August DiaryAugust 1st.
Mr. Fogerty has returned aboard. My worst fears are realized. For a long time he has been irritable and uncommunicative with me and has indulged in sly, furtive little tricks unbecoming to a dog of the service. I have suspected that he was concealing a love affair from me. This it appears he has been doing and his guilt is heavy upon him. I realize now for the first time and not without a sharp maternal pang that he has reached an age at which he must make decisions for himself. I can no longer follow him out into the world upon his nocturnal exploits. His entire confidence is not mine. I must be content to share a part of his heart instead of the whole of it. Like father like son, I suppose. However, I see no reason for him to put on such airs. On his return from City Island this time he had somehow contrived to get himself completely shaved up to the shoulders. The result is startling. Fogerty looks extremely aristocratic but a trifle foppish. However, he seems to consider himself the only real four-footed dog in camp. This is a trifle boring from a dog who has never hesitated to steal from the galley anything that wasn't a permanent fixture. I can't help but feel sorry for him though when I see that far-away look in his eyes. Sad days I fear are in store for him. Ah, well, we're only young once.August 3d.
"Well, now, son," he was saying, "mind me when I tell yer that I'm not claiming as to ever have seen a mermaid, but what I am saying is this and that is if anybody has ever seen one of them things I'm that man. I'm not making no false claims, however, none whatsoever."
I carefully placed my shovel against the wheelbarrow and seating myself upon a stump prepared to listen to my companion. He was a chief of many cruises and for some unaccountable reason had fixed on me as being a suitable recipient for his discourse. One more hash mark on his arm would have made him look like a convict. I listened and in the meanwhile many mounds of sand urgently in need of shoveling remained undisturbed. Upon this sand I occasionally cast a reflective and apprehensive eye. The chief, noticing this, nudged me in the ribs with an angular elbow.
"Don't mind that, sonny," he said, "I'll pump the fear-o'-God into the heart of any P.O. what endeavors to disturb you. Trust me."
"Now getting back to this mermaid," he began in a confidential voice, "what I say as I didn't claim to have saw. It happened this way and what I'm telling you, sonny, is the plain, unvarnished facts of the case, take 'em or leave 'em as you will. They happened and I'm here to tell the whole world so."
"I have every confidence in you, chief," I replied mildly.
"It is well you have," he growled, scanning my face suspiciously. "It's well you have, you louse."
"Why, chief," I exclaimed in an aggrieved voice, "isn't that rather an unappetizing word to apply to a fellow creature?"
"Mayhap, young feller," he replied, "mayhap. I ain't no deep sea dictionary diver, I ain't, but all this has got nothing to do with what I was about to tell you. It all happened after this manner, neither no more nor no less."
He cleared his throat and gazed with undisguised hostility across the parade ground. Thus he began:
"It was during the summer of 1888, some thirty odd years ago," quoth he. "I was a bit young then, but never such a whey face as you, certainly not."
"Positively," said I, in hearty agreement.
"At that time," he continued, not noticing my remark, "I was resting easy on a soft job between cruises as night watchman on one of them P.O. docks at Dover. The work warn't hard, but it was hard enough. I would never have taken it had it not been for the unpleasant fact that owing to some little trouble I had gotten into at one of the pubs my wife was in one of her nasty, brow-beating moods. At these times the solitude and the stars together with the grateful companionship of a couple of buckets of beer was greatly to be preferred to my little old home. So I took the job and accordingly spent my nights sitting with my back to a pile, my legs comfortably stretched out along the rim of the dock and a bucket of beer within easy reach."
"Could anything be fairer than that?" said I.
"Nothing," said he, and continued. "Well, one night as I was sitting there looking down in the water as a man does when his mind is empty and his body well disposed, I found myself gazing down into two glowing pools that weren't the reflections of stars. Above these two flecks of light was perched a battered old leghorn hat after the style affected in the music halls of those days. Floating out back of this hat on the water was a long wavery coil of filmy hair, the face was shaded, but two long slim arms were thrust out of the water toward me, and following these arms down a bit I was shocked and surprised to find that further than the hat the young lady below me was apparently innocent of garments. Now I believe in going out with the boys when the occasion demands and making a bit of a time of it, but my folks have always been good, honest church people and believers in good, strong, modest clothing and plenty of 'em. I have always followed their example."
