Sometimes he would come in with his collar dismally turned up, and an old battered hat upon his head, and pretend that he hadn’t had a meal—of kisses—for a whole week; and occasionally he would come blowing out his cheeks like a king’s trumpeter, to announce that Mike Laflin might be at any moment expected. But for the most part these impersonations were in a minor key, as Mike had soon discovered that the more pathetic he was, the more he was hugged and called a “weenty,” which was one of his own sad little names for himself.
One of his “long-run” fairy-tales, as he would call them, was that each morning as he went to business, he really started out in search of a million pounds, which was somewhere awaiting him, and which he might break his shins over at any moment. It might be here, it might be there, it might come at any hour of the day. The next post might bring it. It might be in yonder Parcel Delivery van,—nothing more probable. Or at any moment it might fall from heaven in a parachute, or be at that second passing through the dock-gates, wearily home from the Islands of Sugar and Spice. You never could tell.
“Well, Mike,” said Esther, one evening, as he came in, hopping in a pitifully wounded way, and explaining that he had been one of the three ravens sitting on a bough which the cruel huntsman had shot through the wing, etc., “have you found your million pounds to-day?”
“No, not my million pounds,” said Mike. “I’m told I shall find them to-morrow.”
“Who told you?”
“You silly old thing! Give me a kiss. Are you a dear? Tell me, aren’t you a dear?”
“No-p! I’m only a poor little houseless, roofless, windowless, chimney-less, Esther-less, brainless, out-in-the-wind-and-the-snow-and-the-rain, Mike!”
“You’re the biggest dear in the world!”
“No, I’m not. I’m the littlest!”
“Suppose you found your million pounds, Mike?”
“Suppose! Didn’t I tell you I’m sure of it to-morrow?”
“Well, when you find it to-morrow, what will you do with it?”
“I’ll buy the moon.”
“Yes; as a present for Henry.”
“Wouldn’t it be rather dear?”
“Not at all. Twenty thousand would buy it any time this last hundred years. But the worst of it is, no one wants it but the poets, and they cannot afford it. Yet if only a poet could get hold of it, why what a literary property it would be!”
“You silly old thing!”
“No! but you don’t seem to realise that I’m quite serious. Think of the money there would be for any poet who had acquired the exclusive literary rights in the moon! Within a week I’d have it placarded all over, ‘Literary trespassers will be prosecuted!’ And then I’ve no doubt Henry would lend me the Man in the Moon for my Christmas pantomimes.”
“After all, it’s not a bad idea,” said Esther.