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TheProjectGutenbergEBookofRoastBeef,Medium,byEdnaFerber ThiseBookisfortheuseofanyoneanywhereatnocostandwith almostnorestrictionswhatsoever Youmaycopyit,giveitawayor re-useitunderthetermsoftheProjectGutenbergLicenseincluded withthiseBookoronlineatwww.gutenberg.org Title:RoastBeef,Medium Author:EdnaFerber ReleaseDate:July,2004 [EBook#6016] ThisfilewasfirstpostedonOctober17,2002 LastUpdated:March15,2018 Language:English ***STARTOFTHISPROJECTGUTENBERGEBOOKROASTBEEF,MEDIUM*** TextfileproducedbyCarelLynMiske,CharlesFranksandtheOnline DistributedProofreadingTeam HTMLfileproducedbyDavidWidger ROASTBEEF,MEDIUM THEBUSINESSADVENTURESOFEMMAMcCHESNEY ByEdnaFerber Authorof“DawnO'Hara,”“ButteredSideDown,”Etc Withtwenty-sevenillustrationsbyJamesMontgomeryFlagg {Illustration:“'Andtheycallthatthingapetticoat!'”} CONTENTS FOREWORD ILLUSTRATIONS(notavailableinthisedition) I —ROASTBEEF,MEDIUM II —REPRESENTINGT A BUCK III —CHICKENS IV —HISMOTHER'SSON V —PINKTIGHTSANDGINGHAMS VI —SIMPLYSKIRTS VII —UNDERNEATHTHEHIGH-CUTVEST VIII —CATCHINGUPWITHCHRISTMAS IX —KNEE-DEEPINKNICKERS X —INTHEABSENCEOFTHEAGENT FOREWORD RoastBeef,Medium,isnotonlyafood Itisaphilosophy SeatedatLife'sDiningTable,withtheMenuofMoralsbeforeyou,youreye wanders a bit over the entrees, the hors d'oeuvres, and the things ala,though you know that RoastBeef,Medium,issafe,andsane,andsure Itagreeswith you AsyouhesitatetheresoundsinyourearasoftandinsinuatingVoice “You'll find the tongue in aspic very nice today,” purrs the Voice “May I recommendthechickenpie,countrystyle?Perhapsyou'drelishsomethinglight andtempting EggsBenedictine Veryfine Orsomeflakedcrabmeat,perhaps WithaspecialRussiansauce.” Roast Beef, Medium! How unimaginative it sounds How prosaic, and dry! You cast the thought of it aside with the contempt that it deserves, and you assume a fine air of the epicure as you order There are set before you things encased in pastry; things in frilly paper trousers; things that prick the tongue; saucesthatpiquethepalate Therearestrangevegetablegarnishings,cunningly cut ThisisnotonlyFood TheseareViands “Everythingsatisfactory?”inquirestheinsinuatingVoice “Yes,” you say, and take a hasty sip of water That paprika has burned your tongue “Yes Check,please.” Youeyethescore,appalled “Lookhere!Aren'tyouover-charging!” “Ourregularprice,”andyoucatchasneerbeneaththesmugnessoftheVoice “Itiswhateveryonepays,sir.” Youreachdeep,deepintoyourpocket,andyoupay Andyouriseandgo,full butnotfed AndlaterasyoutakeyourfifthMoralPepsinTabletyousayFool! andFool!andFool! When next wedinewearenottemptedbytheVoice Wearewaryofweird sauces Weshunthecunningaspics Welookaboutatourneighbor'stable Heis eating of things French, and Russian and Hungarian Of food garnished, and garish and greasy And with a little sigh of Content and resignation we settle downtoourRoastBeef,Medium E F ILLUSTRATIONS(notavailableinthisedition) “'Andtheycallthatthingapetticoat!'” “'PeterPiperpickedapeckofpickledpeppers,'heannounced,glibly” “'Thatwasamarriedkiss—atwo-year-oldmarriedkissatleast'” “'Iwon'taskyoutoforgiveahoundlikeme'” “'You'llnevergrowup,EmmaMcChesney'” “'Well,s'longthen,Shrimp Seeyouateight'” “'I'mstillinapositiontoenforcethatordinanceagainstpouting'” “'Son!'echoedtheclerk,staring” “'Well!'gulpedJock,'thosetwodouble-bedded,bloomin',blasted