"Reluctantly and at a great distance," said I.
"Not at all," said he and continued. "So when I sees the condition the young lady was in I was naturally very much put out and I didn't hesitate telling her so.
"'Go home,' says I, 'and put your clothes on. You ought to be ashamed of yourself--a great big girl like you.'
"'Aw, pipe down, old grizzle face,' says she; 'wot have you got in the bucket?' And if you will believe me she began raising herself out of the water. 'Give me some,' says she.
"'Stop,' I cries out exasperated; 'stop where you are; you've gone far enough. For shame.'
"'I'll come all the way out,' says she, laughing, 'unless you give me some of wot you got in that bucket.'
"'Shame,' I repeated, 'ain't you got no sense of decency?'
"'None wot so ever,' she replied, 'but I'm awfully thirsty. Gimme a drink or out I'll come.'
"Now you can see for yourself that I couldn't afford to have a woman in her get-up sitting around with me on the end of a dock, being married as I was and my folks all good honest church folks, and bright moon shining in the sky to boot, so I was just naturally forced to give in to the brazen thing and reach her down the bucket, a full one at that. It came back empty and she was forwarder than ever.
"'Say,' she cries out, swimming around most exasperatingly, 'you're a nice old party. What do your folks know you by?'
"I told her my name was none of her business and that I was a married man and that I wished she'd go away and let me go on with my night watching.
"'I'm married too,' says she, in a conversational tone, 'to an awful mess. You're pretty fuzzy, but I'd swap him for you any day. Come on into the sea with me and we'll swim down to Gold Fish Arms and stick around until we get a drink. I know lots of the boys down there. There ain't no liquor dealers where I come from,' and with this if you will believe me she flips a bucket full of water into my lap with the neatest little scale spangled tail you ever seen.
"'No,' says I, 'my mind's made up. I ain't agoing to go swimming around with no semi-stewed, altogether nude mermaid. It ain't right. It ain't Christian.'
"'I got a hat,' says she reflectively, 'and I ain't so stewed but wot I can't swim. Wot do you think of that hat? One of the boys stole it from his old woman and gave it to me. Come on, let's take a swim.'
"'No,' says I, 'I ain't agoing.'
"'Just 'cause I ain't all dolled up in a lot of clothes?' says she.
"'Partly,' says I, 'and partly because you are a mermaid. I ain't agoing messing around through the water with no mermaid. I ain't never done it and I ain't agoing to begin it now.'
"'If I get some clothes on and dress all up pretty, will you go swimming with me then?' she asks pleadingly.
"'Well that's another thing,' says I, noncommittal like.
"'All right,' says she, 'gimme something out of that other bucket and I'll go away. Come on, old sweetheart,' and she held up her arms to me.
"Well, I gave her the bucket and true to form she emptied it. Then she began to argue and plead with me until I nearly lost an ear.
"'No,' I yells at her, 'I ain't agoing to spend the night arguing with a drunken mermaid. Go away, now; you said you would.'
"'All right, old love,' she replies good-naturedly, 'but I'll see you again some time. I ain't ever going home again. I hate it down there.' And off she swims in an unsteady manner in the direction of the Gold Fish Arms. She was singing and shouting something terrible.
"'Oh, bury me not on the lonesome prairie
Where the wild coyotes howl o'er me,'
was the song she sang and I wondered where she had ever picked it up.
