Read CHAPTER SIX - A TALE OF TWO JACOBEAN CHAIRS of Elkan Lubliner‚ American , free online book, by Montague Glass, on ReadCentral.com.

NOT A DETECTIVE STORY

“Yes, Mr. Lubliner,” said Max Merech as he sat in the front parlour of Elkan’s flat one April Sunday; “if you are going to work to buy furniture, understand me, it’s just so easy to select good-looking chairs as bad-looking chairs.”

“Aber sometimes it’s a whole lot harder to sit on ’em comfortably,” Elkan retorted sourly. On the eve of moving to a larger apartment he and Yetta had invited Max to suggest a plan for furnishing and decorating their new dwelling; and it seemed to Elkan that Max had taken undue advantage of the privilege thus accorded him. Indeed, Polatkin, Scheikowitz & Company’s aesthetic designer held such pronounced views on interior decoration, and had expressed them so freely to Elkan and Yetta, that after the first half-hour of his visit the esteem which they had always felt toward their plush furniture and Wilton rugs had changed first to indifference and then, in the case of Yetta, at least, to loathing.

“I always told you that the couch over there was hideous, Elkan,” Yetta said.

“Hideous it ain’t,” Max interrupted; “aber it ain’t so beautiful.”

“Well, stick the couch in the bedroom, then,” Elkan said. “It makes no difference to me.”

“Sure, I know,” Yetta exclaimed: “but what would we put in its place?”

Elkan shrugged his shoulders.

“What d’ye ask me for?” Elkan cried. “Like as not I’d say another couch.”

“There is couches and couches,” Max said with an apologetic smile, “but if you would ask my advice I would say why not a couple nice chairs there something in monhogany, like Shippendaler oder Sheratin.”

Suddenly he slapped his thigh in an access of inspiration.

“I came pretty near forgetting!” he cried. “I got the very thing you want and a big bargain too! Do you know Louis Dishkes, which runs the Villy dee Paris Store in Amsterdam Avenue?”

“I think I know him,” Elkan said with ironic emphasis. “He owes us four hundred dollars for two months already.”

“Well, Dishkes is got a brother-in-law by the name Ringentaub, on Allen Street, which he is a dealer in antics.”

“Antics?” Elkan exclaimed.

“Sure!” Max explained. “Antics old furniture and old silver.”

“You mean a second-hand store?” Elkan suggested.

“Not a second-hand store,” Max declared. “A second-hand store is got old furniture from two years old oder ten years old, understand me; aber an antic store carries old furniture from a hundred years old already.”

“And this here Ringentaub is got furniture from a hundred years old already?” Elkan cried.

“From older even,” answered Max; “from two hundred and fifty years old also.”

“Ich glaub’s!” Elkan cried.

“You can believe it oder not, Mr. Lubliner,” Max continued; “but Ringentaub got in his store a couple Jacobean chairs, which they are two hundred and fifty years old already. And them chairs you could buy at a big sacrifice yet.”

Elkan and Yetta exchanged puzzled glances, and Elkan even tapped his forehead significantly.

“They was part of a whole set,” Max went on, not noticing his employer’s gesture; “the others Ringentaub sold to a collector.”

Elkan flipped his right hand.

“A collector is something else again,” he said; “but me I ain’t no collector, Max, Gott sei Dank! I got my own business, Max, and I ain’t got to buy from two hundred and fifty years old furniture.”

“Why not?” Max asked. “B. Gans is got his own business, too, Mr. Lubliner, and a good business also; and he buys yet from Ringentaub only last week already an angry cat cabinet which it is three hundred years old already.”

“An angry cat cabinet?” Elkan exclaimed.

“That’s what I said,” Max continued; “‘angry’ is French for ‘Henry’ and ‘cat’ is French for ‘fourth’; so this here cabinet was made three hundred years ago when Henry the Fourth was king of France and B. Gans buys it last week already for five hundred dollars!”

Therewith Max commenced a half-hour dissertation upon antique furniture which left Yetta and Elkan more undecided than ever.

“And you are telling me that big people like B. Gans and Andrew Carnegie buys this here antics for their houses?” Elkan asked.

“J. P. Morgan also,” Max replied. “And them Jacobean chairs there you could get for fifty dollars already.”

“Well, it wouldn’t do no harm supposing we would go down and see ’em,” Yetta suggested.

“Some night next week,” Elkan added, “oder the week after.”

“For that matter, we could go to-night too,” Max rejoined. “Sunday is like any other night down on Allen Street, and you got to remember that Jacobean chairs is something which you couldn’t get whenever you want ’em. Let me tell you just what they look like.”

Here he descanted so successfully on the beauty of Jacobean furniture that Yetta added her persuasion to his, and Elkan at length surrendered.

“All right,” he said. “First we would have a little something to eat and then we would go down there.”

Hence, a few minutes after eight that evening they alighted at the Spring Street subway station; and Max Merech piloted Elkan and Yetta beneath elevated railroads and past the windows of brass shops, with their gleaming show of candlesticks and samovars, to a little basement store near the corner of Rivington Street.

“It don’t look like much,” Max apologized as he descended the few steps leading to the entrance; “aber he’s got an elegant stock inside.”

When he opened the door a trigger affixed to the door knocked against a rusty bell, but no one responded. Instead, from behind a partition in the rear came sounds of an angry dispute; and as Elkan closed the door behind him one of the voices rose higher than the rest.

