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Chapter II
FOR some reason, never made sufficiently clear, Rivers' parents had handicapped him
from the baptismal font with the prenomen of Conde, which, however, upon Anglo-
Saxon tongues, had been promptly modified to Condy, or even, among his familiar and
intimate friends, to Conny. Asked as to his birthplace--for no Californian assumes that
his neighbor is born in the State--Condy was wont to reply that he was "bawn 'n' rais'" in
Chicago; "but," he always added, "I couldn't help that, you know." His people had come
West in the early eighties, just in time to bury the father in alien soil. Condy was an only
child. He was educated at the State University, had a finishing year at Yale, and a few
months after his return home was taken on the staff of the San Francisco "Daily Times"
as an associate editor of its Sunday supplement. For Condy had developed a taste and
talent in the matter of writing. Short stories were his mania. He had begun by an
inoculation of the Kipling virus, had suffered an almost fatal attack of Harding Davis, and
had even been affected by Maupassant. He "went in" for accuracy of detail; held that if
one wrote a story involving firemen one should have, or seem to have, every detail of
the department at his fingers' ends, and should "bring in" to the tale all manner of
technical names and cant phrases.
Much of his work on the Sunday supplement of "The Times" was of the hack order--
special articles, write-ups, and interviews. About once a month, however, he wrote a
short story, and of late, now that he was convalescing from Maupassant and had begun
to be somewhat himself, these stories had improved in quality, and one or two had even
been copied in the Eastern journals. He earned $100 a month.
When Snooky had let him in, Rivers dashed up the stairs of the Bessemers' flat, two at
a time, tossed his stick into a porcelain cane-rack in the hall, wrenched off his overcoat
with a single movement, and precipitated himself, panting, into the dining-room, tugging
at his gloves.
He was twenty-eight years old--nearly ten years older than Travis; tall and somewhat
lean; his face smooth-shaven and pink all over, as if he had just given it a violent
rubbing with a crash towel. Unlike most writing folk, he dressed himself according to
prevailing custom. But Condy overdid the matter. His scarfs and cravats were too bright,
his colored shirt-bosoms were too broadly barred, his waistcoats too extreme. Even
Travis, as she rose to his abrupt entrance? told herself that of a Sunday evening a pink
shirt and scarlet tie were a combination hardly to be forgiven.
Condy shook her hand in both of his, then rushed over to Mr. Bessemer, exclaiming
between breaths: "Don't get up, sir--don't THINK of it! Heavens! I'm disgustingly late.
You're all through. My watch--this beastly watch of mine--I can't imagine how I came to
be so late. You did quite right not to wait."