"Well," continued the chief, "to cast a sheep shank in a long line, these visits kept up every evening until I was pretty near drove distracted. Along she'd come about sun-down and stick around devilin' me and drinking up all my grog. After a while she began calling for gin and kept threatening me until I just had to satisfy her. She also made me buy her a brush and comb, a mouth organ and a pair of spectacles, together with a lot of other stuff on the strength of the fact that if I refused she would make a scene. In this way that doggon mermaid continually kept me broke, for my wage warn't enough to make me heavy and I had my home to support.
"'Don't you ever go home?' I asked her one night.
"'No,' she replied, 'I ain't ever going back home. I don't like it down there. There ain't no liquor dealers.'
"'But your husband,' exclaims I. 'What of him?'
"'I know,' says she, 'but I don't like him and I'm off my baby, too. It squints,' says she.
"'But all babies squint,' says I.
"'Mine shouldn't,' says she. 'It ain't right.'
"Then one night an awful thing happened. My wife came down to the dock to find out how I spent all my money. It was a bright moon-lit night and this lost soul of a mermaid was hanging around, particularly jilled and entreating. I was just in the act of passing her down the gin flask and she was saying to me, 'Come on down, old love; you know you're crazy about me,' when all of a sudden I heard an infuriated shriek behind me and saw my wife leaning over the dock shaking an umbrella at this huzzy of a mermaid. Oh, son," broke off the Chief, "if you only knew the uncontrolled violence and fury of two contending women. Nothing you meet on shipboard will ever equal it. I was speechless, rocked in the surf of a tumult of words. And in the midst of it all what should happen but the husband of the mermaid pops out of the water with a funny little bit of a merbaby in his arms.
"'Go home at once, sir,' screams my wife, 'and put on your clothes.'
"'I will,' he shouts back, 'if my wife will come along with me.'
"He was a weazened up little old man with a crooked back. Not very prepossessing. I could hardly blame his wife.
"'So that bit of stuff is your wife, is it?' cries out my old lady, and with that she began telling him her past.
"'I know it,' says the little old merman at last, almost crying; 'I know it, but I ain't got no control over her whatsoever. I've been trying to get her to come home for the last fortnight, but she just won't leave off going around with the sailors. The whole beach is ashamed of her. It's general talk down below. What can I do? The little old coral house is going to wrack and ruin and the baby ain't been properly took care of since she left. What am I going to do, madam? What am I going to do? I'm well nigh distracted.'
"But his wife was too taken up with the gin bottle to pay much heed to his pitiful words. She just kept flirting around in the water and singing snatches of bad sailor songs she'd picked up around the docks.
"'Take her home,' said my wife, 'take her home, you weakling, by force.'
"'But I can't when she's in this condition. I got a child in my arms.'
"'Give me the baby,' said my wife, with sudden determination. 'I'll take care of it until to-morrow night when you can come back here and get it.'
"He handed the flopping little thing up to my wife and turned to the mermaid.
"'Lil,' he says to her, holding out his arms to her, 'Lil, will you come home?'
"Lil swims up to him then and takes him by the arm and looks at him for a long time.
"'Kiss me, Archie,' she says suddenly, 'I don't mind if I do,' and flipping a couple of pounds of water upon the both of us on the pier, she pulls him under the water laughing and that's the last I saw of either of them. Now I ain't asaying as I have ever seen a mermaid mind you," continued the chief, "but what I do say is that if any man has ever seen one I'm the man."
"I understand perfectly," said I, "and what, chief, became of the baby?"
"Oh, the baby," said the chief, thoughtful like; "the baby--well, you see, about that baby--" he gazed searchingly around the landscape for a moment before replying.
"Oh, the baby," he said suddenly, as if greatly relieved, "well, my wife took the baby home and kept it in the bathtub for a couple of days after which she returned it in person to its father. She made me give up my job. It did squint, though," said the chief, as he got up to go, "ever so little."
I turned to my shovel.
"But I ain't saying as I have ever seen a mermaid," he said, turning back in his tracks, "all I'm saying is that--"
"I know, Chief," I said wearily, "I fully appreciate your delicacy and fairness. You're not the man to make any false claims."
"No, sir, not I," he replied, as he walked slowly away.August 5th.