“Take my life take my blood, Mr. Sammet!” it said; “because I am making you the best proposition I can, and that’s all there is to it.”

Max was about to stamp his foot when Elkan laid a restraining hand on his shoulder; and, in the pause that followed, the heavy, almost hysterical breathing of the last speaker could be heard in the front of the store.

“I don’t want your life oder your blood, Dishkes,” came the answer in bass tones, which Elkan recognized as the voice of his competitor, Leon Sammet. “I am your heaviest creditor, and all I want is that you should protect me.”

“I know you are my heaviest creditor,” Louis Dishkes replied. “To my sorrow I know it! If it wouldn’t be for your rotten stickers which I got in my place, might I would be doing a good business there to-day, maybe!”

“Schmooes, Dishkes!” Sammet replied. “The reason you didn’t done a good business there is that you ain’t no business man, Dishkes and anyhow, Dishkes, it don’t do no good you should insult me!”

“What d’ye mean insult you?” Dishkes cried angrily. “I ain’t insulting you, Sammet. You are insulting me. You want me I should protect you and let my other creditors go to the devil ain’t it? What d’ye take me for a crook?”

“That’s all right,” Sammet declared. “I wouldn’t dandy words with you, Dishkes. For the last time I am asking you: Will you take advantage of the offer I am getting for you from the Mercantile Outlet Company, of Nashville, for your entire stock? Otherwise I would got nothing more to say to you.”

There was a sound of scuffling feet as the party in the rear of the store rose from their chairs.

“You ain’t got no need to say nothing more to me, Mr. Sammet,” Dishkes announced firmly, “because I am through with you, Mr. Sammet. Your account ain’t due till to-morrow, and you couldn’t do nothing till Tuesday. Ain’t it? So Tuesday morning early you should go ahead and sue me, and if I couldn’t raise money to save myself I will go mechullah; but it’ll be an honest mechullah, and that’s all there is to it.”

As Dishkes finished speaking Elkan drew Max and Yetta into the shadow cast by a tall highboy; and, without noticing their presence, Leon Sammet plunged toward the door and let himself out into the street.

Immediately Elkan tiptoed to the door and threw it wide open, after which he shuffled his feet with sufficient noise to account for the entrance of three people. Thereat Ringentaub emerged from behind the partition.

“Hello, Ringentaub,” Max cried. “I am bringing you here some customers.”

Ringentaub bowed and coughed a warning to Dishkes and Mrs. Ringentaub, who continued to talk in hoarse whispers behind the partition.

“What’s the matter, Ringentaub?” Max Merech asked; “couldn’t you afford it here somehow a little light?”

Ringentaub reached into the upper darkness and turned on a gas jet which had been burning a blue point of flame.

“I keep it without light here on purpose,” he said, “on account Sundays is a big night for the candlestick fakers up the street and I don’t want to be bothered with their trade. What could I show your friends, Mr. Merech?”

Max winked almost imperceptibly at Elkan and prepared to approach the subject of the Jacobean chairs by a judicious detour.

“Do you got maybe a couple Florentine frames, Ringentaub?” he asked; and Ringentaub shook his head.

“Florentine frames is hard to find nowadays, Mr. Merech,” he said; “and I guess I told it you Friday that I ain’t got none.”

Elkan shrugged his shoulders and smiled.

“I thought might you would of picked up a couple since then, maybe,” Max rejoined, glancing round him. “You got a pretty nice highboy over there, Ringentaub, for a reproduction.”

Ringentaub nodded satirically.

“That only goes to show how much you know about such things, Mr. Merech,” he retorted, “when you are calling reproductions something which it is a gen-wine Shippendaler, understand me, in elegant condition.”

It was now Elkan’s turn to nod, and he did so with just the right degree of skepticism as at last he broached the object of his visit.

“I suppose,” he said, “that them chairs over there is also gen-wine Jacobean chairs?”

“I’ll tell you what I’ll do with you, Mr. Merech,” Ringentaub declared. “You could bring down here any of them good Fourth Avenue or Fifth Avenue dealers, understand me, or any conoozer you want to name, like Jacob Paul, oder anybody, y’understand; and if they would say them chairs ain’t gen-wine Jacobean I’ll make ’em a present to you free for nothing.”

“I ain’t schnorring for no presents, Mr. Ringentaub,” Max declared. “Bring ’em out in the light and let’s give a look at ’em.”

Ringentaub drew the chairs into the centre of the floor, and placing them beneath the gas jet he stepped backward and tilted his head to one side in silent admiration.

“Nu, Mr. Merech,” he said at last, “am I right or am I wrong? Is the chairs gen-wine oder not? I leave it to your friends here.”

Max turned to Elkan, who had been edging away toward the partition, from which came scraps of conversation between Dishkes and Mrs. Ringentaub.

“What do you think, Mr. Lubliner?” Max asked; and Elkan frowned his annoyance at the interruption, for he had just begun to catch a few words of the conversation in the rear room.

“Sure sure!” he said absently. “I leave it to you and Mrs. Lubliner.”

Yetta’s face had fallen as she viewed the apparently decayed and rickety furniture.

“Ain’t they terrible shabby-looking!” she murmured, and Ringentaub shrugged his shoulders and smiled.

