“Yes; Cleggy was right,” he said softly, tapping the end of the cigarette on his thumb nail. “You’re the real thing—the real, real thing.”
Doc Madison swung Helena lightly down from the table to the head of the couch, sat down beside her, one arm circling her waist, and motioned the Flopper to a chair—then he leaned forward and watched Pale Face Harry critically, as the latter carefully replaced the shining little hypodermic in its case.
“Harry,” said he abruptly, jerking his free hand toward the hypodermic, “could you give up that dope-needle?”
“Sure, I could—if I wanted to!” asserted Pale Face Harry defiantly.
“That’s good,” said Madison cheerfully. “Because you’ll have to.”
“Eh?”—Pale Face Harry stared at Doc Madison in amazement.
“Because you’ll have to—by and by,” said Madison coolly. “And how about that cough—can you quit coughing?”
“When I’m dead—which won’t be long,” sniffed Pale Face Harry. “D’ye think I cough because I like it? How’m I going to quit coughing?”
“I don’t know,” admitted Doc Madison, frowning seriously. “I only know you’ll have to.”
Pale Face Harry, with jaw dropped, accentuating the gaunt leanness of his hollow-cheeked, emaciated face, gazed at Doc Madison with a curious mingling of incredulity and affront—and coughed.
“Say,” he inquired grimly, “what’s the answer?”
Doc Madison took his arm from Helena’s waist, pulled a newspaper from his pocket, spread it out on the table—and his manner changed suddenly—enthusiasm was in his eyes, his voice, his face.
“I’ve steered you three through a few deals,” said he impressively, “that have sized up big enough to keep you out of the raw vaudeville turn you, Harry, and you, Flopper, are so fond of, and that would have put Helena here on easy street, if you hadn’t blown in all you got about ten minutes after you got your hands on it—but I’ve got one here that sizes up so big you wouldn’t be able to spend the money fast enough to close out your bank account if you did your damnedest! Get that? It’s the greatest cinch that ever came down from the gateway of heaven—and that’s where it came from—heaven. It couldn’t have come from anywhere else—it’s too good. And it’s new, bran new—it’s never had the string cut or the wrapper taken off. It’s got anything that was ever run beaten by more laps than there are in the track, and it’s got a purse tied on to the end of it that’s the biggest ever offered since Adam. But you’ve got to work for it, and that’s what I brought you here for to-night—to learn your little pieces so’s you can say ’em nice and cute when you get up on the platform before the audience.”
The Flopper’s tongue made a greedy circuit of his upper and under lips, and he hitched his chair closer to the table.