Bisons—'” “'ComeonoutofhereandI'lllicktheshineoffyourshoes,you blue-eyedbabe,you!'” “'Youcan'ttreatmewithyourlife'shistory I'mgoingin'” “'Now,LillianRussellandcoldcreamisone;andnewpotatoesandbrown crocksisanother.'” “'Why,girls,Icouldn'tholddownajobinacandyfactory'” “'Honestly,I'dwearitmyself!'” “'I'velivedpetticoats,I'vetalkedpetticoats,I'vedreamed petticoats—why,I'veevenwornthedarnthings!'” "Andfoundhimselfaddressingthebacksofthelettersonthedoor marked'Private'.” “'Shutup,youblamedfool!Can'tyouseethelady'ssick?'” "Athisgazethatladyfled,sample-casebangingatherknees” "Intheexuberanceofhisyoungstrength,hepickedherup” "Shereaditagain,dully,asthougheveryselfishwordhadnotalready stampeditselfonherbrainandheart.” “'Notthatyoulookyourage—notbytenyears!”' “'Christmasisn'taseason it'safeeling;and,thankGod,I'vegot it!'” "Nomanwilleverappreciatethefinepointsofthislittlegarment,but thewomen—” "EmmaMcChesney Ibelieveinyounow!DadandIbothbelievein you.” "Ithadbeenawhirlwindday.” “'Emma,'hesaid,'willyoumarryme?'” “'Welcomehome!'shecried 'Sketchinthefurnituretosuityourself.'” I —ROASTBEEF,MEDIUM There is a journey compared to which the travels of Bunyan's hero were a summer-evening's stroll The Pilgrims by whom this forced march is taken belongtoamalignedfraternity,andareknownastravelingmen Sample-casein hand,trunkkeyinpocket,cigarinmouth,brownderbyatiltatanangleofninety, eachyounganduntriedtravelerstartsonhisjourneydownthatroadwhichleads throughmorassesofchickenalaCreole,overgreasymountainsofqueenfritters madedoublyperilousbyslipperyglaciersofrumsauce,intoformidablejungles ofbreadedvealchopsthreadedbysanguineanddeadlystreamsoftomatogravy, past sluggish mires of dreadful things en casserole, over hills of corned-beef hash, across shaking quagmires of veal glace, plunging into sloughs of slaw, until,haggard,weary,digestionshattered,complexiongone,hereachesthesafe haven of roast beef, medium Once there, he never again strays, although the pompadoured,white-apronedsirensing-songsinhisearthepraisesofIrishstew, andporkwithapplesauce EmmaMcChesneywaseatinghersolitarysupperattheBergerhouseatThree Rivers,Michigan ShehadarrivedattheRoastBeefhavenmanyyearsbefore Sheknewthedigestiveperilsofasmalltownhoteldining-roomasaguideon thesnow-coveredmountainknowseachtreacherouspitfallandchasm Tenyears on the road had taught her to recognize the deadly snare that lurks in the seemingly calm bosom of minced chicken with cream sauce Not for her the impenetrablemysteriesofahamburgerandonions Ithadbeenastruggle,brief but terrible, from which Emma McChesney had emerged triumphant, her complexionandfiguresaved No more metaphor On with the story, which left Emma at her safe and solitarysupper She had the last number of the Dry Goods Review propped up against the vinegarcruetandtheWorcestershire,andthesaltshaker Betweenconscientious, butdisinterestedmouthfulsofmediumroastbeef,shewasreadingthesnappyad setforthbyherfirm'sbitterestcompetitors,theStraussSans-silkSkirtCompany It was a good reading ad Emma McChesney, who had forgotten more about petticoatsthantheaverageskirtsalesmaneverknew,presentlyallowedherlukewarmbeeftogrowcoldandflabbyassheread Somewhereinhersubconscious mindsherealizedthatthelankyheadwaitresshadplacedsomeoneoppositeher at the table Also, subconsciously, she heard him order liver and bacon, with onions She told herself that as soon as she reached