Ford Sewell - Shorty McCabe
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The Project Gutenberg EBook of Shorty McCabe, by Sewell Ford
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Title: Shorty McCabe
Author: Sewell Ford
Illustrator: Francis Vaux Wilson
Release Date: August 5, 2007 [EBook #22249]
Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1
*** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK SHORTY MCCABE ***
Produced by Roger Frank and the Online DistributedProofreading Team at http://www.pgdp.net
She was a dream, all right.
Illustrated byFrancis Vaux Wilson
NEW YORKGROSSET & DUNLAP
Copyright, 1906, byMitchell Kennerley.
Excuse me, mister man, but ain't youHello,yourself! Blamed if I didn't think therewas somethin' kind of natural about thelooks, as you come pikin' by. How're theyrunnin', eh?
Well say, I ain't seen you since we used tohit up the grammar school together.You've seen me, eh? Oh, sure! I'd forgot.That was when you showed up at the oldAthletic club the night I got the belt awayfrom the Kid. Doin' sportin' news then,wa'n't you? Chucked all that now, Is'pose?
Oh, I've kept track of you, all right. Everytime I sees one of your pieces in themagazines I reads it. And say, some of
'em's kind of punk. But then, you've got tosling out somethin' or other, I expect, orget off the job. Where do you dig up all ofthem yarns, anyway? That's what alwayssticks me. You must knock around a wholebunch, and have lots happen to you. Me?Ah, nothin' ever happens to me. Course,I'm generally on the move, but it's justalong the grub track, and that ain't excitin'.
Yes, it's been a couple of years since Iquit the ring. Why? Say, don't ever put thatup to a has-been. It's almost as bad ascompoundin' a felony. I could give you awhole raft of reasons that would soundwell, but there's only one that covers thecase. There's a knockout comin' to the bestof 'em, if they hang to the game longenough. Some ain't satisfied, even after
two or three. I was. I got mine, clean andsquare, and I ain't ashamed of it. I didn'traise any holler about a chance shot, and Ididn't go exhibitin' myself on the stage. Islid into a quiet corner for a month or so,and then I dropped into the only thing Iknew how to do, trainin' comers to goagainst the champs. It ain't like pullin'down your sixty per cent of the gatereceipts, but there's worse payin' jobs.
Course, there's times when I finds myselfup against it. It was durin' one of themsqueezes, not so long ago, that I getsmixed up with Leonidas Dodge, and allthat foolishness. Ah, it wa'n't anythingworth wastin' breath over. You would?Honest? Well, it won't take long, I guess.
You see, just as my wad looks like it had
shrunk so that it would rattle around in anapkin ring, someone passes me the wordthat Butterfly was down to win the thirdrace, at 15 to 1. Now as a general thing Idon't monkey with the ponies, but when Ifigured up what a few saw-bucks woulddo for me at those odds, I makes for thetrack and takes the high dive. After it wasall over and I was comin' back in the train,with only a ticket where my roll had been,me feelin' about as gay as a Zulu on a cakeof ice, along comes this Mr. Dodge, that Ididn't know from next Tuesday week.
"Is it as bad as that?" says he, sizin' up thewoe on my face. "Because if it is theyought to give you a pension. What was thehorse?"
"Butterfly," says I. "Now laugh!"
"I've got a right to," says he. "I had thesame dope."
Well, you see, that made us almost secondcousins by marriage and we started to getacquainted. I looked him over careful but Icouldn't place him within a mile. He hadpoints enough, too. The silk hat was aveteran, the Prince Albert dated backabout four seasons, but the gray gaiterswere down to the minute. Being an easytalker, he might have been a book agent ora green goods distributor. But somehowhis eyes didn't seem shifty enough for acrook, and no con. man would have lastedlong wearing the kind of hair that he did. Itwas a sort of lemon yellow, and he had alip decoration about two shades lighter,taggin' him as plain as an "inspected"
label on a tin trunk.
"I'm a mitt juggler," says I, "and they callme Shorty McCabe. What's your line?"
"I've heard of you," he says. "Permit me,"and he hands out a pasteboard that read:
LEONIDAS MACKLIN DODGECommissioner-at-Large
"For what?" says I.
"It all depends," says Mr. Dodge."Sometimes I call it a brass polisher, thenagain it's a tooth-paste. It works welleither way. Also it cleans silver, removesgrease spots, and can be used for ashaving soap. It is a product of my ownlab'ratory, none genuine without thesignature."
