Изображения страниц
[graphic][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]




JULY, 1924

No. 7


A, you want to take a look at a couple of ads I marked?"

Pa Moser continued his reading of the Sunday editorial section. Despite an attempted absorption he blinked heavily hooded eyes nervously.

"Pa! You want I should ask it again? I got some ads you should see—such bargains. A new rug that's only been used a little, and they don't want almost nothing for it. Look, Pa; take a look at what I found in the ads."

Pa slid a fat leg from one knee and rumpled his paper.

"Oh-hum. Suppose I take a walk before we go to bed."

"Then you go by yourself. I got no time, what with working for you and Leon all day. You want to take the ads with you?"

"I said I was going for a walk. dark outside."


"You want I should get these things?" "Goodness, no! What things?" "Look, Pa-parlor rug, room size, slightly used, ten dollars."

"No, no, Vida. Ain't it I told you we buy nothing but what we got to have?"

"Don't we got to have a new rug? Ever since Leon spilled ink-"

Not So Bankrupt

"Seven years ago! The rug was new, brand new. That ink don't matter so

much. It hardly shows."

"That's because the ink spot is worn off. We got to get a new rug anyway by the time Leon comes back from college. But most of all it ain't the rug, but some new clothes for me."

"As if the clothes you got ain't good. and strong yet."

"They're strong where I patched them, and they're good because I bought a bargain. Look, Pa; look at this ad. Waists at the Silk Shop for two dollars and ninety-eight cents-so cheap!"

"If you got to get a waist, I guess you got to. At Weinstein's, on Market Street, you get two waists for less

[blocks in formation]

I'm a millionaire?"

"You got a good business."

"That's what I tell you. And since when is it I can't support my family? Leon-three years now he goes to mediin style and Leon to be a physician?" cal college. Ain't it that I support you "Cheap waists and ink stains on rug now seven years old!"

[blocks in formation]


A sighed and picked up his paper again. No use going out-his escape would be temporary.

"You go to Weinstein's tomorrow and buy two waists. That's being a good provider, huh? Maybe you get a pair of gloves, too—but cheap, you know. I never deny you all the clothes you need and maybe some you don't need. nice strong clothes and you don't got to have so many."


"Have I got always to wear the cheap things? Why can't we make more money. You got a good business.”

"You should complain if I don't make twice as much. I pay always my debts."

"You should blush to think that your little brother, Alfred, sells so many shoes he's already buying his home in Westwood Park-such a nice new bungalow with hardwood floors."

"Pooh. On the installment."

"That's what I been telling you. Then you think we get a new bungalow in Westwood Park?"

"No! You got to pay more than a thousand dollars down."

"Oh, then your brother, Alfred, is doing better than you?"

"He ain't got no boy to send through college."

"Your other brother, Aleck, already sold his little car and bought a new big one," added Ma. Pa did not answer. He wondered whether he'd better smoke another cigar before going to bed. But good cigars cost money, especially when your wife wants expensive clothes. He stopped fingering the cigar in his waistcoat pocket and shook out his newspaper again.

"You should be up-to-date like Aleck and Alfred and then we wouldn't have to live in a bum third floor flat with bum plumbing and riding in street cars instead of our own machine."

Reading was impossible. Ma's voice was shrill and her tone not at all hushed. Pa Moser threw down the paper and moved sleazily across the room in ill fitting slippers. He paused momentarily in front of the faded ink spot on the carpet. He wound the clock and went to the kitchen where he noisily drew a glass of water. Ma's voice followed him unendingly. He returned to the parlor and straightened the papers on the profiteer period library table.

"Maybe we go to bed," he suggested timidly.

"Not till we decide how you got to make more money. Pa, you got old ideas. You got to change your business or help it earn you more money."

"Maybe we buy a small rug and put it over the ink spot," wearily replied Pa. He could not hold out much longer against his wife's attack and she guessed as much from his tone.

"Rug! Why you don't cut a hole in the carpet where the ink is? Why you don't buy a rug a long time ago' to cover up the ink? Bah! Cheap, cheap-why? I don't say we starve, Pa; but that's only because I'm a good manager, running down town to get soap three for a quarter that costs ten cents straight in this neighborhood. You let

money go through your fingers, giving all the time things to strangers. Ain't I got a right, and Leon, too, to be comfortable?"

"The Red Cross and the Community Chest-my goodness, you got to give a little charity. You hurt your own business if you don't."

"Oh, so? But I know. Kind hearted, they tell me you are. What for are you a canned goods broker if you don't make it a business? The orphan home that used to be downtown and that's already so rich it's moved to Westwood Park and got a swell new place—you gave to them a lot of canned goods for nothing. And Leon trying to be a doctor in Portland and me working to save money and keep from starving till I'm sick. So, you call that business?"