In order to distract Mr. Fogerty's attention from his love affair and in a sort of desperate endeavor to win him back to me I took him away on my last liberty with me. Fogerty doesn't come under the heading of a lap dog, but through some technical quibble I managed to smuggle him into the subway. All he did there was to knock over one elderly lady and lick her face effusively when he had gotten her down. This resulted in a small but complete panic. For the most part, however, he sat quietly on my lap and sniffed at those around him. At last we reached Washington Square, whereupon I proceeded to take Mr. Fogerty around and show him off to my friends. He was well received, but his heart wasn't with us. It was far away in City Island.
FOR THE MOST PART, HOWEVER, HE SAT QUIETLY ON MY LAP AND SNIFFED
At one restaurant we ran into a female whose hair was nearly as short as Fogerty's. She was holding forth on the Silence of the Soul vs. the Love Impulse, the cabbage or some other plant. Fogerty listened to her for a while and then bit her. He did it quietly, but I thought it best to take him away.
After supper we went up to another place for coffee, a fine little place for sailormen, situated on the south side of the square. Here we were received with winning cordiality and Fogerty was given a fried egg, a dish of which he is passionately fond. But even here he got into trouble by putting one of his great feet through a Ukulele, which isn't such a terrible thing to do, except in certain places.
Getting back to the station was a crisp little affair. Fogerty and myself rose at five and went forth to the shuttle. The subway was a madhouse. We shuttled ourselves to death. At 5.30 we were at the Times Square end of the shuttle, at 5.45 we were at Williams, at 6 o'clock we had somehow managed to get ourselves on the east side end of the shuttle, five minutes later we were back at Times Square, ten minutes later we were over on the east side once more. At 6.15 I lost Fogerty. At 6.25 I was back at Times Square. "Hello, buddy," said the guard, "you back again? Here's your dog."
At 7 o'clock we were at Van Cortlandt Park, at 8 we were at Ninety-sixth Street, 9 o'clock found us laboring up to the gate of the camp, with a written list of excuses that looked like the schedule of a flourishing railroad. It was accepted, much to our surprise.Aug. 7th.
I have a perfectly splendid idea. Of course, like the rest of my ideas it won't work, but it is a perfectly splendid idea for all that. I got it while traveling on the ferry boat from New York to Staten Island--the longest sea voyage I have had since I joined the Navy. On this trip, strangely thrilling to a sailor in my situation, but which was suffered with bored indifference by the amphibious commuters that infest this Island in those waters, I saw a number of ships so gaudily and at the same time so carelessly painted that any God-fearing skipper of the Spanish Main would positively have refused to command. Captain Kidd himself would have blushed at the very sight of this ribald fleet and turned away with a devout imprecation.
This was my first experience with camouflage, and it impressed me most unfavorably. An ordinary ship on a grumbling ocean is difficult enough as it is to establish friendly relations with, but when trigged out in this manner--why serve meals at all, say I. Nevertheless it occurred to me that it would not be a bad idea at all to camouflage one's hammock in such a manner that it took upon itself the texture and appearance of the bulkhead of the barracks in which it was swung. In this manner a sailor could sleep undisturbed for three weeks if he so desired (and he does), without ever being technically considered a deserter.
One could elaborate this idea still further and make one's sea bag look like a clump of poison ivy, so that no inspecting officer would ever care to become intimate with its numerous defects in cleanliness. One might even go so far as to camouflage oneself into a writing desk so that when visiting the "Y" or the "K-C" and unexpectedly required to sing one would not be forced to rise and scream impatiently and threateningly "Dear Mother Mine" or "Break the News to Mother." Not that these songs are not things of rare beauty in themselves, but after a day on the coal pile one's lungs have been sufficiently exercised to warrant relief. This is merely an idea of mine, and now that everybody knows about it I guess there isn't much use in going ahead with it.Aug. 8th.
"This guide i-s l-e-f-t!" shouted the P.O., and naturally I looked around to see what had become of the poor fellow.
