Read CHAPTER EIGHT - COERCING MR. TRINKMANN of The Competitive Nephew , free online book, by Montague Glass, on

“I don’t know, Mr. Trinkmann, what comes over you, you are always picking on me,” Louis Berkfield said. “Me, I am doing my best here.”

“You are doing your best here, Louis!” Harris Trinkmann exclaimed. “Do you call them ashtrays doing your best? They got on them Schmutz from the time I bought ’em off of Dreiner which he busted up way before the Spanish War already. The knives and forks, too, Louis. Do you think it’s a pleasure to a customer when he is eating Kalbfleisch that he finds on his fork a piece of Bismarck herring from last night already? You are ruining my trade, Louis.”

“What do you mean, ruining your trade, Mr. Trinkmann?” Louis rejoined. “I ain’t no pantryman. If the customers complains that the fork got on it a piece Bismarck herring, that is from the pantryman a Schuld. What have I got to do with herring on the forks?”

“You got everything to do with it,” Trinkmann declared. “A pantryman is a feller which no one could depend upon, otherwise he wouldn’t be a pantryman, Louis; but a waiter, that’s something else again. If a waiter wouldn’t see that the forks ain’t schmutzig, who would see it? The trouble is here nobody takes any interest at all. Me, I got to do everything myself.”

Mr. Trinkmann returned to the cashier’s desk over which Mrs. Trinkmann habitually presided, and taking a cigarette pen-fashion twixt thumb and forefinger, he lit it slowly and threw away the match with a gesture that implied more strongly than words, “I am sick and tired of the whole business.”

The fact was that Mr. Trinkmann had undergone that morning as much as one man could endure without the relief that profanity affords. To be precise, only three hours before, Mrs. Trinkmann had presented him with twins, both girls.

“The thing has got to stop sometime, Louis,” he said, as he came from behind the desk. He referred, however, to the ashtrays and the forks. “Either you would got to turn around a new leaf, or you could act like a slob somewheres else, understand me, because I wouldn’t stand for it here.”

“What are you talking nonsense act like a slob, Mr. Trinkmann?” Louis cried. “I am working here for you now six years next Tishabav, and everybody which comes here in the place I always give ’em good satisfaction.”

“You got too swell a head, Louis,” Mr. Trinkmann continued, gaining heat. “You would think you was a partner here the way you act. You talk to me like I would be the waiter and you would be the boss. What do you think I am, anyway?”

“But, Mr. Trinkmann ” Louis began.

“Things goes from bad to worst,” Trinkmann went on, his voice rising to a bellow. “You treat me like I would be a dawg.”

“Aber, Mr. Trinkmann,” Louis whimpered, “I ”

“Koosh!” Trinkmann shouted. “I got enough of your Chutzpah. I am through with you. Comes three o’clock this afternoon, you would quit. D’ye hear me?”

Louis nodded. He would have made some articulate protest, but his Adam’s apple had suddenly grown to the dimensions of a dirigible balloon; and though there surged through his brain every manner of retort, ironical and defiant, he could think of nothing better to do than to polish the ashtrays. Polishing powder and rags alone could not have produced the dazzling brilliancy that ensued. It was a sense of injustice that lent force to every rub, and when he began to clean the forks Louis imparted to his labour all the energy of a discharged waiter wringing his employer’s neck.

Before he had half concluded his task the other waiters arrived, for Louis was but one of a staff of three, with the distinction that though his two associates were only dinner waiters, Louis served breakfast, dinner, and supper. Marcus, the elder of the two, bore a brown-paper package with an air of great solemnity, while Albert, his companion, perspired freely in spite of a chill March air blowing outside.

“Mr. Trinkmann,” Marcus began, “Louis telephones me this morning which you got a couple new arrivals in your family and ”

“Louis!” Trinkmann roared, and Louis in response approached the desk with the polishing cloth in his hand. “Do you mean to told me you are using the telephone without asking me?”