"They were dented cans. I couldn't have made much profit on them."

"But you bought them. You paid your own money for them. Oh, such a man what I got for a husband! You need an advisor, an efficiency expert, for a manager. You ain't no dumb bell, Pa, but you got a soft heart. It ain't in you to see a lazy man starve. You got to starve yourself to help him."

"I guess I go to bed now," Pa broke in. But Ma followed him into the room, still talking. Pa put his arms into the sleeves of a bath robe and flopped in a chair near the window. Resignedly, he pulled out his cigar and lit it.

Ma Moser continued to lament over her poverty for another hour. Then her sentences became intermittent. At the first gentle sounds of snoring, Pa sighed deeply and slipped off his bath robe. But slumber was not his. Ma had jangled his nerves and set his brain whirling. Out of the befuddled ideas that she had started to flow in his head, there gradually arose the conviction that he did need the aid of someone with the ability to make and keep money to manage his business.

Pa Moser's finances were shaky, his business slowly declining. In a few years at this rate he would be a bankrupt. He had never dared to tell Ma just how poor they were. It took so much to send Leon through college and to meet the modest needs of their own house-keeping. And he was soft. That might explain the slump his business was showing.

The few dollars Pa gave to charity didn't amount to a great deal; but he had given each clerk a month's salary as bonus for Christmas the past three years. He could have bought an automobile or made the first payment on a house had he been less kind to his employees.

An efficiency expert--yes, he did need one. But that would cost more money and besides, he didn't like most of those he had met. They were a perky, noisy,

domineering lot, talking much in the first person and demanding a president's salary. Then there was that girl, Tillie Doffer. She had interviewed him just a week ago, a wide-awake girl, not at all mannish, who called herself a private business adjuster. She had confidence in what powers might be hers, though a college diploma was her only reference. She had done some office work and claimed a knowledge of business methods. Still, he might make a deal with her inexperience. But her inexperience was not the only thing against her. She was a beautiful girl, slim and well dressed. That was all right with Pabut what would Ma Moser say? Pa gave it up and joined his wife in slumber.

[blocks in formation]

success one's self and saved much of the bother. Business was booming.

Ma now had accounts at the exclusive, highest priced shops. She had stocked up with clothes and an automobile of the common type-was already a lap ahead of the brokerage business. She had run the gauntlet of profiteer parlors. The sandbagging to purse and person had been furious, but Ma had emerged with a permanent wave and a reduced chin.


The ink-stained carpet was only a memory now, for several new adorned the new home. Ma and Pa had "built." Of course, these things were not paid for. That would take time and depended upon the continued success of Pa's business.

Yes, a lot can happen in three months. Ma washed clothes not at all; neither did she cook or make beds. A homely servant of all work was the answer to Ma's leisure. But there was a weevil in Ma's cotton boll. She did not like Tillie. But how great this dislike was, Pa did not find out till the day he asked Ma if she's invite Tillie to dinner.

"Besides my own friends, why should I ask anyone to my house?" she had immediately countered.

"But she's a member of the firm," stated Pa.

"And since when do you invite the office force to lunch?"

"She isn't the whole force-but she's worth more than all the rest of them. We owe Tillie a little something, Ma, and I thought for her to come here and have dinner-"

"Did you ask her?"

"No. I wanted you to invite her."
"Well, I won't. Shame that you

should be more interested in another woman than your wife."

"I have to be interested. She's my business partner. And so you got to be interested, otherwise we don't have this fine house what ain't paid for yet and the automobile with solid wheels extra."

"Huh. She got bobbed hair."

"One hundred per cent increase in business-that's what she done with her bobbed head."

"You want I should bob my hair, you like it so well? Just because that Doffer girl got a bobby head-"

"Mama, hush! A business twice as big ain't to be fussed at. You talk like I rather not have her for my partner."

"Oh, Pa, why you don't tell me your businesses before you do them? And poor Leon away off in Portland because he got to be a doctor. No man should have a girl for a business partner."

"If she makes twice my business, ain't it she got a right to be my partner in half the business?"

"In half the business! Oi, Pa-I knew it couldn't last. Now we got to loose the home and ride down town again in the street cars."

"Vida! You should carry more calm. She's my partner in the firm's profits only when the profit is one hundred per cent what it was before she come."

"Why you don't get all the profit, a good business man with a good business?"

"It was in the agreement that she get her share of the profit."

"But you could let her go now and save the profit."

"And lose the business so it's worse than before?"

