Read CHAPTER SEVEN - THE MOVING PICTURE WRITES of The Competitive Nephew , free online book, by Montague Glass, on

When Max Schindelberger opened the door leading into the office of Lesengeld & Belz his manner was that of the local millionaire’s wife bearing delicacies to a bedridden laundress, for Max felt that he was slumming.

“Is Mr. Lesengeld disengaged?” he asked in the rotund voice of one accustomed to being addressed as Brother President three nights out of every week, and he cast so benevolent a smile on the stenographer that she bridled immediately.

“Mis-ter Lesengeld,” she called, and in response B. Lesengeld projected his torso from an adjacent doorway.

“Miss Schimpf,” he said pleadingly, “do me the favour and don’t make such a Geschrei every time somebody comes in the office. Goes through me like a knife yet.”

Max Schindelberger’s smile took on the quality of indulgency as he advanced slowly toward B. Lesengeld.

“How do you do, Mr. Lesengeld?” he said, proffering his hand; and after glancing suspiciously at the extended palm Lesengeld took it in a limp clasp.

“I already suscribed to that now asylum, ain’t it?” Lesengeld began, for his experienced eye had at once noted the fraternal society charm, the I.O.M.A. lapel button, and the white tie that proclaimed Max to be a philanthropist.

Max laughed as heartily as he could.

“Ain’t it funny,” he said, “how just so soon as anybody sees me they think I am going to do something charitable? As a matter of fact, Mr. Lesengeld, I am coming here to see you on a business matter which really it ain’t my business at all.”

Lesengeld grudgingly held open the door, and Max squeezed past him.

“You got a comfortable place here, Mr. Lesengeld,” he began, “plain and old-fashioned, but comfortable.”

Lesengeld removed some dusty papers from a chair.

“It suits me,” he said. “Take a seat, Mr. ”

“Schindelberger,” Max said as he sat down.

“Used to was Schindelberger, Steinfeld & Company in the underwear business?”

Max nodded and his smile began to fade.

“My partner Belz got a couple of the composition notes in the middle compartment in our safe for six years already,” Lesengeld continued. “He keeps ’em for sowveneers, on account the feller he took ’em off of a relation from his wife’s was no good, neither. Which you was telling me you wanted to see me about a business matter.”

Max Schindelberger cleared his throat.

“Anybody could have reverses in business,” he said.

“Sure, I know,” Lesengeld commented. “Only there is two kinds of reverses, Mr. Schindelberger, reverses from up to down and reverses from down to up, like when a feller couldn’t pay his composition notes, Mr. Schindelberger, and two years later is buying elevator apartments yet in his wife’s name, Mr. Schindelberger.” He tapped the desk impatiently. “Which you was saying,” he added, “that you wanted to see me about a business matter.”

Max coughed away a slight huskiness. When he had started from his luxuriously appointed office on lower Nassau Street to visit Mr. Lesengeld on East Broadway, he had felt a trifle sorry for Lesengeld, so soon to feel the embarrassment and awkwardness incidental to meeting for the first time, and all combined under one frockcoat, the District Grand Master of the I.O.M.A., the President of the Bella Hirshkind Home for Indigent Females, and director and trustee of three orphan asylums and of an eye, ear, and throat infirmary. With the first reference to the defunct underwear business, however, Max began to lose the sense of confidence that the dignity of his various offices lent him; and by the time Lesengeld had mentioned the elevator apartment houses he had assumed to Max all the majesty of, say, for example, the Federal Grand Master of the I.O.M.A., with Jacob H. Schiff and Andrew Carnegie thrown in for good measure.

“The fact is,” Max stammered, “I called to see you about the three-thousand dollar mortgage you are holding on Rudnik’s house the second mortgage.”

Lesengeld nodded.

“First mortgages I ain’t got any,” he said, “and if you are coming to insinivate that I am a second-mortgage shark, Mr. Schindelberger, go ahead and do so. I am dealing in second mortgages now twenty years already, and I hear myself called a shark so often, Mr. Schindelberger, that it sounds like it would be a compliment already. I come pretty near getting it printed on my letterheads.”

“I didn’t said you was a second-mortgage shark, Mr. Lesengeld; a man could be a whole lot worse as a second-mortgage shark, understand me, and do a charity once in awhile, anyhow. You know what it stands in Gemara yet?”

Schindelberger settled himself in his chair preparatory to intoning a Talmudical quotation, but Lesengeld forestalled him.

“Sure, I know,” he said, “it stands in Gemara a whole lot about charity, Mr. Schindelberger, but it don’t say no more about second mortgages as it does about composition notes, for instance. So if you are coming to me to ask me I should give Rudnik an extension on his Clinton Street house, you could learn Gemara to me till I would become so big a Melammed as you are, understand me, and it wouldn’t make no difference. I never extend no mortgages for nobody.”

“But, Mr. Lesengeld, you got to remember this is an exception, otherwise I wouldn’t bother myself I should come up here at all. I am interesting myself in this here matter on account Rudnik is an old man, understand me, and all he’s got in the world is the Clinton Street house; and, furthermore, he will make a will leaving it to the Bella Hirshkind Home for Indignant Females, which if you want to go ahead and rob a lot of poor old widders of a few thousand dollars, go ahead, Mr. Lesengeld.”

He started to rise from his chair, but he thought better of it as Lesengeld began to speak.

“Don’t make me no bluffs, Schindelberger,” Lesengeld cried, “because, in the first place, if Rudnik wills his house to the Bella Hirshkind Home, what is that my business? And, in the second place, Belz’s wife’s mother’s a cousin got a sister which for years, Belz, makes a standing offer of five hundred dollars some one should marry her, and finally he gets her into the Home as single as the day she was born already.”

