Also Peter discovered that he had once been a caveman, and had hit his rival over the head with a stone axe and carried off his girl by the hair. All this he discovered while he stood in the doorway of the Hotel de Soto grill, and watched Nell, the ex-chambermaid of the Temple of Jimjambo, doing the turkey-trot and the fox-trot and the grizzly-bear and the bunny-hug in the arms of a young man with the face of a bulldog.
Peter stood for a long while in a daze. Nell and the young man sat down at one of the tables to have a meal, but still Peter stood watching and trying to figure out what to do. He knew that he must not speak to her in his present costume; there would be no way to make her understand that he was only playing a role—that he who looked like a “dead one” was really a prosperous man of important affairs, a 100% red-blooded patriot disguised as a proletarian pacifist. No, he must wait, he must get into his best before he spoke to her. But meantime, she might go away, and he might not be able to find her again in this huge city!
After an hour or two he succeeded in figuring out a way, and hurried upstairs to the writing-room and penned a note:
“Nell: This is your old friend Peter Gudge. I have struck it rich and have important news for you. Be sure to send word to me. Peter.” To this he added his address, and sealed it in an envelope to “Miss Nell Doolin.”
Then he went out into the lobby, and signalled to one of the brass-button imps who went about the place calling names in shrill sing-song; he got this youngster off in a corner and pressed a dollar bill into his hand. There was a young lady in the grill who was to have this note at once. It was very important. Would the brass-button imp do it?
The imp said sure, and Peter stood in the doorway and watched him walk back and forth thru the aisles of the grill, calling in his shrill sing-song, “Miss Nell Doolin! Miss Nell Doolin!” He walked right by the table where Nell sat eating; he sang right into her face, it seemed to Peter; but she never gave a sign.
Peter did not know what to make of it, but he was bound to get that note to Nell. So when the imp returned, he pointed her out, and the imp went again and handed the note to her. Peter saw her take it—then he darted away; and remembering suddenly that he was supposed to be on duty, be rushed back to the office and inquired for Mr. Lackman. To his horror he learned that Mr. Lackman had returned, paid his bill, and departed with his suitcase to a destination unknown!
Peter had a midnight appointment with McGivney, and now had to go and admit this humiliating failure. He had done his best, he declared; he had inquired at the desk, and waited and waited, but the hotel people had failed to notify him of Lackman’s arrival. All this was strictly true; but it did not pacify McGivney, who was in a black fury. “It might have been worth thousands of dollars to you!” he declared. “He’s the biggest fish we’ll ever get on our hook.”