Read CHAPTER SIX - BIRSKY & ZAPP of The Competitive Nephew , free online book, by Montague Glass, on

“A charitable sucker like Jonas Eschenbach, of Cordova, Ohio, is always a close buyer, Barney,” said Louis Birsky to his partner, Barnett Zapp, as they sat in their show-room one morning in April. “For every dollar he gives to an orphan asylum oder a hospital, understand me, he beats Adelstern down two on his prices; and supposing Adelstern does sell him every season, for example, eight thousand dollars, Barney what is it?”

“Sure, I know, Louis,” Barnett Zapp retorted satirically. “The dawg says the grapes ain’t ripe because he couldn’t reach ’em already.”

Birsky shrugged his shoulders.

“For that matter, Barney,” he said, “if the dawg could reach ’em oder not, y’understand, it wouldn’t make no difference, Barney, because a dawg don’t eat grapes anyhow. He eats meat, Barney; and, furthermore, Barney, if you think it’s bekovet one partner calls the other partner a dawg, y’understand, go ahead and do so, Barney.”

“I ain’t calling you a dawg, Louis,” Zapp protested.

“Ain’t you?” Louis rejoined. “All right, Barney, then I must be getting deaf all of a sudden; but whether you are calling me a dawg oder not, Barney, I ain’t looking to sell no goods to Jonas Eschenbach. On account even if he would buy at our price, y’understand, then he wants us we should schnoder for this orphan asylum a hundred dollars and for that orphan asylum another hundred, understand me till we don’t get no profit left at all.”

“That’s all right, Louis,” Barney said. “It don’t do no harm that a feller should give to charity oncet in a while, even if it would be to please a customer.”

“I wouldn’t argue with you, Barney,” Louis agreed, “but another thing, Barney: the feller is crazy about baseball, understand me, which every time he is coming down here in August to buy his fall and winter line, Adelstern must got to waste a couple weeks going on baseball games mit him.”

“Well, anyhow, Louis, Adelstern don’t seem so anxious to get rid of him,” Zapp said. “Only yesterday I seen him lunching with Eschenbach over in Hammersmith’s, y’understand; and the way Adelstern is spreading himself mit broiled squabs and ’sparagus and hafterward a pint of tchampanyer to finish, understand me, it don’t look like he is losing out on Eschenbach.”

“That’s all right, Barney,” Birsky declared as he rose to his feet; “some people wastes money and some people wastes time, and if you ain’t got no objections, Barney, I would take a look into the cutting room and see how Golnik is getting on with them 1855’s. We must positively got to ship them goods to Feigenbaum before the end of next week; because you know as well as I do, Barney, with a crank like Feigenbaum we couldn’t take no chances. He is coming in here this morning yet, and the first thing he wants to know is how about them 1855’s.”

As he started for the door, however, he was interrupted by Jacob Golnik, who comported himself in a manner so apologetic as to be well-nigh cringing.

“Mr. Birsky,” he said, “could I speak a few words something to you?”

“What’s the matter, Golnik?” exclaimed Birsky. “Did you spoil them 1855’s on us?”

Ordinarily the condescension that marks the relations between a designer and his employer is exerted wholly by the designer; and the alarm with which Birsky viewed his designer’s servility was immediately communicated to Zapp.

“I told you that silk was too good for them garments, Birsky,” Zapp cried.

“What d’ye mean, you told me the silk was too good?” Birsky shouted. “I says right along giving silk like that in a garment which sells for eight dollars is a crime, Zapp; and ”

“Aber I ain’t touched the silk yet,” Golnik interrupted; “so what is the use you are disturbing yourself, Mr. Birsky? I am coming to see you about something else again, entirely different already.”

Birsky grew suddenly calm.

“So, Golnik,” he said, “you are coming here to see us about something else again! Well, before you begin, Golnik, let me tell you you stand a swell chance to gouge us for more money. We would positively stand on our contract with you, Golnik; and even if it would be our busiest season, Golnik, we ”

“What are you talking nonsense, Mr. Birsky?” Golnik broke in. “I ain’t coming here to ask money for myself, Mr. Birsky; and, furthermore, Mr. Birsky, you must got to understand that nowadays is a difference matter already from conditions in the cloak and suit trade ten years ago. Nowadays an employer must got to take some little benevolence in the interests of his employees, understand me, which when me and Joseph Bogin and I. Kanef gets together with the operators and formed the Mutual Aid Society Employees of Birsky & Zapp, understand me, we done it as much out of consideration by you, Mr. Birsky, as by us.”

Birsky exchanged disquieting glances with his partner.

“Sit down, Golnik,” he said, “and tell me what is all this Verruecktheit.”

“Verruecktheit!” Golnik cried indignantly. “What d’ye mean, Verruecktheit, Mr. Birsky? This here is something which a big concern like H. Dexter Adelstern is taking up, and you would see that other people gets in it, too. These here mutual aid societies is something which it not only benefits the employees but also the employers, Mr. Birsky.”

“You already said that before, Golnik,” Birsky interrupted; “and if you think we are paying you you should make speeches round here, Golnik, let me tell you, Golnik, that Feigenbaum would be in our place any minute now; and if we couldn’t show him we are going ahead on them 1855’s, understand me, the first thing you know he would go to work and cancel the order on us.”

“That may be, Mr. Birsky,” Golnik went on, “aber this here proposition which I am putting up to you is a whole lot more important to you as Feigenbaum’s order.”

Birsky opened his mouth to enunciate a vigorous protest, but Golnik forestalled him by pounding a sample table with his fist in a gesture he had observed only the night before at a lodge meeting of the I.O.M.A. “Yes, Mr. Birsky,” he shouted, “if you would want to do away with strikes and loafing in your shop, understand me, now is your chance, Mr. Birsky; because if an operator is got on deposit with his employers ten dollars even, he ain’t going to be in such a hurry that he should strike oder get fired.”

“Got on deposit ten dollars?” Zapp inquired. “How does our operators come to got with us a deposit of ten dollars, Golnik?”

“It’s a very simple thing, Mr. Zapp,” Golnik explained: “From the first five weeks’ wages of every one of your hundred operators you deduct one dollar a week and keep it in the bank. That makes five hundred dollars.”

Zapp nodded.

“Then after that you deduct only twenty-five cents a week,” Golnik went on; “aber, at the end of five weeks only, the operator’s got ten dollars to his credit and right there you got ’em where they wouldn’t risk getting fired by loafing or striking.”

“Aber, if we deduct one dollar a week from a hundred operators for five weeks, Golnik,” Zapp commented, “that makes only five hundred dollars, or five dollars to each operator ain’t it?”

“Sure, I know,” Golnik replied; “aber you and Mr. Birsky donate yourselves to the mutual aid society five hundred dollars, and ”

“What!” Birsky shrieked. “Zapp and me donate five hundred dollars to your rotten society!”

“Huh-huh,” Golnik asserted weakly, and Zapp grew purple with rage.

“What do you think we are, Golnik,” he demanded, “millionaires oder crazy in the head? We got enough to do with our money without we should make a present to a lot of low-life bums five hundred dollars.”

“Well, then, for a start,” Golnik said, “make it three hundred and fifty dollars.”

“We wouldn’t give three hundred and fifty buttons, Golnik!” Birsky declared savagely. “If you want to be a mutual aid society, Golnik, nobody stops you, aber we wouldn’t deduct nothing and we wouldn’t donate nothing; so if it’s all the same to you, Golnik, you should go ahead on them 1855’s and make an end here.”

Having thus closed the interview, Louis Birsky turned his back on the disgruntled Golnik, who stood hesitatingly for a brief interval.