“One or two ain’t widders,” Schindelberger admitted, “but they’re all old, and when you say what is it your business that Rudnik leaves his house to charity, sure it ain’t. Aber it’s your business if you try to take the house away from charity. Even if you would be dealing in second mortgages, Mr. Lesengeld, that ain’t no reason why you shouldn’t got a heart once in a while.”

“What d’ye mean, I ain’t got a heart?” Lesengeld demanded. “I got just so much a heart as you got it, Mr. Schindelberger. Why, last night I went on a moving pictures, understand me, where a little girl gets her father he should give her mother another show, verstehst du, and I assure you I cried like a baby, such a soft heart I got it.” He had risen from his chair and was pacing excitedly up and down the little room. “The dirty dawg wants to put her out of the house already on account she is kissing her brother which he is just come home from twenty years on the Pacific Coast,” he continued; “and people calls me a shark yet, Mr. Schindelberger, which my wife and me is married twenty-five years next Succos Halamode and never so much as an unkind breath between us.”

“That’s all right, Mr. Lesengeld,” Schindelberger said. “I don’t doubt your word for a minute, but when it comes to foreclosing a mortgage on a house which it, so to speak, belongs to a home for poor widders and a couple of old maids, understand me, then that’s something else again.”

“Who says I’m going to foreclose the mortgage?” Lesengeld demanded.

“You didn’t said you was going to foreclose it,” Schindelberger replied, “but you says you ain’t never extended no mortgages for nobody.”

“Which I never did,” Lesengeld agreed; “but that ain’t saying I ain’t never going to. Seemingly, also, you seem to forget I got a partner, Mr. Schindelberger, which people calls him just so much a shark as me, Mr. Schindelberger.”

“Aber you are just telling me your partner is putting into the Bella Hirshkind Home a relation from his wife’s already, and if he wouldn’t be willing to extend the mortgage, Mr. Lesengeld, who would? Because I needn’t got to tell you, Mr. Lesengeld, the way business is so rotten nowadays people don’t give up so easy no more; and if it wouldn’t be that the Bella Hirshkind Home gets from somebody a whole lot of assistance soon it would bust up sure, and Belz would quick find himself stuck with his wife’s relation again, and don’t you forget it.”

“But ” Lesengeld began.

“But nothing, Mr. Lesengeld!” Schindelberger cried. “Here’s where the Bella Hirshkind Home is got a show to make a big haul, so to speak, because this here Rudnik has got something the matter with his liver which it is only a question of time, understand me, on account the feller is an old bachelor without anybody to look after him, and he eats all the time twenty-five-cent regular dinners. I give him at the outside six months.”

“But are you sure the feller makes a will leaving his house to the Bella Hirshkind Home?” Lesengeld asked.

“What d’ye mean, am I sure?” Schindelberger exclaimed. “Of course I ain’t sure. That’s why I am coming up here this morning. If you would extend first the mortgage on that house, Mr. Lesengeld, Rudnik makes the will, otherwise not; because it would cost anyhow fifteen dollars for a lawyer he should draw up the will, ain’t it, and what’s the use we should spend the money if you take away from him the house?”

“But if I would extend first the mortgage, Schindelberger, might the feller wouldn’t make the will maybe.”

Schindelberger clucked his tongue impatiently.

“Just because I am so charitable I don’t got to be a fool exactly,” he said. “If you would extend the mortgage, Mr. Lesengeld, I would bring Rudnik up here with a lawyer, and before the extension agreement is signed Rudnik would sign his will and put it in your safe to keep.”

Lesengeld hesitated for a minute.

“I’ll tell you, Schindelberger,” he said at length; “give me a little time I should think this matter over. My partner is up in the Bronix and wouldn’t be back till to-morrow.”

“But all I want is your word, Mr. Lesengeld,” Schindelberger protested, “because might if I would go back and tell Rudnik you wouldn’t extend the mortgage he would go right away to the river and jump in maybe.”

“Yow, he would jump in!” Lesengeld cried. “Only the other day I seen on a moving pictures a fillum which they called it Life is Sweet, where an old man eighty years old jumps into the river on account his grandson died in an elegant furnished apartment already; and when a young feller rescues him he gives him for ten thousand dollars a check, which I wouldn’t believe it at all if I didn’t seen the check with my own eyes yet. I was terrible broke up about the grandson, Mr. Schindelberger, aber when I seen the check I didn’t got no more sympathy for the old man at all. Fifty dollars would of been plenty, especially when the young feller turns out to be the son of the old man’s boy which he ain’t heard from in years.”

“Sure, I know,” Schindelberger agreed, “aber such things only happen in moving pictures, Mr. Lesengeld, and if Rudnik would jump in the river, understand me, the least that happens him is he would get drownded and the Bella Hirshkind Home would go Mechulla sure.”

“Well, I’ll tell you,” Lesengeld said; “you could say to Rudnik that I says I would extend the mortgage supposing my partner is agreeable, on consideration he would leave the house to the Bella Hirshkind Home, and Rudnik is to pay three hundred and fifty dollars to my lawyer for drawing the extension agreement.”

“Aber, Mr. Lesengeld ” Schindelberger began. He was about to protest against the size of the bonus demanded under the guise of counsel fee when he was interrupted by a resounding, “Koosh!” from Lesengeld.

“That is my last word and the very best I could do,” Lesengeld concluded, “except I would get my lawyer to fix up the will and schenk it to you free for nothing.”

“I don’t know what comes over you lately, Belz,” Lesengeld complained the following morning. “Every day you come down looking like a bear mit a spoiled tail.”