the bottom of the column she'dlookuptoseewhothefoolwas Sheneverarrivedatthecolumn'send “Ijusthatetotearyouawayfromthatlovelyric;butifImighttroubleyoufor thevinegar—” Emmagropedforitbackofherpaperandshoveditacrossthetablewithout lookingup,“—andtheWorcester—” Oneeyeontheabsorbingcolumn,shepassedthetallbottle Butatitsremoval herpropwasgone TheDryGoodsReviewwastooweightyforthesaltshaker alone “—andthesalt Thanks Warm,isn'tit?” TherewasadoubleverticalfrownbetweenEmmaMcChesney'seyesasshe glancedupoverthetopofherDryGoodsReview Thefrowngavewaytoahalf smile Theglancesettledintoastare “Butthen,anybodywouldhavestared Heexpectedit,”shesaid,afterwards, in telling about it “I've seen matinee idols, and tailors' supplies salesmen, and JulianEltinge,butthisboyhadanymaleprofessionalbeautyIeversaw,looking ashandsomeanddashingasabowlofcoldoatmeal Andheknewit.” Now, in the ten years that she had been out representing T A Buck's FeatherloomPetticoatsEmmaMcChesneyhadfounditnecessarytomakearule ortwoforherself Inthestrictobservanceofoneoftheseshehadbecomepast mistress in the fine art of congealing the warm advances of fresh and friendly salesmenoftheoppositesex Butthis case was different,shetoldherself The man across the table was little more than a boy—an amazingly handsome, astonishingly impudent, cockily confident boy, who was staring with insolent approval at Emma McChesney's trim, shirt-waisted figure, and her fresh, attractivecoloring,andherwell-cared-forhairbeneaththesmartsummerhat {Illustration: “Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers,” he announced, glibly.} “It isn't in human nature to be as good-looking as you are,” spake Emma McChesney,suddenly,beingapersonwhonevertrifledwithhalf-waymeasures “I'llbetyouhavebadteeth,oranimpedimentinyourspeech.” Thegorgeousyoungmansmiled Histeethwereperfect “PeterPiperpickeda peck of pickled peppers,” he announced, glibly “Nothing missing there, is there?” “Mustbeyourmoralsthen,”retortedEmmaMcChesney “My!My!Andon Mrs McChesneyfollowedhisgaze “Mybusinessassociate,Mr T A Buck,” shesaidgrimly The agent discarded caution; he was all urbanity Their floor attained, he unlocked the apartment door and threw it open with a gesture which was a miraculousmixtureofroyaltyandgenerosity “Heknowsyou!”hissedEmmaMcChesney,enteringwithT A “Anotherten ontherent.”Theagentpulledupashade,switched onalight,straightenedan electric globe T A Buck looked about at the bare white walls, at the bare polishedfloor,attheseverefireplace “Iknewitcouldn'tlast,”hesaid “Ifitdid,”repliedEmmaMcChesneygood-naturedly,“Icouldn'taffordtolive here,”anddisappearedintothekitchenfollowedbytheagent,whobabbledever and anon of views, of Hudsons, of express-trains, of parks, as is the way of agentsfromFiftiethStreettoOneHundredand'Umpty-ninth T A Buck,feetspreadwide,handsbehindhim,wasleftstandinginthecenter oftheemptyliving-room Hewasleaningonhisstickandgazingfixedlyupward attheornatechandelier Itwasahandsomefixture,andboastedsomeofthemost advancedideasinmodernlightingequipment Yetitscarcelyseemedtowarrant thepassionatescrutinywhichT A Buckwasbestowinguponit Soraptwashis gazethatwhenthetelephone-bellshrilledunexpectedlyinthehallwayhestarted sothathisstickslippedonthepolishedfloor,andasEmmaMcChesneyandthe stillvolubleagentemergedfromthekitchenthedignifiedheadofthefirmofT A Buck and Company presented an animated