“You don’t want a little time to think it over maybe?” he suggested.

“Think it over!” Louis bellowed. “What d’ye mean, think it over? If you stop some one which he is trying to pick your pocket, Golnik, would you think it over and let him pick it, Golnik? What for an idée!”

He snorted so indignantly that he brought on a fit of coughing, in the midst of which Golnik escaped, while the bulky figure of One-eye Feigenbaum approached from the elevator.

“What’s the matter, boys?” he said as with his remaining eye he surveyed the retreating figure of Jacob Golnik. “Do you got trouble with your designer again?”

Birsky shrugged his shoulders.

“Who ain’t got trouble mit a designer, Mr. Feigenbaum?” he asked. “And the better the designer, y’understand, the more you got trouble mit him. Actually, Mr. Feigenbaum, you wouldn’t believe the nerve that feller Golnik is got it. If we wouldn’t sit on him all the time, understand me, he tries to run our business for us. Nothing is too much that he asks us we should do for him.”

Feigenbaum pawed the air with his right hand and sat down ponderously.

“You ain’t got nothing on me, Birsky,” he said. “Honestly, if you would be running a drygoods store and especially a chain of drygoods stores like I got it, understand me every saleswoman acts like a designer, only worser yet. Do you know what is the latest craze with them girls?”

He emitted a tremulous sigh before answering his own rhetorical question.

“Welfare work!” he continued. “Restrooms and lunchrooms, mit a trained nurse and Gott weiß was noch! Did you ever hear the like, Birsky? I should go to work and give them girls a restroom! I says to Miss McGivney, my store superintendent in Cordova, I says: ’If the girls wants to rest,’ I says, ‘they should go home,’ I says. ’Here we pay ’em to work, not to rest,’ I says.”

He paused for breath and wiped away an indignant moisture from his forehead.

“In my Bridgetown store they ain’t kicking at all,” he went on; “aber in my Cordova store that’s different again. There I got that meshugganeh Eschenbach to deal with; which, considering the monkey business which goes on in that feller’s place, y’understand, it’s a wonder to me that they got any time to attend to business at all. Two people he’s got working for him there a man and a woman which does nothing but look after this here welfare Naerrischkeit.”

“Go away!” Birsky exclaimed. “You don’t say so!”

“The man used to was a Spieler from baseball,” Feigenbaum continued; “and him and Eschenbach fixes up a ball team from the clerks and delivery-wagon drivers, which they could lick even a lot of loafers which makes a business of baseball already.”

Birsky waggled his head from side to side and made incoherent sounds through his nose by way of expressing his sympathy.

“And yet,” Feigenbaum continued, “with all Eschenbach’s craziness about baseball and charities, Birsky, he does a big business there in Cordova, which I wish I could say the same. Honestly, Birsky, such a mean lot of salespeople which I got it in Cordova, y’understand, you wouldn’t believe at all. They are all the time at doggerheads with me.”

“It’s the same thing with us here, Mr. Feigenbaum,” Birsky said. “Why, would you believe it, Mr. Feigenbaum, just before you come in, understand me, Golnik is trying to hold us up we should donate five hundred dollars for an employees’ mutual benefit society!”

Henry Feigenbaum pursed his lips as he listened to Birsky.

“I hope,” he said in harsh tones, “you turned ’em down, Birsky.”

Birsky nodded.

“I bet yer I did,” he replied fervently, “like a shot already.”

“Because,” Feigenbaum continued, “if any concern which I am dealing with starts any such foolishness as that, Birsky, I wouldn’t buy from them a dollar’s worth more goods so long as I live and that’s all there is to it.”

“We ain’t got no such idée in our head at all,” Zapp assured him almost tearfully. “Why, if you would hear the way we jumped on Golnik for suggesting it even, you wouldn’t think the feller would work for us any more.”

“I’m glad to know it,” Feigenbaum said. “Us business men has got to stick together, Zapp, and keep charity where it belongs, understand me; otherwise we wouldn’t know whether we are running businesses oder hospitals mit lodgeroom annexes, the way them employees’ aid societies is springing up.”

He rose to his feet and took off his hat and coat, preparatory to going over Birsky & Zapp’s sample line.

“What we want in towns like Bridgetown and Cordova is less charities and more asphalt pavements,” he declared. “Every time a feller comes in the store, Birsky, I couldn’t tell whether he is a collector for a hospital oder a wagon shop. My delivery system costs me a fortune for repairs already, the pavements is so rotten.”

Zapp clucked his tongue sympathetically.

“If it ain’t one thing it’s another,” he said; “so, if you’re ready to look over the rest of our line, Mr. Feigenbaum, I could assure you the first operator which he is going into a mutual aid society here gets fired on the spot, Mr. Feigenbaum. We would start showing you these here washable poplins, which is genuine bargains at one seventy-five apiece.”

When Louis Birsky seated himself in Hammersmith’s restaurant at one o’clock that afternoon his appetite had been sharpened by a two-thousand dollar order from Henry Feigenbaum, who that noon had departed for his home in western Pennsylvania. Hence Louis attacked a dish of gefuellte Rinderbrust with so much ardour that he failed to notice the presence at an adjoining table of Jonas Eschenbach, the philanthropic drygoods merchant; and it was not until Louis had sopped up the last drop of gravy and leaned back in voluptuous contemplation of ordering his dessert that the strident tones of Charles Finkman, senior member of Finkman & Maisener, attracted his attention.

“Why, how do you do, Mr. Eschenbach?” Finkman cried. “What brings you to New York?”

“I got to do some additional spring buying the same like every other drygoods merchant,” Eschenbach replied. “You’ve no idée what elegant weather we got it out on the Lakes this spring. Spring styles was selling like hot cakes in March already; and our store employees’ association held a picnic the first Sunday in April which we beat the tar out of a nine from a furniture factory five to four in a ten-inning game.”

“Is that a fact?” Finkman said. “Aber how does it come that you are lunching alone, Mr. Eschenbach?”

“Adelstern was coming with me,” Eschenbach replied, “but at the last minute he had to attend the weekly luncheon of his cutting staff. It’s wonderful the way that feller has got his workpeople organized, Mr. Finkman! He’s a very enlightened merchant, with a lot of very fine idées for the welfare of his employees. And you can well believe it, Mr. Finkman, goods made under such ideel conditions are very attractive to me. I’ve been a customer of Adelstern’s for many years now; and sometimes, if he ain’t got exactly what I am looking for, I take the next best thing from him. I believe in encouraging idées like Adelstern’s especially when he is got a very nifty little ball team in his society, too.”

If there was one quality above all others upon which Charles Finkman prided himself it was his philanthropy; and as a philanthropist he yielded precedence to nobody. Indeed, his name graced the title pages of as many institutional reports as there were orphan asylums, hospitals, and homes appurtenant to his religious community within the boundaries of Greater New York; for both he and his partner had long since discovered that as an advertising medium the annual report of a hospital is superior to an entire year’s issue of a trade journal, and the cost is distinctly lower. The idea that philanthropy among one’s own employees could promote sales had never occurred to him, however, and it came as a distinct shock that he had so long neglected this phase of salesmanship.

“Why, I never thought that any concern in the cloak and suit business was doing such things.” Finkman continued; and his tones voiced his chagrin at the discovery of Adelstern’s philanthropic innovation. “I knew that drygoods stores like yours, Mr. Eschenbach, they got a lot of enlightened idées, but I never knew nobody which is doing such things in the cloak and suit trade.”

At this juncture Louis Birsky abandoned his plans for a Saint Honore tart, with Vienna coffee and cream. Instead he conceived a bold stroke of salesmanship, and he turned immediately to Finkman.