“I got a right to look that way,” Belz replied. “If you would got such a wife’s relation like I got it, Lesengeld, there’d be no sitting in the same office with you at all. When it isn’t one thing it’s another. Yesterday my wife’s mother’s a sister’s cousin gets a day off and comes round and gets dinner with us. I think I told you about her before Miss Blooma Duckman. Nothing suits that woman at all. The way she acts you would think she lives in the bridal soot at the Waldorfer, and she gets my wife so mad, understand me, that she throws away a whole dish of Tzimmus in the garbage can already which I got to admit that the woman is right, Lesengeld my wife don’t make the finest Tzimmus in the world.”

“Suppose she don’t,” Lesengeld commented. “Ain’t it better she should spoil some Tzimmus which all it’s got into it is carrots, potatoes, and a little chuck? If it would be that she makes a failure mit Gaense oder chickens which it really costs money, understand me, then you got a right to kick.”

“That’s what I says,” Belz replied, “aber that Miss Duckman takes everything so particular. She kicks about it all the way up in the subway, which the next time I get one of my wife’s relations in a Home, either it would be so far away she couldn’t come to see us at all, or it would be so nearby that I don’t got to lose a night’s rest seeing her home. I didn’t get to bed till pretty near two o’clock.”

He stifled a yawn as he sat down at his desk.

“All the same, Lesengeld,” he added, “they certainly got a nice place up there for old women. There’s lots of respectable business men pays ten dollars a week for their wives in the Catskills already which they don’t got it so comfortable. Ain’t it a shame, Lesengeld, that with a charity like that which is really a charity, people don’t support it better as they do?”

“I bet yer!” Lesengeld cried. “The way some people acts not only they ain’t got no hearts, y’understand, but they ain’t got no sense, neither. I seen a case yesterday where an old Rosher actually refuses to pay a month’s rent for his son’s widder mit a little boy, to save ’em being put out on the sidewalk. Afterward he goes broke, understand me, and when the boy grows up he’s got the nerve to make a touch from him a couple of dollars and the boy goes to work and gives it to him. If I would be the boy the old man could starve to death; I wouldn’t give him not one cent. They call us sharks, Belz, but compared with such a Haman we ain’t even sardines.”

“Sure, I know,” Belz said as he consulted the firm’s diary; “and if you wouldn’t waste your time going on so many moving pictures, Lesengeld, might you would attend to business maybe. Yesterday was ten days that feller Rudnik’s mortgage is past due, and what did you done about it? Nothing, I suppose.”

“Suppose again, Belz,” Lesengeld retorted. “A feller was in here to see me about it and I agreed we would give Rudnik an extension.”

“What!” Belz cried. “You agreed you would give him an extension! Are you crazy oder what? The way money is so tight nowadays and real estate gone to hellandall, we as good as could get a deed of that house from that feller.”

“Sure we could,” Lesengeld replied calmly, “but we ain’t going to. Once in a while, Belz, even in the second-mortgage business, circumstances alters cases, and this here is one of them cases; so before you are calling me all kinds of suckers, understand me, you should be so good and listen to what I got to tell you.”

Belz shrugged his shoulders resignedly.

“Go as far as you like,” he said, “aber if it’s something which you seen it on a moving pictures, Lesengeld, I don’t want to hear it at all.”

“It didn’t happen on a moving pictures, Belz, but just the same if even you would seen it on a moving pictures you would say to yourself that with a couple of fellers like you and me, which a few hundred dollars one way or the other wouldn’t make or break us, understand me, we would be all kinds of crooks and highwaymen if we would went to work and turn a lot of old widders out into the street.”

“Lesengeld,” Belz shouted impatiently, “do me the favour and don’t make no speeches. What has turning a lot of old widders into the street got to do with Rudnik’s mortgage?”

“It’s got a whole lot to do with it,” Lesengeld replied, “because Rudnik’s house he is leaving to a Home for old women, and if we take away the house from him then the Home wouldn’t get his house, and the Home is in such shape, Belz, that if it wouldn’t make a big killing in the way of a legacy soon they would bust up sure.”

“And that’s all the reason why we should extend the mortgage on Rudnik?” Belz demanded.

“That’s all the reason,” Lesengeld answered; “with three hundred and fifty dollars a bonus.”

“Then all I could say is,” Belz declared, “we wouldn’t do nothing of the kind. What is three =hundred and fifty dollars a bonus in these times, Lesengeld?”

“But the Home,” Lesengeld protested.

“The Home should bust up,” Belz cried. “What do I care about the Home?”

“Aber the widders?” Lesengeld insisted. “If the Home busts up the widders is thrown into the street. Ain’t it?”

“What is that my fault, Lesengeld? Did I make ’em widders?”

“Sure, I know, Belz; aber one or two of ’em ain’t widders. One or two of ’em is old maids and they would got to go and live back with their relations. Especially” he concluded with a twinkle in his eye “especially one of ’em by the name Blooma Duckman.”

“Do you mean to told me,” Belz faltered, “that them now widders is in the Bella Hirshkind Home?”

“For Indignant Females,” Lesengeld added, “which Max Schindelberger is president from it also.”

Belz nodded and remained silent for at least five minutes.

“I’ll tell you, Lesengeld,” he said at last, “after all it’s a hard thing a woman should be left a widder.”

“You bet your life it’s a hard thing, Belz!” Lesengeld agreed fervently. “Last week I seen it a woman she is kissing her husband good-bye, and the baby also kisses him good-bye decent, respectable, hard-working people, understand me and not two minutes later he gets run down by a trollyer car. The next week they take away from her the furniture, understand me, and she puts the baby into a day nursery, and what happens after that I didn’t wait to see at all. Cost me ten cents yet in a drug store for some mathematic spirits of ammonia for Mrs. Lesengeld she carries on so terrible about it.”

Belz sighed tremulously.

“All right, Lesengeld,” he said; “write Rudnik we would extend the mortgage and he should call here to-morrow.”

“If I got to lose the house I got to lose it,” Harris Rudnik declared as he sat in B. Lesengeld’s revolving chair on the following morning. “I ain’t got long to live anyhow.”

He tucked his hands into his coat-pocket and glared balefully at Schindelberger, who shrugged his shoulders.

“That’s the way he is talking right along,” he said. “Did you ever hear the like? Mind you, it ain’t that he’s got anybody he should leave the house to, Mr. Belz, but he ain’t got no use for women.”

“What d’ye mean, I ain’t got no use for women?” Rudnik cried. “I got just so much use for women as you got it, aber not for a lot of women which all their lives men make suckers of themselves working their heads off they should keep ’em in luxury, understand me, and then the men dies, y’understand, right away the widders is put in homes and other men which ain’t related to ’em at all must got to leave ’em their hard-earned Geld, Mr. Belz, so they could sit with their hands folded doing nothing.”

“What are you talking nonsense doing nothing!” Schindelberger retorted. “Them old women works like anything up there. I told you before a dozen times, Rudnik, them women is making underwear and jelly and stockings and Gott weiß was noch.”

Rudnik turned appealingly to Belz.

“Mr. Belz,” he said, “do me the favour and let me leave my money to a Talmud Torah oder a Free Loan Association.”

“Free Loan Association!” Lesengeld and Belz exclaimed with one voice.

“An idée!” Belz shouted. “What d’ye take us for, Rudnik? You are going too far.”

“Cutthroats!” Lesengeld muttered hoarsely. “Stealing bread out of people’s mouths yet. A lot of people goes to them Roshoyim and fools ’em into lending ’em money they should play Stuss and Tarrok, while their families is starving yet. If you want to leave your house to a Free Loan Association, Rudnik, you might just so well blow it up mit dynamite and be done with it.”

“Aber a Talmud Torah School,” Rudnik cried; “that’s something which you couldn’t got no objection to.”

“Don’t talk like a fool, Rudnik!” Schindelberger interrupted. “When you got a chance to leave your money to a Home for widders, what are you fooling away your time making suggestions like Talmud Torah schools for? A young feller would get along in business if he never even seen the outside of a Talmud Torah, aber if the widders lose their Home, understand me, they would starve to death.”

“Yow, they would starve to death!” Rudnik said. “You could trust a widder she wouldn’t starve, Mr. Schindelberger. Them which didn’t got no relations they could easy find suckers to give ’em money, and them which did got relations, their families should look after ’em.”

Belz grew crimson with pent-up indignation.

“Loafer!” he roared. “What d’ye mean, their families should look after ’em?”

Belz walked furiously up and down the office and glowered at the trembling and confused Rudnik.

“Seemingly you ain’t got no feelings at all, Rudnik,” he continued. “Schindelberger tells you over and over again they are working them poor widders to death up there, and yet you want to take away the roofs from their backs even.”

“No, I didn’t, Mr. Belz,” Rudnik said. “I didn’t say nothing about a roof at all. Why, I ain’t even seen the Home, Mr. Belz. Could you expect me I should leave my money to a Home without I should see it even?”

“My worries if you seen it oder not!” Belz retorted. “The thing is, Rudnik, before we would extend for you the mortgage you must got to make not a will but a deed which you deed the house to the Bella Hirshkind Home, keeping for yourself all the income from the house for your life, because otherwise if a man makes a will he could always make another will, aber once you give a deed it is fixed und fertig.”

This ultimatum was the result of a conference between Belz and his counsel the previous evening, and he had timed its announcement to the moment when he deemed his victim to be sufficiently intimidated. Nevertheless, the shock of its disclosure spurred the drooping Rudnik to a fresh outburst.

“What!” he shouted. “I should drive myself out of my house for a lot of widders!”

“Koosh!” Schindelberger bellowed. “They ain’t all widders. Two of ’em is old maids, Rudnik, and even if they would be all widders you must got to do as Mr. Belz says, otherwise you would drive yourself out of your house anyway. Because in these times not only you couldn’t raise no new second mortgage on the house, but if Lesengeld and Belz forecloses on you the house would hardly bring in auction the amount of the first mortgage even.”

Rudnik sat back in his chair and plucked at his scant gray beard. He recognized the force of Schindelberger’s argument and deemed it the part of discretion to temporize with his mortgagees.

“Why didn’t you told me there is a couple old maids up there?” he said to Schindelberger. “Old maids is horses of another colour; so come on, Mr. Schindelberger, do me the favour and go up with me so I could anyhow see the Home first.”

He slid out of his chair and smiled at Schindelberger, who stared frigidly in return.

“You got a big idée of yourself, Rudnik, I must say,” he commented. “What do you think, I ain’t got nothing better to do as escort you up to the Bella Hirshkind Home?”

“Rudnik is right, Schindelberger,” Lesengeld said; “you should ought to show him the Home before he leaves his house to it.”

“I would show him nothing,” Schindelberger cried. “Here is my card to give to the superintendent, and all he is got to do is to go up on the subway from the bridge. Get off at Bronix Park and take a Mount Vernon car to Ammerman Avenue. Then you walk six blocks east and follow the New Haven tracks toward the trestle. The Home is the first house you come to. You couldn’t miss it.”

Rudnik took the card and started for the door, while Belz nodded sadly at his partner.

“And you are kicking I am cranky yesterday morning,” he said. “In the daytime is all right going up there, but in the night, Lesengeld, a bloodhound could get twisted. Every time I go up there I think wonder I get back home at all.”

“I bet yer,” Lesengeld said. “The other evening I seen a fillum by the name Lawst in the Jungle, and ”

“Excuse me, gentlemen,” Schindelberger interrupted, “I got a little business to attend to by my office, and if it’s all the same to you I would come here with Rudnik to-morrow morning ten o’clock.”

“By the name Lawst in the Jungle,” Lesengeld repeated with an admonitory glare at Schindelberger, “which a young feller gets ate up with a tiger already; and I says to Mrs. Lesengeld: ‘Mommer,’ I says, ’people could say all they want to how fine it is to live in the country,’ I says, ‘give me New York City every time,’ I says to my wife.”

Harris Rudnik had been encouraged to misogyny by cross eyes and a pockmarked complexion. Nevertheless, he was neither so confirmed in his hatred of the sex nor so discouraged by his physical deformities as to neglect shaving himself and changing into a clean collar and his Sabbath blacks before he began his journey to the Bella Hirshkind Home. Thus when he alighted from the Mount Vernon car at Ammerman Avenue he presented, at least from the rear, so spruce an appearance as to attract the notice of no less a person than Miss Blooma Duckman herself.

Miss Duckman was returning from an errand on which she had been dispatched by the superintendent of the Home, for of all the inmates she was not only the youngest but the spryest, and although she was at least half a block behind Harris when she first caught sight of him, she had no difficulty in overtaking him before he reached the railroad track.

“Excuse me,” she said as he hesitated at the side of the track, “are you maybe looking for the Bella Hirshkind Home?”

Harris started and blushed, but at length his misogyny asserted itself and he turned a beetling frown on Miss Duckman.

“What d’ye mean, am I looking for the Bella Hirshkind Home?” he said. “Do you suppose I come up here all the way from Brooklyn Bridge to watch the trains go by?”

“I thought maybe you didn’t know the way,” Miss Duckman suggested. “You go along that there path and it’s the first house you are coming to.”

She pointed to the path skirting the railroad track, and Harris began to perspire as he found himself surrendering to an impulse of politeness toward this very young old lady. He conquered it immediately, however, and cleared his throat raspingly.

“I couldn’t swim exactly,” he retorted as he surveyed the miry trail indicated by Miss Duckman, “so I guess I’ll walk along the railroad.”

“You could do that, too,” Miss Duckman said, “aber I ain’t allowed to, on account the rules of the Home says we shouldn’t walk along the tracks.”

Harris raised his eyebrows.

“You don’t mean to told me you are one of them indignant females?” he exclaimed.

“I belong in the Home,” Miss Duckman replied, colouring slightly, and Rudnik felt himself being overcome by a wave of remorse for his bluntness. He therefore searched his mind for a sufficiently gruff rejoinder, and finding none he shrugged his shoulders.

“Well,” he said at last, “there’s worser places, lady.”

Miss Duckman nodded.

“Maybe,” she murmured; “and anyhow I ain’t so bad off as some of them other ladies up there which they used to got husbands and homes of their own.”

“Ain’t you a widder, too?” Rudnik asked, his curiosity again getting the upper hand.

“I ain’t never been married,” Miss Duckman answered as she drew her shawl primly about her.

“Well, you ain’t missed much,” Rudnik declared, “so far as I could see.”

“Why,” Miss Duckman exclaimed, “ain’t you never been married, neither?”

Rudnik blinked solemnly before replying.

“You’re just like a whole lot of ladies,” he said; “you must got to find out everything.” He turned away and stepped briskly on to the railroad track.

“But ain’t you married?” Miss Duckman insisted.

“No,” he growled as he started off. “Gott sei dank.”

For a brief interval Miss Duckman stood and watched his progress along the ties, and then she gathered her parcels more firmly in her arms and began to negotiate the quagmire that led to the Home. She had not proceeded more than a hundred feet, however, when a locomotive whistle sounded in the distance.

“Hey, mister!” she shouted; but even if Rudnik heard the warning it served only to hasten his footsteps. Consequently the train was almost upon him before he became aware of it, and even as he leaped wildly to one side the edge of the cowcatcher struck him a glancing blow. Miss Duckman dropped her bundles and plunged through the mud to where Rudnik lay, while the train, which was composed of empty freight cars, slid to a grinding stop a short distance up the track.

She was kneeling recklessly in the mud supporting Rudnik with both her hands when the engineer and the fireman reached them.

“Is your husband hurted bad?” the engineer asked Miss Duckman.

The tears were rolling down Miss Duckman’s worn cheeks, and her lips trembled so that she could not reply. Nevertheless, at the word “husband” her maidenly heart gave a tremendous bound, and when the engineer and the fireman lifted Rudnik gently into the caboose her confusion was such that without protest she permitted the conductor to assist her carefully up the car steps.

“Sit ye down on that stool there, lady,” he said. “As far as I can see your man ain’t got no bones broken.”

“But ” Miss Duckman protested.

“Now, me dear lady,” the conductor interrupted, “don’t ye go worritin’ yerself. I’ve got me orders if anybody gets hit be the train to take him to the nearest company’s doctor in the direction I’m goin’. See? And if you was Mister and Missus Vanderbilt, they couldn’t treat you no better up to the Emergency Hospital.”

“But ” Miss Duckman began. Again she attempted to explain that Rudnik was not her husband, and again the conductor forestalled her.

“And if he’s able to go home to-night,” he said finally, “ye’ll be given free transportation, in a parlour car d’ye mind, like ye’d be on your honeymoon.”

He patted her gently on the shoulder as he turned to a waiting brakeman.

“Let her go, Bill,” he cried, and with a jubilant toot from the engine Miss Duckman’s elopement was fairly under way.

When Harris Rudnik opened his eyes in the little white-curtained room of the Emergency Hospital, Miss Duckman sat beside his bed. She smiled encouragingly at him, but for more than five minutes he made no effort to speak.

“Well,” he said at length, “what are you kicking about? It’s an elegant place, this here Home.”

Miss Duckman laid her fingers on her lips.

“You shouldn’t speak nothing,” she whispered, “on account you are sick, aber not serious sick.”

“I know I am sick,” Rudnik replied. “I was just figuring it all out. I am getting knocked down by a train and ”

“No bones is broken,” Miss Duckman hastened to assure him. “You would be out in a few days.”