"Keep your head straight. Eyes to the front! Don't move! Whatcha lookin' at?"
"I was looking for the guide that was left," says I timidly. "It seems to me that he is always being left."
"Company dismissed," said the P.O. promptly, showing a wonderful command of the situation under rather trying circumstances, for the boo-hoo that went up from the men after my remark defied all restraints of discipline.
"Say, Biltmore," says the P.O. to me a moment later, "I'm going to see if I can't get you shipped to Siberia if you pull one of them bum jokes again. You understand?"
"But I wasn't joking," I replied innocently.
"Aw go on, you sly dog," said he, nudging me in the ribs, and for some strange reason he departed in high good humor, leaving me in a greatly mystified frame of mind.
Speaking of getting shipped, I have just written a very sad song in the style of the old sentimental ballads of the Spanish war days. It's called "The Sailor's Farewell," and I think Polly will like it. I haven't polished it up yet, but here it is as it is:
A sailor to his mother came and said, "Oh, mother dear,
I got to go away and fight the war.
So, mother, don't you cry too hard, and don't you have no fear
When you find that I'm not sticking 'round no more."
"My boy," the sweet old lady said, "I hate to see you go.
I've knowed you since when you was but a kid,
But if the question you should ask, I'll tell the whole world so--
It's the only decent thing you ever did."
A tear she brushed aside,
And then she sadly cried:
"I'm proud my boy's a sailor man what sails upon the sea.
I've always liked him pretty well although he is so dumb.
For years he's stuck around the house and disappointed me.
I thought that he was going to be a bum."
He took her gently by the hand and kissed her on the bean
And said, "When I'm about to fight the Hun
You shouldn't talk to me that way; I think it's awfully mean--
I ain't agoin' to have a lot of fun."
"I know, my child," the mother said. "The parting makes me sad,
But go you must away and fight the war.
At least you will not live to drink as much as did your dad--
So here's your lid, my lad, and there's the door."
Then as he turned away
He heard her softly say:
"The sailors I have ever loved. I'm glad my lad's a gob,
Although it seems to me he's much too dumb.
But after all perhaps he isn't such an awful slob--
I always knew that Kaiser was a bum!"Aug. 9th.
The best way to make a deserter of a man is to give him too much liberty. For the past week I have been getting my dog Fogerty on numerous liberty lists when he shouldn't have been there, but not contented with that he has taken to going around with a couple of yeomen, and the first thing I know he will be getting on a special detail where the liberty is soft. I put nothing past that dog since he lost his head to some flop-eared huzzy with a black and tan reputation.Aug. 10th.
All day long and a little longer I have been carrying sacks of flour. The next time I see a stalk of wheat I am going to snarl at it. This new occupation is a sort of special penance for not having my hammock lashed in time. It seems that I have been in the service long enough to know how to do the thing right by now, but the seventh hitch is a sly little devil and always gets me. I need a longer line or a shorter hammock, but the only way out of it that I can see is to get a commission and rate a bed.
I CARRIED ALL THE FLOUR TO-DAY THAT WAS RAISED LAST YEAR IN THE SOUTHERN SECTION OF THE STATE OF MONTANA
I carried all the flour to-day that was raised last year in the southern section of the State of Montana, and I was carrying it well and cheerfully until one of my pet finger nails (the one that the manicure girls in the Biltmore used to rave about) thrust itself through the sack and precipitated its contents upon myself and the floor. A commissary steward when thoroughly aroused is a poisonous member of society. One would have thought that I had sunk the great fleet the way this bird went on about one little sack of flour.
"Here Mr. Hoover works hard night and day all winter," he sobs at me, "and you go spreading it around as if you were Marie Antoinette."
I wondered what new scandal he had about Marie Antoinette, but I held my peace. My horror was so great that the real color of my face made the flour look like a coat of sunburn in comparison.
