“Have no fear,” he answered, “I’m no poet nor ever shall be. I’m quite an ordinary human being, I assure you.”
“Mrs. Trapes, I have none—except my face. But you have very sharp eyes; look at me well. Do I strike you as a rogue or a thief?”
Here Spike, chancing to catch his eye, blushed painfully, while Mr. Ravenslee continued:
“Come, Mrs. Trapes, you have a motherly heart, I know, and I am a very lonely being who needs one like you to—to cook and care for his bodily needs and to look after the good of his solitary soul. Were I to search New York I couldn’t find another motherly heart so suited to my crying needs as yours; you won’t turn me away, will you?” Saying which, Mr. Ravenslee smiled his slow, sleepy smile and—wonder of wonders—Mrs. Trapes smiled too!
“When d’ ye wanter come?”
“Land sakes!” she exclaimed.
“If it won’t trouble you too much?” he added.
“There’s sheets to be aired—” she began, but checked suddenly to stare at him again. “Look a here, Mr. Geoffrey,” she went on, “my terms is two-fifty a week, ten dollars with board, and a week in advance.”
“Good!” nodded Mr. Ravenslee, “but since I’m coming in at such short notice, I’ll pay three weeks ahead just to—er—bind the bargain. See—that will be thirty dollars, won’t it?” And speaking, he drew a handful of crumpled bills from his pocket and proceeded to count out thirty dollars upon the green and yellow tablecloth.
“Sakes alive!” murmured Mrs. Trapes.
“And now,” said he, “I’ll just step around the corner with Spike to buy—er—a toothbrush.”
“Toothbrush!” echoed Mrs. Trapes faintly.
“And a few other things. I shall be in early to supper.”
“Would a nice, English mutton chop wiv tomatoes—”
“Excellent; and thank you, Mrs. Trapes, for sheltering a homeless wretch.” So saying, her new boarder smiled and nodded and, following Spike out into the hallway, was gone.
But Mrs. Trapes stood awhile to stare after him, lost in speculation.
“A toothbrush!” said she. “My! My!” Then she turned to stare down at the pile of bills. “Now I wonder,” said she, right hand caressing left elbow-point, “I jest wonder who he’s been a-choking of to get all that money? But I like his eyes! And his smile! And he looks a man—and honest! Well, well!”
HOW SPIKE INITIATED MR. RAVENSLEE INTO THE GENTLE ART OF SHOPPING
“Gee!” exclaimed Spike, as they descended the many stairs, “she sure gave you the frosty-face, Geoff, but it didn’t seem to joggle you any!”
“No, it didn’t joggle me, Spike, because you see—I like her.”
“Like Mrs. Trapes? You ‘n’ Hermy are about the only ones then; most every one in Mulligan’s hates her an’ gets scared stiff when she cuts loose! But say, you do keep on rubbing it in, I mean about—about thieving!”