Short Stories
All Titles

In Association with Amazon.com

Home > Authors Index > Ellis Parker Butler > Kilo > This page

Kilo, a novel by Ellis Parker Butler

Chapter 16. Two Lovers, And A Third

< Previous
Table of content
Next >
_ CHAPTER XVI. Two Lovers, and a Third

The attorney, when Eliph' walked down the path to the gate, entered the house, and found Miss Sally still sitting in the dark parlor where she had had the painful interview with Eliph' Hewlitt. She still held her handkerchief to her eyes, for she had been weeping, and the attorney was not sorry to see this evidence of the stress of her interview with the book agent. Certain that Eliph' had told Doc Weaver of the lung-testers, he was no less certain that the book agent had been telling Miss Sally that the nickel-plated affairs would be thrown back on her hands, and he hastened to urge resistance.

"Miss Briggs," he said, "I came right in, because I knew what that book agent was here to say to you, and I wanted to warn you against him. I know what he asked, and I hope you refuse him."

Miss Sally gasped.

"I believe," continued the attorney, taking a seat, "that you refused, because you know which side your bread is buttered on. I believe that before the day is over Colonel Guthrie will come with the same question, and I want you to give him the same answer. And if Skinner should come on his knees, I want you to send him away with the same answer, too. They will all have arguments enough, but don't be fooled. They money is all they want."

Miss Sally gasped again. She was astounded.

"I could see," said the attorney, confidentially, "that you have the book agent a pretty sharp answer, and that was right. He had no business to put himself forward at all, and I don't suppose you can guess why he did."

"He said he liked me," said Miss Sally weakly, ashamed to mention the word openly. The attorney laughed.

"My opinion is that it is an conspiracy," he said. "That is just the word, a conspiracy, and T. J. Jones is at the head of it. The book agent has come first; now the Colonel will come; and then Skinner, all asking the same thing, but my idea is that they are all in partnership, and that Jones is engineering the whole thing. They want your money, and that is all they want, and once they get it they will be happy and you will be left with four lung-testers on your hands."

Even in Kilo slang comes and goes as in the rest of the world and Miss Sally was not sure about the word "lung-tester." It had a slangy sound, and it must be a term of reproach applied to the future value of the four men Toole had mentioned. She accepted it as such.

"All I have to say," continued the attorney, "is to refuse the Colonel, and to refuse Skinner if he comes, just as you have refused this book agent. Stick up for your rights. If they want to sue you, let them sue. You have the money now, and it is better to have that than a lot of good-for-nothing lung-testers. Once you get them on your hands you'll never get rid of them."

He arose and took up his hat.

"That is all I have to say," he said, "but I wanted to let you know what you ought to do. Don't mind if there is a lot of stuff published in the TIMES. You have to expect that, and Jones will probably drag your name into it, in connection with the Colonel and Skinner, but you are perfectly innocent and they can do nothing to you."

He went out, and Miss Sally remained in a daze, looking at the door by which he had gone. She was still looking at it helplessly when Mrs. Tarbro-Smith came in with a swish of skirts and put her arm gently about her.

"DO you think you did what your heart told you to do, dear?" asked the lady from New York, kissing Miss Sally on the brow. "He was SO downcast. I really pitied him, poor man."

Miss Sally threw her arms around Mrs. Smith's waist and hit her face in the lacy softness of her gown, and wept. The authoress smoothed the brown hair and waited patiently for the tears to cease.

"Did you see Mr. Toole?" she asked brightly, to ease Miss Sally's weeping and to turn her thought to other things. "He wanted to see you about those fire-extinguishers. But I don't trust him. I think he has some plan or other that is selfish. I think he had been drinking."

Miss Sally's tears ceased, and she sat up, straight and severe.

"Fire-extinguishers?" she asked quickly.

"Yes," said Mrs. Smith; "he seemed to think Skinner or the Colonel or someone would want you to take them back. And return the money, I suppose."

"The money?" echoed Miss Sally slowly. She blushed as she saw that she had misunderstood the attorney, thinking he had dared to advise in her love matters, and then she frowned. "The money?" she repeated. "But I gave that money to pa. Pa won't ever give that money back, never! I don't know where on earth I'd ever get sixty dollars."

As she spoke she heard someone on the walk, and then the heavy feet of the Colonel climbing the porch steps. She heard him ask Susan if Miss Sally was inside, and heard the girl answer that she was, and she held Mrs. Smith's hand tighter.

