“I would if I had any home to take it to. I am a stranger here and am two weeks behind in the rent of my room.”
“Is dot so? Vell, dot is too bad. Two weeks behint and no home but a room! I vouldn’t think dot to look at you.”
“I would not either if I had the courage to look at myself in the glass. Then you cannot help me?”
“I don’t say dot I can’t. Somebody may come in. I have lots of tings belong to peoples, and ven other peoples come in, sometimes dey buy, and sometimes dey don’t. Sometimes only one day goes by, and sometimes a whole year. You leave it vid me. I take care of it. Den I get my little Masie—dat little girl of mine vot I call Beesvings—to polish up all de bottles and make everyting look like new.”
“Then I will come in the morning?”
“Yes, but give me your name—someting might happen yet, and your address. Here, write it on dis card.”
“No, that is unnecessary. I will take your word for it.”
“But vere can I find you?”
“I will find myself, thank you,” and he strode out into the rain.
In the days when Otto Kling’s shop-windows attracted collectors in search of curios and battered furniture, “The Avenue,” as its denizens always called Fourth Avenue between Madison Square Garden and the tunnel, was a little city in itself.
Almost all the needs of a greater one could be supplied by the stores fronting its sidewalks. If tea, coffee, sugar, and similar stimulating and soothing groceries were wanted, old Bundleton, on the corner above Kling’s, in a white apron and paper cuffs, weighed them out. If it were butter or eggs, milk, cream, or curds, the Long Island Dairy—which was really old man Heffern, his daughter Mary, and his boy Tom—had them in a paper bag, or on your plate, or into your pitcher before you could count your change. If it were a sirloin, or lamb-chops, or Philadelphia chickens, or a Cincinnati ham, fat Porterfield, watched over from her desk by fat Mrs. Porterfield, dumped them on a pair of glittering brass scales and sent them home to your kitchen invitingly laid out in a flat wicker basket. If it were fish—fresh, salt, smoked, or otherwise—to say nothing of crabs, oysters, clams, and the exclusive and expensive lobster—it was Codman, a few doors above Porterfield’s, who had them on ice, or in barrels, the varnished claws of the lobsters thrust out like the hands of a drowning man.
Were it a question of drugs, there was Pestler, the apothecary, with his four big green globes illuminated by four big gas-jets, the joy of the children. A small fellow this Pestler, with a round head and up-brushed hair set on a long, thin stem of a neck, the whole growing out of a pair of narrow shoulders, quite like a tulip from a glass jar.
And then there were Jarvis, the spectacle man, and that canny Scotchman Sanderson, the florist, who knew the difference between roses a week old and roses a day old, and who had the rare gift of so mixing the two vintages that hardly enough dead stock was left over for funerals including those presided over by his fellow conspirator Digwell, the undertaker, who lived over his mausoleum of a back room.