The immediate neighbors, however,—the friends of the house—had smiled and passed on. They had no such forebodings. On the contrary nothing so diverting—nothing so enchanting—had happened around Kennedy Square in years. In fact, when one of these humorists began speaking about it, every listener heard the story in a broad grin. Some of the more hilarious even nudged each other in the waist-coats and ordered another round of toddies—for two or three, or even five, if there were that number of enthusiasts about the club tables. When they were asked what it was all about they invariably shook their heads, winked, and kept still—that is, if the question were put by some one outside the magic circle of Kennedy Square.
All the general public knew was that men with bricks in hods had been seen staggering up the old staircase with its spindle banisters and mahogany rail; that additional operatives had been discovered clinging to the slanting roof long enough to pass up to further experts grouped about the chimneys small rolls of tin and big bundles of shingles; that plasterers in white caps and aprons, with mortar-boards in one hand and trowels in the other, had been seen chinking up cracks; while any number of painters, carpenters, and locksmiths were working away for dear life all over the place from Aunt Jemima’s kitchen to Todd’s bunk under the roof.
In addition to all this curious wagons had been seen to back up to the curb, from which had been taken various odd-looking bundles; these were laid on the dining-room floor, a collection of paint pots, brushes, and wads of putty being pushed aside to give them room—and with some haste too, for every one seemed to be working overtime.
As to what went on inside the mansion itself not the most inquisitive could fathom: no one being permitted to peer even into Pawson’s office, where so large a collection of household goods and gods were sprawled, heaped, and hung, that it looked as if there had been a fire in the neighborhood, and this room the only shelter for miles around. Even Pawson’s law books were completely hidden by the overflow and so were the tables, chairs, and shelves, together with the two wide window-sills.
Nor did it seem to matter very much to the young attorney as to how or at what hours of the day or night these several articles arrived. Often quite late in the evening—and this happened more than once—an old fellow, pinched and wheezy, would sneak in, uncover a mysterious object wrapped in a square of stringy calico, fumble in his pocket for a scrap of paper, put his name at the bottom of it, and sneak out again five, ten, or twenty dollars better off. Once, as late as eleven o’clock, a fattish gentleman with a hooked nose and a positive dialect, assisted another stout member of his race to slide a very large object from out the tail of a cart. Whereupon there had been an interchange of wisps of paper between Pawson and the fatter of the two men, the late visitors bowing and smiling until they reached a street lantern where they divided a roll of bank-notes between them.