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Chapter 4 MR. TRIMMER LIMBERS UP

  • AT the desk of the De la Pax Mr. Minot learned that for fifteen dollars a da_e might board and lodge amid the splendors of that hotel. Gratefully h_igned his name. One of the negro boys—who had matched coins for him with th_ther boy while he registered—led the way to his room.
  • It proved a long and devious journey. The Hotel de la Pax was a series o_fterthoughts on the part of its builders. Up hill and down dale the boy led, through dark passageways, over narrow bridges, until at length they arrived a_he door of 389.
  • "My boy," muttered Minot feelingly, "I congratulate you. Henry M. Stanley i_he flower of his youth couldn't have done any better."
  • "Yes, suh." The boy threw open the door of a narrow cell, at the farther en_f which a solitary window admitted the well-known Florida sunshine. Mino_tepped over and glanced out. Where the gay courtyard with its green palm_aving, its fountain tinkling? Not visible from 389. Instead Minot saw _arrow street, its ancient cobblestones partly obscured by flourishing grass, and bordered by quaint, top-heavy Spanish houses, their plaster walls _undred colors from the indignities of the years.
  • "We seem to have strayed over into Spain," he remarked.
  • The bell-boy giggled.
  • "Yes, suh. We one block and a half from de hotel office."
  • "I didn't notice any taxis in the corridors," smiled Minot. "Here—wait _inute." He tossed the boy a coin. "Your fare back home. If you get strande_n the way, telegraph."
  • The boy departed, and Minot continued to gaze out. Directly across from hi_indow, looking strangely out of place in that dead and buried street, stood _reat stone house tr at bore on its front the sign "Manhattan Club and Grill."
  • On the veranda, flush with the sidewalk and barely fifteen feet away, a hug_ed-faced man sat deep in slumber.
  • Many and strange pursuits had claimed the talents of old Tom Stacy, manager o_he Manhattan Club, ere his advent in San Marco. A too active distric_ttorney had forced the New York police to take a keen interest in his lif_nd works, hence Mr. Stacy's presence on that Florida porch. But such trouble_ere forgot for the moment. He slumbered peacefully, secure in the knowledg_hat the real business of the club would not require his attention unti_arkness fell. His great head fell gradually farther in the direction of hi_enerous waist, and while there is no authentic evidence to offer, it is saf_o assume that he dreamed of Broadway.
  • Suddenly Mr. Stacy's head took another tilt downward, and his Panama ha_lipped off to the veranda floor. To the gaze of Mr. Minot, above, there wa_evealed a bald pate extensive and gleaming. The habitual smile fled fro_inot's face. A feeling of impotent anger^ filled his soul. For a bald hea_ould recall but one thing —Jephson.
  • He strode from the window, savagely kicking an innocent suit-case that got i_is way. What mean trick was this fate had played him as he entered San Marco?
  • To show to him the one girl in all her glory and sweetness, to thrill hi_hrough and through with his discovery—and then to send the girl scurrying of_o announce her engagement to another man! Scurvy, he called it. But scurvie_till, that it should be the very engagement he had hastened to San Marco t_ring to its proper close—"I do," and Mendelssohn.
  • He sat gloomily down on the bed. What could he do? What save keep his word, given on the seventeenth floor of an office building in New York? No man ha_et had reason to question the good faith of a Minot. His dead father, at th_eginning of his career, had sacrificed his fortune to keep his word, and gon_ack with a smile to begin all over again. What could he do?
  • Nothing, save grit his teeth and see the thing chrough. He made up his mind t_his as he bathed and shaved, and prepared himself for his debut in San Marco.
  • So that, when he finally left the hotel and stepped out into San Sebastia_venue, he was cheerful with a dogged, boystood-on-the-burning-dec_heerfulness.
  • A dozen negroes, their smiles reminiscent of tooth powder advertisements, vainly sought to cajole him into their shaky vehicles. With difficulty h_voided their pleas, and strolled down San Marco's main thoroughfare. On ever_ide clever shopkeepers spread the net for the eagle on the dollar. Jewelers'
  • shops flashed, modistes hinted, milliners begged to present their lates_reations.
  • He came presently to a narrow cross street, where humbler merchants catered t_he Coney instinct that lurks in even the most affluent of tourists. Ther_audy souvenir stores abounded. The ugly and inevitable alligator, fallen fro_is proud estate to fireside slipper, wallet, cigar case, umbrella stand, photograph album and Lord-knows-what, was head-lined in this street. Pictur_ost-cards hung in flocks, tin-type galleries besought, news-stands, soda- water fountains and cheap boarding-houses stood side by side. And, every fe_eet, Mr. Minot came upon "The Oldest House in San Marco."
  • On his way back to the hotel, in front of one of the more dazzling modiste'_hops, he saw a limousine drawn up to the curb, and in it Jack Paddock, frien_f his college days. Paddock leaped blithely from the machine and grasped Dic_inot by the hand.
  • "You here?" he cried.
  • "Foolish question," commented Mr. Minot.
  • "Yes, I know," said Mr. Paddock. "Been here so long my brain's a littl_labby. But I'm glad to see you, old man."
  • "Same here." Mr. Minot stared at the car. "I say, Jack, did you earn tha_riting fiction?"
  • Paddock laughed.
  • "I'm not writing much fiction now," he replied. "The car belongs to Mrs. Hele_ruce, the wittiest hostess in San Marco." He came closer. "My boy," h_onfided, "I have struck something essentially soft. Some time soon, in a roo_ith all the doors and windows closed and the weatherstrips in place, I'l_hisper it to you. I've been dying to tell somebody." "And the car—"
  • "Part of the graft, Dick. Here comes Mrs. Bruce now. Did I mention she was th_ittiest —of course I did. Want to meet her? Well, later then. You're at th_ax, I suppose. See you there."
  • Mr. Minot moved on from the imminence of Mrs. Bruce. A moment later th_imousine sped by him. One seat was generously filled by the wittiest hostes_n San Marco. Seated opposite her, Mr. Paddock waved an airy hand. Life ha_lways been the gayest of jokes to Mr. Paddock.
  • Life was at the moment quite the opposite to Dick Minot. He devoted the nex_our to sad introspection in the lobby. It was not until he was on his way i_o dinner that he again saw Cynthia Meyrick. Then, just outside the dining- room door, he encountered her, still all in white, lovelier than ever, in he_heek a flush of excitement no doubt put there by the most important luncheo_f her life. He waited for her to recognize him—and he did not wait in vain.
  • "Ah, Mr.—"
  • "Minor."
  • "Of course. In the hurry of this noon I quite overlooked an introduction. _m—"
  • "Miss Cynthia Meyrick. I happen to know because I met his lordship in Ne_ork. May I ask—was the luncheon—"
  • "Quite without a flaw. So you know Lord Harrowby?"
  • "Er—slightly. May I offer my very best wishes?"
  • "So good of you."
  • Formal, formal, formal. Was that how it must be between them hereafter? Well, it was better so. Miss Meyrick presented her father and her aunt, and that di_ot tend to lighten the formality. Icicles, both of them, though stock_uffing icicles. Aunt inquired if Mr. Minot was related to the Minots o_etroit, and when he failed to qualify, at once lost all interest in him. Ol_pencer Meyrick did not accord him even that much attention.
  • Yet—all was not formal, as it happened. For as Cynthia Meyrick moved away, sh_hispered: "I must see you after dinner—on important business." And her smil_s she said it made Minot's own lonely dinner quite cheery.
  • At seven in the evening the hotel orchestra gathered in the lobby for it_ightly concert, and after the way of orchestras, it was almost ready to begi_hen Minot left the dining-room at eight. Sitting primly in straight backe_hairs, an audience gathered for the most part from the more inexpensiv_ostelries waited patiently. Presumably these people were there for an hou_ith music, lovely maid. But it was the gowns of more material maids tha_nterested the greater number of them, and many drab little women sat makin_urtive mental notes that should while away the hours conversationally whe_hey got back to Akron or Terre Haute.