picture, one leg in the air, arms wavingwildly,expressionatonceamazedandhurt EmmaMcChesneysurveyedhimwide-eyed Theagent,unruffled,continued totalkonhiswaytothetelephone “Itonlylookssmalltoyou,”hewassaying “Factis,mostpeoplethinkit'stoo large Theyobjecttoabigkitchen Toomuchwork.”Hegavehisattentiontothe telephone Emma McChesney looked troubled She stood in the doorway, head on one side,asonewhoconjuresupamentalpicture “Come here,” she commanded suddenly, addressing the startled T A “You naggeduntilIhadtotakeyoualong Here'sachancetojustifyyourcoming I wantyouropiniononthekitchen.” “Kitchens,” announced T A Buck of the English clothes and the gardenia, “aremyspecialty,”andenteredthedomainofthegas-rangeandthesink EmmaMcChesneyswepttheinfinitesimalroomwithalargegesture “Considering it as a kitchen, not as a locker, does it strike you as being adequate?” T A Buck,standinginthecenteroftheroom,touchedallfourwallswithhis stick “I'veheard,”heventured,“thatthey're—ah—using'emsmallthisyear.” Emma McChesney's eyes took on a certain wistful expression “Maybe But wheneverI'vedreamedofahome,whichwaswheneverIgotlonesomeonthe road,whichwaseveryeveningfortenyears,I'dstarttoplanakitchen Akitchen whereyoucouldputuppreserves,andakegofdillpickles,andgetafull-sized dinnerwithoutgettingthingsmorethanjustcomfortablycluttered.” T A Buckreflected Heflappedhisarmsasonewhofeelspressedforroom “With two people occupying the room, as at present, the presence of one dill picklewouldsortofcrowdthings,nottospeakofakegof'em,andthefull-sized dinner,andthe—er—preserves Still—” “Asforaturkey,”wailedEmma McChesney,“one wouldhavetogoouton thefire-escapetobasteit.” The swinging door opened to admit the agent “Would you excuse me? A partydown-stairs—lease—bebackinnotime Justlookabout—anyquestions— gladtoanswerlater—” “Quite all right,” Mrs McChesney assured him Her expression was one of relief as the hall door closed behind him “Good! There's a spot in the mirror overthemantel I'vebeendyingtofindoutifitwasaflawintheglassoronlya smudge.” Shemadefortheliving-room T A Buckfollowedthoughtfully Thoughtfully andinterestedlyhewatchedherasshe stoodon tiptoe,breathedstormilyupon themirror'ssurface,andrubbedthemoistplacewithherhandkerchief Shestood backapace,eyesnarrowedcritically “It'sgone,isn'tit?”sheasked T A Buckadvancedtowhereshestoodandcockedhisheadtoo,judicially, andintheoppositedirectiontowhichEmmaMcChesney'sheadwascocked So thatthetwoheadswereveryclosetogether “It'sapoorpieceofglass,”heannouncedatlast A simple enough remark Perhaps it was made with an object in view, but certainly it was not meant to bring forth the storm of protest that came from EmmaMcChesney'slips Sheturnedonhim,lipsquivering,eyeswrathful “Youshouldn'thavecome!”shecried “You'reasmuchoutofplaceinasixroomflatasatrufflewouldbeinaboiledNewEnglanddinner DoyouthinkI don't see its shortcomings? Every normal woman, no matter what sort of bungalow,palace,ranch-house,cave,cottage,ortenementshemaybelivingin, hasinhermind'seyeapictureofthesortofapartmentshe'dliveinifshecould affordit I'vehadminemappedoutfromthewall-paperinthefronthalltothe laundry-tubsinthebasement,anditdoesn'tevenbearafamilyresemblanceto this.” “I'msorry,”stammeredT A Buck “YouaskedmyopinionandI—” “Opinion!Ifeveryonehadsolittletactastogivetheirtrueopinionwhenit wasaskedthiswouldbeamiserableworld IaskedyoubecauseIwantedyouto