Say, Joe, was his greeting to his old-time working-mate next morning, theres a Frenchman out on Twenty-eighth Street. Hes made a pot of money, and hes going back to France. Its a dandy, well- appointed, small steam laundry. Theres a start for you if you want to settle down. Here, take this; buy some clothes with it and be at this mans office by ten oclock. He looked up the laundry for me, and hell take you out and show you around. If you like it, and think it is worth the price twelve thousand let me know and it is yours. Now run along. Im busy. Ill see you later.
Now look here, Mart, the other said slowly, with kindling anger, I come here this mornin to see you. Savve? I didnt come here to get no laundry. I come a here for a talk for old friends sake, and you shove a laundry at me. I tell you, what you can do. You can take that laundry an go to hell.
He was out of the room when Martin caught him and whirled him around.
Now look here, Joe, he said; if you act that way, Ill punch your head. An for old friends sake Ill punch it hard. Savve? you will, will you?
Joe had clinched and attempted to throw him, and he was twisting and writhing out of the advantage of the others hold. They reeled about the room, locked in each others arms, and came down with a crash across the splintered wreckage of a wicker chair. Joe was underneath, with arms spread out and held and with Martins knee on his chest. He was panting and gasping for breath when Martin released him.
Now well talk a moment, Martin said. You cant get fresh with me. I want that laundry business finished first of all. Then you can come back and well talk for old sakes sake. I told you I was busy. Look at that.
A servant had just come in with the morning mail, a great mass of letters and magazines.
How can I wade through that and talk with you? You go and fix up that laundry, and then well get together.
All right, Joe admitted reluctantly. I thought you was turnin me down, but I guess I was mistaken. But you cant lick me, Mart, in a stand-up fight. Ive got the reach on you.
Well put on the gloves sometime and see, Martin said with a smile.
Sure; as soon as I get that laundry going. Joe extended his arm. You see that reach? Itll make you go a few.
Martin heaved a sigh of relief when the door closed behind the laundryman. He was becoming anti- social. Daily he found it a severer strain to be decent with people. Their presence perturbed him, and the effort of conversation irritated him. They made him restless, and no sooner was he in contact with them than he was casting about for excuses to get rid of them.
He did not proceed to attack his mail, and for a half hour he lolled in his chair, doing nothing, while no more than vague, half-formed thoughts occasionally filtered through his intelligence, or rather, at wide intervals, themselves constituted the flickering of his intelligence.
He roused himself and began glancing through his mail. There were a dozen requests for autographs he knew them at sight; there were professional begging letters; and there were letters from cranks, ranging from the man with a working model of perpetual motion, and the man who demonstrated that the surface of the earth was the inside of a hollow sphere, to the man seeking financial aid to purchase the Peninsula of Lower California for the purpose of communist colonization. There were letters from women seeking to know him, and over one such he smiled, for enclosed was her receipt for pew-rent, sent as evidence of her good faith and as proof of her respectability.
Editors and publishers contributed to the daily heap of letters, the former on their knees for his manuscripts, the latter on their knees for his books his poor disdained manuscripts that had kept all he possessed
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