  • Minot sat down in a veranda chair and looked out at the courtyard. In th_plendor of its evening colors, it was indeed the setting for romance. In th_idst of the green palms and blooming things splashed a fountain which migh_ell have been the one old Ponce de Leon sought. On three sides the lighte_owers and turrets of that huge hotel climbed toward the bright, warm souther_ky. A dazzling moon shamed Mr. Edison's lamps, the breeze came tepid from th_ea, the very latest in waltzes drifted out from the gorgeous lobby. Her_omance, Minot thought, must have been born.
  • "Mr. Minot—I've been looking everywhere—"
  • She was beside him now, a slim white figure in the dusk—the one thing lackin_n that glittering picture. He leaped to meet her.
  • "Sitting here dreaming, I reckon," she whispered, "of somebody far away."
  • "No." He shook his head. "I leave that to the newly engaged."
  • She made no answer. He gave her his chair, and drew up another for himself.
  • "Mr. Minot," she said, "I was terribly thoughtless this noon. But you mus_orgive me—I was so excited. Mr. Minot—I owe you—"
  • She hesitated. Minot bit his lip savagely. Must he hear all that again? Ho_uch she owed him for his service—for getting her to that luncheon i_ime—that wonderful luncheon—
  • "I owe you," finished the girl softly, "the charges on that taxi."
  • It was something of a shock to Minot. Was she making game of him?
  • "Don't," he answered. "Here in the moonlight, with that waltz playing, and th_ld palms whispering—is this a time to talk of taxi bills?"
  • "But—we must talk of something—oh, I mean —I insist. Won't you please tell m_he figure?"
  • "All the time we were together this morning, I talked figures—the figures o_he face of a watch. Let us find some pleasanter topic. I believe Lor_arrowby said you were to be married soon?"
  • "Next Tuesday. A week from to-morrow."
  • "In Sa1l Marco?"
  • "Yes. Tt breaks auntie's heart that it can't be in Detroit. Lord Harrowby i_er triumph, you see. But father can't go north in the winter— ind Alla_ishes to be married at once."
  • Minot was thinking hard. So Harrowby was auntie's triumph? And was he no_ynthia Meyrick's as well? He would have given much to be able to inquire.
  • Suddenly, with the engaging frankness of a child, the girl asked:
  • "Has your engagement ever been announced, Mr. Minot?"
  • "Why—er—not to my knowledge," Minot laughed. "Why?"
  • "I was just wondering—if it made everybody feel queer. The way it makes m_eel. Ever since one o'clock—I ought never to say it—I've felt as thoug_verything was over. I've seemed old! Old!" She clenched her fists, and spok_lmost in terror. "I don't want to grow old. I'd hate it."
  • "It was here," said Minot softly, "Ponce de Leon sought the fountain of youth.
  • When you came up I was pretending the one splashing out there was that ver_ountain itself—"
  • "If it only were," the girl cried. "Oh—you could never drag me away from it.
  • But it isn't. It's supplied by the San Marco Water Works, and there's a mete_icking somewhere, I'm sure. And now—Mr. Minot—"
  • "I know. You mean the thirty-five dollars I paid our driver. I wish you woul_rite me a check. I've a reason."
  • "Thank you. I wanted to—so much. I'll bring it to you soon."
  • She was gone, and Minot sat staring into the palms, his lips firm, his hand_ripping the arms of his chair. Suddenly, with a determined leap, he was o_is feet.
  • A moment later he stood at the telegraph counter in the lobby, writing in bol_lowing characters a message for Mr. John Thacker, on a certain seventeent_loor, New York.
  • "I resign. Will stay on the job until a substitute arrives, but start him whe_ou get this.
  • "r1chard M1not."
  • The telegram sent, he returned to his veranda chair to think. Thacker would b_pset, of course. But after all, Thacker's claim on him was not such that h_ust wreck his life's happiness to serve him. Even Thacker must see that. An_he girl—was she madly in love with the lean and aristocratic Harrowby? Not b_ny means, to judge from her manner. Next Tuesday—a week. What couldn't happe_n a— Minot stopped. No, that wouldn't do, either. Even if a substitut_rrived, he could hardly with honor turn about and himself wreck the hopes o_hacker and Jephson. He lost, either way. It was a horrible mix-up. He curse_eneath his breath.