"Come in," she called, to the knock on the door, and the Colonel stumped into the room. He was hot and angry, so angry that he did not stop to offer his usual curt greetings.

"Look here," he said, by way of introduction, "you an' your fire-extinguishers has got me into a purty fix, Sally Briggs--a blame purty fix-an' I want to know do you intend to git me out or not? I don't want no foolishness. Skinner is after me an' I've got to pay him back them sixty dollars, or somebody'll go to jail for it. You ought to have knowed them wasn't nothin' but lung-testers, afore you set me up to sellin' 'em to Skinner, an' not let me go an' make a 'tarnal fool out of myself. But that ain't the thing now; the thing is, will you pay back them sixty dollars? I guess you'd better do it, an' do it quick. Skinner'll have the law on ye if ye don't."

Miss Sally drew back toward Mrs. Smith as he scowled at her.

"Now, you git them sixty dollars an' hand 'em over to me, that's what you'd better do," said the Colonel. "I want to git shut of this business. I was a fool fer meddlin' in a woman's affairs in the fust place. I don't want to have no more hand in it. You git me that money, an' let me fix it up with Skinner. He's mad, an' he won't stand no foolin'. It was all I could do to keep him from comin' in an' makin' a row right here in the house. He's waitin' at the gate till he sees if I git the money, an' if I don't----"

"But I haven't got sixty dollars," Miss Sally gasped. "I gave that money to pa. I don't know whether I can GET sixty dollars out of pa."

She was so helpless that Mrs. Smith's blood boiled at the rude brutality of the Colonel, and she stepped forward and faced him.

"What is all this about?" she asked. "What is the matter with those fire-extinguishers? Why do you come bothering Miss Sally this way? Why don't you settle it with Mr. Skinner yourself?"

"The matter is, them ain't fire-extinguishers at all," said the Colonel rudely, "an' wasn't, an' never was. Them things is lung-testers, an' Sally was cheatin' Skinner when she sold 'em to him. An' the reason I'm botherin' her is that she got the money fer 'em, an' she's got to find it somehow an' pay it back. An' as for me settlin' with Skinner, I ain't got nothin' to do with it. I wasn't nothin' but Sally's agent. I done her a favor, an' that's all, an' I'm sorry I ever meddled in it."

"But there certainly can't be such haste needed," said Mrs. Smith. "Miss Sally is not going to run away. Mr. Skinner is not going to fail for want of sixty dollars, is he? You can wait until to-morrow, or to-night, when Miss Sally can see her father."

"No, I can't," said the Colonel doggedly. "I can't wait at all. By to-morrow mornin' that newspaper feller will have another paper printed up, an' I hear tell he's goin' to give us all plain names, an' I ain't goin' to wait. I want to git this thing fixed up right now. If Sally ain't got sixty dollars, let her go borry it. I got to pay Skinner right now, an' I want Sally to pay me. I want to git shut of this."

"I don't believe Mr. Skinner is in any such hurry as you pretend!" exclaimed Mrs. Smith. "I don't believe he is so ungenerous. I believe he is more chivalrous, I believe HE will have some manliness, if you have not."

She started for the door, but the Colonel grasped her by the arm.

"Hold on, here!" he said, but Mrs. Tarbro-Smith merely raised her eyebrows and looked, first at his hand on her arm, and then at his face, and his hand fell. He stood irresolute and uncomfortable as she went to the door and called to Mr. Skinner. The butcher walked up to the door, clearing his throat as he came. Mrs. Smith held the screen door wide for him to enter, and he walked into the parlor, holding his hat in his hands, and stood uneasily.

"The Colonel," said Mrs. Smith pleasantly, "has told us you wish Miss Sally to return the money you paid for what she supposed were fire-extinguishers."

"They was nothin' but lung-testers," said the butcher.

"So it seems," said Mrs. Smith, "and it is odd that a man of business like yourself should not know it in the first place. But of course Miss Sally did not know what they were. Who told you they were fire-extinguishers, Sally?"

"The Colonel," said Miss Sally, and the Colonel moved his feet uneasily.

"Indeed!" exclaimed Mrs. Smith, giving the Colonel another of her paralyzing glances. "But Miss Sally will do whatever is right. She hasn't the money at this moment. You can wait until to-morrow for the sixty dollars, can you not, until she can see her father?"

The butcher grew red in the face, redder than his naturally high coloring, but he shook his head.

