The Guilty Party
A Red-Haired, unshaven, untidy man sat in a rocking-chair by a window. He had just lighted a pipe, and was puffing blue clouds with great satisfaction. He had removed his shoes and donned a pair of blue, faded carpet-slippers. With the morbid thirst of the confirmed daily news drinker, he awkwardly folded back the pages of an evening paper, eagerly gulping down the strong, black headlines, to be followed as a chaser by the milder details of the smaller type.
In an adjoining room a woman was cooking supper. Odours from strong bacon and boiling coffee contended against the cut-plug fumes from the vespertine pipe.
Outside was one of those crowded streets of the East Side, in which, as twilight falls, Satan sets up his recruiting office. A mighty host of children danced and ran and played in the street. Some in rags, some in clean white and beribboned, some wild and restless as young hawks, some gentlefaced and shrinking, some shrieking rude and sinful words, some listening, awed, but soon, grown familiar, to embracehere were the children playing in the corridors of the House of Sin. Above the playground for ever hovered a great bird. The bird was known to humorists as the stork. But the people of Chrystie Street were better ornithologists. They called it a vulture.
A little girl of twelve came up timidly to the man reading and resting by the window, and said:
Papa, wont you play a game of checkers with me if you arent too tired?
The red-haired, unshaven, untidy man sitting shoeless by the window answered, with a frown:
Checkers! No, I wont. Cant a man who works hard all day have a little rest when he comes home? Why dont you go out and play with the other kids on the sidewalk?
The woman who was cooking came to the door.
John, she said, I dont like for Lizzie to play in the street. They learn too much there that aint good for em. Shes been in the house all day long. It seems that you might give up a little of your time to amuse her when you come home.
Let her go out and play like the rest of em if she wants to be amused, said the red-haired, unshaven, untidy man, and dont bother me.
Youre on, said Kid Mullaly. Fifty dollars to $25 I take Annie to the dance. Put up.
The Kids black eyes were snapping with the fire of the baited and challenged. He drew out his roll and slapped five tens upon the bar. The three or four young fellows who were thus taken more slowly produced their stake. The bartender, ex-officio stakeholder, took the money, laboriously wrapped it, recorded the bet with an inch-long pencil and stuffed the whole into a corner of the cash register.
And, oh, whatll be done to youll be a plenty, said a better, with anticipatory glee.
Thats my look-out, said the Kid sternly. Fill em up all around, Mike.
After the round Burke, the Kids sponge, sponge-holder, pal, mentor and Grand Vizier, drew him out to the bootblack stand at the saloon corner, where all the official and important matters of the Small Hours Social Club were settled. As Tony polished the light tan shoes of the clubs President and Secretary for the fifth time that day, Burke spake words of wisdom to his chief.
Cut that blonde out, Kid, was his advice, or therell be trouble. What do you want to throw down that girl of yours for? Youll never find one thatll freeze to you like Liz has. Shes worth a hallfull of Annies.
Im no Annie admirer! said the Kid, dropping a cigarette ash on his polished toe, and wiping it off on Tonys shoulder. But I want to teach Liz a lesson. She thinks I belong to her. Shes been bragging that
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