“What are you talking nonsense, Mr. Finkman?” he said. “We ourselves got in our place already an employees’ mutual aid society, which our designer, Jacob Golnik, is president of it and all the operators belong yet.”

It cannot truthfully be said that Finkman received this information with any degree of enthusiasm; and perhaps, to a person of less rugged sensibilities than Louis Birsky, Finkman’s manner might have seemed a trifle chilly as he searched his mind for a sufficiently discouraging rejoinder.

“Of course, Birsky,” he growled at last, “when I says I didn’t know any concerns in the cloak and suit business which is got a mutual aid society, understand me, I ain’t counting small concerns.”

“Sure, I know,” Birsky replied cheerfully; “but I am telling you, Finkman, that we got such a mutual aid society, which, if you are calling a hundred operators a small concern, Finkman, you got awful big idées, Finkman, and that’s all I got to say.”

Eschenbach smiled amiably by way of smoothing things over.

“Have your hundred operators formed a mutual aid society, Mr. ”

“My name is Mr. Birsky,” Louis said, rising from his chair; and, without further encouragement, he seated himself at Eschenbach’s table, “of Birsky & Zapp; and we not only got a hundred operators, Mr. Eschenbach, but our cutting-room staff and our office staff also joins the society.”

“You don’t tell me,” Eschenbach commented. “And how do you find it works?”

“W-e-e-ll, I tell yer,” Birsky commenced, “of course we ourselves got to donate already five hundred dollars to start the thing, Mr. Eschenbach.”

While he made this startling declaration he gazed steadily at Finkman, who was moving his head in a slow and skeptic nodding, as one who says: “Yow! Ich glaub’s.”

“Five hundred dollars it costs us only to-day yet, Mr. Eschenbach,” Birsky went on, clearing his throat pompously; “but certainly, Mr. Eschenbach, in the end it pays us.”

“How do you make that out?” Finkman demanded gruffly.

“Why, the money remains on deposit with a bank,” Birsky explained, “and every week for five weeks we deduct from the operators’ wages also one dollar a week, which we put with the five hundred we are giving.”

Finkman continued to nod more briskly in a manner that proclaimed: “I see the whole thing now.”

“So that at the end of five weeks,” Birsky went on, “every operator is got coming to him ten dollars.”

Finkman snorted cynically.

“Coming to him!” he said with satirical emphasis.

“Coming to him,” Birsky retorted, “that’s what I said, Finkman; and the whole idée is very fine for us as well as for them.”

“I should say so,” Finkman commented; “because at the end of five weeks you got in bank a thousand dollars which you ain’t paying no interest on to nobody.”

“With us, a thousand dollars don’t figure so much as like with some people, Finkman,” Birsky retorted; “and our idée is that if we should keep the money on deposit it’s like a security that our operators wouldn’t strike on us so easy. Furthermore, Finkman, if you are doubting our good faith, understand me, let me say that Mr. Eschenbach is welcome he should come round to my place to-morrow morning yet and I would show him everything is open and aboveboard, like a lodge already.”

“Why, I should be delighted to see how this thing works with you, Mr. Birsky,” Eschenbach said. “I suppose you know what an interest I am taking in welfare work of this description.”

“I think he had a sort of an idée of it,” Finkman interrupted, “when he butts in here.”

Again Eschenbach smiled beneficently on the rival manufacturers in an effort to preserve the peace.

“I should like to have some other details from your plan, Mr. Birsky,” he said. “How do you propose to spend this money?”

Birsky drew back his chair from the table.

“It’s a long story, Mr. Eschenbach,” he replied; “and if it’s all the same to you I would tell you the whole thing round at my place to-morrow morning.”

He rose to his feet and, searching in his waistcoat pocket, produced a card that he laid on the table in front of Eschenbach.

“Here is our card, Mr. Eschenbach,” he said, “and I hope we could look for you at eleven o’clock, say.”

“Make it half-past ten, Mr. Birsky,” Eschenbach replied as he extended his hand in farewell. “Will you join me there, Mr. Finkman?”

Finkman nodded sulkily.

“I will if I got the time, Mr. Eschenbach,” he said; “aber don’t rely on me too much.”

A malicious smile spread itself over Birsky’s face as he started to leave.

“Me and my partner is going to feel terrible disappointed if you don’t show up, Finkman,” he declared; and with this parting shot he hurried back to his place of business.

“Say, Barney,” he said after he had removed his hat, “ain’t it surprising what a back number a feller like Charles Finkman is?”

“We should be such back numbers as Finkman & Maisener, Louis,” Barney commented dryly, “with a rating two hundred thousand to three hundred thousand, first credit.”

“Even so,” Louis commented, “the feller surprises me he is such an iggeramus. Actually, Barney, he says he never knew that a single garment manufacturer in the city of New York is got in his shop one of them there mutual aid affairs. ‘Why, Mr. Finkman,’ I says, ’we ourselves got such a mutual aid society,’ I says; and right away Eschenbach says he would come round here to-morrow morning and see how the thing works. So you should tell Kanef he should fix over them racks to show up well them changeable taffetas. Also, Barney, you should tell Kanef to put them serges and the other stickers back of the piece goods; and ”

At this point Barney raised a protesting hand.

“One moment, Louis,” he cried. “What d’ye mean Eschenbach comes to-morrow?”

“Why, Eschenbach is interested in our mutual aid society; and ”

“Our mutual aid society!” Barney cried. “What are you talking about, our mutual aid society?”

“Well, then, Golnik’s mutual aid society,” Louis continued.

“Golnik’s mutual aid society!” exclaimed Zapp. “Golnik ain’t got no mutual aid society no more, Birsky. I told him after you are gone to lunch, Birsky, that if him oder anybody else round here even so much as mentions such a thing to us again we would fire ’em right out of here, contracts oder no contracts.”

Birsky sat down in a chair and gazed mournfully at his partner.

“You told him that, Zapp?” he said.

“I certainly did,” Zapp replied. “What do you think I would tell him after the way Feigenbaum takes on so?”

Birsky nodded his head slowly.

“That’s the way it goes, Zapp,” he said. “I am sitting there in Hammersmith’s half an hour already, scheming how we should get Eschenbach round here so he should look over our line which I didn’t hardly eat nothing at all, understand me and you go to work and knock away the ground from under my toes already!”

“What d’ye mean, I am knocking away the ground from under your toes?” Zapp cried indignantly. “What has Golnik’s mutual aid society got to do mit your toes, Birsky oder Eschenbach, neither?”

“It’s got a whole lot to do with it,” Birsky declared. “It’s got everything to do with it; in fact, Barney, if it wouldn’t be that I am telling Eschenbach we got a mutual aid society here he wouldn’t come round here at all.”

“That’s all right,” Zapp said. “He ain’t in the mutual aid society business he’s in the drygoods business, Louis; and so soon as we showed him them changeable taffetas at eight dollars he would quick forget all about mutual aid societies.”

Birsky shook his head emphatically.

“That’s where you make a big mistake, Barney,” he replied; and forthwith he unfolded to Zapp a circumstantial narrative of his encounter with Eschenbach and Finkman at Hammersmith’s cafe.

“So you see, Barney,” he continued, “if we are ever going to do business mit Eschenbach, understand me, for a start the mutual aid society is everything and the changeable taffetas don’t figure at all.”

“But I thought you are saying this morning you wouldn’t want to do business mit Eschenbach,” Zapp protested.

“This morning was something else again,” Birsky said. “This morning I was busy getting through mit Feigenbaum, which if I got a bird in one hand, Barney, I ain’t trying to hold two in the other.”