“You would look shabby, too, lady,” he said, “if you would be two hundred and fifty years old; aber if you want to see what they look like after they are restored, y’understand, I got back there one of the rest of the set which I already sold to Mr. Paul; and I am fixing it up for him.”

As he finished speaking he walked to the rear and dragged forward a reseated and polished duplicate of the two chairs.

“I dassent restore ’em before I sell ’em,” Ringentaub explained; “otherwise no one believes they are gen-wine.”

“And how much do you say you want for them chairs, Ringentaub?” Max asked.

“I didn’t say I wanted nothing,” Ringentaub replied. “The fact is, I don’t know whether I want to keep them chairs oder not. You see, Mr. Merech, Jacobean chairs is pretty near so rare nowadays that it would pay me to wait a while. In a couple of years them chairs double in value already.”

“Sure, I know,” Max said. “You could say the same thing about your whole stock, Ringentaub; and so, if I would be you, Ringentaub, I would take a little vacation of a couple years or so. Go round the world mit Mrs. Ringentaub, understand me, and by the time you come back you are worth twicet as much as you got to-day; but just to help pay your rent while you are away, Mr. Ringentaub, I’ll make you an offer of thirty-five dollars for the chairs.”

Ringentaub seized a chair in each hand and dragged them noisily to one side.

“As I was saying,” he announced, “I ain’t got no Florentine frames, Mr. Merech; so I am sorry we couldn’t do no business.”

“Well, then, thirty-seven-fifty, Mr. Ringentaub,” Max continued; and Ringentaub made a flapping gesture with both hands.

“Say, lookyhere,” he growled, “what is the use talking nonsense, Mr. Merech? For ten dollars apiece you could get on Twenty-third Street a couple chairs, understand me, made in some big factory, y’understand A-Number-One pieces of furniture which would suit you a whole lot better as gen-wine pieces. These here chairs is for conoozers, Mr. Merech; so, if you want any shiny candlesticks oder Moskva samovars from brass-spinners on Center Street, y’understand, a couple doors uptown you would find plenty fakers. Aber here is all gen-wine stuff, y’understand; and for gen-wine stuff you got to pay full price, understand me, which if them chairs stays in my store till they are five hundred years old already I wouldn’t take a cent less for ’em as fifty dollars.”

Max turned inquiringly to Mrs. Lubliner; and, during the short pause that followed, the agonized voice of Louis Dishkes came once more from the back room.

“What could I do?” he said to Mrs. Ringentaub. “I want to be square mit everybody, and I must got to act quick on account that sucker Sammet will close me up sure.”

“Ai, tzuris!” Mrs. Ringentaub moaned; at which her husband coughed noisily and Elkan moved nearer to the partition.

“Would you go as high as fifty dollars, Mrs. Lubliner?” Max asked, and Yetta nodded.

“All right, Mr. Ringentaub,” Max concluded; “we’ll take ’em at fifty dollars.”

“And you wouldn’t regret it neither,” Ringentaub replied. “I’ll make you out a bill right away.”

He darted into the rear room and slammed the partition door behind him.

“Koosh, Dishkes!” he hissed. “Ain’t you got no sense at all blabbing out your business in front of all them strangers?”

It was at this juncture that Elkan rapped on the door.

“Excuse me, Mr. Ringentaub,” he said, “but I ain’t no stranger to Mr. Dishkes not by four hundred dollars already.”

He opened the door as he spoke, and Dishkes, who was sitting at a table with his head bowed on his hands, looked up mournfully.

“Nu, Mr. Lubliner!” he said. “You are after me, too, ain’t it?”

Elkan shook his head.

“Not only I ain’t after you, Dishkes,” he said, “but I didn’t even know you was in trouble until just now.”

“And you never would of known,” Ringentaub added, “if he ain’t been such a dümmer Ochs and listened to people’s advice. He got a good chance to sell out, and he wouldn’t took it.”

“Sure, I know,” Elkan said, “to an auction house; the idée being to run away mit the proceeds and leave his creditors in the lurches!”

Dishkes again buried his head in his hands, while Ringentaub blushed guiltily.

“That may be all right in the antic business, Mr. Ringentaub,” Elkan went on, “but in the garment business we ain’t two hundred and fifty years behind the times exactly. We got associations of manufacturers and we got good lawyers, too, understand me; and we get right after crooks like Sammet, just the same as some of us helps out retailers that want to be decent, like Dishkes here.”

Louis Dishkes raised his head suddenly.

“Then you heard the whole thing?” he cried; and Elkan nodded.

“I heard enough, Dishkes,” he said; “and if you want my help you could come down to my place to-morrow morning at ten o’clock.”

At this juncture the triggered bell rang loudly, and raising his hand for silence Ringentaub returned to the store.

“Why, how do you do, Mr. Paul!” he said.

He addressed a broad-shouldered figure arrayed in the height of Canal Street fashion.

Aside from his clothing, however, there was little to betray the connoisseur of fine arts and antiques in the person of Jacob Paul, who possessed the brisk, businesslike manner and steel-blue eyes of a detective sergeant.

“Hello, Ringentaub!” he said. “You are doing a rushing business here ain’t it? More customers in the back room too?”

He glanced sharply at the open doorway in the partition, through which Elkan and Dishkes could be seen engaged in earnest conversation.

“Yow customers!” Ringentaub exclaimed. “You know how it is in the antic business, Mr. Paul. For a hundred that looks, understand me, one buys; and that one, Mr. Paul, he comes into your place a dozen times before he makes up his mind yet.”