lie Iexpecteditofyou Ineededbolsteringup IrealizethattherentI'mpaying andtheflatI'mgettingformageometricalproblemwhereXequalstheunknown quantity and only the agent knows the answer But it's going to be a home for Jockandme It'sgoingtobeaplacewherehecanbringhisfriends;wherehe canhavehisbooks,andhis'baccy,andhiscollegejunk Itwillbethefirstreal homethatyoungsterhasknowninallhismiserableboarding-house,hotel,boys' school,andcollegeexistence SometimeswhenIthinkofwhathe'smissed,of thelonelinessandtheneglectwhenIwasontheroad,ofthebarrennessofhis boyhood,I—” T A Buckstartedforwardasonewhohadmadeuphismindaboutsomething longconsidered Thenhegulped,retreated,pacedexcitedlytothedoorandback again On the return trip he found smiling and repentant Emma McChesney regardinghim “Nowaren'tyousorryyouinsistedoncomingalong?Lettingyourselfinfora ragginglikethat?IthinkI'maweebittautinthenervesattheprospectofseeing Jock—andplanningthingswithhim—I—” T A Buckpausedinhispacing “Don't!”hesaid “Ihaditcomingtome I diditdeliberately Iwantedtoknowhowyoureallyfeltaboutit.” Emma McChesney stared at him curiously “Well, now you know But I haven't told you half In all those years while I was selling T A Buck's FeatherloomPetticoatsontheroad,andeatinghotelfoodthattastedthesame, whetheritwasroastbeeforice-cream,Iwasplanningthislittleplace I'veeven madeupmymindtothescandalouspriceI'mwillingtopayamaidwho'llcook realdinnersforusandservethemasI'vealwaysvowedJock'sdinnersshouldbe servedwhenIcouldaffordsomethingmorethanashiftinghotelhome.” T A Buckwasregardingtheheadofhisifwalking-stickwithagazeasintent asthatwhichhepreviouslyhadbestoweduponthechandelier Forthatmatterit was a handsome enough stick—a choice thing in malacca But it was scarcely moredeservingthanthechandelierhadbeen Mrs McChesney had wandered into the dining-room She peered out of windows Shepokedintobutler'spantry Sheinspectedwall-lights AndstillT A Buckstaredathisstick “It's really robbery,” came Emma McChesney's voice from the next room “OnlyaNewYorkagentcouldhavethenervetodoit I'veafriendwholivesin Chicago—MaryCutting You'veheardmespeakofher Hasaflatonthenorth side there, just next door to the lake The rent is ridiculous; and—would you believe it?—the flat is equipped with bookcases, and gorgeous mantel shelves, andbuffet,andbathroomfixtures,andchina-closets,andhall-tree—” Hervoicetrailedintonothingnessasshedisappearedintothekitchen When she emerged again she was still enumerating the charms of the absurdly lowpricedChicagoflat,thus: “—andfull-lengthmirrors,andwonderfulfoldingtable-shelfgimcracksinthe kitchen,and—” T A Buckdidnotlookup But,“Oh,Chicago!”hemighthavebeenheardto murmur,asonlyaNew-Yorkercanbreathethosetwowords “Don't 'Oh, Chicago!' like that,” mimicked Emma McChesney “I've lain awake nights dreaming of a home I once saw there, with the lake in the back yard,andacoupleofmilesofveranda,andadarlingvegetable-garden,andthe whole place simply honeycombed with bathrooms, and sleeping-porches, and sun-parlors,andlinen-closets,and—gracious,Iwonderwhat'skeepingJock!” T A Buckwrenchedhiseyesfromhisstick Allpreviousremarksdescriptive of his eyes under excitement paled at the glow which lighted them now They glowedstraightintoEmmaMcChesney'seyesandheldthem,startled “Emma,” said T A Buck quite calmly, “will you marry me? I want to give youallthosethings,beginningwiththelakein theback