“That’s all right, Louis,” Zapp replied, “if you think when you booked Feigenbaum’s order that you got a bird in one hand, Louis, you better wait till the goods is shipped and paid for. Otherwise, Louis, if Feigenbaum hears you are monkeying round mit mutual aid societies he would go to work and cancel the order on us, and you could kiss yourself good-bye with his business.”

“Schmooes, Barney!” Birsky protested. “How is Feigenbaum, which he is safe in Bridgetown, going to find out what is going on in our shop? We could be running here a dozen mutual aid societies, understand me, for all that one-eyed Rosher hears of it.”

Zapp shrugged his shoulders.

“All right, Louis,” he said; “if you want to fix up mutual aid societies round here go ahead and do so only one thing I got to tell you, Louis: you should fix it up that some one else as Golnik should be president, understand me, because a designer like Golnik is enough stuck on himself without he should be president of a mutual aid society. Treasurer is good enough for him.”

Birsky received the suggestion with a satirical smile.

“You got a real head for business, Zapp, I must say,” he said, “when you are going to make a feller like Golnik treasurer.”

“Well, then, we could make Golnik secretary, and Kanef, the shipping clerk, treasurer,” Zapp suggested. “The feller’s got rich relations in the herring business.”

“I don’t care a snap if the feller’s relations own all the herring business in the world, Zapp,” Birsky continued. “This afternoon yet we would go to work and get up this here mutual aid society, mit Jacob Golnik president and I. Kanef vice-president.”

“And who would be treasurer then?” Zapp asked meekly; whereat Louis Birsky slapped his chest.

“I would be treasurer,” he announced; “and for a twenty dollar bill we would get Henry D. Feldman he should fix up the by-laws, which you could take it from me, Zapp, if there’s any honour coming to Golnik after me and Feldman gets through, understand me, the feller is easy flattered, Zapp and that’s all I got to say.”

It was not until after five o’clock that Birsky returned from Feldman’s office with the typewritten constitution and by-laws of a voluntary association entitled the Mutual Aid Society Employees of Birsky & Zapp. Moreover, under the advice of counsel, he had transferred from the firm’s balance in the Kosciusko Bank the sum of five hundred dollars to a new account denominated L. Birsky, Treasurer; and the omission of the conjunction “as” before the word “Treasurer” was all that prevented the funds so deposited from becoming the property of the mutual aid society. In short, everything was in readiness for the reception of Jonas Eschenbach the following morning except the trifling detail of notifying Jacob Golnik and the hundred operators that their mutual aid society had come into being; and as soon as Birsky had removed his hat and coat he hastened into the cutting room and beckoned to Golnik.

“Golnik,” he said, “kommen Sie mal h’rein for a minute.” Golnik looked up from a pile of cloth and waved his hand reassuringly.

“It’s all right, Mr. Birsky,” he said. “I thought the matter over already; and you and your partner is right, Mr. Birsky. This here mutual aid society is nix, Mr. Birsky. Why should I take from my salary a dollar a week for five weeks, understand me, while a lot of old Schnorrers like them pressers in there is liable to die on us any minute, y’understand, and right away we got to pay out a death benefit for forty or fifty dollars?”

“What are you talking about a death benefit?” Birsky exclaimed. “Why should you got death benefits in a mutual aid society? A mutual aid society, which if you got any idée about the English language at all, Golnik, means a society which the members helps each other, Golnik; and if a member goes to work and dies, Golnik, he couldn’t help nobody no more. In a mutual aid society, Golnik, if a member dies he is dead, understand me, and all he gets out is what he puts in less his share of what it costs to run the society.”

Golnik laid down his shears and gazed earnestly at his employer.

“I never thought that way about it before,” he said; “but, anyhow, Mr. Birsky, Gott soll hueten such a feller shouldn’t die sudden, understand me, then we got to pay him a sick benefit yet five dollars a week; and the least such a Schlemiel lingers on us is ten weeks, which you could see for yourself, Mr. Birsky, where do I get off?”

“Well, you would be anyhow president, Golnik ain’t it?” Birsky said.

“Sure, I know, Mr. Birsky,” Golnik continued; “but what is the Kunst a feller should be president, understand me, if I got to pay every week my good money for a lot of operators which they fress from pickles and fish, understand me, till they are black in the face mit the indigestion, y’understand, while me I never got so much as a headache even? So I guess you are right, after all, Mr. Birsky. A feller which he is such a big fool that he joins one of them there mutual aid societies deserves he should get fired right out of here.”

“Aber, Golnik,” Birsky protested, “me and Zapp has changed our minds already and we are agreeable we should have such a society, which you would be president and Kanef vice-president.”

There was a note of anxiety in Birsky’s voice that caused Golnik to hesitate before replying, and he immediately conjectured that Birsky’s reconsideration of the mutual aid society plan had been made on grounds not entirely altruistic.

“Well,” he said at length, “of course if you and Mr. Zapp is changed your minds, Mr. Birsky, I couldn’t kick; aber, if it’s all the same to you, you should please leave me out of it.”

“What d’ye mean, leave you out of it?” Birsky cried. “When we would got here an employees’ mutual aid society, Golnik, who would be president from it if the designer wouldn’t, Golnik?”

Golnik gave an excellent imitation of a disinterested onlooker as he shrugged his shoulders in reply.

“What’s the matter with Kanef, Mr. Birsky?” he asked.

“Kanef is a shipping clerk only, Golnik,” Birsky replied; “and you know as well as I do, Golnik, a shipping clerk is got so much influence with the operators like nothing at all. Besides, Golnik, we already got your name in as president, which, if we would change it now, right away we are out twenty dollars we paid Henry D. Feldman this afternoon he should draw up the papers for us.”

“So!” Golnik exclaimed. “Feldman draws up the papers!”

“Sure he did,” Birsky said; “which, if we started this thing, Golnik, we want to do it right.”

Golnik nodded.

“And he would do it right, too, Mr. Birsky,” he commented; “which, judging from the contract he is drawing up between you and me last December, an elegant chance them operators is got in such a society.”

Birsky patted his designer confidentially on the shoulder.

“What do you care, Golnik?” he said. “You ain’t an operator and besides, Golnik, I couldn’t stand here and argue with you all night; so I tell you what I would do, Golnik: come in this here society as president and we wouldn’t deduct nothing from your wages at all, and you would be a member in good standing, anyhow.”

Golnik shook his head slowly, whereat Birsky continued his confidential patting.

“And so long as the society lasts, Golnik,” he said, “we ourselves would pay you two dollars a week to boot.”

“And I am also to get sick benefits?” Golnik asked.

“You would get just so much sick benefits as anybody else in the society,” Birsky replied, “because you could leave that point to me, Golnik, which I forgot to told you, Golnik, that I am the treasurer; so you should please be so good and break it to Bogin and Kanef and the operators. We want to get through with this thing.”

For the remainder of the afternoon, therefore, the business premises of Birsky & Zapp were given over to speechmaking on the part of Birsky and Golnik; and when at the conclusion of his fervid oration Golnik exhibited to the hundred operators the passbook of L. Birsky, Treasurer, the enthusiasm it evoked lost nothing by the omission of the conjunctive adverb “as.” Indeed, resolutions were passed and spread upon the minutes of such a laudatory character that, until the arrival of Jonas Eschenbach the following morning, there persisted in both Birsky and Zapp a genuine glow of virtue.

“Why, how do you do, Mr. Eschenbach?” Louis cried, as Eschenbach cuddled his hand in a warm, fat grasp. “This is my partner, Mr. Zapp.”

