A Man and His Money

Frederic Stewart Isham

A Man and His Money, by Frederic Stewart Isham

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Title: A Man and His Money
Author: Frederic Stewart Isham
Release Date: December 8, 2003 [EBook #10402]
Language: English
Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1

Produced by Audrey Longhurst, Dave Morgan and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team



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!
He shifted his feet thoughtfully; a thin lock of dark hair drooped more uncertainly over his brow; he got up. The composer dashed a blithe flourish to the tail of a note.
"Hold on," he said. "What's your hurry?" Sarcastically.
"Didn't know I was in a hurry!" There was no attempted levity in his tone,--he spoke rather listlessly, as one who had found the world, or its problems, slightly wearisome. The composer-publisher now arose; a new thought had suddenly assailed him.
"You say you are looking for work. Why did you drift in here?"
"The place looked small. Those big places have no end of applicants--"
"Shouldn't think that would phase you. With your nerve!"
The visitor flushed. "I seem to have made rather a mess of it," he confessed. "I usually do. Good day."
"A moment!" said Mr. Mackintosh. "One of my men"--he emphasized "one," as if their number were legion--"disappointed me this morning. I expect he's in the lockup by this time. Have you got a voice?"
"A what?"
"Can you sing?"
"I really don't know; haven't ever tried, since"--a wonderful retrospection in his tones--"since I was a little chap in church and wore white robes."
"Huh!" ejaculated the proprietor of the Saint Cecilia shop. "Mama's angel boy! That must have been a long time ago." The visitor did not answer; he pushed back uncertainly the uncertain lock of dark hair and seemed almost to have forgotten the object of his visit.
"Now see here"--Mr. Mackintosh's voice became purposeful, energetic; he seated himself before a piano that looked as
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