“Well,” Paul said with a smile, “I’ve made up my mind at last, Ringentaub, and I’ll take them other two chairs at forty-five dollars.”

Ringentaub nodded his head slowly.

“I thought you would, Mr. Paul,” he said; “but just the same you are a little late, on account this here gentleman already bought ’em for fifty dollars.”

A shade of disappointment passed over Paul’s face as he turned to Max Merech.

“I congratulate you, Mister ”

“Merech,” Max suggested.

“Merech,” Paul continued. “You paid a high price for a couple of good pieces.”

“I ain’t paying nothing,” Max replied. “I bought ’em for this lady here and her husband.”

It was then that Jacob Paul for the first time noticed Yetta’s presence, and he bowed apologetically.

“Is he also a collector?” he asked, and Max shook his head.

“He’s in the garment business,” Yetta volunteered, “for himself.”

A puzzled expression wrinkled Paul’s flat nose.

“I guess I ain’t caught the name,” he said.

“Lubliner,” Yetta replied; “Elkan Lubliner, of Polatkin, Scheikowitz & Company.”

“You don’t tell me?” Jacob Paul said. “And so Mr. Lubliner is interested in antiques. That’s quite a jump, from cloaks and suits to antiques already.”

“Well,” Merech explained, “Mr. Lubliner is refurnishing his house.”

“Maybe,” Elkan added as he appeared in the doorway of the partition, followed by Dishkes and Mrs. Ringentaub. “Buying a couple pieces of furniture is one thing, Merech, and refurnishing your house is another.”

“You made a good start anyhow,” Paul interrupted. “A couple chairs like them gives a tone to a room which is got crayon portraits hanging in it even.”

Yetta blushed in the consciousness of what she had always considered to be a fine likeness of Elkan’s grandfather the Lubliner Rav which hung in a silver-and-plush frame over the mantelpiece of the Lubliner front parlour. Elkan was unashamed, however, and he glared angrily at the connoisseur, who had started to leave the store.

“I suppose,” he cried, “it ain’t up to date that a feller should have hanging in his flat a portrait of his grandfather olav hasholem! which he was a learned man and a Tzadek, if there ever was one.”

Paul hesitated, with his hand on the doorknob.

“I’ll tell you, Mr. Lubliner,” he said solemnly; “to me a crayon portrait is rotten, understand me, if it would be of a Tzadek oder a murderer.”

And with a final bow to Mrs. Lubliner he banged the door behind him.

“Well, what d’ye think for a Rosher like that?” Elkan exclaimed.

“The fellow is disappointed that you got ahead of him buying the chairs, Mr. Lubliner,” Ringentaub explained; “so he takes a chance that you and Mrs. Lubliner is that kind of people which is got hanging in the parlour crayon portraits, understand me, and he knocks you for it.”

Elkan shrugged his shoulders.

“What could you expect from a feller which is content at fifty years of age to be a collector only?” he asked, and Dishkes nodded sympathetically.

“I bet yer, Mr. Lubliner,” he agreed; “and so I would be at your store to-morrow morning at ten o’clock sure.”

“I don’t doubt your word for a minute, Elkan,” Marcus Polatkin said the following morning when Elkan related to him the events of the preceding night; “aber you couldn’t blame Sammet none. Concerns like Sammet Brothers, which they are such dirty crooks that everybody is got suspicions of ’em, y’understand, must got to pay their bills prompt to the day, Elkan; because if they wouldn’t be themselves good collectors, understand me, they would bust up quick.”

“Sammet Brothers ain’t in no danger of busting up,” Elkan declared.

“Ain’t they?” Marcus rejoined. “Well, you would be surprised, Elkan, if I would tell you that only yesterday already I am speaking to a feller by the name Hirsch, which works for years by the Hamsuckett Mills as city salesman, understand me, and he says that the least Sammet Brothers owes them people is ten thousand dollars.”

“That shows what a big business they must do,” Elkan said.

“Yow a big business!” Marcus concluded. “This here Hirsch says not only Sammet Brothers’ business falls off something terrible, y’understand, but they are also getting to be pretty slow pay; and if it wouldn’t be that the Hamsuckett people is helping ’em along, verstehst du, they would of gone up schon long since already.”

“And a good job too,” Elkan said. “The cloak-and-suit trade could worry along without ’em, Mr. Polatkin; but anyhow, Mr. Polatkin, I ain’t concerned with Sammet Brothers. The point is this: Dishkes says he has got a good stand there on Amsterdam Avenue, and if he could only hold on a couple months longer he wouldn’t got no difficulty in pulling through.”

Polatkin shrugged his shoulders.

“For my part,” he said, “it wouldn’t make no difference if Dishkes busts up now oder two months from now.”

“But the way he tells me yesterday,” Elkan replied, “not only he wouldn’t got to bust up on us if he gets his two months’ extension, but he says he would be doing a good business at that time.”

Polatkin nodded skeptically.

“Sure, I know, Elkan,” he said. “If everybody which is asking an extension would do the business they hope to do before the extension is up, Elkan,” he said, “all the prompt-pay fellows must got to close up shop on account there wouldn’t be enough business to go round.”

“Well, anyhow,” Elkan rejoined, “he’s coming here to see us this morning, Mr. Polatkin, and he could show you how he figures it that he’s got hopes to pull through.”