“Ain’t it a fine weather?” Barney remarked after he had undergone the handclasp of philanthropy.

“I bet yer it’s a fine weather,” Eschenbach said. “Such a fine weather is important for people which is running sick-benefit societies.”

“Warum sick-benefit societies, Mr. Eschenbach?”

“Well,” Eschenbach replied, “I take it that in a sick-benefit society the health of the members is paramount.”

“Sure, it is,” Barney agreed. “You couldn’t expect otherwise, Mr. Eschenbach, from the Machshovos them fellers eats for their lunch herring and pickles mit beer.”

“I am not speaking from the food they eat,” Eschenbach continued; “aber, in bad weather, Mr. Zapp, you must got to expect that a certain proportion of your members would be laid up with colds already.”

Zapp waved his hand carelessly.

“For that matter,” he said, “we told them fellers the sick-benefit society wouldn’t fall for no colds oder indigestion, which both of ’em comes from the stummick.”

“May be that’s a wise plan, Mr. Zapp,” Eschenbach continued; “but the best way a feller should keep himself he shouldn’t take no colds oder indigestion is from athaletics.”

“That’s where you make a big mistake, Mr. Eschenbach,” said Zapp, who had served an apprenticeship in the underwear business. “Even in the hottest weather I am wearing a long-sleeve undershirt and regular length pants, and I never got at all so much as a little Magensaeure.”

“I don’t doubt your word for a minute, Mr. Zapp,” Eschenbach went on; “but it ain’t what you wear which is counting so much, y’understand it’s what you do. Now you take them operators of yours, Mr. Zapp, and if they would play once in a while a game of baseball, verstehst du mich especially this time of the year, Mr. Zapp their health improves something wonderful.”

“Baseball!” Birsky exclaimed. “And when do you suppose our operators gets time to spiel baseball, Mr. Eschenbach?”

“They got plenty time, Mr. Birsky,” Eschenbach replied. “For instance, in Adelstern’s shop, Mr. Birsky, every lunch-hour they got the operators practising on the roof; while on Sundays yet they play in some vacant lots which Adelstern gets left on his hands from boom times already, up in the Bronix somewheres.”

“Aber we got stuck mit only improved property,” Birsky protested, “on Ammerman Avenue, a five-story, twelve-room house mit stores, which we bought from Finkman at the end of the boom times already, and which we couldn’t give it away free for nothing even; and what for a baseball game could you play it on the roof of a new-law house on a lot thirty-three by ninety-nine?”

“Such objection is nothing, Mr. Birsky,” Eschenbach rejoined, “because for five dollars a month the landlord here lets you use the roof lunch-hours; and for a start I would get Adelstern he should lend you his lots. Later you could get others, Mr. Birsky, because Mr. Adelstern ain’t the only one which gets stuck from boom times mit Bronix lots already. I bet yer there is hundreds of real-estate speculators which stands willing to hire vacant lots for baseball Sundays, and they wouldn’t charge you more as a couple dollars, neither.”

“Well,” Birsky said, handing his visitor a cigar, “maybe you are right, Mr. Eschenbach; but, anyhow, Mr. Eschenbach, we got here an elegant line of popular-price goods which I should like for you to give a look at.”

“I got plenty time to look at your line, Mr. Birsky,” Eschenbach assured him. “I would be in town several days yet already; and before I go, Mr. Birsky, I would like to see it if Adelstern’s idées would work out here.”

“Aber we are running our society on our own idées, Mr. Eschenbach,” Zapp said.

“Quite right, too,” Eschenbach agreed; “but I don’t mind telling you, Mr. Birsky, that Adelstern’s baseball team is originally my idée, Mr. Birsky and if you don’t mind, Mr. Birsky, I would like to look over your employees and see if I couldn’t pick out nine good men.”

“For my part,” Birsky said, rising to his feet, “you could pick out twenty, Mr. Eschenbach.”

Forthwith they proceeded to the rear of the loft, where the hundred odd members of the mutual aid society were engaged in the manifold employments of a cloak and suit factory, and the smiles and nods with which they greeted their treasurer rekindled in Birsky and Zapp the glow of virtue that to some degree had abated at Eschenbach’s refusal to examine their sample line.

“You see, Mr. Eschenbach,” Birsky said proudly, “what a good feeling the operators has for us. And you wouldn’t believe how it shows in the work, too, Mr. Eschenbach. Our goods is elegant made up.”

“I don’t doubt it,” Eschenbach said. “Which of your operators do you consider is the strongest, Mr. Zapp?”

“Well,” Zapp replied, pointing to a broad-shouldered giant whose long black beard swept his torso to the waist, “that feller over there, by the name Tzvee Margoninsky, is strong like a bull, Mr. Eschenbach. Last week he moves for us the safe from the show-room to the office like it would be an empty packing-case already.”

Eschenbach shook his head and smiled.

“Mit one arm already,” he declared, “a feller could better play baseball as mit such a beard. What we must got to do is to pick out only fellers which looks more up to date.”

“Go ahead and use your own judgment, Mr. Eschenbach,” said Birsky; and thereat Jonas Eschenbach immediately selected three long-armed operators for outfielders. In less than half an hour he had secured the remainder of the team, including as pitcher I. Kanef, the shipping clerk.

“I seen worser material, Mr. Birsky,” Eschenbach said after he had returned to the showroom; “so, if you would get these fellers up at Adelstern’s lots on Northeastern Boulevard and Pelham Parkway on Sunday morning at ten o’clock, Mr. Birsky, I’ll show ’em a little something about the game, understand me. Then on Monday morning I should be very glad to look over your sample line.”

“Aber, Mr. Eschenbach,” Birsky cried, “why not look at it now?”

Eschenbach smiled enigmatically as he clasped Birsky’s hand in farewell.

“Because, in the first place,” he said, “I got an appointment downtown, Mr. Birsky; and, in the second place, lots of things could happen before Monday.”

“You shouldn’t worry yourself, Mr. Eschenbach,” Birsky protested, “them fellers would be up there all right.”

“If we got to pay ’em overtime even,” Zapp added as he conducted Eschenbach into the elevator, “union rates.”

When Jonas Eschenbach arrived at Adelstern’s vacant lots the following Sunday morning he was more than delighted with the size and enthusiasm of the gathering that awaited him. Practically all the members of Birsky & Zapp’s working force were assembled, surging and gesticulating, round a little group composed of Birsky, Zapp, and Golnik.

“Did you ever hear the like, Mr. Eschenbach?” Birsky exclaimed as the philanthropist elbowed his way through the crowd. “The feller don’t know the first thing about the game, understand me, and he kicks yet that he wants to be pitcher!”

Golnik flapped the air with his right hand.

“Never mind I don’t know nothing about the game!” he declared. “Not only I am president of the society, but I am the designer in your place ain’t it? And if you think it’s bekovet you are giving this Aleer to Kanef, which he is only a shipping clerk, understand me, I think differencely.”

“But what is the honour about being a pitcher?” Eschenbach protested. “There’s a whole lot of pitchers which they couldn’t sign their names even.”

“That’s all right, too,” Golnik declared. “Might I don’t know nothing about this here baseball, Mr. Eschenbach, but I could read in the papers, understand me; and an up-to-date, high-grade pitcher is getting his ten thousand a year yet.”

“Schmooes, ten thousand a year!” exclaimed Eschenbach. “What does a pitcher amount to anyway? Supposing a pitcher gets fresh with the umpire, verstehst du mich, and the umpire orders the pitcher he should get off the field, y’understand he dassent give him no back talk nor nothing. He must got to go, verstehst du, because in baseball the pitcher is nothing and the umpire everything.”

“Umpire?” Golnik replied. “What is that an umpire?”

“The umpire is a kind of a foreman,” Eschenbach continued, “only bigger yet which if you would be umpire, that’s an honour; aber a pitcher is nothing.”

Here he winked furtively at Louis Birsky.

“And I says to Mr. Birsky only the other day,” he went on, “I says, ’We must make the designer the umpire,’ I says; ’because such an Aleer really belongs to the designer.’ Aber if you are so stuck on being pitcher, understand me, we would make you the pitcher, and the shipping clerk will be the umpire.”

Golnik shrugged his shoulders.

“It don’t make no difference to me one way or the other,” he said; “so I am content I should be the umpire.”

“Schon gut!” Eschenbach cried as he laid down a heavy valise he had brought with him. “And now, boys, let’s get busy.”

He opened the valise and produced a catcher’s mask and mitt, a bat, and three balls.

“Here, you!” he said, throwing one of the balls to Kanef.

During the discussion with Golnik, Kanef had maintained the bent and submissive attitude becoming in a shipping clerk toward his superior; but when Eschenbach flung the ball at him he straightened up immediately and, to the surprise and delight of the philanthropist, he caught it readily with one hand.

“Well, well!” Eschenbach exclaimed. “I see you played ball already.”

“Used to was shortstop with the Scammel Field Club,” Kanef murmured. “We was champeens of the Eighth Ward.”

“Good!” Eschenbach cried. “Might we would got another ballplayer here?”

“Sure,” Kanef replied, pointing to a short, thick-set presser who stood grinning among the spectators. “That feller there, by the name Max Croplin, he plays second base already.”

“You don’t say so!” Eschenbach exclaimed. “Well, supposing Max Croplin catches and you pitch, understand me, and I would go on the bat and give them fellers here a sample play already.”

He threw the mask and mitt to Croplin, who proceeded to put them on amid the murmured plaudits of his fellow workmen, while Eschenbach seized the bat and planted himself firmly over the home plate. Meantime, Kanef proceeded to the pitcher’s box and, wiping his right hand in the dirt, he struck a professional attitude that made Eschenbach fairly beam with delight.

“Play ball!” the philanthropist yelled, and Kanef swung his arm in the regular approved style.

The next moment the ball flew from his hand and, describing an outcurve, grazed the tangent point of Eschenbach’s waist-line into the outstretched palm of Max Croplin.

“Strike one!” Eschenbach shouted. “You should please remember this is a sample play only, and ’tain’t necessary you should send ’em so fast.”

Kanef nodded, while Croplin returned the ball; and this time Eschenbach poised himself to knock a heaven-kissing fly.

“Play ball!” he cried again, and once more Kanef executed a pirouette on the mound preparatory to pitching the ball. Simultaneously Eschenbach stepped back one pace and fanned the air just as the oncoming ball took a sudden drop. A moment later it landed squarely in the pit of his stomach, and with a smothered “Woof!” he sank to the ground.

“Oo-ee!” wailed the hundred operators with one breath, while Birsky and Zapp ran wildly toward the home plate.

“Mr. Eschenbach,” Birsky exclaimed, “um Gottes willen! What did that loafer done to you?”

“It’s all right,” Eschenbach gasped, struggling to his feet. “I ain’t hurted none, and in a regular game I would take my first base already.”

“Well, take it here,” Birsky said. “Don’t mind us, Mr. Eschenbach or maybe you ain’t got none mit you.”

He put his hand to his hip-pocket and drew out a pocket flask, which Eschenbach, however, waved away.

“That’s expressly something which a ballplayer must never got to touch during a game,” Eschenbach cried as he dusted off his trousers with his handkerchief and once more seized the bat. “Now, then, Mr. Pitcher,” he cried, “send me a real slow one straight over the plate.”

Birsky and Zapp returned to the edge of the lot, scowling savagely at Kanef, who was once more engaged in wiping his hands in the dust. This time, however, he executed no preliminary dance steps, and Eschenbach swung his bat to such good purpose that the ball went sailing between the first and second bases at the height of a short man’s shoulder or, to be exact, at the height of Jacob Golnik’s right shoulder, from which it rebounded into the left eye of Joseph Bogin, the shop foreman.

Amid the scene of confusion that ensued only Jonas Eschenbach remained calm.

“As clean a hit as ever I see!” he cried proudly, and strolled off toward the excited mob that surrounded Golnik and Bogin, both of whom were shrieking with fright and pain.

“D’ye think they’re hurted bad, Mr. Eschenbach?” Zapp inquired anxiously.

“Schmooes hurt bad!” Eschenbach retorted. “Why should a little thing like that hurt ’em bad?”

He was still intoxicated with the triumph of making what would have been a home run in a regular game, and his face bore a pleased smile as he turned to Birsky.

“I says to myself when I seen that ball coming,” he continued, “I would put that right between first and second bases, about where that short and that big feller is standing and that’s exactly what happened.”

Birsky stared at his prospective customer in shocked surprise.

“Then you done it on purpose!” he exclaimed.

“Certainly I done it on purpose,” declared Eschenbach. “What do you think it was an accident?”

He swung his bat at a pebble that lay in his path and Birsky and Zapp edged away.

“Well, if I was you, Mr. Eschenbach,” Birsky said, “I wouldn’t say nothing more about it to nobody. Even if you would meant it as a joke, understand me, sometimes them things turns out serious.” With this dictum he elbowed his way through the sympathetic crowd that hemmed in the victims. “Koosh, Golnik!” he bellowed. “You might think you was injured for life the way you are carrying on.”

“Never mind, Mr. Birsky,” Golnik whimpered, “I am hurted bad enough. If I would be able to handle a pair of shears in six weeks already I’m a lucky man.” He heaved a tremulous sigh and nodded his head slowly. “Little did I think,” he wailed, “when I fixed up this here mutual aid society that I would be the first one to get the sick benefit.”

Joseph Bogin ceased his agonizing rocking and turned fiercely to Golnik.

“What d’ye mean, the first one?” he demanded. “Ain’t I in on the sick benefit also? Not alone would I draw a sick benefit, Golnik, but might I would come in for the losing-one-eye benefit, maybe, the way I am feeling now.”

“You would what?” Birsky shouted. “You would come in for nothing, Bogin! All you would come in for is losing your job, Bogin, if you don’t be careful what you are saying round here.”

At this juncture Jonas Eschenbach bustled toward them and clapped his hands loudly.

“Now, then, boys,” he called, “the whole team should please get out on the field.”

He pointed to a tall, simian-armed operator who stood listening intently to the conversation between Golnik and Birsky.

“You, there,” Jonas said to him, “you would play right field and get a move on!”

The operator nodded solemnly and flipped his fingers in a deprecatory gesture.

“It don’t go so quick, Mr. Eschenbach,” he said, “because, speaking for myself and these other fellers here, Mr. Eschenbach, I would like to ask Mr. Birsky something a question.”

He paused impressively, and even Golnik ceased his moaning as the remaining members of the baseball team gathered round their spokesman.

“I would like to ask,” the operator continued, “supposing Gott soll hueten I am getting also Makkas in this here baseball, Mr. Birsky, which I would be losing time from the shop, Mr. Birsky, what for a sick benefit do I draw?”

Birsky grew livid with indignation.

“What for a sick benefit do you draw?” he sputtered. “A question! You don’t draw nothing for a sick benefit.” He appealed to Eschenbach, who stood close by. “An idée, Mr. Eschenbach,” he said. “Did y’ever hear the like we should pay a sick benefit because some one gets hurted spieling from baseball already? The first thing you know, Mr. Eschenbach, we would be called upon we should pay a benefit that a feller breaks his fingers leading two aces and the ten of trumps, or melding a round trip and a hundred aces, understand me; because, if a feller behaves like a loafer, y’understand, he could injure himself just so much in pinochle as in baseball.”

“Schon gut, Mr. Birsky,” the operator continued amid the approving murmurs of his fellow players, “that’s all I want to know.”

As they moved off in the direction of the West Farms subway station, Golnik’s resentment, which for the time had rendered him speechless, gave way to profanity.

“So,” he cried, choking with indignation, “I was acting like a loafer, was I? And that’s how I got hurted!”

Here he contorted his face and clapped his hand to his injured shoulder in response to a slight twinge of pain; and for at least two minutes he closed his eyes and gasped heavily in a manner that suggested the agonies of death by the rack and thumbscrews.

“You will hear from me later, gentlemen,” he said at last, “and from Bogin also, which we wouldn’t take no part of your sick benefit.”

He fell back exhausted against the outstretched arm of a bearded operator; and thus supported, he seized Bogin’s elbow and started to leave the lot, with the halting steps of Nathan the Wise in the last act of that sterling drama, as performed by the principal tragedian of the Canal Street Theatre.

“And you would see, Mr. Birsky,” he concluded, “that we got plenty witnesses, which if we wouldn’t get from you and Mr. Eschenbach at the very least two thousand dollars, understand me, there ain’t no lawyers worth the name in this city!”

Three minutes later there remained in Adelstern’s lot only two of Birsky & Zapp’s employees namely, the pitcher and the catcher of Eschenbach’s team; and they were snapping the ball back and forth in a manner that caused Eschenbach’s eyes to gleam with admiration.

“Nu, Mr. Eschenbach,” Birsky croaked at last, “I guess we are up against it for fair, because not only we would lose our designer and shop foreman, y’understand, but them fellers would sue us sure.”

Eschenbach waved his hands airily.

“My worries!” he said. “We would talk all about that to-morrow afternoon in your store.”

Again he seized the bat and swung it at a pebble.

“But, anyhow,” he concluded, “there’s still five of us left, Mr. Birsky; so you and Zapp get out on right and left field and we’ll see what we can do.”

He crossed over to the home plate and pounded the earth with the end of his bat.

“All right, boys,” he called. “Play ball!”

Louis Birsky limped wearily from the cutting room, where he had been busy since seven o’clock exercising the functions of his absent designer.

“Oo-ee!” he exclaimed as he reached the firm’s office. “I am stiff like I would got the rheumatism already.”

Barney Zapp sat at his desk, with a pile of newly opened mail in front of him, and he scowled darkly at his partner, who sank groaning into the nearest chair.

“I give you my word, Barney,” Birsky went on, “if that old Rosher would of kept us a minute longer throwing that verfluechte Bobky round, understand me never mind he wouldn’t come in here and buy a big order from us this morning I would of wrung his neck for him. What does he think we are, anyway children?”

Zapp only grunted in reply. He was nursing a badly strained wrist as the result of two hours’ fielding for Jonas Eschenbach; and thus handicapped he had been performing the duties of Joseph Bogin, the shop foreman, who only that morning had sent by his wife a formal note addressed to Birsky & Zapp. It had been written under the advice of counsel and it announced Bogin’s inability to come to work by reason of injuries received through the agency of Birsky & Zapp, and concluded with the notice that an indemnity was claimed from the funds of the mutual aid society, “without waiving any other proceedings that the said Joseph Bogin might deem necessary to protect his interests in the matter.”

“Nu, Zapp,” Birsky said after Zapp had shown him Bogin’s note, “you couldn’t prevent a crook like Bogin suing you if he wants to, understand me; and I bet yer when Eschenbach comes in here this afternoon he would buy from us such a bill of goods that Bogin’s and Golnik’s claims wouldn’t be a bucket of water in the ocean.”

For answer to this optimistic prophecy Zapp emitted a short and mirthless laugh, while he handed to his partner another letter, which read as follows:


FRIEND BIRSKY: As I told you Saturday, lots of things might happen before Monday, which they did happen; so that I cannot look over your sample line on account I am obliged to leave for Cordova right away. Please excuse me; and, with best wishes for the success of your society, I am

Yours truly,


P.S. I will be back in New York a free man not later than next week at the latest, and the first thing I will call at your place. We will talk over then the society and what happens with your designer yesterday, which I do not anticipate he will make you any trouble and the other man, neither.

J. E.

“Well,” Birsky commented as he returned the letter to Zapp, “what of it?”

“What of it!” Zapp exclaimed. “You are reading such a letter and you ask me what of it?”

“Sure,” Birsky replied; “I says what of it and I mean what of it! Is it such a terrible thing if we got to wait till next week before Eschenbach gives us the order, Zapp?”

“If he gives us the order next week!” Zapp retorted, “because, from the way he says nothing about giving us an order oder looking over our sample line, Birsky, I got my doubts.”

“Schmooes, you got your doubts!” Birsky cried. “The feller says as plain as daylight ” Here he seized the letter to refresh his memory. “He says,” Birsky continued: “’P.S. I will be back in New York a free man not later than next week at the latest, and the first thing I will call at your place.’ Ain’t that enough for you?”

Zapp shrugged his shoulders in a non-committal fashion.

“I would wait till next week first,” he said, “before I would congratulate myself on that order.”

Birsky rose painfully to his feet.

“You could do as you like, Zapp,” he said, “but for me I ain’t worrying about things not happening until they don’t, Zapp; so, if any one wants me for anything I would be over in Hammersmith’s for the next half-hour.”

Ten minutes later he sat at his favourite table in Hammersmith’s cafe; and, pending the arrival of an order which included Kreploch soup and some eingedaempftes Kalbflieisch, he gazed about him at the lunch-hour crowd. Nor was his appetite diminished by the spectacle of H. Dexter Adelstern and Finkman engaged in earnest conversation at an adjoining table, and he could not forbear a triumphant smile as he attacked his plate of soup. He had barely swallowed the first spoonful, however, when Adelstern and Finkman caught sight of him and they immediately rose from their seats and came over to his table.

“Why, how do you do, Mr. Birsky?” Adelstern cried. “I hear you had a great game of baseball yesterday.”

Birsky nodded almost proudly.

“You hear correct,” he said. “Our mutual aid society must got to thank you, Mr. Adelstern, for the use of your Bronix lots.”

“Don’t mention it,” Adelstern replied; “in fact, you are welcome to use ’em whenever you want to, Mr. Birsky.”

He winked furtively at Finkman, who forthwith broke into the conversation.

“Might he would buy ’em from you, maybe, Adelstern,” he suggested, “and add ’em to his other holdings on Ammerman Avenue!”

Birsky felt that he could afford to laugh at this sally of Finkman’s, and he did so rather mirthlessly.

“Why don’t you buy ’em, Finkman?” he suggested. “From the way you are talking here the other day to Mr. Eschenbach, you would need ’em for your mutual aid society which you are making a bluff at getting up.”

“I ain’t making no bluffs at nothing, Birsky,” Finkman replied, “because, Gott sei dank, I don’t got to steal other people’s idées to get business.”

“Do you think I am stealing Adelstern’s idée of this here mutual aid society, Finkman?” Birsky demanded, abandoning his soup and glaring at his competitor.

“We don’t think nothing, Birsky,” Adelstern said; “because, whether you stole it oder you didn’t stole it, Birsky, you are welcome to it. And if you would send round to my place this afternoon yet I would give you, free for nothing, a lot of bats and balls and other Bobkies just so good as new, which I ain’t got no use for no more.”

