There is a shriek that awakens the household. There is a white form lying in the hall near an open front door.
The servants rush up-stairs. There is a hubbub and a giving of orders.
The voices of the street come into the hall-way as winds into a cave:
“Extra! Extra! ’Palling calamity! Hundred and fifteen congressmen drowned! Extra! Extra!”
CORKEY’S FEAR OF A WIDOW’S GRIEF
Corkey and Noah are nearing the residence of Esther Lockwin.
“You bet your sweet life I don’t want to see her nibs. It just breaks me all up to hear ’em take on, rip and snort and beller. Now, see here, you moke, when we git in you stand behind where I stand, and don’t you begin to beller, too. If you do I’ll shake you—I’ll give you the clean lake breeze. If you walk up to the mark I’ll get you into the league nine. You’ll be their man to hoodoo the other ball clubs.”
“You can’t say nothing nohow, so all you’ve got to do is to see me face the music.”
“There’s the house now. They say he thought a powerful lot of her. Is there a saloon anywhere near?”
The twain look in vain for a beer sign, and resume their journey. They ascend the steps.
“There ain’t no yawl up here! This is worse than the Africa. I believe I ain’t so solid with myself as I was before she founder. Open that valve!”
Noah pulls the bell. There is no retreat now. Faces are peering from every window. Museum managers are on guard at the ends of the street. The story of Corkey and his mascot is on every tongue in Chicago.
Esther Lockwin opens the door. Corkey had hoped he might have a moment of grace. At best there is a hindrance in his voice. Now he is speechless.
“Step in,” she says.
He rolls a huge quid of tobacco to the other side of his face, and then falls in a second panic. He introduces his first finger in his mouth as if it were a grappling iron and extracts the black tobacco. He trots down a step or two and heaves the tobacco into the street, resisting, at the last moment, a temptation to hit a mark. He returns up the steps, a bunchy figure, in an enormously heavy, chinchilla, short coat, with blue pantaloons,
“Step in,” says the voice pleasantly.
The action has begun as Corkey has not wished. He is both angry and contused. A spasm seizes his throat. He strangles. He coughs. He sneezes.
There is an opening of street doors on this alarming report, and Corkey pushes Noah before him into Esther Lockwin’s parlors. The man’s jet-black hair is wet with perspiration. The boy strives to stand behind, but Corkey feels more secure if the companion be held in front.
“Let me take your hats,” she says calmly. She goes to the hall-tree with the hats. She shuts the door as she re-enters.