"A bright man like you, Pa-"

"Shush! You spilt the milk and now you got to drink it. It ain't I, but you, what suggested this efficiency business. Tillie is just what you wanted to happen. You got a fine home and an automobile with solid wheels extra-and look at your clothes! My what a swell dresser you are. Aleck and Alfred got nice wives but they don't hold a brass candlestick to you." Pa

Ma mused for a few minutes. swallowed the last of his ham and eggs, took a gulp of the luke warm coffee and folded up his newspaper.

"Now I go to that fine business what we got. Come, Mama, kiss?"

"Pa, I don't want to fuss and I know you wouldn't love me if I did; but I got to be contented or I don't be happy."

"Shush, Mama. You feel better now. Take a ride over to Aleck's and show his wife your smart new hat what cost more than the price of a new tire."

Pa lit his cigar and stepped out briskly for the car that would carry him through a long tunnel and to his work. (Continued on page 324)


Night Life in Stratford-on-Avon

HERE were two good reasons

why, instead of taking one of the daylight trains to Stratfordon-Avon, I preferred to wait for the seven thirty-five. One reason was the unusually friendly aspect of London to one who had just returned from a year on the continent. The July sun was constantly revealing hitherto undisclosed beauties, and the town itself had taken on a certain Gemutlichkeit which it never assumes at another season of the year. Moreover I wished to spend one day more at the book stalls in ancient Holywell Street, where, at the close of the preceding day, I had grazed only one side of the street. Having started at St. Mary el Strand I had just reached St. Clement Danes at the other end when the shutters began to close in the succulent pasturage for the night.

It is this circumstance which makes it so futile to deny any of the years that have elapsed since then, for how many even of my own generation have had any intimate acquaintance with delightful, ramshackle Holywell Street! Although the work of desecration inaugurated by an iconoclastic County Council was even then under way it had not yet reached queer old "Booksellers' Row," and it was not until two years later that the great hegira to Charing Cross Road took place. The modernization of this part of the Strand reduced it to utter commonplaceness, and crescent shaped Aldwych is only the insolent grin of sacrilege triumphant.


[blocks in formation]

NCE I had love-sharp joy,
Wild nights of suffering,

Hiding from me the golden thrill of Autumn,
The wantonness of Spring:

This is love too, they say,

This light my calm heart knows
That comes to me, a shadow of his footsteps,
That passes when he goes;

Yet now my soul is mine,

I can take pleasure now

In the deep curve the ripening pears make
Where they bend down the bough;

I can lie dreaming now

In the long wave that lies

Where the gray mist and the gray rocking water
Make one the sea and skies

I am steel now to carry,
Willow to give again—

But never any more the old sharp rapture,
The old ecstatic pain!

Only once since then have I been tempted to linger there-and yielded to the temptation. It was to attend a service at St. Clement Danes and sit in Dr. Johnson's pew. Surely every student of English literary history will condone this lapse, even though it be true, as was revealed on the following day, that Americans are more likely to manifest, and perhaps satisfy, their interest in Dr. Johnson by dining on Monday at what they conceive to be the Doctor's table at the Cheshire Cheese, hard by, than by worshiping in his pew on Sunday. Perhaps we may be pardoned if Dr. Johnson, in the quiescence of worship, should inspire us with less keen. interest than Dr. Johnson in the vigor of gastronomic action, for it is undoubtedly easier for us to stimulate our

-Margaret Widdemer.

up at the Great Western station at Stratford. All of the train crew and the half dozen remaining passengers, obviously residents of Stratford, immediately scurried off to their homes. The

station was left in darkness. I hastened along Greenhill Street, past the Fountain, and on down Wood and Bridge Streets toward the Golden Lion where I was to meet an American tourist party and be responsible for their safe delivery in London on the evening of the following day.

Somewhere in the town a clock was striking ten as I walked. No other sound was to be heard. The people from the train had already disappeared in the darkness of the first diverging streets. It was the time and place to recall the observation in Macbeth,

which seemed peculiarly applicable to my own situation:

[ocr errors]

"Now spurs the lated traveler apace To gain the timely inn",

and my mind dwelt with pleasurable anticipation on the unpretentious comforts of an old time English inn.

At the sign of the Golden Lion all was quiet, and his lair was dark. In quantity and quality the large American party had evidently proved adequate nutriment, rich in vitamines and all the satisfying properties of a well-selected meal, and the Golden Lion had closed

his eyes and retired in satiety for the night. His golden fell still gleamed in the light of the street lamp, but the king of beasts himself stubbornly refused to be aroused or even to growl a protest in his slumber. I rang with increasing vigor at the gilt door-bell and knocked with ever more impetuous vehemence with the gilt knocker, but his leonine majesty condescended no acknowledgement of all this disturbance.