“I thought, Mr. Trinkmann,” Louis hastened to explain, “that so long you got in your family ”

“What is it your business what I got in my family?” Trinkmann asked.

Louis’ eyes kindled and he gave free play to his indignation.

“For you I don’t care at all, Mr. Trinkmann,” he said, “but for Mrs. Trinkmann which she is always acted to us like a lady, understand me, I am telephoning Marcus he should bring with him a few flowers, Mr. Trinkmann, which if you wouldn’t take ’em to her, we could easy send ’em up by a messenger boy, and here is a nickel for using the telephone.”

He plunged his hand into his trousers-pocket and dashed a coin on to the desk. Then, reaching behind him with both hands, he untied his apron. “Furthermore,” he said, “I wouldn’t wait till three o’clock, Mr. Trinkmann. Give me my money and I would go now.”

“Pick up that apron, Louis,” Trinkmann commanded, “because, so sure as I am standing here, if you wouldn’t wait on the customers till three o’clock I wouldn’t pay you not one cent.”

“So far as that goes, Mr. Trinkmann,” Louis commenced, “I ain’t ”

“And if you get fresh to me oder to the customers, Louis,” Trinkmann concluded, “you wouldn’t get your money, neither.”

“Did the customers ever done me anything, Mr. Trinkmann?” Louis retorted. “Why should I get fresh to the customers which every one of them is my friends, Mr. Trinkmann? And as for getting fresh to you, Mr. Trinkmann, if I would want to I would. Otherwise not.”

With this defiance Louis picked up his polishing cloth and his apron and proceeded to the kitchen, to which Marcus and Albert had already retreated. His courage remained with him until he had refastened his apron, and then he discerned Marcus and Albert to be regarding him with so mournful a gaze that the balloon again expanded in his throat, and forthwith to pursue the simile further it burst. He opened the door leading from the kitchen to the paved space littered with packing boxes, which had once been the backyard, and despite the cold March weather he stepped outside and closed the door behind him.

Ten minutes later the first luncheon customer arrived and Louis hastened to wait upon him. It was Max Maikafer, salesman for Freesam, Mayer & Co., and he greeted Louis with the familiarity of six years’ daily acquaintance.

“Nu, Louis,” he said, “what’s the matter you are catching such a cold in your head?”

Louis only sniffled faintly in reply.

“A feller bums round till all hours of the night, understand me,” Max continued, “and sooner or later, Louis, a lowlife a Shikkerer gives him a Schlag on the top from the head, verstehest du, and he would got worser as a cold, Louis.”

Louis received this admonition with a nod, since he was incapable of coherent speech.

“So, therefore, Louis,” Max concluded, as he looked in a puzzled fashion at Louis’ puffed eyelids, “you should bring me some Kreploch soup and a little gefuellte Rinderbrust, not too much gravy.”

He watched Louis retire to the kitchen and then he motioned to Albert, who was industriously polishing the glasses at a nearby table.

“What’s the matter with Louis, Albert?” he asked.

“Fired,” Albert said out of the corner of his mouth, with one eye on the cashier’s desk, where Mr. Trinkmann was fast approaching the borderline of insanity over a maze of figures representing the previous day’s receipts.

“What for?” Max asked.

“I should know what for!” Albert exclaimed. “The boss is mad on account he got twins, so he picks on Louis that the ashtrays ain’t clean and the forks, neither. So Louis he don’t say nothing, and Trinkmann gets mad and fires him.”

He glanced furtively at the cashier’s desk just as Trinkmann suddenly tore up his paperful of figures, and in one frightened bound Albert was once more at his glass polishing.

“Well, Trinkmann,” Max cried, as he made ready to absorb the soup by tucking one corner of his napkin into the top of his collar, “I must got to congradulate you.”

Trinkmann was on his way to the kitchen for the purpose of abusing the pantryman as a measure of relief to his figure-harried brain. He paused at Max’s table and distorted his face in what he conceived to be an amiable grin.

