VIII. Big Print
In the Cosmic Club Mr. Algernon Spofford was a figure of distinction. Amidst the varied,
curious, eccentric, brilliant, and even slightly unbalanced minds which made the
organization unique, his was the only wholly stolid and stupid one. Club tradition
declared that he had been admitted solely for the beneficent purpose of keeping the
more egotistic members in a permanent and pleasing glow of superiority. He was very
rich, but otherwise quite harmless. In an access of unappreciated cynicism, Average
Jones had once suggested to him, as a device for his newly acquired coat-of-arms,
"Rocks et Praeterea Nihil."
But the "praeterea nihil" was something less than fair to Mr. Spofford, with whom it was
not strictly a case of "nothing further" besides his "rocks". Ambition, the vice of great
souls, burned within Spofford's pigeon-breast. He longed to distinguish himself in the
line of endeavor of his friend Jones and was prone to proffer suggestions, hints, and
even advice, to the great tribulation of the recipient.
Hence it was with misgiving that the Ad-Visor opened the door of his sanctum to Mr.
Spofford, on a harsh December noon. But the misgivings were supplanted by pleased
surprise when the caller laid in his hand a clipping from a small country town paper, to
RANSOM--Lost lad from Harwick not drowned
or harmed. Retained for ransom. Safe and
sound to parents for $50,000. Write,
Mortimer Morley, General Delivery, N. Y.
"Thought that'd catch you," chuckled Mr. Spofford, in great self-congratulation. "'Jones'll
see into this,' I says to myself. 'If he don't, I'll explain.' Somethin' to that, ay?"
Average Jones looked from the advertisement to the vacuous smile of Mr. Algernon
Spofford. "Oh, you'll explain, will you?" he said softly. "Well, the thing I'd like to have
explained is--come over here to the window a minute, will you, Algy?"
Mr. Spofford came, and gazed down upon a dispiriting area of rain-swept street and
"See that ten-story office building across the way?" pursued Average Jones. "What
would you do if, coming in here at midnight, you were to see twenty-odd rats ooze out of
that building and disperse about their business?"
"I--I'd quit," said the startled promptly.