“I am satisfied,” he said faintly. “You got a fine place here, Missis.”

Miss Duckman laid her hand on Rudnik’s pillow.

“I ain’t a Missis,” she murmured. “My name is Miss Blooma Duckman.”

“Blooma,” Rudnik muttered. “I once used to got a sister by the name Blooma, and it ain’t a bad name, neither.” He was not entirely softened by his mishap, however. “But, anyhow, that ain’t here or there,” he said. “Women is just the same always kicking. What is the matter with this Home, Miss Duckman? It’s an elegant place already.”

“This ain’t the Home,” Miss Duckman explained. “This is a hospital, which when you was hit by the engine they put you on the train and took you up here.”

“Aber what are you doing here?” he asked after a pause.

“I come along,” Miss Duckman said; “and now you shouldn’t talk no more.”

“What d’ye mean, you come along?” he cried. “Didn’t you go back to the Home?”

Miss Duckman shook her head, and Rudnik turned on his pillow and looked inquiringly at her.

“How long am I up here, anyhow?” he demanded.

“Four days,” Miss Duckman said, and Rudnik closed his eyes again. For ten minutes longer he lay still and then his lips moved.

“What did you say?” Miss Duckman asked.

“I says Blooma is a pretty good name already,” he murmured, smiling faintly, and the next moment he sank into a light sleep.

When he awoke Miss Duckman still sat by the side of his bed, her fingers busy over the hem of a sheet, and he glanced nervously at the window through which the late afternoon sun came streaming.

“Ain’t it pretty late you should be away from the Home?” he inquired. “It must be pretty near six, ain’t it?”

“I know it,” Miss Duckman said; “and the doctor says at six you should take this here powder.”

“Aber shouldn’t you got to be getting ready to go back to the Home?” he asked.

Miss Duckman shook her head.

“I ain’t going back no more,” she answered. “I got enough of them people.”

Rudnik looked helplessly at her.

“But what would you do?” he said. “You ain’t got no other place to go to, otherwise you wouldn’t got to live in a Home.”

“Sure, I know,” she replied as she prepared to give him his powder; “but Gott sei dank I still got my health, and I am telling the lady superintendent here how they work me at the Home, and she says I could stop here till I am finding something to do. I could cook already and I could sew already, and if the worser comes to the worst I could find a job in an underwear factory. They don’t pay much, but a woman like me she don’t eat much. All I want is I could get a place to sleep, and I bet yer I could make out fine. So you should please take the powder.”

Rudnik swallowed his powder.

“You says you could cook,” he remarked after he had again settled himself on his pillow. “Tzimmus, for instance, und Fleisch Kugel?”

“Tzimmus und Fleisch Kugel is nothing,” she declared. “I don’t want to say nothing about myself, understand me, because lots of women to hear ’em talk you would think wonder what cooks they are, and they couldn’t even boil a potater even; aber if you could eat my gefuellte Rinderbrust, Mister ”

“Rudnik,” he said as he licked his moist lips, “Harris Rudnik.”

“Mister Rudnik,” she proceeded, “oder my Tebeches, you would got to admit I ain’t so helpless as I look.”

“You don’t look so helpless,” Rudnik commented; “I bet yer you could do washing even.”

“Could I?” Miss Duckman exclaimed. “Why, sometimes at the Home I am washing from morning till night, aber I ain’t kicking none. It really agrees with me, Mr. Rudnik.”

Rudnik nodded. Again he closed his eyes, and had it not been that he swallowed convulsively at intervals he would have appeared to be sleeping. Suddenly he raised himself on his pillow.

“Do you make maybe a good cup coffee also?” he inquired.

“A good cup coffee I make in two ways,” Miss Duckman answered. “The first is ”

Rudnik waved his hand feebly.

“I’ll take your word for it,” he said, and again lapsed into quietude.

“D’ye know,” he murmured at length, “I ain’t drunk a good cup coffee in years already?”

Miss Duckman made no answer. Indeed she dropped her sewing and passed noiselessly out of the room, and when she returned ten minutes later she bore on a linen-covered tray a cup of steaming, fragrant coffee.

“How was that?” Miss Duckman asked after he had emptied the cup.

Rudnik wiped his mouth with the back of his hand.

“All I could say is,” he replied, “if your Tzimmus ain’t no worser as your coffee, Miss Duckman, nobody could kick that you ain’t a good cook.”

Miss Duckman’s faded cheeks grew pink and she smiled happily.

“I guess you are trying to make me a compliment,” she said.

“In my whole life I never made for a woman a compliment,” Rudnik declared. “I never even so much as met one I could make a compliment to yet except you, and mit you it ain’t no compliment, after all. It’s the truth.”

He lay back on his pillow and gazed at the ceiling for fully a quarter of an hour, while Miss Duckman sewed away industriously.

“After all,” he said at last, “why not? Older men as me done it.”

“Did you say something?” Miss Duckman asked.

Rudnik cleared his throat noisily.

“I says,” he replied, “you should please be so good and don’t bother yourself about that now underwear factory job till I am getting out of here.”

“A Home is a Home,” B. Lesengeld said as he and Belz sat in the office nearly a week later; “but if Schindelberger wouldn’t show up here with Rudnik to-day yet, Belz, we would foreclose sure.”

“Would we?” Belz retorted. “Well, I got something to say about that, too, Lesengeld, and I’m going to give the Bella Hirshkind people a couple days longer. To-day is Blooma Duckman’s day out again, and me and Mrs. Belz we sit home last night and we couldn’t do a thing on account Mrs. Belz is dreading it so. Think what it would be if that woman is thrown back on our hands.”

“If she is so terrible as all that why do you let her come at all?” Lesengeld asked, and Belz heaved a great sigh.

“I’ll tell you, Lesengeld,” he said, “she’s really got a very good heart, y’understand; aber is it Mrs. Belz’s fault she ain’t such a A Number One cook? Every time that Blooma Duckman comes round she rubs it in yet, and she snoops under beds to see is it clean oder not, and she gets the girl so worked up, understand me, that we are hiring a new one every week. At the same time the woman means well, Lesengeld, but you know how that is: some people means so well you couldn’t stand ’em at all.”

Lesengeld nodded.

“Sure, I know,” he said. “I seen it last week a case where a feller all the time means well and is trying to do good. He is taking pity on a tramp, understand me, and the tramp ganvers his silver spoons and everything, and I says to Mrs. Lesengeld: ‘Mommer,’ I says, ’it only goes to show,’ I says, ’if you feel you are beginning to take pity on a feller,’ I says, ‘you shouldn’t got no mercy on him at all,’ I says. ‘Otherwise he will go to work and do you every time,’ I says. So that’s why I am telling you, Belz, I guess the best thing we could do is we should right away foreclose Rudnik’s house on him. Then if Schindelberger is such a charitable sucker as all that, let him buy in the house for the Bella Hirshkind Home and be done with it. All we want is our money back and we would be satisfied. What is the use we consider Rudnik’s feelings. Ain’t it?”

“Do you think I am holding off on Rudnik’s account?” Belz exclaimed indignantly. “I never even got an idée to take pity on the feller at all. An old snoozer like him which he’s got only one house to his name, understand me, he don’t deserve no better. So go ahead and ring up Schindelberger and tell him that’s what we would do.”

Lesengeld turned to the desk, but even as he took the telephone receiver from the hook Schindelberger himself came in.

“Endlich!” Belz exclaimed. “We was expecting you a whole week yet. Are you ready to fix up about Rudnik’s mortgage?”

Schindelberger sat down and carefully placed his hat on Belz’s desk.

“The mortgage I didn’t come to see you about exactly,” he said. “I got something else to tell you.”

“Something else I ain’t interested in at all,” Belz rejoined. “We was just going to telephone and ask you why don’t Rudnik fix it up about the mortgage?”

“I am coming to that presently,” Schindelberger said. “What I want to say now is, Mr. Belz, that I am very sorry I got to come here and tell you an information about your wife’s cousin, Miss Blooma Duckman.”

“Blooma Duckman!” Belz exclaimed. “What’s the trouble; is she sick?”

Schindelberger shook his head.

“Worser as that,” he explained. “She disappeared from the Bella Hirshkind Home a week ago already and nobody sees nothing from her since.”

For a brief interval Belz stared at his visitor and then he turned to Lesengeld.

“Ain’t that a fine note?” he said.

“All we are discovering is a couple packages she got with her, which the superintendent sends her over to West Farms she should buy some groceries, and on her way back she drops the packages and disappears.”

“Might she fell down a rock maybe?” Lesengeld suggested. “The other day I am seeing a fillum where a feller falls down a rock already and they search for him a hundred people yet. They get near him as I am to you, Schindelberger, and still they couldn’t find him anyhow on account the feller is too weak to say something.”

“How could she fall down a rock?” Schindelberger interrupted. “It’s all swamps up there. But, anyhow, Belz, we are wasting time here talking about it. The best thing is you should ring up the police.”

“What d’ye mean, wasting time?” Belz cried. “You’re a fine one to talk about wasting time. Here the woman disappears a week ago already and you are only just telling me now.”

Schindelberger blushed.

“Well, you see,” he said, “we all the time got hopes she would come back.” In point of fact he had purposely delayed breaking the news to Belz in order that the settlement of Rudnik’s mortgage extension should not be prejudiced. “But now,” he added ingenuously, “it don’t make no difference, because Rudnik telephones me yesterday morning that the whole thing is off on account he is married.”

“Married!” Lesengeld cried. “Do you mean to told me that old Schlemiel gets married yet?”

“So sure as you are sitting there. And he says he would come round here this morning and see you.”

“He should save himself the trouble,” Belz declared angrily. “Now particularly that Blooma Duckman ain’t up there at all, I wouldn’t extend that mortgage, not if he gives a deed to that Home to take effect right to-day yet. I shouldn’t begun with you in the first place, Schindelberger.”

Schindelberger seized his hat.

“I acted for the best,” he said. “I am sorry you should get delayed on your mortgage, gentlemen, aber you shouldn’t hold it up against me. I done it for the sake of the Bella Hirshkind Home, which if people gets sore at me on account I always act charitable, that’s their lookout, not mine.”

He started for the door as he finished speaking, but as he placed his hand on the knob some one turned it from the other side and the next moment he stood face to face with Rudnik.

“So!” Schindelberger exclaimed. “You are really coming up here, are you? It ain’t a bluff, like you are taking my card to go up to the Home and you never went near the place at all.”

Rudnik shut the door behind him.

“What d’ye mean, I didn’t go near the place at all?” he said angrily. “Do you think I am such a liar like you are, Schindelberger? Not only did I go near the place, but I got so near it that a hundred feet more and the engine would knocked me into the front door of the Home already.”

It was then that Lesengeld and Belz observed the stout cane on which Rudnik supported himself.

“I come pretty close to being killed already on account I am going up to the Home,” he continued; “and if nobody is asking me to sit down I would sit down anyway, because if a feller gets run over by a train he naturally don’t feel so strong, even if he would escape with bruises only.”

“Did you got run over with a train?” Schindelberger asked.

“I certainly did,” Rudnik said. “I got run over with a train and married in six days, and if you go to work and foreclose my house on me to-day yet, it will sure make a busy week for me.” He looked pathetically at Belz. “Unless,” he added, “you are going to give me a show and extend the mortgage.”

Belz met this appeal with stolid indifference.

“Of course, Rudnik,” he said, “I’m sorry you got run over with a train; but if we would extend your mortgage on account you got run over with a train and our other mortgagees hears of it, understand me, the way money is so tight nowadays, every time a mortgage comes due them suckers would ring in trollyer-car accidents on us and fall down coal-holes so as we would give ’em an extension already.”

“And wouldn’t it make no difference that I just got married?” Rudnik asked.

“If an old feller like you gets married, Rudnik,” Belz replied, “he must got to take the consequences.”

“An idée!” Lesengeld exclaimed. “Do you think that we are making wedding presents to our mortgagees yet, Rudnik?”

“It serves you right, Rudnik,” Schindelberger said. “If you would consent to the Home getting your property I wouldn’t said nothing about Miss Duckman’s disappearing and Belz would of extended the mortgage on you.”

“I was willing to do it,” Rudnik said, “aber my wife wouldn’t let me. She says rather than see the house go that way she would let you gentlemen foreclose it on us, even if she would got to starve.”

“I don’t know who your wife is,” Schindelberger rejoined angrily, “but she talks like a big fool.”

“No, she don’t,” Rudnik retorted; “she talks like a sensible woman, because, in the first place, she wouldn’t got to starve. I got enough strength left that I could always make for her and me anyhow a living, and, in the second place, the Home really ain’t a home. It’s a business.”

“A business!” Schindelberger cried. “What d’ye mean, a business?”

“I mean a business,” Rudnik replied, “an underwear business. Them poor women up there makes underwear from morning till night already, and Schindelberger here got a brother-in-law which he buys it from the Home for pretty near half as much as it would cost him to make it.”

“Rosher!” Max Schindelberger shrieked. “Who tells you such stories?”

“My wife tells me,” Rudnik replied.

“And how does your wife know it?” Belz demanded.

“Because,” Rudnik answered, “she once used to live in the Home.”

“Then that only goes to show what a liar you are,” Schindelberger said. “Your wife couldn’t of been in the Home on account it only gets started last year, and everybody which went in there ain’t never come out yet.”

“Everybody but one,” Rudnik said as he seized his cane, and raising himself from the chair he hobbled to the door.

“Blooma leben,” he cried, throwing the door wide open; and in response Mrs. Rudnik, nee Blooma Duckman, entered.

“Nu, Belz,” she said, “ain’t you going to congradulate me?”

Belz sat back in his chair and stared at his wife’s cousin in unaffected astonishment, while Schindelberger noiselessly opened the door and slid out of the room unnoticed.

“And so you run away from the Home and married this Schnorrer?” Belz said at length.

“Schnorrer he ain’t,” she retorted, “unless you would go to work and foreclose the house.”

“It would serve you right if I did,” Belz rejoined.

“Then you ain’t going to?” Mrs. Rudnik asked.

“What d’ye mean, he ain’t going to?” Lesengeld interrupted. “Ain’t I got nothing to say here? Must I got to sacrifice myself for Belz’s wife’s relations?”

“Koosh, Lesengeld!” Belz exploded. “You take too much on yourself. Do you think for one moment I am going to foreclose that mortgage and have them two old people schnorring their living expenses out of me for the rest of my days, just to oblige you? The mortgage runs at 6 per cent., and it’s going to continue to do so. Six per cent. ain’t to be sneezed at, neither.”

“And ain’t he going to pay us no bonus nor nothing?” Lesengeld asked in anguished tones.

“Bonus!” Belz cried; “what are you talking about, bonus? Do you mean to told me you would ask an old man which he nearly gets killed by a train already a bonus yet? Honestly, Lesengeld, I’m surprised at you. The way you talk sometimes it ain’t no wonder people calls us second-mortgage sharks.”

“But, lookyhere, Belz ” Lesengeld began.

“’S enough, Lesengeld,” Belz interrupted. “You’re lucky I don’t ask you you should make ’em a wedding present yet.”

“I suppose, Belz, you’re going to make ’em a wedding present, too, ain’t it?” Lesengeld jeered.

“That’s just what I’m going to do,” Belz said as he turned to the safe. He fumbled round the middle compartment and finally produced two yellow slips of paper. “I’m going to give ’em these here composition notes of Schindelberger’s, and with what Blooma knows about the way that Rosher is running the Bella Hirshkind Home she shouldn’t got no difficulty making him pay up.”

He handed the notes to Rudnik.

“And now,” he said, “sit right down and tell us how it comes that you and Blooma gets married.”

For more than a quarter of an hour Rudnik described the details of his meeting with Miss Blooma Duckman, together with his hopes and aspirations for the future, and when he concluded Belz turned to his partner.

“Ain’t it funny how things happens?” he said. “Honestly, Lesengeld, ain’t that more interesting than most things you could see it on a moving pictures?”

Lesengeld nodded sulkily.

“It sure ought to be,” he said, “because to go on a moving pictures you pay only ten cents, aber this here story costs me my half of a three-hundred-and-fifty dollar bonus. However, I suppose I shouldn’t begrudge it ’em. I seen the other evening a fillum by the name The Return of Enoch Aarons, where an old feller stands outside on the street and looks through a winder, and he sees a happy married couple mit children sitting in front of a fire. So I says to my wife: ‘Mommer,’ I says, ‘if that old snoozer would only get married,’ I says, ’he wouldn’t got to stand outside winders looking at other people having a good time,’ I says. ’He would be enjoying with his own wife and children,’ I says, and I thinks right away of Rudnik here.” He placed his hand on Rudnik’s shoulder as he spoke. “But now Rudnik is married,” he concluded, “and even if he wouldn’t got children he’s got a good wife anyhow, which it stands in the Siddur already a good wife is more valuable as rubies.”

Rudnik seized the hand of his blushing bride. “And,” he added, “rubies is pretty high nowadays.”