“No one compels you to congradulate me, Mr. Maikafer,” he said, “and, anyhow, Mr. Maikafer, with business the way it is, understand me, twins ain’t such Simcha, neither.”

“Sure, I know,” Max rejoined; “but so far as I could see, Trinkmann, you ain’t got no kick coming. You do a good business here. You got three good waiters and the customers don’t complain none.”

“Don’t they?” Trinkmann grunted.

“Not at the waiters, Trinkmann,” Max said significantly. “And the food is all right, too, Trinkmann. The only thing is, Trinkmann, when a feller got a nice gemuetlicher place like you got it here, y’understand, he should do his bestest that he keeps it that way.”

Trinkmann’s smile became a trifle less forced at Max’s use of the adjective gemuetlicher, for which the English language has no just equivalent, since it at once combines the meanings of cozy, comfortable, good-natured, and homelike.

“Certainly, I am always trying to keep my place gemuetlich, Mr. Maikafer,” Trinkmann declared, “but when you got waiters, Mr. Maikafer, which they ”

“Waiters ain’t got nothing to do with it, Trinkmann,” Max interrupted. “On Sutter Avenue, Brownsville, in boom times already was a feller still a good friend of mine by the name Ringentaub, which runs a restaurant, Trinkmann, and everybody goes there on account he keeps a place which you could really say was gemuetlich. The chairs was old-fashioned, mit cane seats into ’em, which they sagged in the right place, so that if you was sitting down, y’understand, you knew you was sitting down, not like some chairs which I seen it in restaurants, Trinkmann, which if you was sitting down, you might just as well be standing up for all the comfort you get out of it.”

“The chairs here is comfortable,” Trinkmann remarked.

“Sure, I know,” Max continued. “Then in this here restaurant was tables which they only got ’em in the old country big, heavy tables, understand me, which you pretty near kill yourself trying to move ’em at all. A feller sits at such a table, Trinkmann, and right away he thinks he must drink a cup coffee; and not alone that, Trinkmann, but he must got to order coffee for the crowd. He couldn’t even help himself, Trinkmann, because such a table makes you feel good to look at it. That’s what it is to keep a gemuetlicher place, Trinkmann.”

Trinkmann nodded and sat down at Max’s table.

“Furthermore, Trinkmann,” Max continued, “everything in the place was the same. The ashtrays was from brass like them there ashtrays you used to got here, Trinkmann.”

Max looked meaningly at the burnished brass utensil that stood in the middle of the table.

“That’s the same ashtrays which we always got here,” Trinkmann retorted.

“Are they?” Max said. “Well, somebody must of done something to ’em on account they don’t look so gemuetlich no longer. That’s the same mistake Ringentaub made it, Trinkmann. He ain’t satisfied he is got such a big trade there, Trinkmann, but he must go to work and get a partner, a feller by the name Salonkin, which he pays Ringentaub two thousand dollars for a half interest in the business. Salonkin is one of them fellers, understand me, which is all for improvements, Trinkmann. Gemuetlichkeit is something which he don’t know nothing about at all, y’understand, and the first thing you know, Trinkmann, Salonkin says the chairs is back numbers. He fires ’em right out of there, understand me, and buys some new chairs, which actually for a thin man to sit on ’em for five minutes even would be something which you could really call dangerous. Also the tables Salonkin says is junk, so he sells ’em for fifty cents apiece and puts in them marble-top tables like a lot of tombstones in a cemetery.”

“Marble-top tables is anyhow clean,” Trinkmann declared.

“Clean they may be,” Max admitted, “but gemuetlich they ain’t. And, anyhow, Trinkmann, do you know what started the whole trouble there?”

Trinkmann shook his head.

“Well, it was the forks,” Max said solemnly. “The forks which Ringentaub got it before he goes as partners together with Salonkin always looks like they would be a little dirty, understand me. So what does the customer do, Trinkmann? They take first thing after they sit down the fork in hand, understand me, and dip it in the glass of water which the waiter brings ’em. Then when the time comes which they want to drink the water, Trinkmann, they remember they cleaned the fork in it and they order instead a glass of beer. Afterward when Salonkin takes ahold there, y’understand, he raises hell with the waiters they should keep clean the forks, which they done it, Trinkmann, because the feller Salonkin was a regular Rosher, understand me, and the waiters is scared to death of him. What is the result, Trinkmann? The sales of beer right away drops to nothing, understand me, and everybody drinks the glass water instead.”

At this juncture Trinkmann looked up and observed Albert at work on the tumblers.

“Albert!” he cried. “Leave the glasses alone, d’ye hear me?”

Albert put down the glass he was wiping and commenced to rub the knives and forks, whereat Trinkmann jumped to his feet.

“The forks, neither,” he yelled. “Instead you should be standing there wasting your time, fill up with water the glasses and tell Louis never mind, he shouldn’t polish any more them ashtrays.”

When Max Maikafer concluded his lunch he proceeded at once to the cashier’s desk, over which Trinkmann himself presided.

“Cheer up, Trinkmann,” he said, as he paid his check. “You got a face so solemn like a rich uncle just died and left you to remember him by a crayon portrait.”

“Well, I’ll tell you, Mr. Maikafer,” Trinkmann said, “I got all I could stand to-day. Not alone my wife goes to work and has twins on me, Mr. Maikafer, but I also got to fire a feller which is working for me here six years.”

“What d’ye mean?” Max cried in well-feigned astonishment. “You are going to fire Albert?”

“Not Albert,” Trinkmann said; “Louis.”

“Why, what did Louis done?” Max asked.

“He done enough, Mr. Maikafer,” Trinkmann replied. “Here lately he gets to acting so fresh you would think he owns the place.”

“Well, why not?” Max commented. “After all, Trinkmann, you got to give Louis credit; he works hard here and he keeps for you many a customer. Because I want to tell you something, Trinkmann, which I am only saying it for your own good, understand me there’s lots of times you are acting so grouchy to the customers that if it wouldn’t be Louis smoothes ’em down they wouldn’t come near your place at all.”

“What the devil are you talking about?” Trinkmann shouted. “If you wasn’t such a big fool you would know I am always polite to my customers. Furthermore, I never lost a customer since I am in business, and if you don’t like the way I run my restaurant you don’t got to come here. That’s all.”

Maikafer nodded as he pocketed his change.

“All right, Trinkmann,” he said. “But you know what happens when a concern lets a salesman go. He easy finds a partner and starts to do business with his old firm’s customers on his own account.”

Trinkmann laughed aloud.

“That Schnorrer ain’t got money enough to stock a pushcart, let alone a restaurant,” he jeered.

“That’s all right,” Maikafer retorted. “I know a feller which runs for years a place in East New York Brownsville Trinkmann, and when he hears Louis ain’t working, not only he would be glad to give him a job as waiter, but he would stake him to an interest in the restaurant yet.”

Trinkmann flapped his right hand at Maikafer in a gesture of derision.

“Schmooes!” he cried.

“No Schmooes at all,” Max said, as he passed out of the door. “He’s the feller I am talking to you about by the name Ringentaub, and across the street is plenty vacant stores.”

Ten minutes after Max had departed Simon Feinsilver entered.

“Say, Trinkmann,” he asked, as he paused at the cashier’s desk on his way to one of Louis’ tables, “did you seen it Max Maikafer this morning?”

Had Trinkmann scrutinized Simon’s face with any degree of care he might have observed a mischievous gleam in Simon’s eyes; but at the mere mention of Maikafer’s name Trinkmann exploded.

“What d’ye mean, did I seen it Maikafer?” he demanded.

“Why I just asked you,” Simon said calmly, “on account he was to meet me at my office and he ain’t showed up at all.”

“Well, I ain’t surprised to hear that, Mr. Feinsilver,” Trinkmann rejoined less viciously. “Because even if Maikafer is such a good friend of yours, the feller is so busy with other people’s business, what he ain’t got no business to butt in at all, that his own business he lets go to the devil. Am I right or wrong?”

Simon nodded and sat down at one of Louis’ tables.

“Albert,” Trinkmann cried, “wait on Mr. Feinsilver.”

“That’s all right,” Feinsilver declared; “I got plenty time.”

“Albert,” Trinkmann repeated, “take Mr. Feinsilver’s order.”

Albert left his station on the opposite side of the room and approached Feinsilver with a conciliatory smile.

“What would you like to-day, Mr. Feinsilver?” he said.

“I would like Louis,” Feinsilver replied; “so go ahead, Albert, and tell Louis when he gets through serving those two fellers over there to wait on me.”

“What’s the matter you ain’t giving your order to Albert, Mr. Feinsilver?” Trinkmann asked.

“Albert is all right,” Feinsilver replied, “but Louis knows just how I want things, Trinkmann. You ain’t got no objections to me waiting for Louis?”

“Why should I got objections, Mr. Feinsilver?” Trinkmann protested.

“I don’t know why you should got objections, Trinkmann,” Feinsilver said, “and if you did got ’em I would wait for Louis anyway.”

He closed the discussion by spearing half a dill pickle with a fork and inserting it endwise in his mouth. Hardly had the metal tines touched his lips, however, than he hastily disgorged the pickle and uttered a resounding “T’phoo-ee!”

“What are you trying to do here to me, Trinkmann?” he demanded. “Poison me?”

He dipped his napkin into the glass of water that stood on the table and performed an elaborate prophylaxis about his mouth and teeth.

“What d’ye mean, poison you?” Trinkmann cried.

“Why, there is something here on the fork,” Simon declared.

“Let me see,” Trinkmann said, advancing to the table; “might it be some Bismarck herring, maybe.”

“Bismarck herring ain’t poison,” Feinsilver said, examining the fork closely. “Bismarck herring never harmed nobody, Trinkmann; but this here fork has got poison onto it.”

He turned it over in his hand and sniffed at it suspiciously.

“Why, bless my soul,” he roared. “Somebody has been cleaning it with polishing powder.”

“Well, suppose they did?” Trinkmann said calmly.

“Suppose they did!” Simon exclaimed. “Why, don’t you know you should never clean with polishing powder something which it could touch a person’s lips? A friend of mine, by the name Lambdan, once puts his cigar onto an ashtray which they are cleaning it with this powder, and the widder sues in the courts the feller that runs the restaurant for ten thousand dollars yet. From just putting the cigar in his mouth he gets some of the powder on his tongue, Trinkmann, and in two hours, understand me, he turned black all over. It ruined the restaurant man a decent, respectable feller by the name Lubliner. His mother was Max Maikafer’s cousin.”

Trinkmann grew pale and started for the kitchen.

“Albert,” he said huskily, “take from the tables the ashtrays and the forks and tell that pantryman he should wash ’em off right away in boiling water.”

He followed Albert, and after he had seen that his instructions were obeyed he returned to the desk. In the meantime Simon had engaged Louis in earnest conversation.

“Louis,” Simon said, “I am just seeing Max Maikafer, and he says you shouldn’t worry, because you wouldn’t lose your job at all.”

“No?” Louis replied. “What for I wouldn’t? I am going to get fired this afternoon sure, three o’clock.”

“Never mind,” Simon declared, “you shouldn’t let him make you no bluffs, Louis. Not only he wouldn’t fire you, Louis, but I bet yer he gives you a raise even.”

Louis nodded despairingly.

“A couple of kidders like you and Mr. Maikafer ain’t got no regards for nobody,” he said. “Maybe it is a joke for you and Mr. Maikafer that I get fired, Mr. Feinsilver, but for me not, I could assure you.”

“I ain’t kidding you, Louis,” Simon declared. “Keep a good face on you, Louis, and don’t let on I said something to you. But you could take it from me, Louis, comes three o’clock this afternoon you should go to the boss and say you are ready to quit. Then the boss says no, you should stay.”

“Yow! He would say that!” Louis said bitterly.

“Surest thing you know, Louis,” Simon rejoined solemnly. “Me and Max will fix it sure. And after the boss says you should stay you tell him no, you guess you wouldn’t. Tell him you know lots of people would hire you right away at two dollars a week more, and I bet yer he would be crazy to make you stay; and if he wouldn’t pay you the two dollars a week more I would, so sure I am he would give it to you.”

It was then that Trinkmann returned to the cashier’s desk, and Louis moved slowly away just as the telephone bell rang sharply. Trinkmann jerked the receiver from the hook and delivered himself of an explosive “Hallo.”

“Hallo,” said a bass voice; “is this Mr. Trinkmann?”

“Yep,” Trinkmann replied.

“I would like to speak a few words something to a waiter which is working for you, by the name Louis Berkfield,” the voice continued.

Instantly Trinkmann’s mind reverted to Maikafer’s parting words.

“Who is it wants to talk with him?” he asked.

“It don’t make no difference,” said the voice, “because he wouldn’t recognize my name at all.”

“No?” Trinkmann retorted. “Well, maybe he would and maybe he wouldn’t, Mr. Ringentaub; but people which they got the gall to ring up my waiters and steal ’em away from me in business hours yet, Mr. Ringentaub, all I could say is that it ain’t surprising they busted up in Brownsville. Furthermore, Mr. Ringentaub, if you think you could hire one of them stores acrosst the street and open up a gemuetlicher place with Louis for a waiter, y’understand, go ahead and try, but you couldn’t do it over my ’phone.”

He hung up the receiver so forcibly that the impact threw down eight boxes of the finest cigars.

“Louis,” he shouted, and in response Louis approached from the back of the restaurant.

“I am here, Mr. Trinkmann,” Louis said, with a slight tremor in his tones.

“Say, lookyhere, Louis,” Trinkmann continued, “to-morrow morning first thing you should ring up Greenberg & Company and tell ’em to call and fetch away them eight boxes cigars. What, do them people think I would be a sucker all my life? They stock me up mit cigars till I couldn’t move around at all.”

“But, Mr. Trinkmann,” Louis protested, “this afternoon three o’clock you are telling me ”

“Koosh!” Trinkmann roared, and Louis fell back three paces; “don’t you answer me back. Ain’t you got no respect at all?”

Louis made no reply, but slunk away to the rear of the restaurant.

“Schlemiel!” Simon hissed, as Louis passed him. “Why don’t you stand up to him?”

Louis shrugged hopelessly and continued on to the kitchen, while Simon concluded his meal and paid his check.

“You didn’t told me if you seen Max Maikafer to-day?” he said, as he pocketed a handful of tooth-picks.

“I didn’t got to told you whether I did oder I didn’t,” Trinkmann replied, “but one thing I will tell you, Mr. Feinsilver I am running here a restaurant, not a lumber yard.”

At ten minutes to three Trinkmann stood behind the cashier’s desk, so thoroughly enmeshed in the intricacies of his wife’s bookkeeping that not even a knowledge of conic sections would have disentangled him. For the twentieth time he added a column of figures and, having arrived at the twentieth different result, he heaved a deep sigh and looked out of the window for inspiration. What little composure remained to him, however, fled at the sight of Max Maikafer, who stood talking to a stout person arrayed in a fur overcoat. As they conversed, Max’s gaze constantly reverted to the restaurant door, as though he awaited the appearance of somebody from that quarter, while the man in the fur overcoat made gestures toward a vacant store across the street. He was a stout man of genial, hearty manner, and it seemed to Trinkmann that he could discern on the fur overcoat an imaginary inscription reading: “Macht’s euch gemuetlich hier.”

Trinkmann came from behind the desk and proceeded to the rear of the restaurant, where Louis was cleaning up in company with Marcus and Albert.

“Louis,” he said, “I want you you should go into the kitchen and tell that pantryman he should wash again the forks in hot water, and stay there till he is through. D’ye hear me?”

Louis nodded and Trinkmann walked hurriedly to the store door. He threw it wide open, after the fashion of the lover in a Palais Royal farce who expects to find a prying maidservant at the keyhole.

Maikafer stood directly outside, but, far from being embarrassed by Trinkmann’s sudden exit, he remained completely undisturbed and greeted the restaurateur with calm urbanity.

“Good afternoon, Mr. Trinkmann,” he said, “ain’t it a fine weather?”

Trinkmann choked in mingled rage and indignation, and before he could sufficiently compose himself to sort out an enunciable phrase from all the profanity that surged to his lips Maikafer had brought forward the man in the fur overcoat.

“This is my friend, Mr. Ringentaub,” he said, “also in the restaurant business.”

“I’m pleased to meet your acquaintance,” Mr. Ringentaub said. “Before I got through talking with you on the ’phone this morning some one cut us off.”

At this juncture Trinkmann’s pent-up emotion found expression.

“Away from here,” he bellowed, after he had uttered a highly coloured preamble, “away from here, the both of youse, before I call a policeman and make you arrested!”

“Excuse me, Mr. Trinkmann,” Maikafer interrupted, “do you got a lease on the sidewalk, too?”

“Never mind what I got a lease on,” Trinkmann said. “You are coming around here trying to steal away my waiters and ”

“One moment, Mr. Trinkmann,” Max said. “We are not trying to steal away your waiters at all. Mr. Ringentaub here is a gentleman, even if some people which is in the restaurant business don’t act that way, Mr. Trinkmann; but as you told me yourself, Mr. Trinkmann, you are firing Louis and he’s going to quit you at three o’clock; and as it is now five minutes to three ”

“Who is going to quit me at three o’clock?” Trinkmann demanded.

“Louis is,” Maikafer said.

“That’s where you make a big mistake,” Trinkmann cried. “Louis ain’t going to quit me at all. Here, I’ll show you.”

He led the way into the restaurant.

“Come inside, Mr. Ringentaub,” he said excitedly. “No one is going to harm you. Come right inside, and I’ll show you suckers you are mistaken.”

He closed the door after them and almost ran to the kitchen.

“Louis,” he said, “come here; I want to talk a few words something to you.”

He grabbed Louis by the arm and led him to the cashier’s desk, where Maikafer and his companion were standing.

“Louis,” he said, “tell these gentlemen didn’t I told you you should ring up sure to-morrow morning Greenberg & Company about the cigars?”

Louis nodded and Trinkmann glared triumphantly at his visitors.

“Then if I told him to ring up Greenberg & Company about the cigars to-morrow morning, understand me,” he cried, “how could it be possible that he quits me this afternoon?”

“But, Mr. Trinkmann,” Louis protested, “you did told me I should quit this afternoon.”

“Dummer Esel!” Trinkmann exclaimed. “Couldn’t I open my mouth in my own restaurant at all?”

“Well, if that’s the case,” Ringentaub said, “then Louis could come to work by me. Ain’t that right, Louis?”

Louis looked at Max Maikafer, whose right eyelid fluttered encouragingly.

“And I would pay him twenty-eight dollars a month,” Ringentaub continued, “and guarantee to keep him a year. Is that satisfactory, Louis?”

Louis’ tongue clove to the roof of his mouth, but he managed to enunciate a monosyllable of assent.

“That’s all right, Mr. Ringentaub,” Trinkmann declared; “I would pay him thirty dollars a month and keep him for a year and longer if he wants to stay.”

Louis’ gaze wandered from Max Maikafer to Trinkmann, and his lower lip jutted out and trembled with gratitude.

“I mean it, Louis,” Trinkmann declared. “I mean it from the bottom of my heart.”

“Then in that case, Louis,” Ringentaub retorted, “I would give you thirty-two fifty a month.”

Louis shook his head.

“I am working here by Mr. Trinkmann six years come this Tishabav,” he replied, “and even if he would only say twenty-eight dollars I would of stayed anyway.”

Max Maikafer turned disgustedly to Ringentaub. “Did you ever hear the like for a fool?” he said.

“Never mind, Maikafer,” Trinkmann interrupted, “even if he would be satisfied with twenty-eight I wouldn’t go back on my word. I will pay him thirty dollars a month, and, furthermore, Maikafer, you will see if he stays by me a year and does his work good, maybe who knows I would even pay him more yet.”

He held out his hand to Louis, who grabbed it effusively.

“When a feller’s wife goes to work and has twins on him, Louis,” he continued, “he ain’t responsible for what he says exactly. Especially if they’re both girls.”

Three weeks later Mrs. Trinkmann sat behind the cashier’s desk, awaiting the luncheon customers, and her eye wandered to the vacant store across the street at the very moment when a wagon backed up against the curb and the driver and his helper unloaded two large signs.

“Trinkmann,” Mrs. Trinkmann called, “some one rents the store acrosst the street.”

Trinkmann hastened to the door and glanced nervously toward the two signs. Beads of perspiration sprang out on his forehead as he discerned the lettering on one of the signboards, which read as follows:


He uttered a faint groan and was about to communicate to Mrs. Trinkmann the melancholy tidings that a rival establishment had come into being, when the driver and his helper turned over the second sign. It contained the words:


Hardly had Trinkmann recovered from his astonishment when Felix Ringentaub himself came hurriedly down the street, accompanied by Max Maikafer. A moment later they entered the restaurant.

“Why, how do you do, Mrs. Trinkmann?” Max cried, “How’s the twins?”

“Getting on fine,” Mrs. Trinkmann said.

“Shake hands with my friend, Mr. Ringentaub,” Max continued, as he looked meaningly at Trinkmann. “Mr. Ringentaub, up to a couple of weeks since, used to was in the restaurant business in Brownsville. He goes now into the tailors’ and dressmakers’ trimmings business instead.”

Trinkmann maintained a discreet silence and led them to one of Louis’ tables. There he sat down with them, for he was determined to get at the heart of the mystery.

“Mr. Maikafer ” he began, but Max held up his hand protestingly.

“Ask me no questions, Trinkmann,” he said, “and I wouldn’t tell you no lies. But one thing I will say, Trinkmann, and that is that Louis didn’t know nothing about it. We conned you into keeping him and raising his wages. That’s all. Am I right or wrong, Ringentaub?”

Ringentaub made no reply. He was holding a fork in his hand and examining it critically.

“Of course, Trinkmann,” he said, “I don’t want to say nothing the first time I am coming into your place, but this here fork’s got onto it something which it looks like a piece Bismarck herring.”

“Don’t take it so particular, Ringentaub,” Maikafer said, blushing guiltily. “Wash it off in the glass water.”

“A glass water you drink, Maikafer,” Ringentaub rejoined, “and forks should be washed in the kitchen. And, furthermore, Trinkmann,” Ringentaub said, “it don’t do no harm if the waiters once in a while cleans with polishing powder the forks.”

“I thought, Maikafer,” Trinkmann said in funereal tones, “you are telling me that polishing powder is rank poison.”

“I didn’t told you that,” Maikafer replied. “It was Feinsilver says that.”

“Rank poison!” Ringentaub exclaimed. “Why, you could eat a ton of it.”

“Sure, I know,” Maikafer concluded; “but who wants to?”

He turned to Louis, who had approached unobserved. “Bring me some Kreploch soup and a plate gefuellte Rinderbrust,” he said, “not too much gravy.”

“Give me the same,” Ringentaub added, as he gazed about him with the air of an academician at a private view. “You got a nice gemuetlicher place here, Mr. Trinkmann,” he concluded, “only one thing you should put in.”

“What’s that?” Trinkmann asked.

Maikafer kicked him on the shins, but Ringentaub failed to notice it.

“Marble-top tables,” he said.