“What d’ye mean, you ain’t got no use for ’em?” Birsky demanded. He began to feel a sense of uneasiness that made nauseating the idea of eingedaempftes Kalbfleisch.

“Why, I mean I am giving up my mutual aid society,” Adelstern replied. “It’s taking up too much of my time especially now, Mr. Birsky, when Eschenbach could hang round my place all he wants to, understand me; he wouldn’t give me no peace at all.”

For a brief interval Birsky stared blankly at Adelstern.

“Especially now!” he exclaimed. “What are you talking about, especially now?”

“Why, ain’t you heard?” Adelstern asked in feigned surprise.

“I ain’t heard nothing,” Birsky said hoarsely.

“Do you mean to told me,” Finkman interrupted, “that you ain’t heard it yet about Eschenbach?”

“I ain’t heard nothing about Eschenbach,” Birsky rejoined.

“Then read this,” Finkman said, thrusting a marked copy of the Daily Cloak and Suit Review under Birsky’s nose; and ringed in blue pencil was the following item:

CORDOVA, OHIO Jonas Eschenbach to Retire. Jonas Eschenbach’s department store is soon to pass into new hands, and Mr. Eschenbach will take up his future residence in the city of New York. Negotiations for the purchase of his business, which have been pending for some time, were closed Saturday, and Mr. Eschenbach has been summoned from New York, where he has been staying for the last few days, to conclude the details of the transaction. The purchaser’s name has not yet been disclosed.

As Louis laid down the paper he beckoned to the waiter. “Never mind that Kalbfleisch,” he croaked. “Bring me only a tongue sandwich and a cup coffee. I got to get right back to my store.”

By a quarter to six that afternoon the atmosphere of Birsky & Zapp’s office had been sufficiently cleared to permit a relatively calm discussion of Eschenbach’s perfidy.

“That’s a Rosher for you that Eschenbach!” Birsky exclaimed for the hundredth time. “And mind you, right the way through, that crook knew he wasn’t going to give us no orders yet!

“But,” he cried, “we got the crook dead to rights!”

“What d’ye mean, we got him dead to rights?” Zapp inquired listlessly.

“Don’t you remember,” Birsky went on, “when he hits the Schlag there yesterday, which injured Golnik and Bogin, he says to us he seen it all the time where they was standing and he was meaning to hit ’em with the ball?”

Zapp nodded.

“And don’t you remember,” Birsky continued, “I says to him did he done it on purpose, and he said sure he did?”

Zapp nodded again and his listlessness began to disappear.

“Certainly, I remember,” he said excitedly, “and he also says to us we shouldn’t think it was an accident at all.”

Birsky jumped to his feet to summon the stenographer.

“Then what’s the use talking?” he cried. “We would right away write a letter to Golnik and Bogin they should come down here to-morrow and we will help ’em out.”

“Aber don’t you think, if we would say we would help ’em out, understand me, they would go to work and get an idée maybe we are going to pay ’em a sick benefit yet?”

“Sick benefit nothing!” Birsky said. “With the sick benefit we are through already; and if it wouldn’t be that the bank is closed, understand me, I would right away go over to the Kosciusko Bank and transfer back that five hundred dollars, which I wouldn’t take no chances, even if Feldman did say that without the ‘as’ the ‘Treasurer’ don’t go at all.”

“Do it to-morrow morning first thing,” Zapp advised; “and write Golnik and Bogin they should come down here at eleven o’clock, y’understand; so that when they get here, understand me, we could show ’em if they are going to make a claim against the mutual aid society, Birsky, they are up against it for fair.”

When the two partners arrived at their place of business the following morning at eight o’clock, however, their plans for the dissolution of the mutual aid society were temporarily forgotten when, upon entering their office, they discerned the bulky figure of Henry Feigenbaum seated in Birsky’s armchair.

“Honestly, boys,” Feigenbaum said as he bit off the end of a cigar, “the way you are keeping me waiting here, understand me, it would of served you right if I would of gone right over to Adelstern’s and give him the order instead of you, y’understand; aber the way Adelstern treats Jonas Eschenbach, understand me, I would rather die as buy a dollar’s worth of goods from that Rosher.”

“What d’ye mean, the way Adelstern treats Eschenbach?” Birsky asked.

“Why, just so soon as Eschenbach tells him he is going to sell out,” Feigenbaum continued, “Adelstern right away disbands his mutual aid society; and he also just so good as tells Eschenbach to his face, y’understand, that all this baseball business was a waste of time, understand me, and he only done it to get orders from Eschenbach! And a man like Eschenbach, which he is a philanthropist and a gentleman, understand me, takes the trouble he should give Adelstern pointers about this here mutual aid society, which they are a blessing to both employers and employees, verstehst du mich, all I could say is that Adelstern acts like a loafer in throwing the whole thing up just because Eschenbach quits!”

“Aber, Mr. Feigenbaum,” Birsky said, while a puzzled expression came over his face, “I thought you said when you was here last time that Eschenbach goes too far in such things.”

“When I was here last,” Feigenbaum replied, “was something else again; but when I left here Friday, understand me, right up till the last minute Eschenbach says no, he wouldn’t let twenty thousand of the purchase price remain on a real-estate mortgage of the store property. When I got to Cordova Saturday morning my lawyers there says that Eschenbach stood ready to close the deal on them terms, y’understand, provided I would let the old man look after our store’s employees’ association, which I certainly agreed to; and so I bought his business there and then, and I must got to buy at least five thousand dollars goods before Wednesday morning for shipment by ten days already.”

“You bought Eschenbach’s store!” Zapp exclaimed.

Feigenbaum wriggled in Birsky’s chair, which fitted him like a glove; and after he had freed himself he rose ponderously.

“Aber one moment, Mr. Feigenbaum,” Birsky pleaded. “Did I understood you to say that Eschenbach is to look after the mutual aid society in your store?”

“I hope you ain’t getting deef, Birsky,” Feigenbaum replied.

“And you agreed to that?” Zapp cried.

“I certainly did,” Feigenbaum said; “which, as I told you before, I am coming to believe that this here mutual aid society business is an elegant thing already, boys. And Eschenbach tells me I should tell you that if he don’t get here by next Sunday you should warm up that pitcher and catcher of yours, as he would sure get down to New York by the Sunday after.”

Birsky led the way to the showroom with the detached air of a somnambulist, while Zapp came stumbling after.

“And one thing I want to impress on you boys,” Feigenbaum concluded: “you want to do all you can to jolly the old boy along, understand me, on account I might want to raise ten or fifteen thousand dollars from him for some alterations I got in mind.”

“Zapp,” Birsky cried after he had ushered Feigenbaum into the elevator at ten minutes to eleven, “I am going right over to the Kosciusko Bank and ”

“What are you going to do?” Zapp cried in alarm, “transfer back that five hundred dollars after what Feigenbaum tells us?”

“Transfer nothing!” Birsky retorted. “I am going over to the Kosciusko Bank, understand me, and I am going to change that account. So, when them Roshoyim come in here, Zapp, tell ’em to wait till I get back. By hook or by crook we must got to get ’em to come to work by to-morrow sure, the way we would be rushed here even if we must pay ’em a hundred dollars apiece!”

Zapp nodded fervently.

“Aber why must you got to go over to the bank now, Birsky?” he insisted.

“Because I don’t want to take no more chances,” Birsky replied; “which I would not only put in the ‘as,’ understand me, but I would write on the bank’s signature card straight up and down what the thing really is” he coughed impressively to emphasize the announcement “Louis Birsky,” he said, “as Treasurer of the Mutual Aid Society Employees of Birsky & Zapp!”