“I’m not hungry, Aunty. It’s been one of those days when a man gets up wrong.”
“I’m sorry. Doesn’t the play go along smoothly?”
“Not as smoothly as I should like.”
“There was a long-distance call for you this afternoon. The Benningtons want you to come up at once instead of next week.”
Warrington brightened perceptibly. He went to work, but his heart wasn’t in it. The interview with McQuade insisted upon recurring. Why hadn’t he walked out without any comment whatever? Silence would have crushed McQuade. He knew that McQuade could not back up this threat; it was only a threat. Bah! Once more he flung himself into his work.
Half an hour later the door-bell rang.
Character is a word from which have descended two meanings diametrically opposed to each other. We say a man has a character, or we say he is one; The first signifies respect; the second, a tolerant contempt. There exists in all small communities, such as villages, towns, and cities of the third class, what is known as a character. In the cities he is found loafing in hotel lobbies or in the corridors of the City Hall; in the hamlet he is usually the orator of the post-office or the corner grocery. Invariably his wife takes in washing, and once in a while he secures for her an extra order. If he has any children, they live in the streets. He wears a collar, but seldom adds a tie. He prides himself on being the friend of the laboring man, and a necktie implies the worship of the golden calf. He never denies himself a social glass. He never buys, but he always manages to be introduced in time. After the first drink he calls his new friend by his surname; after the second drink it is “Arthur” or “John” or “Henry,” as the case may be; then it dwindles into “Art” or “Jack” or “Hank.” No one ever objects to this progressive familiarity. The stranger finds the character rather amusing. The character is usually a harmless parasite, and his one ambition is to get a political job such as entails no work. He is always pulling wires, as they say; but those at the other end are not sensitive to the touch. On dull days he loiters around the police court and looks mysterious. Cub reporters at first glance believe him to be a detective in disguise.
Herculaneum had its character. He was a pompous little man to whom the inelegant applied the term of runt. He never could have passed the army examination, for he had no instep. He walked like a duck, flat-footed, minus the waddle. He was pop-eyed, and the fumes of strong drink had loosened the tear-ducts so that his eyes swam in a perennial mist of tears. His wife still called him William, but down town he was Bill. He knew everybody in town, and everybody in town knew him. There was a time when he had been on intimate terms with so distinguished a person as Mrs. Franklyn-Haldene.