The third member of the committee, who had thus far spoken no word, peered curiously at Hal from above a hooked nose. He was Mintz, of Sheffler and Mintz.
“Do I get you righd?” he observed mildly; “you’re telling us to go where the selectmen sent Misder Babson.”
“Plumb,” replied Hal, with his most amiable expression. “So far as any immediate decision is concerned.”
“Less ged oud,” said Mr. Mintz to his colleagues. They got out. Mintz was last to go. He came over to Hal.
“I lyg your story,” he said. “I lyg to see a feller stand up for his bizniz against the vorlt. I’m a Jew. I hope you lose—but—goot luck!”
He held out his hand. Hal took it. “Mr. Mintz, I’m glad to know you,” said he earnestly.
Nothing now remained for the committee to do but to expend their allotted fund to the best purpose. Their notion of the proper method was typically commercial. They thought to buy off an epidemic. Many times this has been tried. Never yet has it succeeded. It embodies one of the most dangerous of popular hygienic fallacies, that the dollar can overtake and swallow the germ.
For sheer uncertainty an epidemic is comparable only to fire on shipboard. The wisest expert can but guess at the time or place of its catastrophic explosion. It may thrust forth here and there a tongue of threat, only to subside and smoulder again. Sometimes it “sulks” for so protracted a period that danger seems to be over. Then, without warning, comes swift disaster with panic in its train.
But one man in all Worthington knew, early, the true nature of the disease which quietly crept among the Rookeries licking up human life, and he was well trained in keeping his own counsel. In this crisis, whatever Dr. Surtaine may have lacked in scrupulosity of method, his intentions were good. He honestly believed that he was doing well by his city in veiling the nature of the contagion. Scientifically he knew little about it save in the most general way; and his happy optimism bolstered the belief that if only secrecy could be preserved and the fair repute of the city for sound health saved, the trouble would presently die out of itself. He looked to his committee to manage the secrecy. Unfortunately this particular form of trouble hasn’t the habit of dying out quietly and of itself. It has to be fought and slain in the open.
As Dr. Surtaine’s committee hadn’t the faintest notion of how to handle their five-thousand-dollar appropriation, they naturally consulted the Honorable Tip O’Farrell, agent for and boss of the Rookeries. And as the Honorable Tip had a very definite and even eager notion of what might be done with that amount of ready cash, he naturally volunteered to handle the fund to the best advantage, which seemed quite reasonable, since he was familiar with the situation.