"There's enough flour there," he continued reproachfully, pointing to the huge mound of stuff in which I stood like a lost explorer on a snow-capped mountain peak and wishing heartily that I was one, "there's enough flour," he continued, "to keep a chief petty officer in pie for twenty-four hours."
"Just about," thought I to myself.
"Well," he cried irritably, "pick it up. Be quick. Pick it up--all of it!"
"Pick it up," I replied through a cloud of mist, "you can't pick up flour. You can pick up apples and pears and cabbages and cigarette butts for that matter, but you can't pick up flour."
The commissary steward suddenly handed me a piece of paper upon which he had been writing frantically.
"Take this to your P.O.," he said shrilly, "and take yourself along with it.
"A defect in the sack," I gasped, departing.
"And there's a defect in you," he shouted after me, "your brain is exempted."
"Take this man and kill him if you can find any slight technical excuse for it," the note ran, "and if you can't kill him, give him an inaptitude discharge with my compliments, and if you are unable to do either of these two things, at least keep him away from my outfit. We don't want to see his silly face around here any more at all."
The P.O. read it to me with great delight.
"I guess we'll have to send you to Siberia after all," he said thoughtfully, "only that country is in far too delicate a condition for you to meddle with at present. Go away to somewhere where I can't see you," he continued bitterly, "for I feel inclined to do you an injury, something permanent and serious." I went right away.Aug. 11th.
Mother has just paid one of her belligerent visits to the camp, and as a consequence I am on the point of having a flock of brainstorms. Some misguided person had been telling her about the Officer Training School up here, and she arrived fired with the ambition to enter me into that institution without further delay. True to form, she bounded headlong into the matter without consulting my feelings by accosting the very first commissioned officer she met. He happened to be an Ensign, but he might as well have been a Vice-Admiral for all Mother cared.
"Tell me, young man," she said to this Ensign, going directly to the point, "do you see any reason why my boy Oswald should not go to that place where they make all the Ensigns?"
"Yes," said the officer firmly, "I do."
"Oh, you do," snapped Mother angrily, "and pray tell me what that reason might be?"
"Your son Oswald," replied the Ensign laconically.
"What!" exclaimed Mother, "you mean to say that my Oswald is not good enough to go to your silly old school?"
"No," replied the Ensign, weakening pitifully before the withering fury of an aroused mother, "but you see, my dear madam, he has not a first class rating."
"Fiddlesticks!" said Mother.
"Crossed anchors," replied the Ensign.
"I didn't mean that," continued Mother, "I think the whole thing is very mysterious and silly, and I'm not going to let it stop here. You can trust me, Oswald," she went on soothingly. "I am going to see the Commander of the station myself. I am going this very instant."
"But, Mother," I cried in desperation, tossing all consequences to the wind, "the 'skipper' isn't on the station to-day. He got a 43-hour liberty. I saw him check out of the gate myself."
For a moment the Ensign's jaw dropped. I watched him anxiously. Then with perfect composure he turned to Mother and came through like a little gentleman.
"Yes, madam," he stated, "your son is right. I heard his name read out with the liberty party only a moment ago. He has shoved off by now."
I could have kissed that Ensign.
"Well, I'm sure," said Mother, "it's very funny that I can never get to the Captain. I shall write him, however."
"He must have an interesting collection of your letters already," I suggested. "They would be interesting to publish in book form."
"Anyway," continued Mother, apparently not attending to my remark, "I think you would look just as well as this young man in one of those nice white suits."
"No doubt, madam," replied the Ensign propitiatingly, "no doubt."
"Come, Mother," said I, "let's go to the Y.M.C.A. I need something cool to steady my nerves."
"How about your underwear?" said Mother, coming back to her mania, in a voice that invited all within earshot who were interested in my underwear to draw nigh and attend.
"Here, eat this ice cream," I put in quickly, almost feeding her. "It's melting."
But Mother was not to be decoyed away from her favorite topic.
"I must look it over," she continued firmly.
