“Say the rest, Skeesicks,” returned the boy, eying the stranger.
“Has your mudder got empty dot room yet?”
“Yep—the shyster got to swearin’, and the mother wouldn’t stand for it and she fired him. We ain’t keepin’ no house o’ refuge nor no station parlor fer bums. Holy Moses! look at the guy that’s been robbin’ a church! And see the nose on him all busted! Have ye started them mugs?”
Kling cleared the air with his fat hands as the boy made for the door, and turned to his visitor once more. “Dot boy make me deaf vid his noise like a fire-engine! Now, vunce more. Vat shall I do vid dis image?”
“I give it up,” observed the stranger, passing his hand over the head and down its side. “I am not very much on saints—wooden ones, I mean. He seems a good deal out of place here. Why buy such things at all, and why sell them? But that, of course, is not your point of view. I would send it back to the good father, if I were you, and have him put it behind the altar if he is ashamed to put it in front. Holy things belong to holy places. But I am already taking up too much of your time. Thank you very much for the money. It comes at an opportune moment. I shall come in once in a while to see you and, if you are willing, to talk to you.”
“But you don’t say nudding about Kitty’s room. Vait till—oh, dere you are, you darlin’ girl! You mind de store, Masie. Now you come vid me and I show you de finest vomans you never see in your whole life!”
Kitty Cleary’s wide sidewalk, littered with trunks, and her narrow, choked-up office, its window hung with theatre bills and chowder-party posters, all of which were in full view of Kling’s doorway, was the half-way house of any one who had five minutes to spare; it was inside its walls that closer greetings awaited those who, even with the thinnest of excuses, made bold to avail themselves of her hospitality. Drivers from the livery-stable next door, where Kitty kept her own two horses; the policeman on the beat; the night-watchman from the big store on 28th Street, just off duty, or just going on; the newsman in the early morning, who would use her benches on which to rearrange his deliveries—all were welcome as long as they behaved themselves. When they did not—and once or twice such a thing had occurred— she would throw wide the door and, with a quick movement of her right thumb, order them out, a look in her eye convincing the culprits at once that they might better obey.
Never a day passed but there was a pot of coffee simmering away at the back of the kitchen stove. Indeed, hot coffee was Kitty’s standby. Many a night when she was up late poring over her delivery book, getting ready for the next day’s work, a carriage or cab would drive into the livery-stable next door, and she would send her husband out to bring in the coachman.