"I want it now," he said. "Business is business." And after a moment he added, "It wasn't sixty, it was one hundred. Four at twenty-five, that's one hundred. One hundred dollars, that was what I handed Guthrie. I paid one hundred and I want one hundred back."

Miss Sally and Mrs. Smith looked at the Colonel.

"I had a right to make a commission," he blustered. "I ain't no sich fool as to do business fer other folks an' lose time by it. I took out a commission, an' I had a right to, an' I don't want to hear no more about it. A commission's fair."

"You didn't say anything about it," said poor Miss Sally. "Mrs. Smith was just surprised to learn of it."

"Surprised, my dear?" said Mrs. Smith, "No, indeed. Nothing that man would do could quite surprise me. But forty percent commission! Miss Sally hasn't sixty dollars in the house," she added, turning to the butcher. "You know very well people here don't have so much in the house at one time. If I had it I would gladly lend it to her, but I don't happen to have so much with me to-day. You can wait until Mr. Briggs gets back from Clarence, or you can do what you please."

"I want the money," said Skinner doggedly.

"Very well," said Mrs. Smith. "Collect forty from the Colonel. That will keep you from starving until to-morrow. And now will you both kindly leave the house?"

"Now, look here, Mrs. Smith, ma'm," said the butcher. "You ain't got any right to talk that way to me. Money matters is money matters, and a man has a right to look after his own the best way he can. I was cheated out of one hundred dollars by this man and Miss Sally, as easy as you please, and there's bribery in it, and land knows what. But I ain't mean. All I want is my money back, and I want it now. I hear T. J. Jones is going to get out an extry to-morrow morning all about this, and all I want is to do what is right. Hand me back my hundred dollars, and I'll go to T. J. and explain that Miss Sally did what was right, and tell him to leave her out of what he writes, but if I don't get the money I won't say a word to him. He can guess all he wants about Miss Sally and the Colonel being in cahoots with this bribe business. All I want is my money."

"But I say you shall have it in the morning."

"Well, I don't count much on what you'll get out of Pap Briggs. You might get ten cents, if he was feeling liberal, but he don't usually feel that way. What I want is one hundred dollars right now. I don't need no lung-testers, and I've been cheated, and I won't wait. If Miss Sally ain't going to pay me, I'll see what the law says about it."

"Mr. Skinner," said Mrs. Smith, "in consideration that Miss Sally is a lady and that you are a gentleman, will you not wait till to-morrow?"

"Business is business," he said flatly. "When I'm sellin' meat I ain't a gentleman, I'm a butcher; and when Miss Briggs was sellin' lung-testers she wasn't a lady, she was in business. Business is one thing an' bein' pleasant is another. I've got to look after my money or I soon won't have any."

When the two men went out Mrs. Smith could hear them begin to wrangle even before they quitted the yard, but she was more interested in what might happen to Miss Sally through the vindictiveness of the butcher. She was surprised to hear that T. J. Jones had even thought of such a thing as bringing Miss Sally's name into the matter as a conspirator, and she did not know enough about Iowa laws to know whether the butcher could take any summary action or not. The most satisfactory way to straighten things out would be to pay the butcher, but it must be done at once. She pleaded with Miss Sally to remember someone of whom she could borrow sixty dollars, but Miss Sally confessed that she knew no one who would be apt to lend so much. She even expressed her doubt that her father would ever release the money she had given him. The two women sat in the darkened parlor, Miss Sally weeping softly and Mrs. Smith thinking hard. The authoress was ashamed that she could devise no way to aid her friend, and there they sat, exchanging a brief word from time to time, and the gloom deepening every minute. Presently, when the atmosphere was so charged with sadness that it was almost too thick to breathe, Mrs. Smith called to Susan, and the girl came in.

"Sue," said Mrs. Smith, "will you run down to the TIMES office and see Mr. Jones? And--let me see--and tell him I very much want to see him before he begins to print his extra. You won't mind, will you?"

"Oh, no," said Susan cheerfully, and she went, a fairy in filmy white, while the two women relapsed into gloom again.

So softly did the next comer mount the porch stairs that the two women did not hear him until a gentle tap on the door frame, followed by an apologetic cough, announced the return of Eliph' Hewlitt. _

Read next: Chapter 17. According To Jarby's

Read previous: Chapter 15. Difficulties

Table of content of Kilo


Post your review
Your review will be placed after the table of content of this book