It seemed to me that every eye in the room was calmly penetrating my whites and carefully looking over the underwear in which Mother took such an exaggerated interest. "Socks!" suddenly exploded Mother. "How are you off for socks?"
"Splendidly," I said in a hoarse voice. A girl behind me snickered.
"And have you that liniment to rub on your stomach when you have cramps?" she went on ruggedly.
"Enough to last through the Fall season," I replied in a moody voice. I didn't tell her that Tim the barkeep had tried to drink it.
"Polly!" suddenly exclaimed Mother. "Polly! Why, I forgot to tell you that she said that she would be up this afternoon. She must be here now."
The world swam around me. Polly was my favorite sweetie.
"Oh, Mother!" I cried reproachfully, "how could you have forgotten?"
At that moment I heard a familiar voice issuing from the corner, and turning around, I caught sight of the staff reporter of the camp paper, a notoriously unscrupulous sailor with predatory proclivities. He had gotten Polly in a corner and was chinning the ear off of her. As I drew near I heard him saying:
"Really it's an awful pity, but I distinctly remember him saying that he was going away on liberty to-day. He mentioned some girl's name, but it didn't sound anything at all like yours."
Polly looked at him trustfully.
"Are you sure, Mr.----"
"Savanrola," the lying wretch supplied without turning a hair.
"Are you sure, Mr. Savanrola, that he has left the station?"
"Saw him check out with my own eyes," he said calmly.
I moved nearer, my hands twitching.
"Now with an honest old seafaring man like myself," he continued, in a confidential voice, "it's different. Why, if I should wear all the hash marks I rate I'd look like a zebra. So I just don't wear any. You know how it is. But when I like a girl I stick to her. Now from the very first moment I laid eyes on you--"
Human endurance could stand no more. I threw myself between them.
"Why, here's Oswald hisself," exclaimed the reporter with masterfully feigned surprise. "However did you get back so soon?"
"I have never been away anywhere to get back from, and you know it," I replied coldly.
"Strange!" he said, "I could have sworn that I saw you checking out. Can I get you some ice cream?" he added smoothly.
"What on?" I replied bitterly, knowing him always to be broke.
"Your mother must have--"
"Come," said I to Polly, "leave this degraded creature to ply his pernicious trade alone. I have some very important words to say to you."
"Good-by, Mr. Savanrola," said Polly.
"Until we meet again," answered the reporter, with the utmost confidence.Aug. 12th.
It's all arranged. Those words I had to say to Polly were not spoken in vain. She has promised to be my permanent sweetie. Of course, I have had a number of transit sweeties in the past, but now I'm going to settle down to one steady, day in and day out sweetie. I told Tim, the barkeep, about it last night and all he said was:
"What about all those parties we'd planned to have after we were paid off?"
This sort of set me back for the moment. The spell of Polly's eyes had made me forget all about Tim.
"Well, Tim," I replied, "I'll have to think about that. Come on over to the canteen and I'll feed you some of those honest, upstanding sandwiches they have over there."
"Say," says Tim, the carnal beast, forgetting everything at the prospect of food, "I feel as if I could cover a flock of them without trying."
So together Tim and I had a bachelor's dinner over the sandwiches, which were worthy of that auspicious occasion.Aug. 17th.
We were standing on a street corner of a neighboring town. The party consisted of Tim the barkeep, the "Spider," an individual who modestly acknowledged credit for having brought relief to several over-crowded safes in the good old civilian days; Tony, who delivered ice in my district also in those aforementioned days, and myself. These gentlemen for some time had been allowing me to exist in peace, and I had been showing my gratitude by buying them whatever little dainties they desired, but such a comfortable state of affairs could not long continue with that bunch. Suddenly, without any previous consultation, as if drawn together as it were by some fiendish undercurrent, they decided to make me unhappy--me, the only guy that spoke unbroken English in the crowd. This is the way they accomplished their low ends. When the next civilian came along they all of them shouted at me in tones that could be heard by all passers-by:
"Here comes a 'ciwilian,' buddy; he'll give you a quarter."