Polatkin made a deprecatory gesture with his hand.

“If a feller is going to bust up on me, Elkan, I’d just as lief he ain’t got no hopes at all,” he grumbled; “otherwise he wastes your whole day on you figuring out his next season’s profits if he can only stall off his creditors. With such a hoping feller, if you don’t want to be out time as well as money, understand me, you should quick file a petition in bankruptcy against him; otherwise he wouldn’t give you no peace at all.”

Nevertheless, when Dishkes arrived, half an hour later, Polatkin ushered him into the firm’s office and summoned Scheikowitz and Elkan to the conference.

“Well, Dishkes,” he said in kindly accents, “you are up against it.”

Dishkes nodded. He was by no means of a robust physical type, and his hands trembled so nervously as he fumbled for his papers in his breast pocket that he dropped its contents on the office floor. Elkan stooped to assist in retrieving the scattered papers, and among the documents he gathered together was a cabinet photograph.

“My wife!” Dishkes murmured hoarsely. “She ain’t so strong, and I am sending her up to the country a couple months ago. I’ve been meaning I should go up and see her ever since, but ”

Here he gulped dismally; and there was an embarrassed silence, broken only by the faint noise occasioned by Philip Scheikowitz scratching his chin.

“That’s a Rosher that feller Sammet,” Polatkin said at length. “Honestly, the way some business men ain’t got no mercy at all for the other feller, you would think, Scheikowitz, they was living back in the old country yet!”

Scheikowitz nodded and glanced nervously from the photograph to Elkan.

“I think you was telling me you got a couple idées about helping Dishkes out, Elkan,” he said. “So, in the first place, Dishkes, you should please let us see a list of your creditors.”

With this prelude Scheikowitz drew forward his chair and plunged into a discussion of Dishkes’ affairs that lasted for more than two hours; and when Dishkes at length departed he took with him notices of a meeting addressed to his twenty creditors, prepared for immediate mailing by Polatkin, Scheikowitz & Company’s stenographer.

“And that’s what we let ourselves in for,” Scheikowitz declared after the elevator door had closed behind Dishkes. “To-morrow morning at eleven o’clock the place here would look like the waiting room of a depot, and all our competitors would be rubbering at our stock already.”

“Let ’em rubber!” Elkan said. “If I don’t get an extension for that feller my name ain’t Elkan Lubliner at all; because between now and then I am going round to see them twenty creditors, and I bet yer they will sign an extension agreement, with the figures I am going to put up to them!”

“Figures!” Scheikowitz jeered. “What good is figures to them fellers? Showing figures to a bankrupt’s creditors is like taking to a restaurant a feller which is hungry and letting him look at the knives and forks and plates, understand me!”

Elkan nodded.

“Sure, I know,” he said; “but the figures ain’t all.”

Surreptitiously he drew from his pocket a faded cabinet photograph.

“I sneaked this away from Dishkes when he wasn’t noticing,” Elkan declared; “and if this don’t fix ’em nothing will!”

“Say, lookyhere, Lubliner,” Leon Sammet cried after Elkan had broached the reason for his visit late that afternoon, “don’t give me that tale of woe again. Every time we are asking Dishkes for money he pulls this here sick-wife story on us, understand me; and it don’t go down with me no more.”

“What d’ye mean don’t go down with you?” Elkan demanded. “Do you claim his wife ain’t sick?”

“I don’t claim nothing,” Sammet retorted. “I ain’t no doctor, Lubliner. I am in the cloak-and-suit business, and I got to pay my creditors with United States money, Lubliner, if my wife would be dying yet.”

“Which you ain’t got no wife,” Elkan added savagely.

“Gott sei Dank!” Sammet rejoined. “Aber if I did got one, y’understand, I would got Verstand enough to pick out a healthy woman, which Dishkes does everything the same. He picks out a store there on an avenue when it is a dead neighbourhood, understand me and he wants us we should suffer for it.”

“The neighbourhood wouldn’t be dead after three months,” Elkan said. “Round the corner on both sides of the street is building thirty-three-foot, seven-story elevator apartments yet; and when they are occupied, Dishkes would do a rushing business.”

“That’s all right,” Sammet answered. “I ain’t speculating in real-estate futures, Lubliner; so you might just so well go ahead and attend to your business, Lubliner, because me I am going to do the same.”

“But lookyhere, Sammet,” Elkan still pleaded. “I seen pretty near every one of Dishkes’ creditors and they all agree the feller should have a three months’ extension.”

“Let ’em agree,” Sammet shouted. “They are their own bosses and so am I, Lubliner; so if they want to give him an extension of their account I ain’t got nothing to say. All I want is eight hundred dollars he owes me; and the rest of them suckers could agree till they are black in the face.”

“Aber, anyhow, Sammet,” Elkan said, “come to the meeting to-morrow morning and we would see what we could do.”

“See what we could do!” Sammet bellowed. “You will see what I could do, Lubliner; and I will come to the meeting to-morrow and I’ll do it too. So, if you don’t mind, Lubliner, I could still do a little work before we close up here.”

For a brief interval Elkan dug his nails into the palms of his hands, and his eyes unconsciously sought a target for a right swing on Sammet’s bloated face; but at length he nodded and forced himself to smile.

“Schon gut, Mr. Sammet,” he said; “then I will see you to-morrow.”