yardandendingwith thelinen-closetsandthesun-parlor.” AndEmmaMcChesney,standingthereinthemiddleofthedining-roomfloor, staredlongatT A Buck,standingthereinthecenteroftheliving-roomfloor Andifanyhumanface,inthespaceofseventeenseconds,couldbecapableof expressingrelief,andregret,andalarm,anddismay,andtenderness,andwonder, andagreatwomanlysympathy,EmmaMcChesney'scountenancemightbesaid tohaveexpressedallthoseemotions—andmore Thelasttwowereuppermost assheslowlycametowardhim “T A.,”shesaid,andhervoicehadinitamarvelousquality,“I'mthirty-nine yearsold YouknowIwasmarriedwhenIwaseighteenandgotmydivorceafter eight years Those eight years would have left any woman who had endured themwithoneoftwodeterminations:totakeuplifeagainandbringitoutinto thesunshineuntilitwassound,andsweet,andclean,andwholeoncemore,or tohidethehurtandbroodoverit,andcoveritwithbitterness,andhateuntilit destroyedbyitsveryfoulness IhadJock,andIchosethesun,thankGod!Isaid thenthatmarriagewasathingtriedandabandonedforever,forme Andnow—” There was something almost fine in the lines of T A Buck's too feminine mouthandchin;butnotfineenough “Now,Emma,”herepeated,“willyoumarryme?” EmmaMcChesney'seyeswereawonderfulthingtosee,sofullofpainwere they,sowidewithunshedtears “Aslongas—he—lived,”shewenton,“thethoughtofmarriagewasrepulsive tome Then,thatdaysevenmonthsagooutinIowa,whenIpickedupthatpaper and saw it staring out at me in print that seemed to waver and dance”—she covered her eyes with her hand for a moment—“'McChesney—Stuart McChesney, March 7, aged forty-seven years Funeral to-day from Howland Brothers'chapel AberdeenandEdinburghpaperspleasecopy!'” {Illustration:“'Emma.'hesaid,'willyoumarryme?'”} T A Bucktookthehandthatcoveredhereyesandbroughtitgentlydown “Emma,”hesaid,“willyoumarryme?” “T A.,Idon'tloveyou Wait!Don'tsayit!I'mthirty-nine,butI'mbraveand foolish enough to say that all these years of work, and disappointment, and struggle, and bitter experience haven't convinced me that love does not exist People have said about me, seeing me in business, that I'm not a marrying woman Thereisnosuchthingasthat Everywomanisamarryingwoman,and sometimesthelight-heartedest,andthescoffingest,andthemostself-sufficient ofusare,beneathitall,themarryingest PerhapsI'mmakingamistake Perhaps tenyearsfromnowI'llbereadytocallmyselfafoolforhavingletslipwhatthe wiseoneswouldcalla'chance.'ButIdon'tthinkso,T A.” “You know me too well,” argued T A Buck rather miserably “But at least youknowtheworstofmeaswellasthebest You'dbetakingnorisks.” EmmaMcChesneywalkedtothewindow Therewasalittlesilence Thenshe finisheditwithonecleanstroke “We'vebeengoodbusinesschums,youandI I hopewealwaysshallbe Icanimaginenothingmorebeautifulonthisearthfora womanthanbeingmarriedtoamanshecaresforandwhocaresforher But,T A.,you'renottheman.” And then there were quick steps in the corridor, a hand at the door-knob, a slim, tall figure in the doorway Emma McChesney seemed to waft across the roomsandintotheembraceoftheslim,tallfigure “Welcome—home!”shecried “Sketchinthefurnituretosuityourself.” “This is going to be great—great!” announced Jock “What you know about the Oriental potentate down-stairs! I guess Otis Skinner has nothing on himwhenitcomes—Why,hello,Mr Buck!”Hewaspeeringintothenextroom “Why don't you folks light up? I thought you were another agent person Met that one down in the hail Said he'd be right up What's the matter with him anyway?Hesmileslikeawaxworks Whentheelevatortookmeuphewasstill smilingfromthefoyer,andIcouldseehisgrinaftertherestofhimwaslostto sight RegularCheshire What'sthis?Droring-room?” {Illustration: “'Welcome home!' she cried 'Sketch in the furniture to suit yourself'”} He rattled on like a pleased boy He strode over to shake hands with Buck EmmaMcChesney,cheeksglowing,eyedhimadoringly Thenshegavealittle suppressedcry “Jock,what'shappened?” Jockwhirledaroundlikeacat “Where?When?What?” EmmaMcChesneypointedathimwithoneshakingfinger “You!You'rethin! You're—you'reemaciated Yourshoulders,wherearethey?Your—yourlegs—” Jocklookeddownathimself Hisglancewaspride “Clothes,”hesaid “Clothes?”falteredhismother “You'relosingyourpunch,Mother?Youusedtobeuponmen'srigging All theboyslookliketheirownshadowsthesedays Englishcut Nopadding No heels Incurveatthewaist Watchmewalk.”Heflappedacrosstheroom,chest concave, shoulders rounded, arms hanging limp, feet wide apart, chin thrust forward “Doyoumeantotellmethat'syourpresentformoflocomotion?”demanded hismother “Ihopeso Beenpractisingitforweeks Theycallitthejuvenilejump,andall ourbestleadingmenhaveit ItrailedDouglasFairbanksfordaysbeforeIreally gotit.” AndthetensionbetweenT A BuckandEmmaMcChesneysnappedwitha jerk,andtheybothlaughed,andlaughedagain,atJock'sairofoffendeddignity Theylaugheduntiltherancorintheheartofthemanandthehurtandpityinthe heartofthewomanmeltedintoabondoflastingunderstanding “Goon—laugh!”saidJock “Say,Mother,isthereashowerinthebathroom, h'm?”Andwasofftoinvestigate Thelaughtertrailedawayintonothingness “Jock,”calledhismother,“doyou wantyourbedroomdoneinplainorstripes?” “Plain,” came from the regions beyond “Got a lot of pennants and everything.” T A Buckpickeduphisstickfromthecornerinwhichitstood “I'llrunalong,”hesaid “Youtwowillwanttotalkthingsovertogether.”He raisedhisvoicetoreachtheboyintheotherroom “I'moff,Jock.” Jock's protest sounded down the hall “Don't leave me alone with her She'll blarneymeintoconsentingtoblue-and-pinkrosebudpaperinmybedroom.” T A Buck had the courage to smile even at that Emma McChesney was watchinghim,hercleareyestroubled,anxious At the door Buck turned, came back a step or two “I—I think, if you don't mind,I'llplayhookythistimeandrunovertoAtlanticCityforacoupleofdays You'llfindthingsslowingup,nowthattheholidaysaresonear.” “Fine idea—fine!” agreed Emma McChesney; but her eyes still wore the troubledlook “Good-by,”saidT A Buckabruptly “Good—”andthenshestopped “I'veabrand-newidea Giveyousomething toworryaboutonyourvacation.” “I'msupplied,”answeredT A Buckgrimly “Nonsense!Arealworry Abusinessworry Asurprise.” Jockhadjoinedthem,andwastoweringoverhismother,herhandinhis T A Buck regarded them moodily “After your pajama and knickerbocker stuntI'mbracedforanything.” “Nothingtheatricalthistime,”sheassuredhim “Don'texpectashowsuchas yougotwhenItouchedoffthelastfuse.” Aneager,expectantlookwasreplacingthegloomthatbadcloudedhisface “Springit.” EmmaMcChesneywaitedamoment;then,“Ithinkthetimehascometoput inanotherline—astaple It's—flannelnightgowns.” “Flannel nightgowns!” Disgust shivered through Buck's voice “Flannel nightgowns!TheyquitwearingthosewhenBroadwaywasacow-path.” “Did,eh?”retortedEmmaMcChesney “That'stheNew-Yorkerspeaking Just becausetheFrenchnear-actressesattheWinterGardenwearsilklaceandseafoamnightiesintheirimportedboudoirskits,andjustbecausetheydisplayonly those frilly, beribboned handmade affairs in the Fifth Avenue shop-windows, don'tyoueverthinkthatthey'reanationalvice Letmetellyou,”shewentonas T A Buck'sdemeanorgrewmorebristlinglyantagonistic,“therearethousands and thousands of women up in Minnesota, and Wisconsin, and Michigan, and Oregon,andAlaska,andNebraska,andDakotawhoarethankfultoretireevery nightprotectedbyonelong,thick,serviceableflannelnightie,andonepractical hot-water bag Up in those countries retiring isn't a social rite: it's a feat of hardihood I'm keen for a line of plain, full, roomy old-fashioned flannel nightgownsoftheimprovedT A BuckFeatherloomproductsvariety They'llbe wearing'emlongafterknickerbockershavebeencutupforpatchwork.” The moody look was quite absent from T A Buck's face now, and the troubledlookfromEmmaMcChesney'seyes “Well,”Bucksaidgrudgingly,“ifyouweretoadvisemakingupalineofthe latest models in deep-sea divers' uniforms, I suppose I'd give in But flannel nightgowns!Inthetwentiethcentury—flannelnight—” “Think it over,” laughed Emma McChesney as he opened the door “We'll haveitout,toothandnail,whenyougetback.” Thedoorcloseduponhim EmmaMcChesneyandhersonwereleftalonein theirnewhometobe “Turnoutthelight,son,”saidEmmaMcChesney,“andcometothewindow There'saview!Worththemoney,alone.” Jockswitchedoffthelight “D'youknow,Blonde,Ishouldn'twonderifoldT A.'ssweetishonyou,”hesaidashecameovertothewindow “Old!” “He'sfortyorover,isn'the?” “Son,doyourealizeyourcharmingmother'sthirty-nine?” “Oh,you!That'sdifferent Youlookakid You'reyounginallthespotswhere otherwomenofthirty-ninelookold Aroundtheeyes,andunderthechin,and yourhands,andthecornersofyourmouth.” InthetwilightEmmaMcChesneyturnedtostareatherson “Justwheredid youlearnallthat,young'un?Atcollege?” And,“Someview,isn'tit,Mother?”parriedJock Thetwostoodthere,sideby side,lookingoutacrossthegreatcitythatglitteredandswaminthesofthazeof the late November afternoon There are lovelier sights than New York seen at night,fromawindoweyriewithamauvehazesofteningall,asabeautifulbut experiencedwomanissoftenedbyanartfullydrapedscarfofchiffon Thereare citiesofroses,citiesofmountains,citiesofpalm-treesandsparklinglakes;but no sight, be it of mountains, or roses, or lakes, or waving palm-trees, is more likelytocausethatvaguesomethingwhichcatchesyouinthethroat It caught those two home-hungry people And it opened the lips of one of themalmostagainsthiswill “Mother,”saidJockhaltingly,painfully,“Icamemightynearcominghome— forgood—thistime.” Hismotherturnedandsearchedhisfaceinthedimlight “Whatwasit,Jock?”sheasked,quitewithoutfuss The slim young figure in the jumping juvenile clothes stirred and tried to speak,triedagain,formedthetwowords:“A—girl.” Emma McChesney waited a second, until the icy, cruel, relentless hand that clutchedherveryheartshouldhaverelaxedeversolittle Then,“Tellme,sonny boy,”shesaid “Why, Mother—that girl—” There was an agony of bitterness and of disillusionedyouthinhisvoice EmmaMcChesneycameveryclose,sothatherhead,inthepertlittleclosefittinghat,restedontheboy'sshoulder Shelinkedherarmthroughhis,snugand warm 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wild now andthen,andordereggsifthegirlsayssheknowsthehenthatlayed'em,but plain roast beef, unchloroformed,istheonebestbet
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