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A Man and His Money by Frederic Stewart Isham




_Author of_

Under the Rose, Half a Chance, The Social Bucaneer, Etc.







"Well? What can I do for you?"

The speaker--a scrubby little man--wheeled in the rickety office chair to regard some one hesitating on his threshold. The tones were not agreeable; the proprietor of the diminutive, run-down establishment, "The St. Cecilia Music Emporium," was not, for certain well defined reasons, in an amiable mood that morning. He had been about to reach down for a little brown jug which reposed on the spot usually allotted to the waste paper basket when the shadow of the new-comer fell obtrusively, not to say offensively, upon him.

It was not a reassuring shadow; it seemed to spring from an indeterminate personality. Mr. Kerry Mackintosh repeated his question more bruskly; the shadow (obviously not a customer,--no one ever sought Mr. Mackintosh's wares!) started; his face showed signs of a vacillating purpose.

"A mistake! Beg pardon!" he murmured with exquisite politeness and began to back out, when a somewhat brutal command on the other's part to "shut that d---- door d---- quick, and not let any more d---- hot air out" arrested the visitor's purpose. Instead of retreating, he advanced.

"I beg pardon, were you addressing me?" he asked. The half apologetic look had quite vanished.

The other considered, muttered at length in an aggrieved tone something about hot air escaping and coal six dollars a ton, and ended with: "What do you want?"

"Work." The visitor's tone relapsed; it was now conspicuous for its want of "success waves"; it seemed to imply a definite cognizance of personal uselessness. He who had brightened a moment before now spoke like an automaton. Mr. Mackintosh looked at him and his shabby garments. He had a contempt for shabby garments--on others!

"Good day!" he said curtly.

But instead of going, the person coolly sat down. The proprietor of the little shop glanced toward the door and half started from his chair. Whereupon the visitor smiled; he had a charming smile in these moments of calm equipoise, it gave one an impression of potential possibilities. Mr. Mackintosh sank back into his chair.

"Too great a waste of energy!" he murmured, and having thus defined his attitude, turned to a "proof" of new rag-time. This he surveyed discontentedly; struck out a note here, jabbed in another there. The stranger watched him at first casually. By sundry signs the caller's fine resolution and assurance seemed slowly oozing from him; perhaps he began to have doubts as to the correctness of his position, thus to storm a man in his own castle, or office--even if it were such a disreputable-appearing office!

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