he said. "We ain't going to go out of business exactly, y'understand, just because Jake is leaving us. I bet yer if we would advertise in to-morrow morning's paper we would get a dozen good shipping clerks."
"Go ahead, advertise," Morris grunted. "This is your idee Jake leaves us, Abe, and now you should find somebody to take his place. I'm sick and tired making changes in the store."
"Always kicking, Mawruss, always kicking!" Abe retorted. "By Saturday I bet yer we would get a hundred good shipping clerks already."
But Saturday came and went, and although in the meantime old and young shipping clerks of every degree of uncleanliness passed in review before Abe and Morris, none of them proved acceptable.
"All right, Abe," Morris said on the Monday morning after Jake had gone, "you done enough about this here shipping clerk business. Give me a show. I ain't got such liberal idees about shipping clerks as you got, Abe, but all the same, Abe, I think I could go at this business with a little system, y'understand."
"You shouldn't trouble yourself, Mawruss," Abe replied, with an airy wave of his hand. "I hired one already."
"You hired one already, Abe!" Morris repeated. "Well, ain't I got something to say about it too?"
"Again kicking, Mawruss?" Abe exclaimed. "You yourself told me I should find a shipping clerk, and so I done so."
"Well," Morris cried, "ain't I even entitled to know the feller's name at all?"
"Sure you are entitled to know his name," Abe answered. "He's a young feller by the name of Schenkmann."
"Schenkmann," Morris said slowly. "Schenkmann? Where did I—you mean that feller by the name Schenkmann which he works by Max Linkheimer?"
"What's the matter with you, Abe?" Morris cried. "Are you crazy or what?"
"What do you mean am I crazy?" Abe said. "We carry burglary insurance, ain't it? And besides he ain't, Mawruss, Max Linkheimer says, missed so much as a button since the feller worked for him."
"A button," Morris shouted; "let me tell you something, Abe. Max Linkheimer could miss a thousand buttons, and what is it? But with us, Abe, one piece of silk goods is more as a hundred dollars."
"'S all right, Mawruss," Abe interrupted. "Max Linkheimer says we shouldn't be afraid. He says he trusts the young feller in the office with hundreds of dollars laying in the safe, and he ain't touched a cent so far. Furthermore, the young feller's got a wife and baby, Mawruss."
"Well I got a wife and baby too, Abe."
"Sure, I know, Mawruss, and so you ought to got a little sympathy for the feller."
Morris laughed raucously.
"Sure, I know, Abe," he replied. "A good way to lose money in business, Abe, is to got sympathy for somebody. You sell a feller goods, Abe, because he's a new beginner and you got sympathy for him, Abe, and the feller busts up on you. You accommodate a concern with five hundred dollars—a check against their check dated two weeks ahead, Abe—because their collections is slow and you got sympathy for them, and when the two weeks goes by, Abe, the check is N. G. You give a feller out in Kansas City two months an extension because he done a bad spring business, and you got sympathy for him, and the first thing you know, Abe, a jobber out in Omaha gets a judgment against him and closes him up. And that's the way it goes. If we would hire this young feller because we got sympathy for him, Abe, the least that happens us is that he gets away with a couple hundred dollars' worth of piece goods."
"Max Linkheimer says positively nothing of the kind," Abe insisted. "Max says the feller has turned around a new leaf, and he would trust him like a brother."
"Like a brother-in-law, you mean, Abe," Morris jeered. "That feller Linkheimer never trusted nobody for nothing, Abe. Always by the first of the month comes a statement, and if he don't get a check by the fifth, Abe, he sends another with 'past due' stamped on to it."
"So much the better, Mawruss. If Max Linkheimer don't trust nobody, Mawruss, and he lets this young feller work in his store, Mawruss, then the feller must be O. K. Ain't it?"
Morris rose wearily to his feet.
"All right, Abe," he said. "If Linkheimer is so anxious to get rid of this feller, let him give us a recommendation in writing, y'understand, and I am satisfied we should give this here young Schenkmann a trial. He could only get into us oncet, Abe, so go right over there and see Linkheimer, and if in writing he would give us a guaranty the feller is honest, go ahead and hire him."
"Right away I couldn't do it, Mawruss," Abe said. "When I left Linkheimer in the subway this morning he said he was going over to Newark and he wouldn't be back till to-night. I'll stop in there the first thing to-morrow morning."
With this ultimatum, Abe proceeded to the back of the loft and personally attended to the shipment of ten garments to a customer in Cincinnati. Under his supervision a stock boy placed the garments in a wooden packing box, and after the first top board was in position Abe took a wire nail and held it 'twixt his thumb and finger point down on the edge of the case. Then he poised the hammer in his right hand and carefully closing one eye he gauged the distance between the upraised hammer and the head of the nail. At length the blow descended, and forthwith Abe commenced to dance around the floor in the newborn agony of a smashed thumb.
It was while he was putting the finishing touches on a bandage that made up in bulk what it lacked in symmetry that Morris entered.
"What's the matter, Abe?" he cried. "Did you hurted yourself?"
Abe transfixed his partner with a malevolent glare.
"No, Mawruss," he said, as he started for the front of the store, "I ain't hurted myself at all. I'm just tying this here handkerchief on my thumb to remind myself what a fool I got it for a partner."
Morris waited till Abe had nearly reached the door.
"I don't got to tie something on my thumb to remind myself of that, Abe," he said.
Ever since the birth of his son it had seemed to Morris that the Lenox Avenue express service had grown increasingly slow. Nor did the evening papers contain half the interesting news of his early married life, and he could barely wait until the train had stopped at One Hundred and Sixteenth Street before he was elbowing his way to the platform.
On the Monday night of his partner's mishap he made his accustomed dash from the subway station to his home on One Hundred and Eighteenth Street, confident that as soon as his latchkey rattled in the door Mrs. Perlmutter and the baby would be in the hall to greet him; but on this occasion he was disappointed. To be sure the appetizing odour of gedampftes kalbfleisch wafted itself down the elevator shaft as he entered the gilt and plaster-porphyry entrance from the street, but when he crossed the threshold of his own apartment the robust wail of his son and heir mingled with the tones of Lina, the Slavic maid. Of Mrs. Perlmutter, however, there was no sign.
"Where's Minnie?" he demanded.
"Mrs. Perlmutter, she go out," Lina announced, "and she ain't coming home yet."
Not since the return from their honeymoon had Minnie failed to be at home to greet her husband on his arrival from business, and Morris was about to telephone a general alarm to police headquarters when the doorbell rang sharply and Mrs. Perlmutter entered. Her hat, whose size and weight ought to have lent it stability, was tilted at a dangerous angle, and beneath its broad brim her eyes glistened with unmistakable tears.
"Minnie leben," Morris cried, as he clasped her in his arms, "what is it?"
Sympathy only opened anew the floodgates of Mrs. Perlmutter's emotions, and before she was sufficiently calm to disclose the cause of her distress, the gedampftes kalbfleisch gave evidence of its impending destruction by a strong odour of scorching. Hastily Mrs. Perlmutter dried her eyes and ran to the kitchen, so that it was not until the rescued dinner smoked on the dining-room table that Morris learned the reason for his wife's tears.
"Such a room, Morris," Mrs. Perlmutter declared; "like a pigsty, and not a crust of bread in the house. I met the poor woman in the meat market and she tried to beg a piece of liver from that loafer Hirschkein. Not another cent of my money will he ever get. I bought a big piece of steak for her and then I went home with her. Her poor baby, Morris, looked like a little skeleton."
Morris shook his head from side to side and made inarticulate expressions of commiseration through his nose, his mouth being temporarily occupied by about half a pound of luscious veal.
"Her husband has a job for eight dollars a week," she continued, "and they have to live on that."
Morris swallowed the veal with an effort.
"In Russland," he began, "six people—"
"I know," Mrs. Perlmutter interrupted, "but this is America, and you've got to go around with me right after dinner and see the poor people."
Morris shrugged his shoulders.
"If I must, I must," he said, helping himself to more of the veal stew, "but I could tell you right now, Minnie, I ain't got twenty-five cents in my clothes, so you got to lend me a couple of dollars till Saturday."
"I'll cash a check for you," Mrs. Perlmutter said firmly, and as soon as dinner was concluded Morris drew a check for ten dollars and Mrs. Perlmutter gave him that amount out of her housekeeping money.
It was nearly nine o'clock when Morris and Minnie groped along the dark hallway of a tenement house in Park Avenue. On the iron viaduct that bestrides that deceptively named thoroughfare heavy trains thundered at intervals, and it was only after Morris had knocked repeatedly at the door of a top-floor apartment that its inmates heard the summons above the roar of the traffic without.
"Well, Mrs. Schenkmann," Minnie cried cheerfully, "how's the baby to-night?"
"Schenkmann?" Morris murmured; "Schenkmann? Is that the name of them people?"
"Why, yes," Minnie replied. "Didn't I tell you that? Mrs. Schenkmann, this is my husband. And I suppose this is Mr. Schenkmann."
A tall, gaunt person rose from the soap box that did duty as a chair and ducked his head shyly.
"Schenkmann?" Morris repeated. "You ain't the Schenkmann which he works by Max Linkheimer?"
Nathan Schenkmann nodded and Mrs. Schenkmann groaned aloud.
"Ai zuris!" she cried, "for his sorrow he works by Max Linkheimer. Eight dollars a week he is supposed to get there, and Linkheimer makes us live here in his house. Twelve dollars a month we pay for the rooms, lady, and Linkheimer takes three dollars each week from Nathan's money. We couldn't even get dispossessed like some people does and save a month's rent oncet in a while maybe. The rooms ain't worth it, lady, believe me."
"Does Max Linkheimer own this house?" Morris asked.
"Sure, he's the landlord," Mrs. Schenkmann went on. "I am just telling you. For eight dollars a week a man should work! Ain't it a disgrace?"
"Well, why doesn't he get another job?" Morris inquired; and then, as Mr. and Mrs. Schenkmann exchanged embarrassed looks and hung their heads, Morris blushed.
"What a fine baby!" he cried hurriedly. He chucked the infant under its chin and made such noises with his tongue as are popularly supposed by parents to be of a nature entertaining to very young children. In point of fact the poor little Schenkmann child, with its blue-white complexion, looked more like a cold-storage chicken than a human baby, but to the maternal eye of Mrs. Schenkmann it represented the sum total of infantile beauty.
"God bless you, mister," she said. "I seen you got a good heart, and if you know Max Linkheimer, he must told you why my husband couldn't get another job. He tells everybody, lady, and makes 'em believe he gives my husband a job out of charity. So sure as I got a baby which I hope he would grow up to be a man, lady, my husband never took no money in Dallas. Them people gives him a hundred dollars he should deposit it in the bank, and he went and lost it. If he would stole it he would of gave it to me, lady, because my Nathan is a good man. He ain't no loafer that he should gamble it away."
There was a ring of truth in Mrs. Schenkmann's tones, and as Morris looked at the twenty-eight-years old Nathan, aged by ill nutrition and abuse, his suspicions all dissolved and gave place only to a great pity.
If he would stole it he would of gave it to me, lady
"Don't say no more, Mrs. Schenkmann," he cried; "I don't want to hear no more about it. To-morrow morning your man leaves that loafer Max Linkheimer and comes to work by us for eighteen dollars a week."
Easily the most salient feature of Mr. Max Linkheimer's attire was the I. O. M. A. jewel that dangled from the tangent point of his generous waist line. It had been presented to him by Harmony Lodge, 122, at the conclusion of his term of office as National Grand Corresponding Secretary, and it weighed about eight ounces avoirdupois. Not that the rest of Mr. Linkheimer's wearing apparel was not in keeping, for he affected to be somewhat old-fashioned in his attire, with just a dash of bonhomie. This implies that he wore a wrinkled frock coat and low-cut waistcoat. But he had discarded the black string tie that goes with it for a white ready-made bow as being more suitable to the rôle of philanthropist. The bonhomie he supplied by not buttoning the two top buttons of his waistcoat.
"Why, hallo, Abe, my boy!" he cried all in one breath, as Abe Potash entered his button warerooms on Tuesday morning; "what can I do for you?"
He seized Abe's right hand in a soft, warm grip, slightly moist, and continued to hold it for the better part of five minutes.
"I come to see you about Schenkmann," Abe replied. "We decide we would have him come to work by us as a shipping clerk."
"I'm glad to hear it," said Linkheimer, "As I told you the other day, I've just been asked by a lodge I belong to if I could help out a young feller just out of an orphan asylum. He's a big, strong, healthy boy, and he's willing to come to work for half what I'm paying Schenkmann. So naturally I've got to get rid of Schenkmann."
"I wonder you got time to bother yourself breaking in a new beginner," Abe commented.
Linkheimer waggled his head solemnly.
"I can't help it, Abe," he said. "I let my business suffer, but nevertheless I'm constantly giving the helping hand to these poor inexperienced fellows. I assure you it costs me thousands of dollars in a year, but that's my nature, Abe. I'm all heart. When would you want Schenkmann to come to work?"
"Right away, Mr. Linkheimer."
"Very good, I'll go and call him."
He rose to his feet and started for the door.
"Oh, by the way, Abe," he said, as he paused at the threshold, "you know Schenkmann is a married man with a wife and child, and I understand Mrs. Schenkmann is inclined to be extravagant. For that reason I let him live in a house I own on Park Avenue, and I take out the rent each week from his pay. It's really a charity to do so. The amount is—er—sixteen dollars a month. I suppose you have no objection to sending me four dollars a week out of his wages?"
"Well, I ain't exactly a collecting agency, y'understand," Abe said; "but I'll see what my partner says, and if he's agreeable, I am. Only one thing though, Mr. Linkheimer, my partner bothers the life out of me I should get from you a recommendation."
"I'll give you one with pleasure, Abe," Linkheimer replied; "but it isn't necessary."
He returned to the front of the office and went to the safe.
"Why just look here, Abe," he said. "I have here in the safe five hundred dollars and some small bills which I put in there last night after I come back from Newark. It was money I received the day before yesterday as chairman of the entertainment committee of a lodge I belong to. The safe was unlocked from five to seven last night and Schenkmann was in and out here all that time."
He opened the middle compartment and pulled out a roll of bills.
"You see, Abe," he said, counting out the money, "here it is: one hundred, two hundred, three hundred, four hundred and—"
Here Mr. Linkheimer paused and examined the last bill carefully, for instead of a hundred-dollar bill it was only a ten-dollar bill.
"Well, what d'ye think of that dirty thief?" he cried at last. "That Schenkmann has taken a hundred-dollar bill out of there."
"What?" Abe exclaimed.
"Just as sure as you are sitting there," Linkheimer went on excitedly. "That feller Schenkmann has pinched a hundred-dollar bill on me."
Here his academic English completely forsook him and he continued in the vernacular of the lower East Side.
"Always up to now I have kept the safe locked on that feller, and the very first time I get careless he goes to work and does me for a hundred dollars yet."
"But," Abe protested, "you might of made a mistake, ain't it? If the feller took it a hundred dollars, why don't he turn around and ganver the other four hundred? Ain't it? The ten dollars also he might of took it. What?"
"A ganef you couldn't tell what he would do at all," Linkheimer rejoined, and Abe rose to his feet.
"I'm sorry for you, Mr. Linkheimer," he said, seizing his hat, "but I guess I must be getting back to the store. So you shouldn't trouble yourself about this here feller Schenkmann. We decided we would get along without him."
But Abe's words fell on deaf ears, for as he turned to leave Mr. Linkheimer threw up the window sash and thrust his head out.
"Po-lee-eece, po-lee-eece!" he yelled.
When Abe arrived at his place of business after his visit to Max Linkheimer he found Morris whistling cheerfully over the morning mail.
"Well, Abe," Morris cried, "did you seen it Max Linkheimer?"
Abe hurriedly took off his hat and coat, and catching the bandaged thumb in the sleeve lining he swore long and loud.
"Yes, I seen Max Linkheimer," he growled, "and I'm sick and tired of the whole business. Go ahead and get a shipping clerk, Mawruss. I'm through."
"Why?" Morris asked. "Wouldn't Linkheimer give a recommendation, because if he wouldn't, Abe, I am satisfied we should take the feller without one. In fact I'm surprised you didn't bring him along."
"You are, hey?" Abe broke in. "Well, you shouldn't be surprised at nothing like that, Mawruss, because I didn't bring him along for the simple reason, Mawruss, I don't want no ganef working round my place. That's all."
"What do you mean—ganef?" Morris cried. "The feller ain't no more a thief as you are, Abe."
Abe's moustache bristled and his eyes bulged so indignantly that they seemed to rest on his cheeks.
"You should be careful what you say, Mawruss," he retorted. "Maybe he ain't no more a ganef as I am, Mawruss, but just the same, he is in jail and I ain't."
"In jail," Morris exclaimed. "What for in jail?"
"Because he stole from Linkheimer a hundred dollars yesterday, Mawruss, and while I was there yet, Linkheimer finds it out. So naturally he makes this here feller arrested."
"Yesterday, he stole a hundred dollars?" Morris interrupted.
"Yesterday afternoon," Abe repeated. "With my own eyes I seen it the other money which he didn't stole."
"Then," Morris said, "if he stole it yesterday afternoon, Abe, he didn't positively do nothing of the kind."
Forthwith he related to Abe his visit to Schenkmann's rooms and the condition of poverty that he found.
"I give you my word, Abe," he said, "the feller didn't got even a chair to sit on."
"What do you know, Mawruss, what he got and what he didn't got?" Abe rejoined impatiently. "The feller naturally ain't going to show you the hundred dollars which he stole it—especially, Mawruss, if he thinks he could work you for a couple dollars more."
"Say, lookyhere, Abe," Morris broke in; "don't say again that feller stole a hundred dollars, because I'm telling you once more, Abe, I know he didn't take nothing, certain sure."
"Geh wek, Mawruss," Abe cried disgustedly; "you talk like a fool!"
"Do I?" Morris shouted. "All right, Abe. Maybe I do and maybe I don't, but just the same so positive I am he didn't done it, I'm going right down to Henry D. Feldman, and I will fix that feller Linkheimer he should work a poor half-starved yokel for five dollars a week and a couple of top-floor tenement rooms which it ain't worth six dollars a month. Wait! I'll show that sucker."
He seized his hat and made for the elevator door, which he had almost reached when Abe grabbed him by the arm.
"Mawruss," he cried, "are you crazy? What for you should put yourself out about this here young feller? He ain't the last shipping clerk in existence. You could get plenty good shipping clerks without bothering yourself like this. Besides, Mawruss, if he did steal it or if he didn't steal it, what difference does it make to us? With the silk piece goods which we got it around our place, Mawruss, we couldn't afford to take no chances."
"I ain't taking no chances, Abe," Morris maintained stoutly. "I know this feller ain't took the money."
"Sure, that's all right," Abe agreed; "but you couldn't afford to be away all morning right in the busy season. Besides, Mawruss, since when did you become to be so charitable all of a suddent?"
"Me charitable?" Morris cried indignantly. "I ain't charitable, Abe. Gott soll hüten! I leave that to suckers like Max Linkheimer. But when I know a decent, respectable feller is being put into jail for something which he didn't do at all, Abe, then that's something else again."