From the Golden Lion, so determinedly couchant for the night, I turned to the Red Horse, which stands beside it in amicable relationship scarcely to be found in nature. To the Red Horse I turned, ruefully thrusting my hand into my pocket and making a rapid estimate of the probable difference in expenditure which this change of programme for the night might occasion.

All was somnolently silent, and repeated tugs at the bell brought no response from office, stall or barroom. Although it was yet long till midnight no "pretty chambermaid, putting in her smiling face, inquired with a hesitating air, whether I had rung." Some three generations had passed since this individual had disturbed the midnight meditations of Washington Irving in this selfsame inn, and each generation of her descendents, with inherited pertinacity, had evidently wrested an additional hour from each corresponding generation of easy going guests, and had thriftily consolidated their gains. Even the bar was closed; no hostler with tousled head appeared; not peared; not even a horse, either red or roan, either brown or bay nickered any sound of welcome. It was apparent that the Red Horse was bedded for the night and that nothing short of royal decree or some great cataclysm of nature

could arouse him.

A few rods farther down, on the opposite side of the street, was (and, I presume, still is) the Old Red Lion. The prominent thing about the Old Red Lion in those days was its bar, which, during the daytime, was notably frequented by coachmen and hostlers engaged in the discussion of the merits of various horses and of the general sporting news of the day. The Old Red Lion would at least have the advantage of local color and, presumably, of cheapness.

All was dark. There was no evidence of the usual animation of the day. The Old Red Lion, apparently acknowledg ing the law of the jungle as established by his golden brother across the way, had also couched himself for the night and was recuperating his strength for the predatory pursuits of the morrow. No response was vouchsafed to the clamorous beating on the door.

"A villainously lethargic beast," I muttered as I turned away with bruised knuckles and drooping arms, "I must go to the Shakespeare after all."

The Shakespeare was, at that time, the only place in Stratford aspiring to the dimensions and equipment of a modernly appointed hotel. Here, at least, I should find a night clerk who would admit me to some sort of accommodation. Turning back I passed out of Bridge Street at the head of High, where pillory, stocks, and whipping post used to stand along with the old market cross, the latter serving as a place for the housewives to hang out their weekly wash, and for the butchers to hang up their meat, until a hypercritical village council forbade both practices away back in 1608. Passing on into Wood Street I came back to the Fountain.

The fact that a drizzling rain had now set in was not surprising in itself; .the surprising thing was that it had not begun sooner and harder.

As I pondered before the clock tower, getting my bearings anew, the sound of approaching foot-steps became evident. Mr. Howells' "The Seen and Unseen at Stratford-on-Avon" was not written until long after this time else I should indubitably have taken to my heels to avoid the embarrassment of a possible spiritualistic encounter with the immortal one himself.


HE footsteps became increasingly resonant, and their steady beat upon the pavement began to lend color to the suspicion of hobnails. A moment later a dimly outlined form emerged from the bystreet and, approaching through the open space, bore down upon me. It had a waterproof cape over its shoulders and carried a dark lantern, the light of which was thrown upon me as its bearer drew closer. The figure was substantial in proportions and bore not the slightest resemblance to Shakespeare.

The night watchman was sympathetic and friendly disposed, but he shook his head doubtfully when I expressed the hope that he might be able to direct me to a lodging place. "It's too late," he said, "Everybody's in bed; you see it's after ten o'clock."

It was plain that in Stratford-on-Avon ten o'clock was the ultimate hour for respectable activity.

"Does no place keep open until the arrival of the nine fifty-seven?" I asked.

He shook his head again. "If anyone vance," he said. ever comes by it they engage in ad

As to the Shakespeare, his beat took him by there, and he would accompany Manifestly, however, he wished to preme. Someone might chance to be about. pare me for the scale of prices at the Shakespeare, and he cautioned me that they would not be low. He had himself put up there the first night he and the "Missus" had passed in Stratford. Having thus led up to the point he put it in the form of a question. "And

what do you fancy they charged me?" the night watchman asked.

I diplomatically waived my right to the guess, and he himself answered the question, as he had evidently expected from the first that he would be obliged to do; "Three bob," he said with a certain complacency that revealed no trace of bitterness or resentment.

I expressed surprise but, at the same time, entire readiness to credit the house with the effrontery of making such a charge.

"To be sure," he continued after a pause, "we did 'ave the little chap with us, and of course 'e might 'ave made trouble, but as it 'appened 'e didn't."

I did not disclose the fact that I had once put up there myself, nor did I divulge the much greater number of "bobs" that I had had to pay on that occasion.

The door of the Shakespeare was closed and locked. Vigorous ringing, however, brought a porter to the wicket. The house was full. The night watch(Continued on page 296)

[graphic][merged small]
« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »