The Man in Lower Ten HTML version
2. A Torn Telegram
I lunched alone at the Gilmore house, and went back to the city at once. The sun had
lifted the mists, and a fresh summer wind had cleared away the smoke pall. The
boulevard was full of cars flying countryward for the Saturday half-holiday, toward golf
and tennis, green fields and babbling girls. I gritted my teeth and thought of McKnight at
Richmond, visiting the lady with the geographical name. And then, for the first time, I
associated John Gilmore's granddaughter with the "West" that McKnight had irritably
flung at me.
I still carried my traveling-bag, for McKnight's vision at the window of the empty house
had not been without effect. I did not transfer the notes to my pocket, and, if I had, it
would not have altered the situation later. Only the other day McKnight put this very
thing up to me.
"I warned you," he reminded me. "I told you there were queer things coming, and to be
on your guard. You ought to have taken your revolver."
"It would have been of exactly as much use as a bucket of snow in Africa," I retorted. "If
I had never closed my eyes, or if I had kept my finger on the trigger of a six-shooter
(which is novelesque for revolver), the result would have been the same. And the next
time you want a little excitement with every variety of thrill thrown in, I can put you by
way of it. You begin by getting the wrong berth in a Pullman car, and end - "
"Oh, I know how it ends," he finished shortly. "Don't you suppose the whole thing's
written on my spinal marrow?"
But I am wandering again. That is the difficulty with the unprofessional story-teller: he
yaws back and forth and can't keep in the wind; he drops his characters overboard when
he hasn't any further use for them and drowns them; he forgets the coffee-pot and the
frying-pan and all the other small essentials, and, if he carries a love affair, he mutters a
fervent "Allah be praised" when he lands them, drenched with adventures, at the
matrimonial dock at the end of the final chapter.
I put in a thoroughly unsatisfactory afternoon. Time dragged eternally. I dropped in at a
summer vaudeville, and bought some ties at a haberdasher's. I was bored but unexpectant;
I had no premonition of what was to come. Nothing unusual had ever happened to me;
friends of mine had sometimes sailed the high seas of adventure or skirted the coasts of
chance, but all of the shipwrecks had occurred after a woman passenger had been taken
on. "Ergo," I had always said "no women!" I repeated it to myself that evening almost
savagely, when I found my thoughts straying back to the picture of John Gilmore's
granddaughter. I even argued as I ate my solitary dinner at a downtown restaurant.
"Haven't you troubles enough," I reflected, "without looking for more? Hasn't Bad News
gone lame, with a matinee race booked for next week? Otherwise aren't you comfortable?