WHEN IRA SHOWED SOME PEP
It was good domework of Mr. Robert’s to tip me off about this Higgins party, or there’s no knowin’ how hard a time he might have had gettin’ through the brass gate. As it is, the minute I spots the watch chain and the round cuffs and the neck freckles, I sizes him up as the expected delegate from the fresh mackerel and blueberry pie district. One of these long, lanky specimens, he is, with a little stoop to his shoulders, ginger-colored hair and mustache, and a pair of calm, sea-blue eyes that look deep and serious.
I finds him pacin’ deliberate up and down the waitin’ room at eight-fifty-three A.M., which is two minutes ahead of my schedule for openin’ the Corrugated for gen’ral business. His overcoat and a crumpled mornin’ paper are on the bench; so I figures he’s been there quite some time. Course, it might have been a stray Rube of most any name; but I thinks I’ll take a chance.
“Mornin’, Ira,” says I.
“Howdy,” says he, as natural as if this was a reg’lar habit of ours. Which puts it up to me to find out if I’m right, after all.
“Mr. Higgins, ain’t it?” says I.
“When did you get in?” says I.
“About six,” says he.
“Come down by train or boat?” says I.
“Train,” says he.
“You’ve had breakfast, I suppose?” I goes on.
Another nod. Oh, yes, for an economical converser, he was about the most consistent breath saver I ever tackled. You could easy go hoarse havin’ a little chat with him. You’d need lots of time too; for after every one of my bright little sallies Ira looks me over in that quiet, thoughtful way of his, then counts fifty to himself, and fin’lly decides whether it’ll be a grunt or just a nod. Gettin’ information out of him was like liftin’ a trunk upstairs one step at a time. I manages to drag out, though, that he’d been hangin’ around ever since the buildin’ was opened by the day watchman at seven o’clock.
“Well,” says I, “Mr. Robert was lookin’ for you to blow in today; but not quite so early. It’ll be near ten before he shows up. Better come inside and have a comf’table chair.”
He takes that proposition up with himself, fin’lly passin’ on it favorable; and from then on he sits there, with never a move or a blink, watchin’ solemn all the maneuvers that a battery of lady typists has to go through before settlin’ down for a forenoon’s work. I’ll bet he could tell you too, a month from now, just how many started with gum, and which ones renewed their facial scenery with dabs from the chamois.
So you can see why I was some relieved when Mr. Robert arrives and takes him off my hands. I knew from what he’d said the day before that he’d planned to have about a half-hour interview with Mr. Higgins; but when the noon hour struck: Ira was still there. At one-fifteen they goes out to lunch together, and at two-thirty they comes back. It’s after four when Mr. Robert fin’lly comes out to the gate with his brow wrinkled up.