"How does it go as a substitute for beefand?" says I.
"I've never quite come to that," says he,"but I'm as close now as it's comfortableto be. My gold reserve counts up about adollar thirty-nine."
"You've got me beat by a whole dollar,"says I.
"Then," says he, "you'd better let meunderwrite your next issue."
"There's a friend of mine up to Forty-second Street that ought to be good forfifty," says I.
"I've had lots of friendships, off and on,"says he, "but never one that I could cash inat a pinch. I'll stay by until you try yourtouch."
Well, the Forty-second Street man hadbeen gone a month. There was others Imight have tried, but I didn't like to riskgettin' my fingers frost-bitten. So I hooksup with Leonidas and we goes out with agrip full of Electro-Polisho, hittin' theplaces where they had nickel-plated signsand brass hand rails. And say! I couldstarve to death doing that. Give me a weekand two pairs of shoes and I might sell abox or so; but Dodge, he takes an hour towork his side of the block and shakes outa fist full of quarters.
"It's an art," says he, "which one must beborn to. After this you carry the grip."
That's the part I was playin' when westrikes the Tuscarora. Sounds like a parlorcar, don't it? But it was just one of those
swell bachelor jointsfourteen stories,electric elevators, suites of two and threerooms, for gents only. Course, we hadn'tno more call to go there than to the StockExchange, but Leonidas Macklin, he's oneof the kind that don't wait for cards. Seein'the front door open and a crowd of men inthe hall, he blazes right in, silk hat on theback of his head, hands in his pockets, andme close behind with the bag.
"What's up; auction, row or accident?"says he to one of the mob.
Now if it had been me that butted in likethat I'd had a row on my hands in abouttwo minutes, but in less time than thatLeonidas knows the whole story and isright to home. Taking me behind a hand-made palm, he puts me next. Seems that
some one had advertised in a mornin'paper for a refined, high-browed personto help one of the same kind kill time at abig salary.
"And look what he gets," says Leonidas,wavin' his hand at the push. "There'smore'n a hundred of 'em, and not more'n adozen that you couldn't trace back to aMills hotel. They've been jawing away foran hour, trying to settle who gets the cinch.The chap who did the advertising is insidethere, in the middle of that bunch, and Ireckon he wishes he hadn't. As an act ofcharity, Shorty, I'm going to straightenthings out for him. Come on."
"Better call up the reserves," says I.
But that wa'n't Mr. Dodge's style. Side-steppin' around to the off edge of the
crowd, just as if he'd come down from theelevator, he calls out good and loud:"Now then, gentlemen; one side, please,one side! Ah, thank you! In a moment,now, gentlemen, we'll get down tobusiness."
And say, they opened up for us like it waspay day and he had the cash box. Webrought up before the saddest-lookin' cussI ever saw out of bed. I couldn't make outwhether he was sick, or scared, or both.He had flopped in a big leather chair andwas tryin' to wave 'em away with bothhands, while about two dozen, lookin' likeex-bath rubbers or men nurses, weretelling him how good they were andshovin' references at him. The rest of thegang was trying to push in for their whack.
It was a bad mess, but Leonidas wasn'tfeazed a bit.
"Attention, gentlemen!" says he. "If youwill all retire to the room on the left wewill get to work. The room on the left,gentlemen, on the left!"
He had a good voice, Leonidas did, one ofthe kind that could go against a merry-go-round or a German band. The crowdstopped pushin' to listen, then some onemade a break for the next room, and inless than a minute they were all in there,with the door shut between. Mr. Dodgetips me the wink and sails over to thespecimen in the chair.
"You're Mr. Homer Fales, I take it," sayshe.
"I am," says the pale one, breathing hard,"and whowho the devil are you?"
"That's neither here nor there," saysLeonidas. "Just now I'm a life-boat. Doyou want to hire any of those fellows? Ifso"
"No, no, no!" says Homer, shakin' as if hehad a chill. "Send them all away, willyou? They have nearly killed me."
"Away they go," says Leonidas. "Watchme do it."
First he has me go in with his hat andcollect their cards. Then I calls 'em out,one by one, while he stands by to giveeach one the long-lost brother grip, andwhisper in his ear, as confidential as if hewas telling him how he'd won the piano at
a church raffle: "Don't say a word; to-morrow at ten." They all got the same,even to the Hickey-boy shoulder pat as hepassed 'em out, and every last one of