A moment later he strode down lower Fifth Avenue toward the place of business of the last creditor on Dishkes’ list. This was none other than Elkan’s distinguished friend, B. Gans, the manufacturer of high-grade dresses; and it required less than ten minutes to procure his consent to the proposed extension.

“And I hope,” Elkan said, “that we could count on you to be at the meeting to-morrow.”

“That’s something I couldn’t do,” B. Gans replied; “but I’ll write you a letter and give you full authority you should represent me there. Excuse me a minute and I’ll dictate it to Miss Scheindler.” When he returned, five minutes later, he sat down at his desk and, crossing his legs, prepared to beguile the tedium of waiting.

“Well, Elkan,” he said, “what you been doing with yourself lately? Thee-aytres and restaurants, I suppose?”

“Thee-aytres I ain’t so much interested in no more,” Elkan said. “The fact is, I am going in now for antics.”

“Antics!” B. Gans exclaimed.

“Sure,” Elkan replied; and there was a certain pride in his tones. “Antics is what I said, Mr. Gans Jacobson chairs and them now cat’s furniture.”

“Cat’s furniture?” Gans repeated. “What d’ye mean cat’s furniture?”

“Angry cats,” Elkan explained; and then a great light broke upon B. Gans.

“Oh!” he exclaimed. “You mean Henri Quatre furniture?”

“Hungry cat oder angry cat,” Elkan said. “All I know is we are refurnishing our flat, Mr. Gans, and we are taking an advice from Max Merech, our designer. It’s a funny thing about that feller, Mr. Gans with garments he is right up to the minute, aber mit furniture nothing suits him unless it would be anyhow a hundred years old.”

“So you are buying some antique furniture for your flat?” B. Gans commented, and Elkan nodded.

“We made a start anyhow,” he said. “We bought a couple Jacobson chairs two hundred and fifty years old already.”

“Good!” B. Gans exclaimed. “I want to tell you, Elkan, you couldn’t go far wrong if you would buy any piece of furniture over a hundred years old. They didn’t know how to make things ugly in them days and Jacobean chairs especially. I am furnishing my whole dining room in that period and my library in Old French. It costs money, Elkan, but it’s worth it.”

Elkan nodded and steered the conversation into safer channels; so that by the time Miss Scheindler had brought in the letter they were discussing familiar business topics.

“Also,” Gans said as he appended his neat signature to the letter, “I wish you and Dishkes luck, Elkan; and keep up the good work about the antique furniture. Even when you would get stuck with a reproduction instead of a genuine piece once in a while, if it looks just as good as the original and no one tells you differently, understand me, you feel just as happy.”

Thus encouraged, Elkan went home that evening full of a determination to acquire all the antique furniture his apartment would hold; and he and Yetta sat up until past midnight conning the pages of a heavy volume on the subject, which Yetta had procured from the neighbouring public library. Accordingly Elkan rose late the following morning, and it was almost nine o’clock before he reached his office and observed on the very top of his morning mail a slip of paper containing a message in the handwriting of Sam, the office boy.

“A man called about Jacobowitz,” it read, and Elkan immediately rang his deskbell.

“What Jacobowitz is this?” he demanded as Sam entered, and the office boy shrugged.

“I should know!” he said.

“What d’ye mean you should know?” Elkan cried. “Ain’t I always told it you you should write down always the name when people call?”

“Ain’t Jacobowitz a name?” Sam replied. “Furthermore, you couldn’t expect me I should get the family history from everybody which is coming in the place, Mr. Lubliner especially when the feller says he would come back.”

“Why didn’t you tell me he is coming back?” Elkan asked, and again Sam shrugged.

“When the feller is coming back, Mr. Lubliner,” he said, “it don’t make no difference if I tell you oder not. He would come back anyhow.”

Having thus disposed of the matter to his entire satisfaction, Sam withdrew and banged the door triumphantly behind him, while Elkan fell to examining his mail. He had hardly cut the first envelope, however, when his door opened to admit Dishkes.

“Nu, Dishkes!” Elkan said. “You are pretty early, ain’t it?”

Dishkes nodded.

“I’m a Schlemiel, Mr. Lubliner,” he said, “and that’s all there is to it. Yesterday I went to work and lost my wife’s picture.”

Elkan slapped his thigh with his hand.

“Well, ain’t I a peach?” he said. “I am getting so mixed up with these here antics I completely forgot to tell Yetta anything about it. I didn’t even show it to her, Dishkes; so you must leave me have it for a day longer, Dishkes.”

As he spoke he drew the cabinet photograph from his breast pocket and handed it to Dishkes, who gazed earnestly at it for a minute. Then, resting his elbows on his knees, he buried his face in his hands and burst into a fit of hysterical sobbing, whereat Elkan jumped from his seat and passed hurriedly out of the room. As he walked toward the showroom the strains of a popular song came from behind a rack.

“Sam,” he bellowed, “who asks you you should whistle round here?”

The whistling ceased and Sam emerged from his hiding-place with a feather brush.

“I could whistle without being asked,” Sam replied; “and furthermore, Mr. Lubliner, when I am dusting the samples I must got to whistle; otherwise the dust gets in my lungs, which I value my lungs the same like you do, Mr. Lubliner, even if I would be here only a boy working on stock!”

With this decisive rejoinder he resumed dusting the samples, while Elkan returned to his office, where he found that Dishkes had regained his composure.

Despite the fact that all of Dishkes’ creditors save one had signed an extension agreement, the meeting in Polatkin, Scheikowitz & Company’s showroom was well attended; and when Leon Sammet came in, at quarter-past eleven, the assemblage had already elected Charles Finkman, of Maisener & Finkman, as chairman. He had just taken his seat in Philip Scheikowitz’s new revolving chair and was in the act of noisily clearing his throat in lieu of pounding the table with a gavel.

“Gentlemen,” he said, “first, I want to thank you for the signal honour you are doing me in appointing me your chairman. For sixteen years now my labours in the Independent Order Mattai Aaron ain’t unknown to most of you here. Ten years ago, at the national convention held in Sarahcuse, gentlemen, I was unanimously elected by the delegates from sixty lodges to be your National Grand Master; and ”

At this juncture Leon Sammet rose ponderously to his feet.

“Say, Finkman!” retorted Sammet. “What has all this Stuss about the I. O. M. A. got to do mit Dishkes here?”

Again Finkman cleared his throat, and this time he produced a note of challenge that caused the members of the I. O. M. A. there present to lean forward in their seats. They expected a crushing rejoinder and they were not disappointed.

“What is the motto of the I. O. M. A., Sammet?” Finkman thundered. “‘Justice, Fraternity and Charity!’ And I say to you now that, as chairman of this meeting, as well as Past National Grand Master of that noble order to which you and I both belong, verstehst du, I will see that justice be done, fraternity be encouraged and charity dispensed on each and every occasion.

“Now, my brothers, here is a fellow member of our organization in distress, y’understand; and I ask you one and all this question” he raised his voice to a pitch that made the filaments tremble in the electric-light bulbs “Who,” he roared, “who will come to his assistance?”

He paused dramatically just as Sam, the office boy, stuck his head in the showroom doorway and rent the silence with his high, piping voice.

“Mr. Lubliner,” he said, “the man is here about Jacobowitz.”

Elkan flapped his hand wildly, but it was too late to prevent the entrance of no less a person than Jacob Paul the connoisseur of antiques and fine arts.

“Hello, Finkman!” he said; “what’s the trouble here?”

Elkan started from his seat to interrupt his visitor, but there was something in Finkman’s manner that made him sit down again.

“Why, how do you do, Mr. Paul?” Finkman exclaimed; and the clarion note had deserted his voice, leaving only a slight hoarseness to mark its passing. “What brings you here?”

“I might ask the same of you, Finkman,” Jacob Paul replied; and as his keen eyes scanned the assembled company they rested for a minute on Leon Sammet, who forthwith began to perspire.

“The fact is,” Finkman began, “this here is a meeting of creditors of Louis Dishkes, of the Villy dee Paris Store on Amsterdam Avenue.”

Paul turned to Louis Dishkes, proprietor of the Ville de Paris Store, who sat at the side of the room behind Scheikowitz’s desk in an improvised prisoner’s dock.

“What’s the matter, Dishkes?” Paul asked. “Couldn’t you make it go up there?”

Dishkes shrugged hopelessly.

“Next month, when them houses round the corner is rented,” he said, “I could do a good business there.”

“You ought to,” Paul agreed. “You ain’t got no competitors, so far as I could see.”

“That’s what we all think!” Elkan broke in “that is to say, all of us except Mr. Sammet; and he ain’t willing to wait for his money.”

Leon Sammet moved uneasily in his chair as Jacob Paul faced about in his direction.

“Why ain’t you willing to wait, Sammet?” he asked; and Leon mopped his face with his handkerchief.

“Well, it’s like this, Mr. Paul ” he began, but the connoisseur of antiques raised his hand.

“One moment, Sammet,” he said. “You know as well as anybody else, and better even, that a millionaire concern like the Hamsuckett Mills must got to wait once in a while.” He paused significantly. “If we didn’t,” he continued, “there’s plenty of solvent concerns would be forced to the wall ain’t it? Furthermore, if the Hamsuckett Mills did business the way you want to, Sammet, I wouldn’t keep my job as credit man and treasurer very long.”

Sammet nodded weakly and plied his handkerchief with more vigour, while Elkan sat and stared at his acquaintance of Sunday night in unfeigned astonishment.

“Then what is the use of talking, Sammet?” Paul said. “So long as you are the only one standing out, why don’t you make an end of it? How long an extension does Dishkes want?”

“Two months,” Finkman answered.

“And where is the agreement you fellows all signed?” Paul continued.

Elkan took a paper from the desk in front of Dishkes and passed it to Paul, who drew from his waistcoat pocket an opulent gold-mounted fountain pen. Then he walked over to Leon Sammet and handed him the pen and the agreement.

“Schreib, Sammet,” he said, “and don’t make no more fuss about it.”

A moment later Sammet appended a shaky signature to the agreement and returned it, with the pen, to Paul.

A quarter of an hour later Jacob Paul sat in Elkan’s office and smoked one of Polatkin, Scheikowitz & Company’s best cigars.

“Now I put it up to you, Lubliner,” he said: “them Jacobean chairs are pretty high at fifty dollars, but I want ’em, and I’m willing to give you sixty for ’em.”

Elkan smiled and made a wide gesture with both hands.

“My dear Mr. Paul,” he said, “after what you done to-day for Dishkes I’ll make you a present of ’em free for nothing.”

“No, you won’t do no such thing,” Paul declared; “because I’m going to sell ’em again and at a profit, as I may as well tell you.”