"Do you need some money, my boy?" said the old gentleman to me in a kindly voice.
"No, sir," I stammered, getting red all over, "thank you very much, but I really don't need any money."
Ironical laughter from my friends in the background.
"Oh, no," cries Tim sarcastically, "he don't need no money. Just watch him when he sees the color of it."
"Don't hesitate, my son," continued the kind old man, "if you need anything I would be glad to help you out."
"No, sir," I replied, turning away to hide my mortification, "everything is all right."
"Poor but proud," hisses the "Spider." The old gentleman passed on, sorely perplexed.
For some time I was a victim of this crude plot. When I tried to move away they followed me around the streets, crying after me:
"Any 'ciwilian' will give you a quarter. Go on an' ask them."
Several ladies stopped and asked if they could be of any service to me. I assured them that they couldn't, but all the time these low sailors whom I had been feeding lavishly kept jeering and intimating that I was fooling and would take any amount of money offered me from a dime up. This shower of conflicting statements always left the kindhearted people in a confused frame of mind and broke me up completely. I had to chase one man all the way down the street and hand him back the quarter he had thrust into my hand. My friends never forgave me for this.
At length, tiring of their sport, they desisted and stood gloomily on the curb as sailors do, looking idly at nothing.
"It don't look like we was ever going to get a hitch," said the "Spider," after we had abandonedly offered ourselves to several automobiles.
At that moment a huge machine rolled heavily by.
"There goes a piece of junk," said Tim. The lady in the machine must have heard him, for the car came to and she motioned for us to get in.
"Going our way?" she asked, smiling at us.
"Thanks, lady," replies Tim, elbowing me aside as he climbed aboard.
"Dust your feet," I whispered to Tony as he was about to climb in.
"Whatta you mean, dusta my feet?" shouted Tony wrathfully, "you go head an' dusta your feet! I look out for my feet all right."
"What did he want yer to do, Tony?" asked Tim in a loud voice.
"Dusta my feet," answered Tony, greatly injured.
"What yer doin', Oswald?" asks Tim sarcastically, "tryin' to drag us up?"
"I only spoke for the best," I answered, sick at heart.
"Ha! ha!" grated Tim, "guess you think we ain't never rode in one of these wealthy wagons before."
"Arn't you rather young?" asked the lady soothingly of the "Spider," who by virtue of his mechanical experience in civil life had been given a first class rating, "Arn't you rather young to have so many things on your arm?"
"Yes," answered the "Spider" promptly, "but I kin do a lot of tricks."
The conversation languished from this point.
"We always take our boys to dinner, don't we, dear?" said the lady to her husband a little later.
"Yes, dear," he answered meekly, just like that.
Expectant silence from the four of us.
"Have you boys had dinner?" the lady asked.
"Certainly not," we cried, with an earnestness that gave the lie to our statement, "no dinner!"
"None at all," added Tim thoughtfully.
The automobile drew up at a 14k. plate-glass house that fairly made the "Spider" itch.
"Gosh," he whispered to me, looking at the porch, "that wouldn't be hard for me."
During the dinner he kept sort of lifting and weighing the silver and then looking at me and winking in an obvious manner.
"Not many people here to-night," said Tony from behind his plate.
"Why, there is the usual number," said the husband in surprise, "my wife and myself live alone."
"Oh," said Tony, looking around at the tremendous dining hall, "I thought this was a restaurant."
'OH,' SAID TONY, 'I THOUGHT THIS WAS A RESTAURANT'
Tim started laughing then, and he hasn't stopped yet. He's so proud he didn't make the mistake himself.
The "Spider" didn't open his mouth save for the purpose of eating. He told me he was afraid his teeth would chatter.Aug. 20th.
Got a letter from Polly to-day. She says that her finger is just itching for the ring. I told the "Spider" about it and he said that he had several unset stones he'd let me have for next to nothing. A good burglar is one of the most valuable friends a man can possess.