At this juncture the elevator arrived, and as he plunged in he shouted that he would be back before noon. Abe returned to the rear of the loft where a number of rush orders had been arranged for shipment. Under his instruction and supervision the stock boy nailed down the top boards of the packing cases, but in nearly every instance, after the case was strapped and stencilled, they discovered they had left one garment out, and the whole process had to be repeated. Thus it was nearly one o'clock before Abe's task was concluded, and although he had breakfasted late that morning, when he looked at his watch he became suddenly famished. "I could starve yet," he muttered, "for all that feller cares."
He walked up and down the showroom floor in an ecstasy of imaginary hunger, and as he was making the hundredth trip the elevator door opened and Max Linkheimer stepped out. His low-cut waistcoat disclosed that his shirtfront, ordinarily of a glossy white perfection, had fallen victim to a profuse perspiration. Even his collar had not escaped the flood, and as for his I. O. M. A. charm, it seemed positively tarnished.
"Say, lookyhere, Potash," he began, "what d'ye mean by sending your partner to bail out that ganef?"
"Me send my partner to bail out a ganef?" Abe exclaimed. "What are you talking, nonsense?"
"I ain't talking nonsense," Linkheimer retorted. "Look at the kinds of conditions I am in. That feller Feldman made a fine monkey out of me in the police court."
"Was Feldman there too?" Abe asked.
"You don't know, I suppose, Feldman was there," Linkheimer continued; "and your partner went on his bail for two thousand dollars."
Abe shrugged his shoulders.
"In the first place, Mr. Linkheimer," he said, "I didn't tell my partner he should do nothing of the kind. He done it against my advice, Mr. Linkheimer. But at the same time, Mr. Linkheimer, if he wants to go bail for that feller, y'understand, what is it my business?"
"What is it your business?" Linkheimer repeated. "Why, don't you know if that feller runs away the sheriff could come in here and clean out your place? That's all."
"What?" Abe cried. He sat down in the nearest chair and gaped at Linkheimer.
"Yes, sir," Linkheimer repeated, "you could be ruined by a thing like that."
Abe's lower jaw fell still further. He was too dazed for comment.
"W-what could I do about it?" he gasped at length.
"Do about it!" Linkheimer cried. "Why, if I had a partner who played me a dirty trick like that I'd kick him out of my place. There ain't a copartnership agreement in existence that doesn't expressly say one partner shouldn't give a bail bond without the other partner's consent."
Abe rocked to and fro in his chair.
"After all these years a feller should do a thing like that to me!" he moaned.
Linkheimer smiled with satisfaction, and he was about to instance a striking and wholly imaginary case of one partner ruining another by giving a bail bond when the door leading to the cutting room in the rear opened and Morris Perlmutter appeared. As his eyes rested on Linkheimer they blazed with anger, and for once Morris seemed to possess a certain dignity.
"Out," he commanded; "out from mein store, you dawg, you!"
As he rushed on the startled button dealer, Abe grabbed his coat-tails and pulled him back.
"Say, what are we here, Mawruss," he cried, "a theaytre?"
"Let him alone, Abe," Linkheimer counselled in a rather shaky voice. "I'm pretty nearly twenty years older than he is, but I guess I could cope with him."
"You wouldn't cope with nobody around here," Abe replied. "If youse two want to cope you should go out on the sidewalk."
"Never mind," Morris broke in, his valour now quite evaporated; "I'll fix him yet."
"Another thing, Mawruss," Abe interrupted; "why don't you come in the front way like a man."
"I come in which way I please, Abe," Morris rejoined. "And furthermore, Abe, when I got with me a poor skeleton of a feller like Nathan Schenkmann, Abe, I don't take him up the front elevator. I would be ashamed for our competitors that they should think we let our work-people starve. The feller actually fainted on me as we was coming up the freight elevator."
"As you was coming up the freight elevator?" Abe repeated. "Do you mean to tell me you got the nerve to actually bring this feller into mein place yet?"
"Do I got to get your permission, Abe, I should bring who I want to into my own place?" Morris rejoined.
"Then all I got to say is you should take him right out again," Abe said. "I wouldn't have no ganévim in my place. Once and for all, Mawruss, I am telling you I wouldn't stand for your nonsense. You are giving our stock as a bail for this feller, and if he runs away on us, the sheriff comes in and—"
"Who says I give our stock as a bail for this feller?" Morris demanded. "I got a surety company bond, Abe, because Feldman says I shouldn't go on no bail bonds, and I give the surety company my personal check for a thousand dollars which they will return when the case is over. That's what I done it to keep this here Schenkmann out of jail, Abe, and if it would be necessary to get this here Linkheimer into jail, Abe, I would have another check for a thousand dollars for keeps."
Abe grew somewhat abashed at this disclosure. He looked at Linkheimer and then at Morris, but before he could think of something to say the elevator door opened and Jake stepped out. It was perhaps the first time in all their acquaintance with Jake that Abe and Morris had seen him with his face washed. Moreover, a clean collar served further to conceal his identity, and at first Abe did not recognize his former shipping clerk.
"Hallo, Mr. Potash!" Jake said.
"I'll be with you in one moment, Mister—er," Abe began. "Just take a—why, that's Jake, ain't it?"
Here he saw a chance for a conversational diversion and he jumped excitedly to his feet.
"What's the matter, Jake?" he asked. "You want your old job back?"
"It don't go so quick as all that, Mr. Potash," Jake answered. "I got a good business, Mr. Potash. I carry a fine line of cigars, candy, and stationery, and already I got an offer of twenty-five dollars more as I paid for the business. But I wouldn't take it. Why should I? I took in a lot money yesterday, and only this morning, Mr. Potash, a feller comes in my place and—why, there's the feller now!"
"Feller! What d'ye mean—feller?" Abe cried indignantly. "That ain't no feller. That's Mr. Max Linkheimer."
"Sure, I know!" Jake explained. "He's the feller I mean. Half an hour ago I was in his place, and they says there he comes up here. You was in mein store this morning, Mr. Linkheimer, ain't that right, and you bought from me a package of all-tobacco cigarettes?"
"Nu, nu, Jake," Morris broke in. "Make an end. You are interrupting us here."
Jake drew back his coat and clumsily unfastened a large safety pin which sealed the opening of his upper right-hand waistcoat pocket. Then he dug down with his thumb and finger and produced a small yellow wad about the size of a postage stamp. This he proceeded to unfold until it took on the appearance of a hundred-dollar bill.
"He gives me this here," Jake announced, "and I give him the change for a ten-dollar bill. So this here is a hundred-dollar bill, ain't it, and it don't belong to me, which I come downtown I should give it him back again. What isn't mine I don't want at all."
This was perhaps the longest speech that Jake had ever made, and he paused to lick his dry lips for the peroration.
"And so," he concluded, handing the bill to Linkheimer, "here it is, and—and nine dollars and ninety cents, please."
Linkheimer grabbed the bill automatically and gazed at the figures on it with bulging eyes.
"Why," Abe gasped, "why, Linkheimer, you had four one-hundred-dollar bills and a ten-dollar bill in the safe this morning. Ain't it?"
Linkheimer nodded. Once more he broke into a copious perspiration, as he handed a ten-dollar bill to Jake.
"And so," Abe went on, "and so you must of took a hundred-dollar bill out of the safe last night, instead of a ten-dollar bill. Ain't it?"
Linkheimer nodded again.
"And so you made a mistake, ain't it?" Abe cried. "And this here feller Schenkmann didn't took no money out of the safe at all. Ain't it?"
For the third time Linkheimer nodded, and Abe turned to his partner.
"What d'ye think of that feller?" he said, nodding his head in Linkheimer's direction.
Morris shrugged, and Abe plunged his hands into his trousers pockets and glared at Linkheimer.
"So, Linkheimer," he concluded, "you made a sucker out of yourself and out of me too! Ain't it?"
"I'm sorry, Abe," Linkheimer muttered, as he folded away the hundred-dollar bill in his wallet.
"I bet yer he's sorry," Morris interrupted. "I would be sorry too if I would got a lawsuit on my hands like he's got it."
"What d'ye mean?" Linkheimer cried. "I ain't got no lawsuit on my hands."
"Not yet," Morris said significantly, "but when Feldman hears of this, you would quick get a summons for a couple of thousand dollars damages which you done this young feller Schenkmann by making him false arrested."
"It ain't no more than you deserve, Linkheimer," Abe added. "You're lucky I don't sue you for trying to make trouble between me and my partner yet."
For one brief moment Linkheimer regarded Abe sorrowfully. There were few occasions to which Linkheimer could not do justice with a cut-and-dried sentiment or a well-worn aphorism, and he was about to expatiate on ingratitude in business when Abe forestalled him.
"Another thing I wanted to say to you, Linkheimer," Abe said; "you shouldn't wait until the first of the month to send us a statement. Mail it to-night yet, because we give you notice we close your account right here and now."
One week later Abe and Morris watched Nathan Schenkmann driving nails into the top of a packing case with a force and precision of which Jake had been wholly incapable; for seven days of better housing and better feeding had done wonders for Nathan.
"Yes, Abe," Morris said as they turned away; "I think we made a find in that boy, and we also done a charity too. Some people's got an idee, Abe, that business is always business; but with me I think differencely. You could never make no big success in business unless you got a little sympathy for a feller oncet in a while. Ain't it?"
"I give you right, Mawruss," he said.
THE JUDGMENT OF PARIS
There was an intimate connection between Abe Potash's advent in the lobby of the Prince Clarence Hotel one hot summer day in June and the publication in that morning's Arrival of Buyers column of the following statement and news item:
Griesman, M., Dry Goods Company, Syracuse; M. Griesman, ladies' and misses' cloaks, suits, waists, and furs; Prince Clarence Hotel.
Nevertheless, when Abe caught sight of Mr. Griesman lolling in one of the hotel's capacious fauteuils he quickly looked the other way and passed on to the clerk's desk. Then he asked in a loud tone for Mr. Elkan Reinberg, of Boonton, New Jersey; and, almost before the clerk told him that no such person was registered, he turned about and recognized Mr. Griesman with an elaborate start.
"Why, how do you do, Mr. Griesman?" he exclaimed. "Ain't it a pleasure to see you! What are you doing here in New York?"
Griesman looked hard at his interlocutor before replying.
Some two years earlier there had been an acrimonious correspondence between them with reference to a shipment of skirts lost in transit—a correspondence ending in threatened litigation; and Mr. Griesman had transferred his account with Potash & Perlmutter to Sammet Brothers. Hence he regarded Abe's proffered hand coldly, and instead of rising to his feet he continued to puff at his cigar for a few moments.
"I know your face," he said at length, "but your name ain't familiar."
"Think again, Mr. Griesman," Abe said, quite unmoved by the rebuff. "Where did you seen me before?"
"I think I seen you in a law office oncet," Griesman said. "To the best of my recollection the occasion was one which you said you didn't give a damn about my business at all, and if I wouldn't pay for the skirts you would make it hot for me. But so far what I hear it, I ain't paid for the skirts, and I didn't sweat none either."
"Why not let bygones be bygones, Mr. Griesman?" Abe rejoined.
"I ain't got no bygones, Abe," Griesman replied. "The bygones is all on your side. I ain't got the skirts; so I didn't pay for 'em."
"Well, what is a few skirts that fellers should be enemies about 'em, Mr. Griesman? The skirts is vorbei schon long since already. Why don't you anyhow come down to our place oncet in a while and see us, Moe?"
"What would I do in your place, Abe?"
"You still use a couple garments, like we make it, in your business, Moe," Abe continued. "You got to buy goods in New York oncet in a while. Ain't it?"
"Well, I do and I don't, Abe," Moe rejoined. "I ain't the back number which I oncet used to was, Abe. I got fresh idees a little too, Abe. Nowadays, Abe, a buyer couldn't rely on his own judgment at all. Before he buys a new season's goods he's got to find out what they're wearing on the other side first. So with me, Abe, I go first to Paris, Abe. Then I see there what I want to buy here, Abe, and when I come back to New York I buy only them goods which has got the idees I seen it in Paris."
"But how do you know we ain't got the idees you would seen it in Paris, Moe?"
"I don't know, Abe," Moe replied, "because I ain't been to Paris yet so far. I am now on my way over to Paris, Abe; and furthermore, Abe, if I would been to Paris, y'understand, what does a feller like Mawruss know about designing?"
"What d'ye mean, what does a feller like Mawruss know about designing?" Abe repeated. "Don't you fool yourself, Moe; Mawruss is a first-class, A number one designer. He gets his idees straight from the best fashion journals. Then too, Moe, when it comes to up-to-date styles, I ain't such a big fool neither, y'understand. I know one or two things about designing myself, Moe, and you could take it from me, Moe, there ain't no house in the trade, Moe, which they got better facilities for giving you the latest up-to-the-minute style like we got it."
"Sure, I know," Moe continued; "but as I told it you before, Abe, I ain't in the market for my fall goods now. I am now only on my way to Paris, and when I would come back it would be time for you to waste your breath."
"I could waste my breath all I want to, Moe," Abe rejoined. "I ain't like some people, Moe; my breath don't cost me nothing."
"What d'ye mean?" Moe cried indignantly. He had allowed himself the unusual indulgence of a cocktail that morning as a corollary to a rather turbulent evening with Leon Sammet, and he had been absently chewing a clove throughout the interview with Abe.
"I mean Hymie Salzman, designer for Sammet Brothers," Abe replied. "There's a feller which he got it such a breath, Moe, he ought to put a revenue stamp on his chin."
"That may be, Abe; but the feller delivers the goods. Sammet Brothers are sending him to Paris this year too, Abe. He is sailing with Leon Sammet on the same ship with me, Abe."
"Well, then all I could say to you is, Moe, you should look out for yourself and don't play no auction pinocle with that feller. Every afternoon he is playing with such sharks like Moe Rabiner and Marks Pasinsky, and if he ever got out of a job as designer he could go on the stage at one of them continual performances as a card juggler yet. A three-fifty hand is the least that feller deals himself."
"One thing is sure, Abe, you couldn't never sell me no goods by knocking Hymie Salzman."
"I ain't trying to sell you no goods, Moe; I am only talking to you like an old friend should talk to another. When are you coming back?"
"About July 1st I should be here," Moe replied, "and if you want to come and see me like an old friend, Abe, you are welcome. Only I got to say this to you, Abe, I forgot them skirts long since ago already, and I wish you the same."
When Abe entered his showroom that morning Morris Perlmutter had just arranged a high-neck evening gown on a wire model.
"Well, Abe, what d'ye think of it?" he exclaimed proudly, as he wiped his glistening brow. Abe fingered the garment's silken folds and puffed critically at a black cigar.
"What could I think, Mawruss?" he replied. "The garment looks all right, Mawruss, and I ain't kicking, y'understand; but I tell you the honest truth, Mawruss, the way things is nowadays, Mawruss, a feller could be Elijah the Prophet already, and he couldn't tell in June what is going to please the garment buyers in September."
Morris flushed angrily.
"I don't know what comes over you lately, Abe; nothing suits you," he cried. "I got here a garment which if we would be paying a designer ten thousand dollars a year yet he couldn't turn us out nothing better, and yet you are kicking."
"What d'ye mean, kicking?" Abe rejoined. "I ain't kicking. I am only passing a remark, Mawruss. I am saying I couldn't tell nothing about it, Mawruss, because so far ahead of time like this, Mawruss, a garment could look ever so rotten, Mawruss, and it could turn out to be a record-seller anyhow."
"So, Abe," Morris broke out furiously, "you think the garment looks rotten! What? Well, all I got to say is this, Abe; if the garment looks so rotten you should quick hire some one which could design a better one, because I am sick and tired of your kicking."
"What's the matter, you got pepper up your nose all of a sudden, Mawruss?" Abe protested. "I ain't saying nothing about the garment is rotten. I am only saying it gets so nowadays that in June a feller turns out a style which if we was making masquerade costumes already it would be freaky anyhow; and yet, Mawruss, it would go big in September. You get the idee what I am talking about, Mawruss?"
"I get the idee all right," Morris retorted with bitter emphasis. "You got the nerve to stand there and tell me this here garment is freaky like a masquerade costume. Schon gut, Abe. From now on I wash myself of the whole thing. I am through, Abe. You should right away advertise for a designer."
Abe rose wearily to his feet.
"With a touchy proposition like you, Mawruss," he said, "a feller couldn't open his mouth at all. I ain't saying nothing about you as a designer, Mawruss. All I am saying, Mawruss, is, a designer could be a feller which he is so high-grade like Paquin or any of them Frenchers, but if he gets his idees from fashion papers oder the Daily Cloak and Suit Gazette, Mawruss, then oncet in a while he turns out a sticker."
Morris was stripping the garment from the display form, but he paused to favour his partner with a glare.
"What would you want me to do, then?" he asked. "Make up styles out from my own head, Abe? If I wouldn't get my idees from the fashion papers, Abe, where would I get 'em?"
"Where would you get 'em?" Abe repeated. "Why, where does Hymie Salzman, designer for Sammet Brothers, and Charles Eisenblum, designer for Klinger & Klein, get their idees, Mawruss?"
This was purely a rhetorical question, but as Abe paused to heighten the effect of the peroration, Morris undertook to supply an answer.
"Them suckers don't get their idees, Abe," he said; "they steal 'em. If a concern gets a run on a certain garment, Abe, them two highway robbers makes a duplicate of it before you could turn around your head. That's the kind of cut-throats them fellers is, Abe."
"Sure, I know," Abe continued; "but they got to turn out some garments of their own, Mawruss, and they get their idees right from headquarters. They get their idees from Paris, Mawruss. Only this morning I hear it that Hymie Salzman sails for Paris on Saturday."
"Well, I couldn't stop him, Abe," Morris commented.
"Sure, I know, Mawruss," Abe went on; "but things is very quiet here in the store, Mawruss, and for a month yet we wouldn't do hardly no business. I could get along here all right until, say, July 15th anyhow."
For two minutes Morris looked hard at his partner.
"What are you driving into, Abe?" he asked at length.
"Why, I am driving into this, Mawruss," Abe continued. "Why don't you go to Paris?"
"Me go to Paris!" Morris exclaimed.
"Why not?" Abe murmured. The suggestion did seem preposterous after all.
"Why not!" Morris repeated. "There's a whole lot of reasons why not, Abe, and the first and foremost is that the Atlantic Ocean would got to run dry and they got to build a railroad there first, Abe. I crossed the water just oncet, Abe, and I wouldn't cross it again if I never sold another dollar's worth more goods so long as I live, Abe; and that's all there is to it."
"What are you talking nonsense, Mawruss? On them big boats like the Morrisania there ain't no more motion than if a feller would be going to Coney Island, Mawruss."
"That's all right, Abe," Morris replied firmly. "Me, if I would go to Coney Island, I am taking always the trolley, Abe, from the New York side of the bridge. Furthermore, Abe, if Sammet Brothers sends a drinker like Hymie Salzman to Paris, Abe, they got a right to spend their money the way they want to; but all I got to say is that we shouldn't be afraid they would cop out any of our trade on that account, Abe. Hymie would come home with new idees of tchampanyer wine and not garments, Abe."
"Sure, I know, Mawruss," Abe retorted; "but if you would go over to Paris, Mawruss, you would come back with some new idees which you would turn out some real snappy stuff, Mawruss. As it is, Mawruss, with a sticker like you got it there, Mawruss, we would ruin our business."
"All right, Abe; I heard enough. You got altogether too much to say for a feller which comes downtown at ten o'clock with no excuse nor nothing."
At this point Abe interrupted his partner long enough to relate his visit to Moe Griesman, but the information entirely failed to placate Morris.
"All right, Abe," he shouted; "why don't you go to Paris? That's all you're fit for. I got a wife and baby, Abe; but with a feller which he has got no more interest in his home, y'understand, than he wants to go to Paris, Abe—all right! Go ahead, Abe; go to Paris. I am satisfied."
Abe regarded his partner for one hesitating moment.
"Schon gut, I will go to Paris," he said; and the next moment the elevator door closed behind him.
For five minutes after Abe's departure Morris gazed earnestly at his newest creation. He had intended the model as a pleasant surprise to his partner, since not only had he conceived the garment to be a triumph of the dressmaker's art, but it had been finished far in advance of the season for originating new styles. He had confidently expected an enthusiastic reception of this chef-d'oeuvre; but in view of Abe's scathing criticism, he commenced to doubt his own estimate of the beauty of the dress. Indeed, the longer he looked at it the uglier it appeared, until at length he grabbed it roughly and literally tore it from the wire form. He had rolled it into a ball and was about to cast it into a corner when the elevator door opened and a young lady stepped out.
"Good morning, Mr. Perlmutter," she said.
Morris turned his face in the direction of the speaker and at once his mouth expanded into a broad grin.
"Why, Miss Smith!" he exclaimed as he rushed forward to greet her. "How do you do? Me and Mrs. Perlmutter was just talking about you to-day. How much you think that boy weighs now?"
"Sixteen pounds," Miss Smith replied.
"Twenty-two," Morris cried—"net."
"You don't say so!" said Miss Smith.
"We got you to thank for that, Miss Smith," Morris continued. "The doctor says without you anything could happen."
Miss Smith deprecated this compliment to her professional skill with a smiling shake of the head.
"We wouldn't forget it in a hurry," Morris declared. "Everything what that boy is to-day, Miss Smith, we owe it to you."
"You're making it hard for me, Mr. Perlmutter," Miss Smith replied, "because I've come to ask you a favour."
"A favour?" Morris replied. "You couldn't ask me to do you a favour because it wouldn't be no favour. It would be a pleasure. What could I do for you?"
"I have to leave town to-morrow on a case," Miss Smith explained, "and I need a dress in a hurry, something light for evening wear."
Morris frowned perplexedly.
"That's too bad," he said, "because just at present we got nothing but last year's goods in stock—all except—all except this."
He unfolded the model and shook it out.
"What a pretty dress!" Miss Smith cried, clasping her hands.
"Pretty!" Morris exclaimed. "How could you say it was pretty?"
"It's perfectly stunning," Miss Smith continued. "What size is it, Mr. Perlmutter?"
"The usual size," Morris replied; "thirty-six."
"Why, that's just my size," Miss Smith declared. "Let me see it." Morris handed her the dress and she examined it carefully. "What a pity," she said, "it has a slight rip in front. Somebody's been handling it carelessly."
"Sure, I know," Morris said. "I tore it myself, Miss Smith; but if you really and truly like it, Miss Smith, which I tell you the truth I don't, and my partner neither, you are welcome to it, and I would give you a little piece from the same goods which you could fix up the rip with."
"I couldn't think of it," Miss Smith replied.
"Not at all, Miss Smith. You would do me a favour if you would take it along with you right now."
Miss Smith fairly beamed as she opened her handbag.
"How much is it?" she asked.
"How much is it?" Morris repeated. "Why, Miss Smith, you could take that dress only on one condition. The condition is that you wouldn't pay me nothing for it, and that next fall, when we really got something in stock, you would come in and pick out as many of our highest-price garments as you would want."
Morris's hand shook so with this unusual access of generosity that he could hardly wrap up the garment.
"Also, Miss Smith, I expect you will come up and have dinner with us as soon as you get back from wherever you are going. Already the baby commences to recognize people which he meets, and we want him he should never forget you, Miss Smith."
The cordiality with which Morris ushered Miss Smith into the elevator was in striking contrast to the brusk manner in which he greeted Abe half an hour later.
"Nu!" he growled. "Where was you now?"
"By the steamship office," Abe replied. "I am going next Saturday."
"Going next Saturday?" Morris repeated. "Where to?"
"To Paris," Abe replied, "on the same ship with Moe Griesman, Leon Sammet and Hymie Salzman."
Morris nodded slowly as the news sank in.
"Well, all I could say is, Abe," he commented at length, "that I don't wish you and the other passengers no harm, y'understand; but, with them three suckers on board the ship, I hope it sinks."
The five days preceding Abe's departure were made exceedingly busy for him by Morris, who soon became reconciled to his partner's fashion-hunting trip, particularly when he learned that Moe Griesman formed part of the quarry.
"You got to remember one thing, Abe," he declared. "Extremes is nix. Let the other feller buy the freaks; what we are after is something in moderation."
"You shouldn't worry about that, Mawruss," Abe replied. "I wouldn't bring you home no such model like you showed it me this week."
"You would be lucky if you wouldn't bring home worser yet," Morris retorted. "But anyhow that ain't the point. I got here the names of a couple commission men which it is their business to look out for greenhorns."
"What d'ye mean, greenhorn?" Abe cried indignantly. "I ain't no greenhorn."
"That's all right," Morris went on; "in France only the Frenchers ain't greenhorns. You ain't told me what kind of a stateroom you got it."
"Well, the outside rooms was one hundred and twenty-five dollars and the inside room, was eight-five dollars," Abe explained; "so I took an inside room because the light wouldn't come in and wake me up so early in the morning, Mawruss, and forty dollars is as good to me as it is to them suckers what runs the steamboat company. Ain't it?"
Nevertheless, when Abe found himself in his upper berth the morning after he had parted with Minnie, Rosie, and Morris at the pier, he had reason to regret his economy. He shared his stateroom with a singer of minor operatic rôles, who, as a souvenir of a farewell luncheon ashore, carried into that narrow precinct an odour of garlic that persisted for the entire voyage. In addition, the returning artist smoked Egyptian cigarettes and anointed his generous head of hair with violet brilliantine. Hence it was not until the boat was passing Brow Head that Abe staggered up the companionway to the promenade deck.
"Why, hallo, Abe!" cried a bronzed and bulky figure. "I ain't seen you for almost a week."
"No?" Abe murmured. "Well, if you would wanted to seen me, Leon, you knew where you could find me: just below the pantry my stateroom was, inside. A dawg shouldn't got to live in such a place."
At this juncture Salzman appeared to summon his employer to a game of auction pinocle in the smoking room, and as Abe started to make a feeble promenade around the deckhouse he encountered Moe Griesman. After Moe had taken Abe's hand in a limp clasp he nodded in the direction of the smoking room.
"What d'ye think of them two suckers?" he croaked. "They ain't missed a meal since they came aboard."
"What could you expect from a couple of tough propositions like that?" Abe replied. "Was you sick, Moe?"
"Sick!" Griesman exclaimed. "I give you my word, Abe, last Thursday night I was so sick that I commenced to figure out already how much I would of saved in premiums if my insurings policies would be straight life instead of endowment. No, Abe; this here business of going to Paris for your styles ain't what it's cracked up to be. Always up to now I got fine weather crossing, but the way the water has been the last six days, Abe, I am beginning to think I could get just so good idees of the season's models right in New York."
"D'ye know, Moe," said Abe, "I'm starting to feel hungry? I wish that feller with the shofar would come."
Hardly had he spoken when the ship's bugler announced luncheon, but it was some minutes before Moe could summon up sufficient courage to go below to the dining saloon, and when they entered they found Leon Sammet and Hymie Salzman had nearly concluded their meal.
"Steward," Leon shouted as Moe sat down next to him, "bring me a nice piece of Camembert cheese."
"One moment, Leon," Griesman interrupted; "if you bring that stuff under my nose here I would never buy from you a dollar's worth more goods so long as I live!"
"The feller goes too far, Abe," he said, after Leon had cancelled the order and departed to drink his coffee in the smoking room. "The feller goes too far. Yesterday afternoon I was sitting on deck, and the way I felt, Abe, my worst enemy wouldn't got to feel it. Do you believe me, Abe, that feller got the nerve to offer me a cigar yet! It pretty near finished me up. He only done it out of spite, Abe, but I fooled him. I took the cigar and I got it in my pocket right now."
"Don't show me," Abe cried hurriedly. "I'll tell you the truth: there ain't nothing in the smoking habit. I'm going to cut it out. Waiter, bring me only a plate of clear soup and some dry toast. There ain't no need for a feller to smoke, Moe; it's only an extra expense."
"I think you're right, Abe," Moe said; "but I know that this here cigar cost Leon a quarter on board ship here, and I thought I would show him he shouldn't get so gay."
Despite Abe's resolution, however, a large black cigar protruded from his moustache when he stood on the wharf at Cherbourg, twenty-four hours later, and a small, ill-shaven stevedore, clad in a dark blouse and shabby corduroy trousers, pointed to the cloud of smoke that issued from Abe's lips and chattered a voluble protest.
"What does he say, Moe?" Abe asked.
"I don't know," Moe replied. "He's talking French."
"French!" Abe exclaimed. "What are you trying to do—kid me? A dirty schlemiel of a greenhorn like him should talk French! What an idee!"
Nevertheless, Abe was made to throw away his cigar, and it was not until the quartette were snugly enclosed in a first-class compartment en route to Paris that Abe felt safe to indulge in another cigar. He explored his pockets, but without result.
"Moe," he said, "do you got maybe another cigar on you?"
"I'm smoking the one which Leon give it me on the ship the other day," Moe replied. "Leon, be a good feller; give him a cigar."
"I give you my word, Moe, this is the last one," Leon replied as he bit the end off a huge invincible.
"You got something there bulging in your vest pocket, Abe. Why don't you smoke it?"
"That ain't a cigar," Abe answered; "that's a fountain pen."
"Smoke it anyhow," Leon advised; "because the only cigars you could get on this train is French Government cigars, and I'd sooner tackle a fountain pen as one of them rolls of spinach."
"That's a country!" Abe commented. "Couldn't even get a decent cigar here!"
"In Paris you could get plenty good cigars," Hymie Salzman said, and Hymie was right for, at the Gare St. Lazare, M. Adolphe Kaufmann-Levi, commissionnaire, awaited them, his pockets literally spilling red-banded perfectos at every gesture of his lively fingers. M. Kaufmann-Levi spoke English, French, and German with every muscle of his body from the waist up.
"Welcome to France, Mr. Potash," he said. "You had a good voyage, doubtless; because you Americans are born sailors."
"Maybe we are born sailors," Abe admitted, "but I must of grew out of it. I tell you the honest truth, if I could go back by trolley, and it took a year, I would do it."
"The weather is always more settled in July than in August," said M. Kaufmann-Levi, "and I wouldn't worry about the return trip just now. I have rooms for you gentlemen all on one floor of a hotel near the Opera, and taximeters are in waiting. After you have settled we will take dinner together."
Thus it happened that, at half past six that evening, M. Kaufmann-Levi conducted his four guests from the Restaurant Marguery to a sidewalk table of the Café de la Paix, and for almost an hour they watched the crowd making its way to the Opera.
"You see, Moe," Abe said, "everything is tunics this year; tunics oder chiffon overskirts, net collars and yokes."
Moe nodded absently. His eyes were glued to a lady sitting at the next table.
"You got to come to Paris to see 'em, Abe," he murmured. "They don't make 'em like that in America."
"We make as good garments in America as anywhere," Abe protested.
"Garments I ain't talking about at all," Moe whispered hoarsely; "I mean peaches. Did y'ever see anything like that lady there sitting next to you? Look at the get-up, Abe. Ain't it chic?"
"It's a pretty good-looking model, Moe," Abe replied, "but a bit too plain for us. See all the fancy-looking garments there are round here."
"Plain nothing!" Moe muttered. "Look at the way it fits her. I tell you, Abe, the French ladies know how to wear their clothes."
A moment later the couple at the next table passed along toward the Opera, and once more Abe and Moe turned their attention to the crowds on the boulevard.
For the remainder of their stay in Paris Abe and Leon spent their time in a ceaseless hunt for new models and their nights in plying Moe Griesman with entertainment. It cannot be said that Moe discouraged them to any marked degree, for while he occasionally hinted to Abe that the New York cloak and suit trade was an open market, and garment buyers had a large field from which to choose, he also told Leon that he saw no reason why he should not continue to buy goods from Sammet Brothers, provided the prices were right.
Nearly every evening found them sitting at the corner table of the Café de la Paix, and upon many of these occasions the next table was occupied by the same couple that sat there on the night of Abe's arrival in Paris.
"You know, Abe, that dress is the most uniquest thing in Paris," Moe exclaimed on the evening of the last day in Paris. "I ain't seen nothing like it anywhere."
"Good reason, Moe," Leon Sammet cried; "it's rotten. That's one of last year's models."
"What are you talking nonsense? One of the last year's models!" Moe Griesman cried indignantly. "Don't you think I know a new style when I see it?"
"Moe is right, Leon," Abe said. "You ain't got no business to talk that way at all. The style is this year's model."
"Of course, Abe," Leon said with ironic precision, "when a judge like you says something, y'understand, then it's so. Take another of them sixty-cent ice-creams, Moe."
Ordinarily Abe would have turned Leon's sarcasm with a retort in kind, but Leon's remark fell on deaf ears, for Abe was listening to a conversation at the next table and the language was English.
"It's time to start back to the hotel," said the young lady to her escort, who was an elderly gentleman.
Abe turned to Moe and Leon.
"Excuse me for a few minutes," he said; "I got to go back to the hotel for something."
He handed Leon a twenty-franc piece.
"If I shouldn't get back, pay the bill!" he cried, and jumping to his feet he followed the couple from the next table.
The old gentleman walked feebly with the aid of a cane, and the young lady held him by the arm as they proceeded to the main entrance of the Grand Hotel. Abe dogged their footsteps until the old gentleman disappeared into the lift and the young lady retired to the winter garden that forms the interior court of the hotel. As she seated herself in a wicker chair Abe approached with his hat in his hand.
"Lady, excuse me," he began; "I ain't no loafer. I'm in the cloak and suit business, and I would like to speak to you a few words—something very particular."
The young lady turned in her chair. She was not alarmed, only surprised.
"I hope you don't think I am asking you anything out of the way," Abe said, without further prelude; "but you got a dress on, lady, which I don't know how much you paid for it, but if three hundred of these here—now—francs would be any inducement I'd like to buy it from you. Of course I wouldn't ask you to take it off right now, but if you would leave it at the clerk's desk here I could call for it in half an hour."
The young lady made no reply, instead she threw back her head and laughed heartily.
"It ain't no joke, lady," Abe continued as he laid three flimsy notes of the Bank of France in her lap. "That's as good as American greenbacks."
The young lady ceased laughing, and for a minute, hesitated between indignation and renewed mirth, but at last her sense of humour conquered.
"Very well," she said; "stay here for a few minutes."
Half an hour later she returned with the dress wrapped up in a paper parcel.
"How did you know I wouldn't go off with the money, dress and all?" she asked as Abe seized the package.
"I took a chance, lady," he said; "like you are doing about the money which I give you being good."
"Have no scruples on that score," the young lady replied. "I had it examined at the clerk's office just now."
When M. Adolphe Kaufmann-Levi bade farewell to Moe, Abe, Leon, and Hymie Salzman, at the Gare St. Lazare, he uttered words of encouragement and cheer which failed to justify themselves after the four travellers' embarkment at Cherbourg.
"You will have splendid weather," he had declared. "It will be fine all the way over."
When the steamer passed out of the breakwater into the English Channel she breasted a northeaster that lasted all the way to the Banks. Even Hymie Salzman went under, and Leon Sammet walked the swaying decks alone. Twice a day he poked his head into the stateroom occupied by Moe Griesman and Abe Potash, for Abe had thrown economy to the winds and had gone halves with Moe in the largest outside room on board.
"Boys," Leon would ask, "ain't you going to get up? The air is fine on deck."
Had he but known it, Moe Griesman developed day by day, with growing intensity, that violent hatred for Leon that the hopelessly seasick feel toward good sailors; while toward Abe, who groaned unceasingly in the upper berth, Moe Griesman evinced the affectionate interest that the poor sailor evinces in any one who suffers more keenly than himself.
At length Nantucket lightship was passed, and as the sea grew calmer two white-faced invalids, that on close scrutiny might have been recognized by their oldest friends to be Moe and Abe, tottered up the companionway and sank exhausted into the nearest deckchairs.
"Well, Moe," Leon cried, as he bustled toward them smoking a large cigar and clad in a suit of immaculate white flannels, "so you're up again?"
The silence with which Moe received this remark ought to have warned Leon, but he plunged headlong to his fate.
"We are now only twenty hours from New York," he said, "and suppose I go downstairs and bring you up some of them styles which I got in Paris."
"You shouldn't trouble yourself," Moe said shortly.
"Why not?" Leon inquired.
"Because, for all I care," Moe replied viciously, "you could fire 'em overboard. I would oser buy from you a button."
"What's the matter?" Leon cried.
"You know what's the matter," Moe continued.
"You come every day into my stateroom and mock me yet because I am sick."
"I mock you!" Leon exclaimed.
"That's what I said," Moe continued; "and if you wouldn't take that cigar away from here I'll break your neck when I get on shore again."
Leon backed away hurriedly and Moe turned to Abe.
"Am I right or wrong?" he said.
Abe nodded. He was incapable of audible speech, but hour by hour he grew stronger until at dinner-time he was able to partake of some soup and roast beef, and even to listen with a wan smile to Moe's caustic appraisement of Leon Sammet's character. Finally, after a good night's rest, Moe and Abe awoke to find the engine stilled at Quarantine. They were saved the necessity of packing their trunks for the cogent reason that they had been physically unable to open them, let alone unpack them. Hence they repaired at once to breakfast.
Leon was already seated at table, and he hastily cancelled an order for Yarmouth bloater and asked instead for a less fragrant dish.
"Good morning, Moe," he said pleasantly.
Moe turned to Abe. "To-morrow morning at nine o'clock, Abe," he said, "I would be down in your store to look over your line."
"Steward," Leon Sammet cried, "never mind that steak. I would take the bloater anyhow."
Abe and Moe breakfasted lightly on egg and toast, and returned to their stateroom as they passed the Battery.
"Say, lookyhere, Moe," Abe said; "I want to show you something which I bought for you as a surprise the night before we left Paris. I got it right in the top of my suitcase here, and it wouldn't take a minute to show it to you."
Abe was unstrapping his suitcase as he spoke, and the next minute he shook out the gown he had purchased from the young lady of the Cafe de la Paix, and exposed it to Moe's admiring gaze.
"How did you get hold of that, Abe?" Moe asked.
Abe narrated his adventure at the Grand Hotel, while Moe gaped his astonishment.
"I always thought you got a pretty good nerve, Abe," he declared, "but this sure is the limit. How much did you pay for it?"
"Three hundred of them—now—francs," Abe replied; "but I've been figuring out the cost of manufacturing and material, and I could duplicate it in New York for forty dollars a garment."
"You mean thirty-five dollars a garment, don't you?" Moe said.
"No, I don't," Abe replied. "I mean forty dollars a garment. Why do you say thirty-five dollars?"
"Because at forty dollars apiece, Abe, I could use for my Sarahcuse, Rochester, and Buffalo stores about fifty of these garments, and you ought to figure on at least five dollars' profit on a garment."
"Well, maybe I am figuring it a little too generous, y'understand; so, if that goes, Moe, I will quote the selling price at, say, forty dollars a garment to you, Moe."
"Sure, it goes," Moe said; "and I'll be at your store to-morrow morning at nine o'clock to decide on sizes and shades."
Abe's passage through the customs examination was accomplished with ease, for nearly all his Paris purchases were packed in the hold to be cleared by a custom-house broker. His stateroom baggage contained no dutiable articles save the gown in question and a few trinkets for Rosie, who was at the pier to greet him. Indeed, she bestowed on him a series of kisses that reechoed down the long pier, and Abe's pallor gave way to the sunburnt hue of his amused fellow-passengers. In one of them Abe recognized with a start the tanned features of the young lady of the Café de la Paix.
"Moe," he said, nudging Griesman, "there's your friend."
Moe turned in the direction indicated by Abe, and his interested manner was not unnoticed by Mrs. Potash.
"How is your dear wife and daughter, Mr. Griesman?" she asked significantly. "I suppose you missed 'em a whole lot."
When Moe assured her that he did she sniffed so violently that it might have been taken for a snort.
"Well, Abe," he said at length, "I'll be going on to the Prince Clarence, and I'll see you in the store to-morrow morning. Good-by, Mrs. Potash."
"Good-by," Mrs. Potash replied, with an emphasis that implied "good riddance," and then, as Moe disappeared toward the street, she sniffed again. "It don't take long for some loafers to forget their wives!" she said.
"Well, Abe," Morris said, after the first greetings had passed between them that afternoon, "I'm glad to see you back in the store."
"You ain't half so glad to see me back, Mawruss, as I am that I should be back," Abe replied. "Not that the trip ain't paid us, Mawruss, because I got a trunkful of samples on the way up here which I assure you is a work of art."
"Sure, I know!" Morris commented with just a tinge of bitterness in his tones; "Paris is the place for styles. Us poor suckers over here don't know a thing about designing."
"Well, Mawruss, I'll tell you," Abe went on: "you are a first-class, A number one designer, I got to admit, and there ain't nobody that I consider is better as you in the whole garment trade; but"—here he paused to unfasten his suitcase—"but, Mawruss," he continued, "I got here just one sample style which I brought it with me, Mawruss, and I think, Mawruss, you would got to agree with me, such models we don't turn out on this side."
Here he opened the suitcase, and carefully taking out the dress of the Café de la Paix he spread it on a sample table.
"What d'ye think of that, Mawruss?" he asked.
Morris made no answer. He was gazing at the garment with bulging eyes, and beads of perspiration ran down his forehead.
"Abe!" he gasped at length, "where did you get that garment from?"
Before Abe could answer, the elevator door opened and a young lady stepped out. It was now Abe's turn to gasp, for the visitor was no other than the tanned and ruddy young person from the Café de la Paix.
"Good afternoon, Mr. Perlmutter," she said. "I've just got back."
"Oh, good afternoon, Miss Smith!" Morris cried.
"I hope I'm not interrupting you," she continued.
"Not at all," Morris said; "not at all."
Then a wave of recollection came over him, and he muttered a half-smothered exclamation.
"Abe, Miss Smith," he almost shouted, and then he sat down. "Say, lookyhere, Abe, what is all this, anyway? Miss Smith comes in here and—"
"Well, upon my word!" Miss Smith interrupted; "if it isn't the gentleman from the Café de la Paix—and, of all things, there is the very dress!"
Abe shrugged his shoulders.
"That's right, Miss Whatever-your-name is," Abe admitted; "that's the dress, and since I paid you sixty dollars for it I don't think you got any kick coming."
"Sixty dollars!" Morris cried. "Why, that dress as a sample garment only cost us twenty-two-fifty to make up."
"Cost us?" Abe repeated. "As a sample garment? What are you talking about?"
"I am talking about this, Abe," Morris replied: "that dress is the self-same garment which I designed it, and which you says was rotten and freaky, and which I give it to Miss Smith here for a present, and which you paid Miss Smith sixty dollars for."
"And here is the sixty dollars now," Miss Smith broke in. "I hurried here as fast as I could to give it to you, Mr. Perlmutter."
"One moment," Abe said. "I don't know who this young lady is or nothing; but do you mean to told me that this here dress which I bought it in Paris was made up right here in our place?"
"Here, Abe," Morris said, "I want to show you something. Here is from the same goods a garment, and them goods as you know we get it from the Hamsuckett Mills. So far what I hear it, the Hamsuckett Mills don't sell their output in Paris. Am I right or wrong?"
Abe nodded slowly.
"Well, Mr. Perlmutter," Miss Smith said, "here's your sixty dollars. I've got to get back to my patient. You know that I went to Paris with a rheumatic case, and I've left the old gentleman in charge of a friend. I came here to settle up."
"Excuse me," said Abe; "I ain't been introduced to this young lady yet."
"Why, I thought you knew her," Morris said. "This is Miss Smith, the trained nurse which was so good to my Minnie when my Abie was born."
"Is that so?" Abe cried. "Well, Miss Smith, you should take that sixty dollars and keep it, because, Mawruss, on the way over I sold Moe Griesman fifty garments of that there style of yours at forty dollars apiece."
"You don't say so!" Morris cried. "You don't say so! Well, all I got to say is, Miss Smith, in the first place, if Abe wouldn't of told you to keep that sixty dollars I sure would of done so, and in the second place, I want you to come in here next week and pick out half a dozen dresses. Ain't that right, Abe?"
"I bet yer that's right, Mawruss; we wouldn't take no for an answer," Abe replied. "And you should also leave us your name and address, Miss Smith, because, Gott soll hüten, if I should be sick, y'understand, I don't want nobody else to nurse me but you."
"Say, lookyhere, Abe," Morris said the following morning, "that trunkful of Paris samples which the custom-house says we would get this morning ain't come yet."
Abe clapped his partner on the shoulder and grinned happily.
"What do I care, Mawruss?" he said. "For my part they should never come. I ain't got no use for Paris fashions at all. Styles which Mawruss Perlmutter originates is good enough for me, because I always said it, Mawruss, you are a cracker-jack, high-grade, A number one designer!"
DEAD MEN'S SHOES
"There goes that sucker, Aaron Kronberg, from Port Sullivan," Abe Potash declared to his partner, Morris Perlmutter, as they looked from the windows of their showroom to the opposite sidewalk some four stories below. "Ain't it funny that feller would never buy from us a dollar's worth more goods?"
"The reason ain't hard to find, Abe," Morris replied. "Oncet a garment buyer gets into the hands of a competitor like Leon Sammet, it's all off. I bet yer Leon tells him we are all kinds of crooks and swindlers."
"What could you expect from a cut-throat like Leon Sammet? That feller is no good and his father before him is also a thief. I know his people from the old country yet. One was worser as the other."
"Well, there's nothing the matter with Aaron's cousin, Alex Kronberg, anyhow," Morris observed. "That feller does a fine business in Bridgetown, and Sammet Brothers could no more take his trade away from us than they could fly."
"That ain't our fault, Mawruss," Abe rejoined. "Sammet Brothers is fly enough to do anything, Mawruss; but, the way Aaron Kronberg hates Alex Kronberg, if they was to sell Alex a single garment, y'understand, Aaron would never buy from them a dollar's worth more goods so long as he lived."
"Ain't it a disgrace them two fellers is such enemies, Abe?"
"Alex ain't no enemy, Mawruss," Abe said. "It's Aaron what's the enemy. Alex don't trouble himself at all. He told me so himself. But that's the way it goes, Mawruss. Mosha Kronberg, Hillel Kronberg, and Elkan Kronberg was three brothers which you don't see nowadays at all—more like friends than brothers, Mawruss. Hillel died ten years ago and I thought it would broke Mosha's heart. He looked after Hillel's widow and Hillel's boy, Alex, because Mosha never married, Mawruss. He was a born uncle. Then, when Elkan died a year later, I never seen a feller so broke up like Mosha in all my life. He goes to work and sends Elkan's boy, Aaron, to business college, and Elkan's widow he takes to live with Hillel's widow, all together with himself and the two boys in that house of his on Madison Street. For three years they lived that way, and in the rest of the house Mosha couldn't keep any tenants at all. At last he gives Aaron a couple thousand dollars and Alex the same, and Aaron buys a store up in Port Sullivan, and Alex goes up to Bridgetown."
"What become of the widows, Abe?" Morris asked.
"I don't know is Elkan's widow living now oder not," Abe said, "but Mosha told me Hillel's widow wants to get married again, and Alex comes to him and says he should give the old lady anyhow a thousand dollars. Mosha wants to know what for, and Alex tells him he owes from Hillel's estate yet a couple thousand dollars."
"And did he?" Morris inquired.
"Suppose he did?" Abe replied. "He is entitled to it after what he puts up with during them three years they lived together. Well, Mosha and Alex gets right away fighting about it, and I guess Alex would of sued Mosha in the courts yet, only the old lady goes to work and dies on 'em all of a sudden."
"But why is Aaron and Alex such enemies, Abe?" Morris asked.
"Well, it's like this, Mawruss: Aaron and Alex is good friends until Uncle Mosha cut Alex out of his will. You see Aaron and Alex is the only two relations which Mosha got at all. So naturally when Aaron thinks he is coming in for the whole thing he begins to get sore at Alex, and the more Aaron thinks that the old man really ought to leave half to Alex, the more he gets sore at Alex."
"The whole business is dead wrong, Abe," Morris commented. "In the first place, the old man ain't got no right to leave his money only to Aaron; and in the second place, Aaron ain't got no right to feel sore at Alex. And furthermore Alex ought to go round and see his uncle oncet in a while when he is in New York, in the third place."
"Well, why don't you tell him so this afternoon, Mawruss?" Abe said. "Alex is staying up at the Prince Clarence since last night already, and he said he would be sure down here this afternoon."
"I will do so," Morris replied firmly.
"Go ahead," Abe added, "only one thing I got to tell you, Mawruss. There is some customers which would stand anything, Mawruss. You could ship 'em two garments short in every order; you could send 'em goods which ain't no more like the sample than bread is like motsos; you could overcharge 'em in your statements; you could even draw on 'em one day after their account is due, and still they would buy goods of you; but so soon as you start to butt into their family affairs, Mawruss, that's the finish, Mawruss. They would leave you like a shot."
"Alex Kronberg wouldn't take it so particular," Morris retorted. "He knows I am only doing it for his own good."
"Oh, if you are only doing it for his own good, Mawruss, then that's something again," Abe said; "because in that case we would not only lose him for a customer, Mawruss, but we would also make an enemy of him for life."
"You shouldn't worry," Morris replied as he put on his hat preparatory to going out to lunch. "I know how to take care of a customer all right."
Nevertheless Morris cogitated his partner's advice throughout the entire lunch hour, and over his dessert he commenced to formulate a tentative plan for restoring Alex Kronberg to his inheritance.
Two cups of coffee and a second helping of mohn cake aided the process of celebrating this scheme, so that when Morris returned to his place of business it was nearly two o'clock.
"Abe," he said as he entered, "I've been thinking over this here matter about Alex Kronberg, and I ain't going to talk to Alex about it at all. Do you know what I'm going to do?"
Abe grabbed his hat and turned to Morris with a savage glare.
"Sure, I know what you are going to do, Mawruss," Potash bellowed belligerently. "Henceforth, from to-morrow on, you are going to do this, Mawruss: you are going to lunch after I am coming back. I could drop dead from hunger already for all you care. I got a stomach too, Mawruss, and don't you forget it."
Mosha Kronberg lived on the ground floor of his own tenement house on Madison Street, and to say that Aaron Kronberg worshipped the ground his uncle walked on would be to utter the literal truth.
"Well, uncle, how do you feel to-day?" Aaron inquired the morning after Abe and Morris had so thoroughly discussed the Kronberg family relations.
"I could feel a whole lot better, Aaron, and I could feel a whole lot worse," Mosha Kronberg replied. "Them suckers has been after me again."
"Which ones are they now?" Aaron asked, his curiosity aroused.
"An orphan asylum," Mosha replied. "The gall which some people got it, Aaron, honestly you wouldn't believe it at all. They want me I should give 'em two hundred and fifty dollars. I told 'em time enough when I would die, Gott soll hüten."
"What are you talking nonsense, Uncle Mosha?" Aaron broke in. "You ain't going to die for a long time yet; and anyhow, Uncle Mosha, if people goes to work and has children which they couldn't support while they are living even, why should they get any of your money to support 'em after you are dead? No one asks them suckers they should have children. Ain't I right?"
"Sure you are right," Uncle Mosha agreed. "Hospitals also, Aaron. If I got one hospital bothering me, I must got a dozen. Why should I bother myself with hospitals, Aaron? A lowlife, a gambler, hangs around liquor saloons all times of the night till he gets sick, y'understand, and then he must go to a hospital and get well on my money yet. I see myself!"
"What hospital was it?" Aaron inquired.
"The Mount Hebron Hospital," Uncle Mosha replied. "There is the catalogue now. They are sending it me this morning only."
Aaron seized the annual report and list of donating members of the hospital and opened it at the letter K.
"Do you know what I think, uncle?" Aaron cried. "I think that Alex Kronberg puts 'em up to asking you for money."
"Alex puts 'em up to it?" Mosha repeated. "What for should Alex do such a thing?"
"Here; let me show you," Aaron cried. "Alex himself gives them fakers five dollars. Here it is in black on white: 'Alex Kronberg, Bridgetown, Pennsylvania, five dollars.'"
Uncle Mosha adjusted a pair of eyeglasses to his broad, flat nose and perused the record of his nephew's extravagance with bulging eyes.
"Well, what d'ye think for a sucker like that!" he exclaimed.
"I tell you the honest truth, uncle," Aaron said, "I don't want to say nothing about Alex at all, but the way that feller is acting, just because he does a little good business in his store, honestly it's a disgrace. He sends my mother for ten dollars a birthday present too. Do I need that sucker he should give my mother birthday presents? He is throwing away his money left and right, and the first thing you know he is coming to you borrowing yet."
"He should save himself the trouble," Uncle Mosha declared. "His tongue should be hanging out of his mouth with hunger, Aaron, and I wouldn't give him oser one cent."
Aaron's face broke into a thousand wrinkles as he beamed his satisfaction.
"Well, uncle," he said, "I must got to be going. I got a whole lot of things to do to-day. Take care of yourself."
"Don't worry about me," Aaron's Uncle Mosha replied. "I could take care of myself all right. You wouldn't drink maybe a glass of schnaps or something before you go? No? All right."
He always delayed his proffer of hospitality until Aaron was on the front stoop. After the latter had turned the corner of Pike Street, Uncle Mosha lingered to take the morning air. A fresh breeze from the southwest brought with it a faint odour of salt herring and onions from the grocery store next door, while from the bakery across the street came the fragrant evidence of a large batch of Kümmel brod. He sighed contentedly and turned to reënter the house, but even as he did so he wheeled about in response to the greeting: "How do you do, Mr. Kronberg?"
The speaker was none other than Morris Perlmutter, who had tossed on his pillow until past midnight devising a plan for approaching Uncle Mosha in a plausible manner. Now that his quarry had fallen so opportunely within his grasp, Morris's face wreathed itself in smiles of such amiability that Uncle Mosha grew at once suspicious.
"You got the advantage from me," he said.
"Why, don't you know me?" Morris cooed.
"I think," Uncle Mosha replied guardedly, "I seen you oncet before somewheres. You are a collector for a hospital or a orphan asylum, or some such sucker game. Ain't it?"
Morris laughed mirthlessly. His discarded plan for renewing his acquaintance with Uncle Mosha had involved the pretence that he was seeking to interest the old gentleman in the Home for Chronic Invalids, Independent Order Mattai Aaron, of which fraternity Morris was an active member; and Uncle Mosha's apparent distaste for organized charity proved rather disconcerting.
"You're a poor guesser, Mr. Kronberg," he said.
"Then you are connected with some charity. Ain't it?" Uncle Mosha continued.
Morris denied it indignantly.
"Gott soil hüten," he said. "My name is Mr. Perlmutter and I am in the cloak and suit business."
"Oh, I remember now!" Uncle Mosha cried. The news that Morris was no charity worker restored him to high good-humour.
"I remember you perfect now," he said, shaking hands effusively with Morris. "You got a partner by the name Potash, ain't it?"
"That's right," Morris replied.
"And what brings you over here in this nachbarschaft?" Uncle Mosha inquired.
Morris looked from Uncle Mosha to the tarnished brass plate on the side of the tenement-house door. It read as follows:
"The fact is," Morris said, "I am coming to see you in a business way, and if you got time I'd like to say a little something to you."
"Come inside," Uncle Mosha grunted. He thought he discerned a furtive timidity in his visitor's manner strongly indicative of an impending touch.
"In the first place," he began, after Morris was seated, "I ain't got so much money which people think I got it."
"I never thought you did," said Morris, and Uncle Mosha glared in response.
"But I ain't no beggar neither, y'understand," he retorted. "I got a little something left, anyhow."
"Sure, I know," Morris agreed; "but what you have got or what you ain't got is neither here or there. I am coming over this morning to ask you something, a question."
Here he paused. He had not yet determined what the question would be, and it occurred to him that, unless it were sufficiently momentous to account for his presence on the lower East Side during the busiest hours of a business day, Uncle Mosha would show him the door.
"Go ahead and ask it, then," Uncle Mosha broke in impatiently. "I couldn't sit here all day."
"The fact is," Morris said slowly, and then his mind reverted to the brass plate on the door and he at once proceeded with renewed confidence—"the fact is I am coming over here to ask you something, a question which a friend of mine would like to buy a property on the East Side."
"A property," Uncle Mosha repeated. "A property is something else again. What for a property would your friend like to buy it?"
"A fine property," Morris replied; "a property like you got it here."
"But this here property ain't for sale," Uncle Mosha said. "I got the house here now since 1890 already, and I guess I would keep it."
"Sure, I know; that's all right," Morris went on; "but I thought, even if you wouldn't want to sell the house, you know such a whole lot about real estate, Mr. Kronberg, you could help us out a little."
The hard lines about Uncle Mosha's mouth relaxed into a smile.
"Well, when it comes to real estate," he said, "I ain't a fool exactly, y'understand."
"That's what I was told," Morris continued. "A friend of mine he says to me: 'If any one could tell you about real estate, Mosha Kronberg could. There's a man,' he says, 'which his opinion you could trust in it anything what he says is so. If the Astors and the Goelets would know about East Side real estate what that feller knows—understand me—instead of their hundreds of millions they would have thousands of millions already.'"
Uncle Mosha fairly beamed.
"Yes, Mr. Kronberg," Morris went on, without taking breath, "he says to me: 'You should go and see Uncle Mosha; he's a gentleman and he would treat you right.' 'But,' I says to him, 'I ain't got no right to butt in on your Uncle Mosha. You see, Alex,' I says—"
"Alex!" Uncle Mosha cried. "Did Alex Kronberg send you here?"
"That's who it was," Morris replied.
"Then all I could say is," Uncle Mosha thundered, "you should go right back to Alex and tell him from me that I says any friend of his which he comes to me looking for information about real estate, he's lucky I don't kick him into the street yet."
He jumped up from his chair and opened the door leading into the public hall.
"Go on," he roared, "out from my house."
Morris rose leisurely to his feet and pulled a large cigar from his pocket.
"If that's the way you feel about it, Mr. Kronberg," he said gently, "schon gut. I wouldn't bother you any more. At the same time, Mr. Kronberg, if ever you should want to sell the house, y'understand, let me know; that's all." As he passed out of the door he laid the cigar on a side table and its bright red band immediately caught the eye of Uncle Mosha. He pounced on it and was about to hurl it after his departing visitor when something about the smoothness of the wrapper made him pause. Five minutes later he lolled back in a horsehair-covered rocker and puffed contentedly at Morris's cigar. "After all," he said, "I might get a good price for the house anyway."
From Mosha Kronberg's tenement house on Madison Street to the cloak and suit district, at Nineteenth Street and Fifth Avenue, is less than two miles as the crow flies, but Morris Perlmutter's journey uptown was accomplished in less direct fashion. He spent over half an hour in an antiquated horse car and by the time the Broadway car to which he transferred had reached Madison Square it was nearly twelve o'clock. As he walked down Nineteenth Street he almost collided with Abe, whose face wore a frown.
"Say, lookyhere, Mawruss!" he cried. "What kind of business is this? Here you are just getting downtown and I am going out to lunch already."
"Sure, I know," Morris retorted. "You think of nothing but your stomach. Believe me, Abe, I worked hard enough this morning."
"Worked nothing!" Abe rejoined. "You have been up to some monkey business, Mawruss; otherwise why should Mosha Kronberg telephone us just now he thought the matter over since you left there and he would be up to see you this afternoon already."
"What!" Morris cried. "Did Mosha Kronberg telephone that himself?"
"All right, Mawruss; then I am a liar!" Abe exploded. "I am telling you with my own ears I heard him."
"I believe you, Abe," Morris said soothingly. "Don't hurry back from your lunch. I got lots of time."
"I would hurry back oder not, as I please, Mawruss," Abe retorted as he trudged off toward Hammersmith's restaurant. There he ministered to his outraged feelings with a steaming dish of gefüllte rinderbrust, and it was not till he had sopped up the last drop of gravy with a piece of rye bread that he became conscious of a stranger sitting opposite to him.
"Excuse me," said the latter, "you got a little soup on the lapel of your coat."
"That ain't soup," Abe explained, as he dipped his napkin in his glass of ice-water and started to remove the stain; "that's a little gefüllte rinderbrust, which they fix it so thin and watery nowadays it might just as well be soup the way it's always getting over your clothes."
"Things ain't the same like they used to be," the stranger remarked. "Twenty—twenty-five years ago a feller could get a meal down on Canal Street for a quarter—understand me—which it was really something you could say was remarkable. Take any of them places, Gifkin's oder Wasserbauer's. Ain't I right?"
"Did you used to went to Gifkin's?" Abe asked.
"I should say!" his vis-à-vis replied. "When I was a boy of fifteen I am eating always regularly by Gifkin's."
"Me too. I used to eat a whole lot by Gifkin's," Abe said; "in fact, I think I must of seen you there."
"I shouldn't wonder," the stranger continued. "At the time, I was working by old man Baum right across from Gifkin's. He was my uncle already."
"You are old man Baum's nephew!" Abe exclaimed. "How could that be? Old man Baum only got one brother, Nathan, which he got mixed up in a railroad accident near Knoxville. He was always up to some monkey business, that feller, olav hasholom."
"Sure, I know," the stranger continued; "but old man Baum got also one sister, my mother, Mrs. Gershon. You must remember my father, Sam Gershon. Works for years by Richter as a cutter. My name is Mr. Max Gershon."
"Why, sure I do!" Abe said, shaking hands with his new-found acquaintance. "So you are a son of old man Gershon? Do you live here in New York, Mr. Gershon?"
"No; I live in Johnsville, Texas," Mr. Gershon replied. "This is my first visit North in twenty-five years. Yes, Mr.—er—"
"Potash," Abe said.
"Mr. Potash," Gershon continued, "I'm feeling pretty lonesome, I can tell you. All my folks is dead: my father, my mother, my two uncles; and there ain't a soul here in New York which remembers me at all."
"Is that so?" Abe commented, with ready sympathy.
"Yes, Mr. Potash," Gershon said, "when I was a boy I done a fool thing. When I was sixteen years old already I run away from home because my father licked me; and I never wrote to 'em or sent no word to 'em until it was too late. You see, up to five years since, I didn't done so good. Everything seemed to went against me, Mr. Potash; but lately I am doing a fine business for a small place like Johnsville, and to-day I got the best store down there."
"You don't say so!" Abe cried.
"So I thought last month, instead I would go to Dallas or Forth Worth like I usually done, I would come straight on to New York and not only buy my fall goods but also give the old folks a surprise. And what do I find? Everybody is dead."
Mr. Gershon pressed a handkerchief to his eyes.
"You shouldn't take on so," Abe said, leaning across the table and placing his hand on Gershon's arm. "It's the way of the world, Mr. Gershon, and I could assure you we got the finest line of garments in our store, which it is first-class stuff, up to the minute, and prices and everything just right."
Mr. Gershon wiped his eyes.
"You must excuse me, Mr. Potash," he said. "My feelings is got the better of me."
"That's all right," Abe murmured. "Here is our card, and you should positively come up to see us. Even if you wouldn't buy from us a button, Mr. Gershon, it would be a pleasure for us to see you in our place."
"I would sure be there," Mr. Gershon said as he pocketed the card.
"Waiter," Abe called, "put this here gentleman's check on mine and bring us two of them thirty-cent cigars."
So eagerly did Morris await the advent of Uncle Mosha Kronberg in Potash & Perlmutter's store that he even omitted to notice his partner's prolonged absence at lunch; and when Abe returned to unfold the narrative of his meeting with a prospective customer Morris heard it without interest.
"The feller is A number one, Mawruss," Abe said. "I stopped off to see Sam Feder at the Kosciusko Bank, and Sam sent me to the Associated Information Bureau. He is rated twenty to thirty thousand; credit good."
"Yes?" Morris replied. "Tell me, Abe, did Mosha Kronberg say just when he would be here?"
"What are you wasting your time about Mosha Kronberg for?" Abe retorted. "We got enough to do we should pick out a few good styles to show Gershon."
Morris nodded absently. His thoughts were centred on a short old man with close-cropped beard who at that very moment was turning the corner of Fifth Avenue and Nineteenth Street. Simultaneously Aaron Kronberg ran across the street from Sammet Brothers' doorway and clapped the old gentleman on the shoulder.
"Hello, Uncle Mosha!" he cried. "What are you doing around here?"
"Couldn't I come uptown oncet in a while if I would want to?" Uncle Mosha replied, somewhat testily.
"Sure, sure," Aaron Kronberg hastened to say. "Did you eat yet?"
"I never eat in the middle of the day," Uncle Mosha said. "I am up here on business."
"On business?" Aaron repeated. "What for business?"
"I think I sold the house," Mosha replied.
For one brief moment Aaron gazed at his uncle and then he linked his arm in that of the old man. "Come over to Twenty-third Street and drink anyhow a cup of coffee," he said, and ten minutes later they entered an enamelled brick dairy restaurant.
"You say you think you sold the house?" Aaron said, after a waitress had served them.
Uncle Mosha nodded. He was emptying a cup of coffee in long, noisy inhalations and at the same time consuming cheese sandwiches with uncommonly keen appetite—for a man who never ate in the middle of the day.
"Yes, Aaron," Uncle Mosha said, as he emerged all dripping from the cup, "I think I sold the house, and I guess I would have another cup coffee."
"Go ahead," Aaron replied. "But what for you want to sell the house, Uncle Mosha? It brings you in anyhow a good income."
"A good income for some people, Aaron, but for me not. What is one thousand a year, Aaron?"
"One thousand a year, uncle, is a whole lot, especially to a man like you, what lives simple."
"My living expenses is very little, I admit, Aaron," Uncle Mosha replied, after he had disposed of the second cup of coffee with noises approximating a bathtubful of soapy water disappearing down the wastepipe. "I don't make no fuss about my living, Aaron, but you got to remember, Aaron, that a man couldn't live on living expenses alone. Oncet in a while a feller likes to take a little flyer in the market and try and make a few dollars. Ain't it?"
"What!" Aaron exclaimed. This was a phase of his uncle's character that had never been exposed before.
"Yes, Aaron," Uncle Mosha continued; "living ain't only having a room to sleep in and food to eat, Aaron. Other things is living, Aaron. Stocks is living and auction pinocle is also living, and going oncet in a while on theayter is living too, Aaron. I may be an old man, Aaron, but I ain't dead yet."
Aaron's pale face grew almost ghastly at these shocking disclosures, and when Uncle Mosha concluded his audacious creed with a furtive wink his nephew visibly started.
"But you got plenty other money to invest in the stock market without you would sell the house, Uncle Mosha," he said.
"Have I?" Uncle Mosha rejoined. "That's news to me, Aaron. You see in nineteen-seven was a big panic and some stocks is better as others. Them which ain't, Aaron, they went and gone so low, Aaron, they ain't never come back again and perhaps never will. Might you heard something about it in Port Sullivan maybe? Ten thousand dollars I dropped on them suckers down in Wall Street, Aaron."
Uncle Mosha smiled blandly at his nephew, who grasped the edge of the table to steady his whirling senses.
"But what's the use talking," Uncle Mosha continued. "What is vorbei is vorbei; and I guess I would have another cup of coffee."
"You had enough coffee," Aaron cried sternly. "So you gone and dropped your money on stocks, hey?"
Uncle Mosha shrugged and extended one palm in philosophic resignation.
"It was my own money, Aaron," he said. "I didn't stole it."
"This ain't no time for making jokes, Uncle Mosha," Aaron retorted. "Who was it you was going to sell the house to?"
"Maybe you know him," Uncle Mosha said. "It's a feller by the name Mawruss Perlmutter."
Aaron Kronberg's pallor gave way to a flood of crimson, and for a moment he choked incoherently as he gazed at Uncle Mosha in amazement.
"Why, that feller Perlmutter is a friend of Alex," he gasped at length.
"Sure, I know," Uncle Mosha replied; "but even if he is a friend of Alex his money ain't counterfeit."
"But he'd rob you of your shirt, Uncle Mosha," Aaron exclaimed. "He's a dangerous feller."
"I'm used to dangerous fellers, Aaron," Uncle Mosha answered calmly. "I told you before, I dropped ten thousand in Wall Street."
"Yes; and if you would sold this here house, Uncle Mosha, you would drop ten thousand more."
"Not ten thousand, Aaron. I only got eight thousand equity in the house."
Again Aaron stared at his uncle.
"Do you mean to told me you only got eight thousand dollars in the world?" he groaned.
"The world is a pretty big place, Aaron," Uncle Mosha said; "but I wouldn't lie to you anyhow. Eight thousand is the figure."
"Then all I could say is, Uncle Mosha, before you would got to go begging on the streets yet, you would better sell that house and come to live with me up in Port Sullivan."
Uncle Mosha shrugged once more.
"I'll tell you the truth, Aaron," he said; "I was going to suggest that to you myself yet. So let's go right off and see this here Perlmutter and we'll talk about Port Sullivan later."
"Not by a damsite," Aaron declared, as he rose from his chair and grasped his uncle firmly by the arm. "You come with me and we'll sell this house to a feller I know."
When Max Gershon entered the salesroom of Potash & Perlmutter that afternoon, Abe treated the incident as though it were the arrival of an intimate friend after an absence of many years' duration.
"How are you feeling now, Max?" he said, and then he introduced his partner. "Mawruss," he called, "this is my friend, Mr. Max Gershon. Get the cigars from the safe, Mawruss."
After he had relieved his visitor of his hat and coat he drew forward a comfortable chair and literally thrust Max into it.
"Well, Max," Abe said, after the cigars had gone around, "I sure am glad to see you. Mawruss, don't he look like his uncle, old man Baum?"
Morris regarded Max critically for a moment.
"Old man Baum was a pretty good-looking feller, Abe," he said, "but he wasn't so tall as Mr. Gershon; otherwise they are the same identical people."
"Never mind his looks," Max said, beaming. "If I should have only his business ability I would be satisfied."
"He made plenty money in his time," Morris commented.
"Yes, and lost it again too," Max added; "but what's the use talking? Money I ain't in need of exactly, y'understand."
"You need goods, Max," Abe said. "Is that it?"
"Well, I do and I don't, Abe," Max replied. "The fact is, Abe, I got a good business down in Johnsville, but I couldn't extend it none on account the place ain't big enough. Former times that was all cattle country around there, and now it's all truck farms and cotton, and what sort of business could a drygoods merchant do with cotton hands? Ain't I right?"
"I tell you the honest truth, Abe," Max continued. "I would like to sell out and come North. I got an idee if I would find some hustling young feller up here which he got a good department store—good but small, y'understand—in a live town, Abe, I would go with him as partners together, and we could extend the business and make a good thing of it."
Abe looked at Morris and then he slapped his thigh with his open hand.
"By jiminy," he cried, "I got the very thing for you, Max."
Morris gazed at his partner with raised eyebrows and then he too slapped his thigh.
"Alex Kronberg!" he exclaimed.
"That's the feller," Abe said. "There's a man, Max, which he is honest like the day and smart as a cutting machine. I know him since he was a baby, y'understand, and he's worked his way up till now he's got a fine business in Bridgetown. Only yesterday he says to me if he could get a live partner with a little capital, y'understand, he would soon got the biggest store in Bridgetown."
"What for a town is Bridgetown?" Max asked.
"Bridgetown is all right, Max," Abe said. "I give you my word, Max, they got so many factories there which they burn soft coal, on the brightest days you couldn't see the sun at all. It is an elegant place, Max."
"And what is more, Max," Morris added, "only last Saturday night, Alex tells me, the store was so crowded two saleswomen fainted."
"It sounds good," Max admitted. "Who did you say owns the store?"
"Alex Kronberg," Morris replied.
"Kronberg—Kronberg," Max repeated. "The name sounds familiar. When did you say he would be here?"
"He ought to be in here every minute," Abe said. Hardly had he spoken when the elevator door clanged and Alex himself entered.
He glistened with perspiration, and his round, good-humoured face bore a broad grin.
"Phoo-ee!" he cried. "I'm all heated up."
"What's the trouble, Alex?" Morris asked.
"I just run into Aaron and Uncle Mosha coming out of a coffee house, and the way them two suckers cussed me out, Mawruss!—you wouldn't believe it at all. I couldn't understand what they was talking about, Mawruss, but they mentioned your name and something about Mosha's house on Madison Street."
Abe glared at Morris and then turned to Alex with a forced smile.
"Don't you bother yourself about them fellers, Alex," he said.
"What do I care for 'em, Abe?" Alex replied. "I got my own troubles."
"Sure," Morris broke in; "but what did they say about the house, Alex?"
"So far what I could hear, Mawruss, Aaron says you are trying to buy from Mosha the house."
"No such thing, Alex, believe me," Abe interrupted.
"But Aaron says he's already got a customer for the house," Alex went on; "and who d'ye think it is?"
Abe wiped his forehead with his handkerchief and continued to glare at Morris.
"I don't know who it is," Abe said, "and, what's more, I don't care. I want to introduce you to a friend of mine, Alex. This is Mr. Max Gershon, from Johnsville, Texas."
"I'm pleased to meetcher, Mr. Gershon," Alex replied. "Yes, Mawruss, Aaron says he sold the house already, and who d'ye think he sold it to?"
Morris made an inarticulate noise which he intended as an expression of curiosity.
"A friend of yours by the name Leon Sammet," Alex Kronberg said.
"You see how it is?" Aaron Kronberg said to his Uncle Mosha as they passed down Fifth Avenue after their encounter with Alex. "You see how it is? The feller is a desperate character, Uncle Mosha. You couldn't make him mad even."
"A lowlife!" Uncle Mosha cried, shaking his head from side to side. "His mother before him was just such another like him. I could spit blood hollering at that woman and she wouldn't answer me back at all."
"Well, now you got it," Aaron retorted triumphantly; "and so, if you would start to sell your house to his friend Perlmutter, the least that happens to you is they would do you for the whole thing."
"Maybe you're right," Uncle Mosha admitted.
"And so I am going to take you over to see a friend of mine by the name Leon Sammet," Aaron continued, "and if you want to leave the thing to me, Uncle Mosha, I am certain sure I could get you a good price for the house."
"Certain sure nobody could be of getting a good price for a house in these times, Aaron," Uncle Mosha said. "Real estate on the East Side is 'way down, Aaron. The subway ruins everything."
"I don't care about subways nor nothing," Aaron cried. "I would get you what you want for that house. What would you consider a good price for the house, uncle?"
"A very good price would be forty-two two-fifty," Uncle Mosha replied; "but me I would be willing to accept forty thousand."
"Well, lookyhere," Aaron commenced; "I'm going to do this for you, Uncle Mosha. I'm going to get Leon Sammet to give you not forty thousand or forty-two two-fifty neither. I'm going to get Leon Sammet to give you forty-three thousand for the house, uncle, but I only do it on one condition, uncle."
"And what is that?" Uncle Mosha asked.
"I would do it for you only on condition you come to live with me at Port Sullivan," Aaron concluded; "and also you must give me, to take care of it for you, all the cash money you get for the house."
Uncle Mosha frowned as he drew from his pocket a small packet wrapped in newspaper. This he proceeded to unwrap until there was exposed the unburnt half of a large black cigar. It was all that remained of Morris Perlmutter's gift and Uncle Mosha carefully knocked the ash off before he put it in his mouth.
"Why don't you answer me?" Aaron asked.
"I got to think, ain't I?" Uncle Mosha mumbled as he paused to light up. He puffed away in silence until they had nearly reached the entrance to Sammet Brothers' place of business.
"Schon gut, Aaron," Uncle Mosha said at length. "I will do it with this here exception: I would sell the house for forty-three thousand dollars, subject to a first mortgage of twenty-five thousand dollars, and a second mortgage of ninety-two hundred and fifty dollars. That leaves eighty-seven hundred and fifty dollars balance, ain't it?"
"Then this here Sammet is to pay seven hundred and fifty dollars cash on signing the contract and eight thousand dollars on closing the title," Uncle Mosha declared; "and the exception is that you should take care of the eight thousand dollars, but the seven hundred and fifty dollars belongs to me and I could do what I like with it."
For ten minutes Aaron argued with his uncle in front of Sammet Brothers' building, but all to no purpose, for Uncle Mosha remained unmoved. Either he was to receive the seven hundred and fifty dollars on the signing of the contract or the entire deal was off; and at length he prevailed.
"All right," Aaron said, "you shall have the seven hundred and fifty, but one thing you must got to do. When we go into Leon Sammet's loft I want you to let me and Leon speak a few words, something alone together. Are you agreeable?"
"Sure, why not?" Uncle Mosha agreed. "You got to work the feller up to buying the house, ain't yer?"
Aaron nodded gloomily as they entered the elevator, and when it stopped at Sammet Brothers' floor he strode out So rapidly that Uncle Mosha, who had never before visited Sammet Brothers', hardly noticed his nephew's exit. Before he could follow Aaron the elevator attendant slammed the door, and it was not reopened until Uncle Mosha had expressed his agitation in a burst of spirited profanity.
"Did you see that, Aaron?" he exclaimed after he had caught up to his nephew. "I come pretty close to getting killed just now in that there elevator."
"Why don't you keep your eyes open?" Aaron asked callously. "Now you sit down here and wait until I am coming out."
He entered Leon Sammet's private office, and as soon as Uncle Mosha found himself alone in the showroom he clenched the butt of his cigar between his yellow teeth and explored his pockets for pencil and paper. Having found them, he was soon plunged in a maze of figures representing the profit in going short of seven hundred shares on a one-point margin, assuming that the market dropped eight points in ten days.
"Hallo, Aaron," Leon Sammet cried when he caught sight of the younger Kronberg.
Aaron nodded, with half-closed eyes.
"Sit down, Aaron," Leon continued; "you look worried."
"I bet yer," Aaron replied. "What d'ye think of that sucker?"
"What's Alex been doing now?" Leon asked.
"Alex! What d'ye mean, Alex?" Aaron said. "Alex I ain't worrying about at all. I mean Uncle Mosha Kronberg."
Forthwith he unfolded to Leon the sum of his uncle's iniquities, sparing no detail of his own well-nigh ruined prospects and ending with an account of Uncle Mosha's interrupted deal with Morris Perlmutter.
Leon slammed the top of his desk with his open hand.
"Before I would let that shark, Perlmutter, get the house I would buy it myself."
"Sure, I know!" Aaron replied. "I thought you would, Leon; but that ain't necessary. All I want you to do is this, Leon. I told the old man I could get you to buy the house for forty-three thousand dollars."
"Forty-three thousand?" Leon exclaimed. "Why that house ain't worth forty-three thousand!"
"What do I care what it's worth?" Aaron replied. "The game is this, Leon. You will buy the house for me—Aaron—with my money. You got to pay seven hundred and fifty cash on signing the contract, and the balance of eight thousand dollars above the mortgages you got to pay when the title is closed. I fixed it with the old man that he is to give me the eight thousand dollars to take care of for him—see? So, when the title is closed I will give you eight thousand dollars to give Mosha, and Mosha will turn it back to me; and, Leon, if he ever sees that eight thousand dollars again it won't be this side of the grave."
"Meantime you've got the house," he said.
"Exactly," Aaron replied. "I get the house. All it cost me is seven hundred and fifty dollars cash, and I also get unloaded on me for the rest of his life the old man. And while I don't wish him any harm, y'understand, Gott soll hüten anything should happen to him Leon, it couldn't come too soon for me."
"I bet yer," Leon said fervently. "And now let's get him in here and we'll all go down to Henry D. Feldman's office and fix the matter up."
Two hours later Leon and Uncle Mosha had signed a contract for the sale of the Madison Street house, title to be closed and deed to be delivered within thirty days. The purchase price was stated to be forty-three thousand dollars, payable as follows: thirty-four thousand two hundred and fifty dollars by the vendee taking the house subject to mortgages aggregating that amount, seven hundred and fifty dollars cash on signing the contract, and the balance of eight thousand dollars in cash or certified check at the closing of the title.
Prior to leaving his office Leon had cashed Aaron Kronberg's check for seven hundred and fifty dollars, and the money, in bills of large denomination, was turned over to Mosha Kronberg, who tucked them carefully away in his breast pocket.
"Well, Aaron," he said after the operation was completed, "I guess I'll be going back to Madison Street."
"Wait; I'll go along with you," Aaron cried.
"Don't you trouble yourself," Uncle Mosha declared with a confidential wink at Leon Sammet and Henry D. Feldman; "I could take care of myself all right."
"What are you going to do with all that money, Mr. Kronberg?" Leon asked as Uncle Mosha turned to leave. The old man paused with his hand on the door, and once more he favoured his questioner with a significant wink.
"Leave that to me," he said.
The thirty days succeeding Morris Perlmutter's visit to Madison Street were busy ones for all the Kronbergs. Alex had accompanied Max Gershon to Bridgetown, where conditions more than fulfilled Abe's glowing account, and the formation of the Kronberg-Gershon Drygoods Company proceeded without delay. As for Aaron Kronberg, he found that the borrowing of eight thousand dollars, even for so short a period as would be necessary to consummate the Madison Street deal, was no easy task. At length he raised the sum by paying a large bonus to his bankers in Port Sullivan, and it was deposited to the credit of Sammet Brothers four days before the closing of title.
Meantime Uncle Mosha had not neglected the opportunity afforded him during his last few days of liberty. With his seven hundred and fifty dollars he had sought the brokerage offices of Klinkberg & Company the morning after signing his contract with Leon Sammet. There he selected American Chocolate and Cocoa as the medium of his speculation and promptly went short of seven hundred on a one-point margin. The same afternoon he was within a sixteenth of being wiped out when the market turned, and nearly one month later he took his profit of twenty-one hundred dollars, which with the original investment, minus the brokerage amounted to twenty-eight hundred dollars.
"Never no more," he said to the brokerage firm's cashier as he drew his profit. "I am through oncet and for all. No one could get me to touch another share of stock so long as I live."
With this solemn declaration he passed out of Klinkberg & Company's office just as a short stout man burst into the hall from a door marked "Customers."
"Wow!" the short stout man exclaimed.
"Warum wow?" Uncle Mosha asked.
"Amalgamated Refineries goes up four points on six sales in half an hour," the short stout man replied, "and I win two thousand."
The short stout man started down the hall and executed a fantastic dancing step in front of the elevators, while Uncle Mosha entered the door marked "Customers."
"Mr. Klinkberg," he said, handing Klinkberg & Company's two thousand eight hundred dollar check to that firm's senior partner, "buy me one thousand shares Amalgamated Refineries at the market."
An hour later he walked leisurely along Madison Street, and as he approached his own doorway Aaron Kronberg swooped down upon him.
"Uncle Mosha," he almost screamed, "where was you?"
"Where was I?" Uncle Mosha replied. "Why, I was where I was. That's where I was. What difference does it make to you where I was?"
"What difference does it make to me?" Aaron cried. "Ain't I putting up the—er—don't you know you was due at Henry D. Feldman's office to close your title at one o'clock?—and here it is half-past one already!"
For a minute Uncle Mosha's face fell. In the excitement of following the profitable course of his speculation he had completely forgotten his real estate transaction, but he quickly recovered his composure.
"Oh, well," he said, "let 'em wait! The house won't run away, Aaron. Let's go and get a cup coffee somewheres."
"Coffee, nothing!" Aaron growled; "you're coming right along with me. I got a carriage waiting for you."
He hustled the old man into a decrepit conveyance that was drawn up to the curb and they started immediately for Henry D. Feldman's office.
"Honest, Aaron," Uncle Mosha sighed, "I feel like I was riding to my own funeral."
"Don't worry, Uncle Mosha," Aaron said; "with the tzuris which I got it lately you would quicker ride to mine."
"Well, Aaron," Uncle Mosha rejoined, "as old man Baum used to say, we all got to die sooner or later, Aaron; and all we could take with us is our good name."
"You wouldn't got to pay no excess baggage rates on that," Aaron said as the carriage came to a stop in front of Feldman's office building.
Two minutes later they entered the offices of Henry D. Feldman and were ushered immediately into the presence of that distinguished advocate himself. As they passed through the doorway Feldman rose from his seat. He was not alone, for at one side of a long library table sat Leon Sammet, while opposite to him a tall, sandy-haired person methodically arranged various bundles of papers which he drew out of capacious pasteboard envelopes.
"Ah, gentlemen, you're here at last," Feldman cried. "Mr. Jones, this is Mr. Kronberg and his nephew, Mr. Aaron Kronberg. Mr. Jones is a representative of the Land Insurance & Title Guarantee Company, who at my request has examined the title to your house, Mr. Kronberg."
"All right," Uncle Mosha said; "I ain't scared of 'em. I owned the house since 1890 already—that's pretty near twenty years, and I ain't paid no Confederate money for it neither."
Mr. Jones cleared his throat noisily, and as he did so a round white object leaped from beneath his collar and bumped against his chin. It was his Adam's apple.
"Did you say you owned the house twenty years?" he inquired in tones of such profundity that Feldman was obliged to ask him to repeat his question. At the second repetition Uncle Mosha said that it might be a month less than twenty years.
"The record shows that you bought the house a little more than nineteen years ago," Mr. Jones continued—his manner suggested a hanging judge in the act of assuming the black cap—"and therefore you could claim no adverse possession, even assuming there were no disabilities."
"What d'ye mean, claim?" Uncle Mosha asked with asperity. "I don't claim nothing. I already got seven hundred and fifty dollars and there is coming to me eight thousand dollars more."
"I think, Mr. Jones," Feldman interrupted, "I ought to explain to Mr. Kronberg the locus in quo."
Aaron Kronberg turned pale and wiped a few drops of perspiration from his forehead.
"What is there to explain, Mr. Feldman?" he broke in. "Go ahead and close the title to the property. I couldn't sit here all day."
"There's a great deal to be explained," Feldman continued. "He is unable to convey good title to the property non constat he received a deed of it in 1890."
"I never heard tell of the feller at all," Uncle Mosha exclaimed. "I am the only one which received a deed of the property."
Feldman gazed at Uncle Mosha for one dazed moment and then proceeded.
"The last owner in Mr. Kronberg's claim of title—I mean his immediate vendor—was the only surviving collateral of an intestate," he said.
"That's where you make a big mistake," Uncle Mosha interrupted. "The feller which I bought the house from was a salesman for a shirt concern."
Feldman glared at Uncle Mosha and was about to crush him with a flood of law Latin when the door opened.
"You got to excuse me for butting in, Mr. Feldman," said a harsh voice which presently was seen to issue from the person of Morris Perlmutter, "but me and my partner is got to get back to the store and Max and his partner is also busy to-day."
"I'll be with you in just one moment, Mr. Perlmutter," Feldman replied.
"You says that an hour ago," Morris grumbled as he closed the door behind him.
"Now, Mr. Kronberg," Feldman continued, "I'd like to elucidate this situation for you as succinctly as possible."
"Do that afterward, if you got to do it," Uncle Mosha broke in; "but just now tell me what the trouble is."
"What's the use talking to a mutt that don't understand the English language at all?" Feldman cried. "Listen here to me. You bought your house from a fellow called Nathan Baum."
"Sure, I did," Uncle Mosha said. "You remember him, Sammet? He went to work and got killed in a railroad accident ten years ago already."
"Don't interrupt," Feldman cried. "Nathan Baum was the brother of Max Baum, a former owner of the house. Max Baum died while he owned the house and he left no will, and Nathan Baum claimed the house as the only heir of Max Baum."
"That's right," Mosha agreed. "Nathan Baum was the only relative in the world which Max Baum got it. He had a sister, but she died before Max."
"Was Max Baum's sister ever married?" Mr. Jones asked in funereal accents.
"Sure she was married," Mosha answered. "She was married to Sam Gershon. He works for years by Richter as a cutter. Sam is dead too."
"Did they ever have any children?" Mr. Jones inquired.
"One boy they had," Uncle Mosha said. "Shall I ever forget it? What a beautiful boy that was, Mr. Feldman—a regular picture! Mrs. Gershon thinks a whole lot of that boy, too, I bet yer."
"Never mind the trimmings, Kronberg," Feldman broke in. "Is the boy alive?"
"That's what we're anxious to know," Mr. Jones interrupted. "My company had ascertained that there was one son, but we couldn't find out if he were dead or alive."
"If the boy was alive Mrs. Gershon would be alive too," Mosha said. "Mrs. Gershon died on account of that boy. What a lovely boy that was! I can see him now—the way he looked. He had eyes black like coal, and a—"
Here Uncle Mosha stopped short. His jaw dropped and his fishy gray eyes seemed to start from his head as he gazed at the door. It stood ajar some six inches and exposed the features of a person impatient to the point of frenzy.
"Ex-cuse me, Mr. Feldman!" said the intruder; "I may be a Rube from Texas, y'understand, but I got my feelings too, and unless you come in here right away and close the matter up me and my partner would go and get our agreement fixed up somewhere else again."
"I'll be with you in just one moment, Mr. Gershon," Feldman replied.
"Gershon?" Uncle Mosha muttered. "Gershon!"
He rose to his feet and tottered across the room toward the doorway, but at the threshold his strength failed him and he fell headlong to the floor.
In the scene of confusion that followed only Henry D. Feldman remained calm. He touched the electric button on his desk.
"Go down to the Algonquin Building and fetch a doctor," he said to the office-boy who responded, "and on your way out see if we have any blank petitions for administration in the Surrogate's Court. If we haven't, buy a couple on your way back. The old man may not pull through."
When Uncle Mosha's eyes opened in consciousness of his surroundings they rested on Max Gershon, who bent over the old man as anxiously as did either of his nephews.
"Max Gershon, ain't it?" Uncle Mosha asked feebly.
"You shouldn't try to talk," he said.
"I'm all right," Uncle Mosha replied. "I need only a cup coffee. If Aaron would let me got it before I come here this wouldn't never of happened."
Aaron recognized the justice of his uncle's criticism by personally seeking a nearby restaurant, and after an interval of ten minutes, during which Abe and Morris took turns with Max and Alex in fanning the patient, he returned with a pot of steaming coffee. Uncle Mosha drank three cups in rapid succession and heaved a great sigh.
"You ain't got maybe a cigar about you, Max?" he said.
"Smoke this, Uncle Mosha," Alex Kronberg cried, pulling a large satiny invincible from his waistcoat pocket and thrusting it at his uncle. For one hesitating minute the old man looked from Alex to the cigar, but at last its glossy perfection overcame his scruples.
"Much obliged, Alex," he said.
"That's all right," Alex mumbled as he struck a match. "How do you feel now, uncle?"
"First rate," Uncle Mosha replied as he blew out great clouds of smoke; "although I ought to feel a whole lot worse, Alex, when I see Maxie Gershon here. Twenty-five years ago I seen him last and he looks the same fat-faced feller with the black eyes. Only to think he now comes back and takes away half my house from me."
"I ain't come back to do no such thing!" Max cried. "I could assure you, Mr. Kronberg, although me and Alex Kronberg is going as partners together, I never knew until I seen you here that you was any relation of his. As for your house, Mr. Kronberg, I don't know nothing about it at all."
"Don't you?" Uncle Mosha exclaimed. "Well, I'll tell you. It's like this."
"Stigun!" Aaron hissed. "Don't open your mouth, Uncle Mosha."
"What d'ye mean, don't open my mouth?" Uncle Mosha retorted. "D'ye think I'm a crook? If I got a house which it don't belong to me at all, then I don't want it."
He turned his back on Aaron and straightway he narrated the full circumstances surrounding his purchase of the Madison Street house.
"Certainly I ain't no lawyer nor nothing," he continued, "but when old Max Baum died you was due to get just as much as your Uncle Nathan out of his estate, and if Nathan Baum swindled me out of my money by claiming he owns the whole thing that couldn't give me no right to your share, ain't it?"
"Then what ain't mine I don't want at all," Uncle Mosha continued; "and so, Maxie, you and me gives Leon Sammet here a deed of the house and Leon pays us the balance of eight thousand dollars. Out of that you get four thousand three hundred and seventy-five dollars, because me, I already got seven hundred and fifty dollars. Are you agreeable to fix it that way, Sammet?"
Leon looked at Aaron Kronberg, who was gulping convulsively in an effort to express adequately all he felt. At length he commenced to address his uncle in husky tones.
"You cut-throat!" he croaked. "You robber, you! You shed my blood! Give me back my seven hundred and fifty dollars."
"Your seven hundred and fifty!" Uncle Mosha exclaimed.
"That's what I said," Aaron went on. His voice rose to a hoarse scream as he proceeded. "Did you think any one else would give forty-three thousand dollars for that dawg-house but me? Sammet ain't got nothing to do with it; he's only a dummy."
"So!" Leon Sammet said bitterly. "I am only a dummy, am I?"
"Wait one minute!" Uncle Mosha cried. "Do you mean to told me, Mr. Sammet, that you was buying this here house for Aaron?"
"Well, that's about the size of it," Leon admitted.
"Then what are you kicking about?" Uncle Mosha said. "You are a dummy."
Throughout the moving scenes of that entire afternoon Leon had acted the part of disinterested onlooker to the point of lethargy, but now he fairly glared at Uncle Mosha.
"I don't got to stay here to be called names," he said.
"My trouble's what you got to stay here for," Uncle Mosha retorted. "Yes, boys; what d'ye think for a highwayman like that Aaron Kronberg?"
Aaron blushed a fiery red.
"Come on, Leon," he said. "Let's get out of this."
"Hold on!" Max Gershon shouted. "Don't you do nothing of the kind, Sammet. Me and Mr. Mosha Kronberg we own this here house together, and he made a contract with you to sell you this here house which I stand by. Do you want to take it oder not? Because if not, we would keep your seven hundred and fifty dollars."
Leon Sammet emitted a huge guffaw.
"That worries me a whole lot," he replied. "As Aaron just told you, the seven hundred and fifty belongs to him."
"Very true," Feldman interrupted, "but it was you who engaged me to examine the title, Mr. Sammet, and my fees and disbursements in this matter amount to five hundred dollars."
Leon Sammet sat down again.
"Come on, Leon," Aaron cried. "What are you waiting for?"
"Do you mean to told me, Mr. Feldman, I owe you five hundred dollars?" Leon asked.
"Five hundred and eight dollars and forty-two cents to be exact," said Feldman, crunching a slip of paper.
"Then all I got to say is," Leon declared, "I got here a certified check for eight thousand dollars which Aaron Kronberg gives me, and I would sure hold it until he secures me against your bill."
"Say, lookyhere, boys," Alex Kronberg said at length, "I've been listening to all this here Megillah and I ain't said a word nor nothing. But I'll tell you what I'll do. It's a cinch that Uncle Mosha won't go to live with Aaron now, so I'll take him to live with me."
"I am agreeable," said Uncle Mosha.
"Furthermore," Alex continued, "Uncle Mosha and Max will keep the house. I will also pay Mr. Feldman his five hundred dollars and take it out of the seven hundred and fifty which Aaron paid Uncle Mosha. The balance of two hundred and fifty Aaron shall have back again."
"I am content," Uncle Mosha replied. "I don't want none of Aaron's money; and you could take it from me, Alex, Aaron would never see none of my money."
"And now, gentlemen, let us fix up this copartnership agreement," Max Gershon said as Aaron Kronberg slunk out of the office, followed by Leon Sammet. "Mr. Potash and Mr. Perlmutter have wasted pretty near the whole afternoon here."
"That's all right," Abe said. "I don't consider we wasted any time. Many a night I threw away four dollars taking a customer on the theayter yet, when the show wasn't near so good as what we seen it this afternoon; and the customer ain't bought no goods off me anyhow."
"Don't you worry yourself about that, Abe!" Max cried. "You got a couple of customers at this show which they would buy goods from you so long as we are in business, and don't you forget it. Ain't I right, Alex?"
"Come on, Uncle Mosha," he said. "Come inside with us and see this through."
"I'll wait out here," Uncle Mosha replied. "I got enough excitement for one afternoon."
He waited until Mr. Jones, of the title company, had packed up his papers, and then after Henry D. Feldman had followed the others into the adjoining room and had closed the door behind him, Uncle Mosha touched the button on Feldman's desk.
"Go out and buy for me an evening paper," he said to the boy who responded.
"Say," the boy replied, "there was a doctor waiting to see you for more than half an hour."
"Tell him to wait a little longer yet," Mosha rejoined. "I may got to have him after I am seeing the paper."
"He ain't here now," the boy said. "He went away and says you should send him a check for five dollars."
"I hope he don't need the money for nothing particular," Uncle Mosha commented; "on account he stands a good show to be disappointed. Hurry up with the paper."
Ten minutes afterward the boy returned. He handed an evening paper to Uncle Mosha, who hastily planted a pair of pince-nez on his broad, flat nose and folded back the financial page.
"Now let's give a look," he murmured to himself as he glanced hastily at the column marked "The Stock Market."
At the head of the list appeared the following item:
45100 Amal. Ref.
"Wiped again!" he muttered as he dropped the paper to the floor.
Half an hour later, when Alex and Max Gershon came out of the adjoining room with the copartnership agreement duly executed, they found Uncle Mosha calmly smoking the last of his cigar while he pondered over the "News for Investors" column. The tabulated list of quotations was not unnoticed by Max as he felt for another cigar to present to the old man.
"Do you ever speculate in Wall Street, Mr. Kronberg?" he asked.
"Oncet upon a time I used to," Uncle Mosha replied, "but never no more, Maxie. It's a game which you couldn't beat—take it from me, Maxie—not if you was a hundred times so smart as Old Man Baum."
"Well, Abe," Morris Perlmutter remarked as they sat in their showroom ten days after the events above noted, "I did mix up in Alex Kronberg's family matters and, with all your croaking, what is the result? Alex has got a good partner; Uncle Mosha has got a good home, and ourselves we got a good order for three thousand dollars, which otherwise we wouldn't got at all."
"What are you talking nonsense, Mawruss?" Abe said. "Things wouldn't turned out the way they did if it wouldn't be I met Max Gershon in Hammersmith's. That's what started it, Mawruss."
"Nothing of the kind, Abe," Morris retorted. "What started it, Abe, was me when I went down to Madison Street and give Uncle Mosha that cigar, Abe. I tell you, Abe, it's an old saying and a true one: Throw away a loaf of bread in the water, y'understand, and sooner or later, Abe, it would come home like chickens to roost."
THE RAINCOAT KING
"The table is all right, Mawruss," Abe Potash remarked as he consulted the timecard of the Long Island Railroad one hot July afternoon. "The table is all right; I ain't kicking about the table, y'understand, but the class of people which they stay in the house, Mawruss, is pretty schlecht. My Rosie couldn't get along with 'em at all."
"You don't tell me!" Morris replied. "Riesenberger's is got a big reputation, Abe, and when me and Minnie stayed there two years ago there was an elegant class of people stopping in the house. Would you believe me, Abe, I tried to get up a game of auction pinocle there and I couldn't do it! Nobody would play less than a dollar a hundred. I'm surprised to hear the place is run down so."
"Oh, if the house's got a big reputation for auction pinocle, Mawruss, then that's something else again! They play just as high as former times. Sidney Koblin lost forty dollars last night. With my own eyes I seen it, Mawruss; and his father looks on and don't say nothing."
"What does Max Koblin care for forty dollars, Abe?" Morris said. "The feller's a millionaire. He's got ten pages of advertising in the Cloak and Suit Monthly Gazette. I bet yer he spends more as forty dollars for one page already. Wait; I'll show it to you."
Morris opened the green-covered periodical and displayed a full-page "ad."
KING OF RAINCOATS
"KOBLINETTE," THE RAINSHED FABRIC
WEST 20TH STREET
"Sure, I know, Mawruss," Abe commented. "He was always a big faker, that feller. Twenty years since already I used to eat by Gifkin's on Canal Street, and one day Max Koblin comes in and says to me, 'Abe,' he says, 'I want you should drink a bottle tchampanyer wine on me.' In them days Max works for old man Zudosky selling boys' reefers. Raincoats was like oitermobiles; no one had discovered 'em yet. 'What's the matter, Max?' I says. 'Old man Zudosky given you a raise?' I says. 'Raise nothing,' Max says. 'I got a boy up to my house.' 'So,' I says, 'just because you got a boy, Max, I should got a headache and neglect my business?' I says. 'An idee!' I says. 'Take the dollar and a quarter, Max,' I says, 'and put it in the savings bank, and every time you give the boy a penny make him put it away with the other money,' I says; 'and the first thing you know, Max,' I says, 'when the boy gets to be twenty years old he's got anyhow a couple hundred dollars in the savings bank.'"
"And what did Max say?" Morris asked.
"He laughs at me, Mawruss," Abe replied. "He says to me, 'when that boy gets to be twenty years old he wouldn't need to got to have a couple hundred dollars in the savings bank. I could give him all the money he wants it.'"
"Well, Max was right, ain't it?" Morris rejoined. "He could give the boy all the money he wants."
"Money ain't everything what that boy wants, Mawruss," Abe said. "A good potch on the side of the head oncet in a while is what that boy wants. So fresh that young feller is, Mawruss, you wouldn't believe it at all. Actually he runs an oitermobile what Max bought it for him for fifteen hundred dollars, a birthday present, besides the other big car which Koblin got it. Max oser runs oitermobiles at Sidney's age. Piece goods on a pooshcart from old man Zudosky's to the sponger's was all the oitermobiling Max done it. To-day they are putting on style yet. Suckers!"
"Well, say, Abe," Morris protested, "what is it skin off your nose supposing Max does buy oitermobiles for the boy? This is a free country, Abe."
"Sure, I know, Mawruss," Abe declared, as he revealed the nub of the whole matter; "and supposing my Rosie don't play poker, which, Gott sei dank, she couldn't tell a king from an ace, what is that Mrs. Koblin's business? She ain't supposed to know that, Mawruss, and yet she didn't invite my Rosie to her poker party. Rosie wouldn't of gone anyhow, Mawruss; but that ain't the point. Ain't my Rosie just as good as Mrs. Klinger oder Mrs. Elenbogen? Particularly Mrs. Elenbogen, which, three years ago even, Kleiman & Elenbogen was still rated ten to fifteen thousand, third credit. Only in the last two years they are coming up so; and the way that Mrs. Elenbogen acts, you would think her husband got a bank in Frankfort-am-Main when Rothschild was a new beginner yet. Such fakers as them is too good for my Rosie, Mawruss. An idee!"
"What do you worry yourself about women's fighting, Abe?" Morris asked.
"Me worry myself, Mawruss!" Abe cried. "I much care for them people, Mawruss. I am married to my Rosie now going on twenty-six years, will be next May, and if I didn't know that she's got it on every one of them cows in looks, in refinement and in every which way, Mawruss, then I could worry, Mawruss. As it is, Mawruss, for my part they could play poker till they are black in the face—what is it my business? I got enough to attend to here in the store, Mawruss, without I should bother myself."
"I bet yer!" Morris agreed fervently. "That reminds me, Abe, Shapolnik is leaving us on Saturday."
"Well, Mawruss, I couldn't exactly break my heart about that, y'understand?" Abe replied, "Skirt-cutters you could always get plenty of 'em. What's the matter he ain't satisfied?"
"Nothing's the matter," Morris said. "He is simply going into the pants business. His brother-in-law is got a small place downtown and he is going as partners together with him. They ought to make a success of it too, Abe, if nerve would got anything to do with it. The feller actually wants me I should give him an introduction to Feder of the Kosciusko Bank."
"Sure; why not?" Abe commented.
"Why not?" Morris repeated. "What would Feder think of us if we are bringing a yokel like Shapolnik into his office? The feller ain't been two years in the country yet."
"Don't knock a feller like Shapolnik just because he ain't putting on no front nor throwing no bluffs, Mawruss," Abe retorted. "It's the faker with the four-carat diamond pin which is doing his creditors, Mawruss, but the yokel with the soup on his coat pays a hundred cents on the dollar every time."
Half an hour later Abe conducted his retiring skirt-cutter to the Fifth Avenue branch of the Kosciusko Bank, and as they approached the corner of Nineteenth Street on their return they encountered Max Koblin, the Raincoat King. He was about to enter the tonneau of an automobile, while Sidney Koblin, the Heir Apparent, sat at the tiller arrayed in a silk duster and goggles. Max grinned maliciously as he noted Abe's shabby, bearded companion.
"Always entertaining the out-of-town trade, Abe?" he said.
Abe relaxed his features in what he intended for a smile, but afterward he turned to Shapolnik with a scowl.
"Only one thing I got to tell you, Shapolnik," he declared. "Nowadays, if a feller wants to make a success he must got to wear good clothes and look like a mensch, y'understand? It never harms in business, Shapolnik, that a feller should throw sometimes, oncet in a while, a little bluff."
Between the ages of sixteen and twenty Sidney Koblin had so often tested the maxim, "Boys will be boys," that Max Koblin's patience at length became exhausted. "Do you mean to told me you ain't got one cent left from that forty I gave you on Saturday?" Max asked on the Monday morning following Shapolnik's resignation.
"Aw, what's biting you?" Sidney cried. "You sat behind me last night and if it wouldn't been for you I wouldn't of played that last four-hundred hand at all. Cost forty-eight dollars, that advice of yours."
This was a facer, to be sure, and Max paused before formulating a rejoinder.
"In the first place, Sidney," he began, "you didn't got no right to lead no trump. I told you before lots of times, if you got the extra ten, get rid of your meld first. And in the second place, Sidney, I wouldn't stand for your extravagance no longer. It's time you turned around and attended to business."
"Aw, you never give me no show!" Sidney protested. "You keep me monkeying around while other young fellers is out on the road. Look at Mortie Savin and all them boys."
"Sure, I know," Max rejoined. "They got heads on 'em. You couldn't add up eight figures together, and at your age for a feller to write a hand like that, Sidney—"
"What are you kicking about?" Sidney exclaimed. "When you was my age you couldn't sign your name even."
"Well, that ain't here nor there, Sidney," Max replied as he pulled a bill from the roll which he produced from his trousers pocket. "Here is ten dollars and that's got to last you till Saturday night. D'ye understand?"
Sidney grunted as he tucked the bill into his waistcoat. He had heard the same ultimatum once a week for the past two years, and he whistled cheerfully as he despatched one of the stock boys for a package of cigarettes. An hour later he lunched at Hammersmith's, while Abe Potash sat at an adjacent table. As he consumed a modest portion of rostbraten, Abe noted with a disapproving eye the cherry-stone clams, green-turtle soup and filet Chateaubriand which formed the menu of the Heir Apparent; and when the latter topped off his meal with half a pint of dry champagne and a café parfait Abe seized his hat and fairly ran from the restaurant.
"If nobody would tell that feller Koblin what a lowlife bum he got it for a son, Mawruss," he said as he entered the firm's private office ten minutes later, "I will. Actually with my own eyes I seen it—the feller eats for five dollars a lunch, and he ain't with a customer nor nothing."
"What is it your business what Sidney Koblin is eating, Abe?" Morris rejoined. "If you wouldn't notice every mouthful the feller puts in his face at all you would be back here a whole lot sooner. There's a feller waiting for you in the showroom over half an hour since."
"Who is he?" Abe asked.
"I think it's that Mr.—Who's this, from Seattle, which he was in here last fall and nearly bought from us them polo coats? I couldn't tell his face exactly, but you remember what a swell dresser that feller was."
Abe peered through the screen that divided the rooms.
"I think you're right, Mawruss," he said.
"I couldn't remember his name," Morris added, "and that's why I didn't talk much to him. All I says was you would be in soon; and I give him a cigar from the safe."
Abe nodded and walked hurriedly out of the office. As he approached his caller he extended his right hand.
"How do you do?" he exclaimed, as he shook his visitor warmly by the hand. "You're looking fine."
The visitor smiled in return.
"I thought you were going to tell me that," he replied.
"Yes, indeed! You're looking a whole lot better than the last time I seen you," Abe said. "When did you get in?"
"I am here now going on half an hour already."
"Well, why didn't you talk to my partner?" Abe asked. "He could fix you up just as well as me."
"I did talk to him," the newcomer replied, "but he is too stuck up to talk to me at all."
"Stuck up!" Abe exclaimed, with a note of real anguish in his tones. "Stuck up! Why, you don't know my partner at all, Mister—er—excuse me, do you got a card?"
The stranger drew a card from his waistcoat pocket and with a proud gesture handed it to Abe. It read as follows:
530 WEST WASHINGTON PLACE
KATZBERG & SCHAPP
"I am taking your advice, Mr. Potash," he said. "I am taking your advice all round. I cut 'em off."
"You cut what off?" Abe asked.
"The whiskers, Mr. Potash. Also I am making short the name. In Russland Shapolnik is all right, Mr. Potash; but if a feller wants to make a success in business he should be a little up to date, ain't it?"
The cordial smile faded from Abe's face as he recognized his visitor.
"There's such a thing as being too much up to date, Shapolnik," he said. "You ain't got no right to fool my partner like that. Me, you couldn't fool for a minute. Right away I says to myself, 'Here is a feller which he wants to ask us something we should do him for a favour.' So, spit it out, Shapolnik. What is it you want from us?"
"Well, it's like this, Mr. Potash," Shapolnik began. "Me and my partner we are wanting to take on somebody for a drummer, y'understand. We must got it some one which he is already got a trade. Aber he couldn't ask for too much money at the start on account we are going slow. If you know some young feller which he wants the job me and my partner would be much obliged, Mr. Potash."
"What d'ye think we are running here anyway, Shapolnik," Abe retorted—"an employment agency?"
"I am just taking chances might you would know somebody, maybe," Shapolnik murmured as he rose to his feet. He seemed much relieved at Abe's refusal. "And I hope you don't think I am doing something out of the way. You know, Mr. Potash, me and my partner we think a whole lot of your judgment, and if you would give us an advice we are willing we should follow it."
"Well, I ain't mad at you, Shapolnik," Abe said more mildly; "but all the same, if you want to get a drummer you got a right to advertise for one."
"We would do so," Shapolnik replied, "and if you would be in our Nachbarschaft oncet in a while, Mr. Potash, me and my partner would consider it an honour if you are dropping in to see us. We only got a small place, Mr. Potash." He paused and fingered the texture of his waistcoat. "But everything will be up to date, Mr. Potash," he concluded, "just like you advised us to."
Abe watched his late skirt-cutter disappear into the elevator, and then he returned to the office where Morris impatiently awaited him.
"Nu, Abe," Morris cried as he entered.
"Yes, Mawruss," Abe said with cutting emphasis: "good cigars don't care who smokes 'em. I suppose if Nathan, the shipping clerk, would come in here with a collar and tie on and a clean shave, you would want to blow him to a bottle of tchampanyer wine yet. Just because a feller shaves off his beard and buys himself a new suit of clothes you couldn't recognize him at all. That was Shapolnik which just went out of here."
"Shapolnik!" Morris exclaimed. "That dude was Shapolnik? Well, what d'ye think for a crook like that!"
"Crooked Shapolnik ain't exactly," Abe interrupted; "but it should be a lesson to you, Mawruss, that you wouldn't be so free with our cigars. All the feller wants from us is we should recommend him a drummer."
"The nerve the feller got it!" Morris cried. "He comes around here throwing bluffs he needs a drummer yet. A new beginner like him ain't going to hire no drummer, Abe. I bet yer he takes his pants under his arms and sees them Fourteenth Street buyers on his way downtown in the morning. He ain't got no more use for a drummer than I got it for an airship."
"My tzuris if he has or he hasn't!" Abe exclaimed. "I anyhow told him he should advertise for one, as we are not running an employment agency here, Mawruss; and so, Mawruss, let's get busy on that order for Griesman. I want to get away from here sure at five o'clock to-day. What is the good I am staying down at Riesenberger's if I never get a show to take oncet in a while a sea bath, maybe?"
Nevertheless it was ten minutes past five before Abe boarded a crosstown car; and, although he made a wild sprint from the ferry landing on the Long Island side, he arrived at the trainshed just in time to see the rear platform of the five-forty-five for Arverne disappearing in a cloud of black smoke.
He returned to the waiting room, and as he was sadly inspecting the outer pages of the comic periodicals displayed in the news-stand a heavy hand clapped him on the shoulder.
"Hello, Abe!" cried a hearty voice, and Abe turned to view the perspiring features of Max Koblin, the Raincoat King. Abe returned the salutation without much enthusiasm.
"Why ain't you going down in the oitermobile, Max?" he asked. "Millionaires ain't got no excuse for missing trains like ordinary people."
Max laughed in an embarrassed fashion.
"Millionaires is got their troubles too, Abe," he said. "Even when they ain't millionaires."
"I should have your trouble!" Abe commented.
"I got enough, Abe, believe me," Max rejoined. "Everything I got to look after myself. My credit man leaves me next week; and I got other worries besides that one, too."
"Sure, I know," Abe said as they started for the smoker of the six-ten; "and the biggest one you got only yourself to blame for it."
"What d'ye mean, Abe?" Max asked.
"I mean this, Max," Abe declared. "I am knowing you now since twenty years already, and if I am butting in you could know it ain't because I am fresh, y'understand, but because I got your interests at heart. That boy of yours goes too far, Max."
Max drew a cigar from his waistcoat pocket and carefully bit off the end. "How so?" he inquired.
"Well, in a whole lot of ways, Max," Abe continued, after they were seated; "and mind you, I know it ain't none of my business, Max, but when I see that boy come into Hammersmith's to-day and eat for five dollars a lunch, with a bottle of tchampanyer wine yet, Max, I couldn't help myself. I got to say something."
Max scowled and spat out the end of his cigar.
"Of course, Max," Abe added, using his partner's metaphor, "it ain't no skin off my nose, y'understand."
"Ain't it?" Max growled as he turned on Abe with a menacing glare. "Well, it's a wonder it ain't, the way you are sticking it into other people's business. If you think I care what you think about what my boy eats for his lunch you are making a big mistake. I could take care of my own boy, Potash, and I am just as much obliged if you would do the same."
Abe flushed a fiery red and rose to his feet.
"I guess I would go into the next car," he said.
"You could go a whole lot farther for all I care!" Max retorted, and immediately buried his head between the open pages of a conservative evening paper.
Abe had not offended in vain, however, for after dinner that night, when Sidney sought his father in the Koblins' suite at Riesenberger's cottage, the King was in an ugly mood.
"Say, Pop," Sidney began, "how about you for twenty till Saturday night?"
"What d'ye mean?" Max bellowed. "Ain't I given you ten dollars only this morning?"
Sidney laughed uncomfortably. "Ain't you the old tightwad!" he said.
Max's reply to this observation was quite unprecedented in all Sidney's experience. It took the form of an open-handed blow on the cheek, the first ever administered by his indulgent parent since Sidney's infancy. Forthwith began a family row that brought the entire household—guests, servants and proprietress—on the run to the Koblin apartments. When Mrs. Koblin's frightened screams had ceased, and Max Koblin had calmed down sufficiently to offer an evasive explanation, the guests trooped back to the piazza, and three games of auction pinocle, which had started in the dining-room after the tables had been cleared, came to an abrupt close. Instead, the players foregathered with the other guests in the porch rockers.
There they discussed the incident until nearly midnight; and, as no one had been an eyewitness of the affray, there were as many versions of it as may be mathematically demonstrated where one blow is struck among three persons. Some had it that Sidney had attacked his father and others that Mrs. Koblin had assaulted Sidney, but a large feminine majority favoured a construction of the matter as one of wife-beating. Abe alone correctly surmised the turn that Sidney's affairs had taken and he sat on the piazza in conscience-stricken solitude long after all the other guests had retired.
He blamed himself for the entire affair and he smoked cigar after cigar before he sought his bed. As he walked up the broad staircase he met Max Koblin at the first landing.
"Max," he said, "where are you going this time of night?"
Max stopped short. His eyes blazed in a face so careworn and haggard that, to Abe, he seemed to have aged ten years since their meeting that afternoon.
"This is what comes of your butting in!" Max cried bitterly. "The boy went out right after we had the fuss and he ain't come back."
He paused to choke down a hysterical lump in his throat.
"And God knows what's become of him!" he sobbed as he continued down the stairs.
Abe tossed on his pillow all night; and when at breakfast he learned that Sidney Koblin had not returned, he swallowed with difficulty a cup of coffee and left a steak, two eggs and a plate of French-fried potatoes entirely untasted. Thus he was enabled to catch the seven-five instead of the seven-thirty train. When he found himself at the Thirty-fourth Street Ferry with almost half an hour to spare he determined to walk to the store.
He trudged across Thirty-fourth Street with his hands in his pockets and his head bent toward the pavement, a prey to the most bitter reflections; and as he turned the corner of Fifth Avenue he failed to notice, walking in the opposite direction, a tall youth, well dressed save for soiled linen. The latter's eyes showed traces of unmistakable tears; and as they, too, were bent upon the pavement there ensued a violent collision, which almost threw Abe off his feet.
"Why don't you look where you're going?" he began, and then he recognized the object of his wrath. "Sidney!" he yelled, clutching young Koblin's shoulder. "Where are you going?"
"Let me alone," Sidney cried as he sought to free himself.
"Aber, Sidney," Abe pleaded, "you mustn't act so strange with me. Did you got any breakfast yet?"
Sidney shook his head sullenly.
"Me neither," Abe cried. "Come on over to the Waldorf."
Five minutes later they sat at a table in the palm room, while Abe ordered two whole portions of grapefruit, a double portion of tenderloin steak, soufflé potatoes, coffee, waffles and honey.
"Now, listen to me, Sidney," he began. "You shouldn't got mad at your father just because he licks you oncet, y'understand. My poor father, selig, he knocks the face off of me regular twicet a week, and I ain't none the worser for it."
Sidney hung his head and made no reply.
"Furthermore, Sidney," Abe went on, "if you are broke why don't you say so?"
He pulled a roll of bills out of his pocket and handed Sidney twenty dollars.
"Just a loan for a few days, y'understand," he said as the waiter brought in a loaded tray, "or a year—what's the difference—ain't it? Now, let's get busy."
Together they polished off the entire trayful of food, and when Abe leaned back the waiter presented a check for ten dollars and eighty cents.
"Cheap at the price," Abe remarked as he added a generous tip to the amount of the bill. "And now, Sidney, I suppose you're going back to the store?"
"No, I ain't," Sidney said. "I ain't doing no good down there; so what's the use? The old man won't let me do nothing down there and they all think I'm a joke."
"Well, you see, Sidney," Abe commented, "that's the way it goes. It's an old saying, but a true one: 'There's no profit for a feller in his own country.'"
"And what's more," Sidney continued, "they ain't given me a chance neither. What I want to do is to sell goods on the road."
"Sure, I know," Abe interrupted. "Every young feller wants to go on the road. All they can see in it is riding in parlour cars and playing auction pinocle in four-dollar-a-day hotels. Believe me, Sidney, selling goods on the road, when you been at it so long as I am, is a dawg's life; and as for auction pinocle that's poison for a salesman."
"Auction pinocle is nothing to me," Sidney declared. "I swore off."
"Another thing is lunches, Sidney," Abe went on. "Ain't it a funny thing what a lot of satisfaction it is when you are eating zwieback and a cup of coffee for lunch? In the first place, all it is costing you is ten cents and you feel like a prince. Many a big bill of goods I sold on zwieback and coffee, Sidney—crackers and milk, too. And now, Sidney, the best thing you could do is to go back and tell the old man you are through with auction pinocle and high-price lunches, and you want him he should give you a show you should sell goods."
Again Sidney shook his head.
"It ain't no use, Mr. Potash," Sidney declared. "Pop ain't got no confidence in me. If I was a greenhorn fresh from the old country he might let me start in and do something, but—"
At the word greenhorn Abe Potash leaned forward and struck the table with his open hand.
"By jimminy, Sidney!" he cried, "I know the very job for you. Only one thing I must got to say to you, Sidney: you would got to commence small; so if what you are saying about auction pinocle and other monkey business goes, Sidney, all right. Otherwise the thing is off."
"Sure, it goes, Mr. Potash," Sidney cried.
Abe looked the Heir Apparent squarely in the eye for two minutes and then he struck the table again.
"I believe you, Sidney," he said, "and we will right away take the car down to West Washington Place."
Katzberg & Schapp occupied the top floor of an old private house; but what their place of business lacked in size it made up in activity. Pressing irons were sizzling and banging and sewing machines were burring loudly as Abe and Sidney climbed the stairs. When they entered, Shapolnik, the butterfly of fashion, had once more assumed the chrysalis of his working clothes.
"How do you do, Mister Potash?" he cried, all in one breath. "Excuse me; I am looking like a slob. We are busy like dawgs here. Katzberg!" he yelled; "Kimmen Sie hieran."
In response, a stout figure, clad only in an undershirt, trousers and a pair of carpet slippers, laid down a pressing iron and shuffled toward the visitors.
"My partner, Mister Katzberg," Shapolnik announced. "He also looks a slob, Mr. Potash; but when we are getting partitions in, and our office fixed up, no one would see him at all. He is the inside man; and me, I am in the office and showroom. We're going to have a showroom so soon as we are settled—a safe too. A telephone we already got it. This is Mr. Potash, Katzberg, and the other gentleman I don't know at all."
"Mr. Koblin," Abe explained; "he is coming to work by you as a salesman."
"A salesman!" Katzberg exclaimed. "Why, we don't want no—"
Shapolnik turned on him with a glare.
"Katzberg," he said, "them samples you are working on we got to show the Magnet Store this afternoon yet."
Katzberg shrugged his shoulders and returned to his pressing, while Shapolnik drew forward two rickety chairs and a packing-box.
"Have a seat, Mr. Potash; and Mr. Cohen, too," he said.
"Koblin," Abe corrected.
"Koblin," Shapolnik repeated. "Excuse me."
He went to a closet in the corner, and unlocking it he exposed the fashionable suit that he had worn at Potash & Perlmutter's the previous afternoon. From the right-hand waistcoat pocket he took a red-banded invincible and handed it to Abe.
"Have a smoke, Mr. Potash?" he said. Abe examined the cigar closely and tucked it carefully away. Then he produced three panatelas, handed one each to Sidney and Shapolnik and lit the other himself.
"About this here salesman, Mr. Potash," Shapolnik commented. "I think I changed my mind."
Abe blew a great cloud of smoke before replying and then he placed an emphatic forefinger upon Shapolnik's knee.
"A new beginner when he throws bluffs, Shapolnik," he said, "must got to make good. You told me yesterday you wanted a salesman and I am bringing him to you."
"Sure, I know I told it you, Mr. Potash," he said, "but my partner thinks otherwise."
"The only use some people got for a partner, Shapolnik," he commented, "is they could always blame him for everything they do; but even if you did come in my place just to show me what an elegant suit of clothes and a fine clean shave you got it, Shapolnik, I am bringing you a salesman anyhow."
Katzberg at this juncture again laid down his pressing iron and came forward.
"Say, lookyhere, what is the use talking?" he cried. "We don't need a salesman; and that's all there is to it."
"'S enough, Katzberg," Abe shouted. "You got a whole lot too much to say for yourself for a new beginner. I ain't saying you need a salesman, Katzberg; I am only saying that you are going to hire one, Katzberg. And after you hire one you will quick need him."
Abe placed his hand on Sidney's shoulder.
"Here is a young feller which he ain't going to gamble oder fool away his time. He is going to sell goods," he declared. "He works for years by the biggest raincoat house in the country, and he's got an acquaintance among the retail clothing trade which it is easy worth to you twenty-five dollars a week and the regular commissions."
"But we couldn't afford to pay no salesman twenty-five dollars a week," Shapolnik exclaimed.
"Try me just one week," Sidney said, "and I'll bring in enough cash to pay my salary."
"I forgot to say," Abe interrupted, "that he's also got a lot of confidence in himself."
"Maybe I have," Sidney retorted: "but I'm going to make good."
"Certainly you are," Abe added, rising from his chair; "and now, Katzberg, the whole thing is settled."
Katzberg shrugged and extended one palm outward in a gesture of despair.
"Seemingly we are not our own bosses here," he said.
"Seemingly not," Abe rejoined; "but, just the same, if you will take on this young feller for a salesman I would give you a guarantirt that I will make good all you would lose on him for the first three months. Is my word good enough?"
"Sure, it is!" Shapolnik cried. "When would you come to work by us, Mr. Koblin?"
"This morning," Abe answered for Sidney—"right now; and one thing I must got to say to you, Sidney, before I go: stand in your own shoes and don't try to excuse yourself, on account you got a rich father. Also, if the old man makes you an offer you should come back to him, turn it down. Take it from me, Sidney, you got a big future here."
With a parting handshake all around Abe started back to his place of business. Five minutes later he boarded a Broadway car, and when he alighted at Nineteenth Street he picked his way through a jam of vehicles, which completely blocked that narrow thoroughfare. As he was about to set foot on the sidewalk he caught sight of the gray, drawn countenance of the Raincoat King, who sat beside his chauffeur on the front seat of a touring car.
"Say, Max," Abe cried, "I want to speak to you a few words something."
Max Koblin turned his head and recognized Abe with a start.
"What d'ye want from me?" he said huskily.
"I want to tell you the boy is all right," Abe replied.
The colour surged to Max's face and he leaped wildly from the automobile.
"What d'ye mean, all right?" he gasped.
"I mean all right in every way, Max," Abe answered; "and if you would step into Hammersmith's for a minute I'll tell you all about it."
"Where is he?" Max cried.
Abe led the way to a table.
"He's where he should have been schon long since already," he said as they sat down. "He's got a job and he's going to make good on it."
"What are you talking nonsense?" Max exploded. "Where is my Sidney? His mother is pretty near crazy."
"She shouldn't worry," Abe replied calmly. "The boy is coming home to-night; and if I would be you, Max, I would see to it he pays anyhow eight dollars a week board."
Once more Max grew white—with anger this time.
"Jokes you are making with me!" he bellowed. "Tell me where my boy is quick or I'll—"
"Koosh, Max!" Abe interrupted. "You are making a fool of yourself. I ain't hiding your boy. Just listen a few minutes and I'll tell you all about it."
Forthwith he unfolded to Max a vivid narrative of that morning's adventures; when he concluded Max had grown somewhat calmer.
"But, Potash," he protested, "I don't want the boy he should work by somebody else. Let him come and sell goods by me."
"He couldn't do it and you couldn't neither, Max," Abe said. "If he goes back to you, Max, you couldn't change over the way you've been treating that boy ever since he was born, and he sure would go back to the way he has been acting. Let the boy stay where he is, Max."
"Say, lookyhere, Potash," Max burst out, "what are you butting into my affairs for? Ain't I competent to manage my own son?"
Abe deemed it the part of friendship to remain silent, but Max misconstrued his reticence.
"O-o-h!" he exclaimed. "I see the whole business now. You got an interest in this here pants factory and so you practically kidnap my son. Do you know what I think? I think you are trying to jolly me into letting him stay there because you expect maybe I would invest some money in the business."
For two minutes Abe gulped convulsively and blinked at the Raincoat King in stunned amazement. Then he rose slowly to his feet.
"All right, Koblin," he said. "I heard enough from you. I wash myself of the entire matter. For my part you and your son could go to the devil; and take it from me, it won't be your fault if he don't."
When Abe entered the firm's showroom that morning it was nearly half-past eleven and Morris Perlmutter sat behind the pages of the Daily Cloak and Suit Record in a sulky perusal of the Arrival of Buyers column. Before he looked up he permitted Abe to discard his coat for an office jacket.
"You was taking a sea bath, Abe?" he said at length. "Ain't it? I suppose we would pretty soon got to close up the store so's you could take all the sea baths you want. What?"
Abe refrained from uttering a suitable rejoinder and made straight for the office.
"Mawruss!" he yelled; "ain't the safe open yet?"
"Never mind is the safe open oder not, Abe," Morris replied. "So long as you are attending to business the way you are, Abe, it ain't necessary the safe should be opened."
Abe grunted and squatted down in front of the combination. At length the big doors swung open and he drew the box of cigars out of the middle compartment.
Morris looked on with ill-concealed curiosity while Abe took a banded Invincible from his waistcoat pocket and restored it to the box whence it originally came.
"What's all that for?" Morris asked.
"That's a souvenir from a pleasant morning," Abe replied as he thrust the box of cigars back into the safe and slammed the doors. He was about to return to the showroom, when the telephone bell rang and Morris took the receiver from the hook.
"Hello!" he said. "Yes, this is Potash & Perlmutter. He's right here. Abe, Max Koblin wants to talk to you."
"He does, hey?" Abe replied. "Well, I don't want to talk to him."
"You should tell him that yourself," Morris said as he walked away from the telephone. "I ain't got nothing to do with your quarrels."
Abe watched Morris disappear into the showroom and then he ran to the telephone and slammed the receiver on to the hook with force sufficient almost to wreck the instrument. At intervals of a few seconds the telephone rang for more than half an hour. Fifteen minutes after it had ceased the elevator door opened and Max Koblin entered.
"Cut-throat!" Koblin exclaimed. "I rung up my son and he wouldn't come back. You are turning him against me—you and them two other crooks. You think you would get my money out of me. Very well. I'll show you. I ain't through with you yet. I'll put you fellers where you belong."
"Don't make me no threats, Koblin," Abe said calmly, "because, in the first place, you couldn't scare me any, and, in the second place, if you think I am trying to keep your boy away from you, you are mistaken—that's all. I already wasted a whole morning on him and, just to show you I ain't such a crook as you think I am, I would go right down there now; and if I got to do it I would drag that young loafer out of there by the hair of his head."
Twenty minutes later Abe burst into Katzberg & Schapp's business premises and asked in loud tones for Sidney Koblin. Before the astonished Shapolnik could reply, Max Koblin, who had followed Abe on the next car, arrived all breathless and panted a similar demand.
"He ain't in now," Shapolnik replied; "he is just going to his lunch."
"What d'ye mean by talking to me on the 'phone the way you did this morning?" Max shouted. "You ain't got no business to keep my boy from me."
"I ain't keeping your boy from you," Shapolnik answered; "and I would speak to you whichever what way I would want to. Who are you anyway?"
"Koosh! Shapolnik," Abe interrupted. "You are talking too fresh. Mr. Koblin is right. You should fire that young feller right away, because I am telling you right here and now I wouldn't guarantee nothing for him after this."
"What do I care what you would guarantee or what you wouldn't guarantee?" Shapolnik replied. "The young feller already sold for us this morning for five hundred dollars a bill of goods, and he could stay with us oder not, just as he wants. Furthermore, Mr. Potash, I don't give a snap of my fingers for your guarantirt; this is my shop and if you don't want to stay here you don't got to."
He seized a pressing-iron in token that the interview was ended and Abe and Max started for the stairs without another word. As they reached the sidewalk Abe paused. Across the street a dairy lunchroom displayed its white-enamel sign and through the plate-glass window he thought he discerned a familiar figure. He ran to the opposite sidewalk and entered the restaurant, closely followed by Max, just as Sidney Koblin was eating the last crumbs of a portion of zwieback and coffee.
"Hello, Sidney!" Abe said. "What's the matter with you? Why don't you go back to your father?"
Sidney rose to his feet and looked first at Abe and then at the Raincoat King.
"What for?" he asked nonchalantly.
"Because he asks you to," Abe replied, "and because I didn't got no right to butt in the way I did, Sidney. After all, your father is your father."
"What's biting you now?" Sidney exclaimed. "Ain't you told me this morning I should do what I did?"
Abe nodded sadly.
"And didn't you say me and the old man couldn't give each other a square deal even if we wanted to?"
Abe nodded again.
"Then I'm going to stick to my job," Sidney declared as he walked toward the cashier's desk.
Abe and Max trailed after him and when they reached the sidewalk Max seized his son by the arm.
"Sidney, leben," he said; "listen to me. Come and eat anyhow a decent lunch and we'll talk this thing over."
"What for?" Sidney said. "I've had as much as I want to eat, and besides I've got to see a fellow up at the Prince Clarence Hotel. I'll be at Riesenberger's to dinner to-night about the usual time."
"Oh, you will, will you?" Max cried. "Well, all I got to say is you've got to pay for it yourself."
Sidney broke into a laugh.
"That worries me a whole lot!" he said. "I've made enough out of my commissions to-day already to pay a whole week's board down there."
He turned and started across the street, but as he reached the curb he paused.
"Tell mommer she shouldn't worry herself," he said. "I'm all right."
Max looked at Abe with a sickly grin.
"I think he is too, Abe," he murmured. "Would you come over to Broadway and take maybe a little lunch with me?"
"Zwieback and coffee is good enough for me," Abe replied.
Max linked his arm in Abe's.
"You shouldn't be mad at me, Abe," he said sadly. "I am all turned upside down about that boy; and if zwieback and coffee is good enough for you and him, Abe, I guess it must be too good for me. But, just the same, I am going to eat with you, Abe, and we'll let bygones be bygones."
It was some weeks before Abe could bring himself to recount to Morris the full details of Sidney Koblin's regeneration, but Morris had learned the facts long before there appeared in the advertising section of the Clothing and Haberdashery Magazine the following full-page advertisement:
KATZBERG, SCHAPP & KOBLIN
Opening of Their New Office and Showroom
In the Chicksaw Building,
West 4th Street, New York
Makers of Trousers for Finicky Folks
The Rainshed Pants
Manufactured from the Famous Rainproof Fabric
Keeps the Legs Warm and Dry
Spring Line Now Ready
It caught Morris's eye one morning in January and he read it over—not without envy.
"Some people's got all the luck, Abe," he said bitterly.
"I bet yer!" Abe replied, without looking up from his order book, which was overflowing with requisitions for spring garments. "I bet yer, Mawruss! You take my Rosie for instance: at her age you got no idee what a sport she is. Yesterday afternoon she went to a bridge-whist party by Mrs. Koblin's and she won a sterling solid-silver fern dish. And mind you, Mawruss, she only just found out how to play the game."
"Who learned her?" Morris asked.
"Mrs. Klinger and Mrs. Elenbogen," Abe replied. "That's two fine women, Mawruss—particularly Mrs. Elenbogen."
Abe and Mawruss: Being Further Adventures of Potash and Perlmutter by Montague Glass – Full Text (Chapters 5-7)