“My worries what you are going to do with ’em!” Elkan declared. “But one thing I ain’t going to do, Mr. Paul I ain’t going to make no profit on you; so go ahead and take the chairs at what I paid for ’em and that’s the best I could do for you.”

It required no further persuasion for Jacob Paul to draw a fifty-dollar check to Elkan’s order; and as he rose to leave Elkan pressed his hand warmly.

“Come up and see me, Mr. Paul, when we get through refurnishing,” he said. “I promise you you would see a flat furnished to your taste no crayon portraits nor nothing.”

It was late in the afternoon when Elkan’s office door opened to admit Sam, the office boy.

“Mr. Lubliner,” he said, “another feller is here about this here now Jacobowitz.”

Elkan glanced through the half-open door and recognized the figure of Ringentaub, the antiquarian.

“Tell him to come in,” he said; and a moment later Ringentaub was wringing Elkan’s hand and babbling his gratitude for his brother-in-law’s deliverance from bankruptcy.

“God will bless you for it, Mr. Lubliner,” he said; “and I am ashamed of myself when I think of it. I am a dawg, Mr. Lubliner and that’s all there is to it.”

Here he drew a greasy wallet from his breast-pocket and extracted three ten-dollar bills.

“Take ’em, Mr. Lubliner,” he said, “and forgive me.”

He pressed the bills into Elkan’s hand.

“What’s this?” Elkan demanded.

“That’s the change from your fifty dollars,” Ringentaub replied; “because, so help me, Mr. Lubliner, there is first-class material in them chairs and the feller that makes ’em for me is a highgrade cabinetmaker. Then you got to reckon it stands me in a couple of dollars also to get ’em fixed up antique, y’understand; so, if you get them chairs for twenty dollars you are buying a bargain, Mr. Lubliner.”

“Why, what d’ye mean?” Elkan cried. “Ain’t them chairs gen-wine Jacobean chairs?”

“Not by a whole lot they ain’t,” Ringentaub declared fervently.

“But Mr. Paul thinks they are!” Elkan exclaimed.

“Sure, I know,” Ringentaub answered; “and that shows what a lot a collector knows about such things. Paul is a credit man for the Hamsuckett Mills, Mr. Lubliner; but he collects old furniture on the side.”

For a moment Elkan gazed open-mouthed at the antiquarian and a great light began to break in on him.

“So-o-o!” he cried. “That’s what you mean by a collector!”

Ringentaub nodded.

“And furthermore, Mr. Lubliner, when collectors knows more about antiques as dealers does, Mr. Lubliner,” he said with his hand on the doorknob, “I’ll go into the woollen piece-goods business too which you could take it from me, Mr. Lubliner, it wouldn’t be soon, by a hundred years even.”

When Elkan emerged from the One-Hundred-and-Sixteenth Street station of the subway that evening a familiar voice hailed him from the rear.

“Nu, Elkan!” cried B. Gans, for it was none other than he. “You made out fine at the meeting this morning ain’t it?”

“Who told you?” Elkan asked as he linked arms with the highgrade manufacturer.

“Never mind who told me,” B. Gans said jokingly; “but all I could say is you made a tremendous hit with Jacob Paul, Elkan and if that ain’t no compliment, understand me, I don’t know what is. Why, there ain’t a better judge of men oder antique furniture in this here city than Paul, Elkan. He’s an A-Number-One credit man, too, and I bet yer he gets a big salary from them Hamsuckett Mills people, which the least his income could be considering what he picks up selling antiques is fifteen thousand a year.”

“Does Paul sell all the antiques he collects?” Elkan asked.

“Does he?” B. Gans rejoined. “Well, I should say he does! Myself I bought from him in the past two weeks half a dozen chairs, understand me four last week and two to-day which I am paying him five hundred dollars for the lot. They’re worth it, too, Elkan. I never seen finer examples of the period.”

“But are you sure they’re gen-wine?” Elkan asked as they reached the entrance to his apartment house.

“Paul says they are,” B. Gans answered, slapping Elkan’s shoulder in farewell; “and if he’s mistaken, Elkan, then I’m content that I should be.”

Two hours later, however, after Elkan had recounted to Yetta all the incidents of Dishkes’ meeting and the resulting sale of the chairs, his conscience smote him.

“What d’ye think, Yetta?” he asked. “Should I tell Paul and Gans the chairs ain’t gen-wine, oder not?”

For more than ten minutes Yetta wrinkled her forehead over this knotty ethical point; then she delivered her opinion.

“Mr. Gans tells you he is just as happy if they ain’t gen-wine ain’t it?” she said.

Elkan nodded.

“And Mr. Paul acted honest, because he didn’t know they wasn’t gen-wine neither, ain’t it?” she continued.

Again Elkan nodded.

“Then,” Yetta declared, “if you are taking it so particular as all that, Elkan, there’s only one thing for you to do give me the thirty dollars!”

“Is that so!” Elkan exclaimed ironically. “And what will you do with the money?”

“The only thing I can do with it, Schlemiel,” she said. “Ten dollars I will give Louis Dishkes he should take a trip up to the country over Sunday and visit his wife.”

“And what will we do with the other twenty?” Elkan asked.

“We’ll send a present with him to Mrs. Dishkes,” Yetta concluded with a smile, “and it wouldn’t be no antics neither!”