  • The red glow of a cigar near by drew closer as the smoker dragged his chai_cross the veranda floor. Minot saw behind the glow the keen face of a ma_ager for talk.
  • "Some scene, isn't it?" said the stranger. "Sort of makes the musical comedie_ook cheap. All it needs is seven stately chorus ladies walking out fro_ehind that palm down to the left, and it would have Broadway lashed to th_ast."
  • "Yes," replied Minot absently. "This is the real thing."
  • "I've been sitting here thinking," the other went on. "It doesn't seem to m_his place has been advertised right. Why, there are hundreds of people u_orth whose windows look out on sunset over the brewery—people with money, too —who'd take the first train for here if they realized the picture we'r_ooking at now. Get some good hustler to tell 'em about it—" He paused. "_ate to talk about myself, but say— ever hear of Cotrell's Ink Eraser? Nothin_ver written Cotrell can't erase. Will not soil or scratch the paper. If th_ords Cotrell has erased were put side by side—"
  • "Selling it?" Minot inquired wearily.
  • "No. But I made that eraser. Put it on every desk between New York and th_olling Oregon. After that I landed Helot's Bottled Sauces. And the_atterson's Lime Juice. Puckered every mouth in America. Advertising is m_pecialty."
  • "So I gather."
  • "Sure as you sit here. Have a cigar. Trimmer is my name—never mind the jokes.
  • Henry Trimmer. Advertising specialist. Is your business flabby? Does it need _onic? Try Trimmer. Quoting from my letter-head." He leaned closer. "Excuse _ersonal question, but didn't I see you talking with Miss Cynthia Meyrick _hile back?" "Possibly."
  • Mr. Trimmer came even closer.
  • "Engaged to Lord Harrowby, I understand."
  • "I believe so—"
  • "Young fellow," Mr. Trimmer's tone was exultant, "I can't keep in any longer.
  • I got a proposition in tow so big it's bursting my brain cells—and it take_ome strain to do that. No, I can't tell you the exact nature of it—but I wil_ay this—to-morrow night this time I'll throw a bomb in this hotel so lou_t'll be heard round the world."
  • "An anarchist?"
  • "Not on your life. Advertiser. And I've got something to advertise this ho_ebruary, take it from me. Maybe you're a friend of Miss Meyrick. Well, I'_orry. For when I spring my little surprise I reckon this Harrowby wedding i_oing to shrivel up and fade away."
  • "You mean to say you—you're going to stop the wedding?"
  • "I mean to say nothing. Watch me. Watch Henry Trimmer. Just a tip, youn_ellow. Well, I guess I'll turn in. Get some of my best ideas in bed. See yo_ater."
  • And Mr. Trimmer strode into the circle of light, a fine upstanding figure of _an, to pass triumphantly out of sight among the palms. Dazed, Dick Mino_tared after him.
  • A voice spoke his name. He turned. The slim white presence again, holdin_oward him a slip of paper.
  • "The check, Mr. Minot. Thirty-five dollars. Is that correct?"
  • "Correct. It's splendid. Because I'm never going to cash it—I'm going to kee_t—"
  • "Really, Mr. Minot, I must say good—"
  • He came closer. Thacker and Jephson faded. New York was far away. He wa_oung, and the moon was shining—
  • "—going to keep it—always. The first letter you ever wrote me—"
  • "And the last, Mr. Minot. Really—I must go. Good night."
  • He stood alone, with the absurd check in his trembling fingers. Slowly th_emory of Trimmer came back. A bomb? What sort of a bomb?
  • Well, he had given his word. There was no way out—he must protect ol_ephson's interests. But might he not wish the enemy—success? He stared off i_he direction the advertising wizard had gone.
  • "Trimmer, old boy," he muttered, "here's to your pitching arm!"