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HE other day, just as I stepped out lar; it was n't too warm or too cool or too
the front door of my office on windy or perfectly beautiful or thoroughly Fourth Avenue, intending to walk up- nasty; it was just a gray, neutral, orditown, I met Mr. Bond, also walking up- nary afternoon. The news of the day? I town.
had been too busy to see a newspaper. Mr. Bond is an imposing man. He is Politics? The subject frightened me; Mr. supposed to be one of the biggest export- Bond would get me beyond my depth in ers or importers or something in the city.
no time. He looks like a whole corporation on two We crossed Twenty-sixth Street. Mr. legs. Whenever I meet him, which is not Bond said nothing. often, his dignity oppresses me with the "Well," I began boldly, "how 's the thought that I, too, am a man of affairs export business going to-day?" and should show by my conversation that “Import,” he corrected. "Oh, it might I am engaged with matters of moment. be worse.” The thought is too much for me. Usually That finished that. I groped again. I see Mr. Bond some distance away and Usually, when I have nothing to say, I slip quietly across the street. But this follow a simple plan. Suppose I meet X. time we met squarely.
The last time I saw him was at Y's. I "Hullo," he said. "Walking up-town?" say, "Well, have you recovered from that
I looked for a street-car. There was party that old Y gave?" And when he none in sight.
says he has, we tell each other what a “Yes," I replied, and fell in beside him. bully chap Y is. I considered this possiImmediately I cast about for something bility. But Mr. Bond and I had last seen
The weather? No man of af- each other at a small luncheon five weeks fairs begins with the weather. Besides, before, and it seemed over-solicitous to asthe weather was n't anything in particu- sure myself of his recovery. As I was
making this decision we crossed Twenty- falling out of the tenth-story window. seventh Street and approached Twenty- One does n't often see that even in New eighth. The silence was unbroken.
York.” But Fourth Avenue was as quiet "This is ridiculous," I thought. “Any- as Sunday. Better plunge on the drama. thing will do. I don't have to say any- (Thirty-first Street.) I cast the die. thing important. Any remark will do." “Have you been to 'Does your Mother I opened my mouth to make any remark. Know you 're Out?'” I asked timidly. I could n't think of any remark.
My voice sounded weak. What a silly Let me see-something I had been do- question after six blocks! ing? Rapidly I reviewed my day. A let- "No, I have n't," Mr. Bond replied. ter from my family, scrambled eggs and a “How is it?" baked apple for lunch, an important but- "Pretty good." ton missing from my favorite soft shirt-- I wanted to go on; I had interesting it would be impossible to interest an ex- critical ideas about the show, which I was porter, or, rather, importer, in any of these in the habit of expressing forcibly to my matters. My life seemed devoid of inci- friends. But such matters would be bedent. The silence
neath the notice of hung heavy about us.
Wall Street. Again Then I had an idea
we came to a full - the theater. What
stop. Flight became had I been to re
imperative. cently? I meditated
Wewere approachrapidly. (Twenty
ing Thirty-second ninth Street.) I might
Street. Mr. Bond ask Mr. Bond if he
would clearly be conhad been to “Does
tinuing up-town. your Mother Know
Probably he was you 're Out?" It
bound for the Grand seemed distinctly an “The silence was unbroken"
Central Station. I importer's entertain
held my breath till ment. Again I opened my mouth. we almost reached the curb.
I could not say it. If I had asked him "Well," I said smoothly, "I leave you right off, it might have passed; but it was here. Glad to have seen you." a silly question to take four blocks to work "This is my street, too, as it happens,
Mr. Bond probably thought a said Mr. Bond. knotty business problem filled my mind; it My heart sank. "Good!” I cried. would be better to start off with some- "What a lucky chance!" thing deep. Meanwhile I took a couple Together we turned to the left and of deep breaths and put on a bit of swag- walked westward along Thirty-second ger, to indicate that if I did n't talk much, Street. In the next few blocks there were it was because I enjoyed walking for the actually a couple of perfunctory rallies of air and the exercise. (Thirtieth Street.) talk. Mr. Bond was the server each time,
Perhaps there was something about us and each rally ended quickly with a clean to call Mr. Bond's attention to-some- ace for him. I am afraid my mind was too thing unusual which men of the world busy with plans for escape. could discuss. A timely accident might This was how I reasoned it out: Mr. serve. It would be a relief to be able to Bond was evidently bound for the Pennclutch my companion's arm and remark, sylvania Station, not the Grand Central. “By Jove! that 's the third traffic police- He must therefore continue straight ahead man I 've seen run over this autumn! I on Thirty-second Street. I could hardly tell you, the situation is becoming intol- turn off to the left; for if I did this, he erable," or, "I say, just watch that chap would wonder why I had stayed on
Fourth Avenue as long as I did. If I man? I seemed to be doomed to go to turned off to the right, I would have to Jersey with him. I did n't want to go to have a destination between Thirty-second Jersey. I don't like Jersey. Besides, I
a and Thirty-third, or else he would wonder must get home for dinner. But no selfwhy I had turned off Fourth Avenue as respecting man in my place, having gone soon as I did. He might conclude that I as far as I had, could keep from boarding had done so to rid myself of his company.
a Jersey train. One was about to start. Perish the thought! I was between two Mr. Bond and I stepped in. fires. Therefore I kept a sharp eye out After all, I said to myself, one should for possible destinations within one block at least be cheerful. Be the clouds never to the right.
so sullen, one should be sprightly and gay, We crossed Madison Avenue in the should laugh and make jokes. I looked midst of a short rally on the situation in out the car-window, and my eye caught Wall Street. I saw no plausible excuse the posts which support the roof of the for turning off here. We crossed Fifth Thirty-third Street Tube Station. These
. Avenue in silence. I could not make up posts are numerous and fat, and as each my mind in time. Bet
is marked "33" in ter to wait and turn
large figures, the off up Broadway.
traveler is confronted "Well," I said, as
by 3's wherever he we approached the
looks. A happy witnext corner, "I'm
ticism occurred to me. afraid"
I pointed at the "Not going up
posts. Broadway!" Mr.
"One can't Bond was all hearty
the woods for the astonishment, and I
threes," I said to Mr. chilled as I heard
Bond. Simultaneously ... Mr. Bond and I him. “Why, that is announced, “Well, I 'm taking
The moment I got funny; so am I."
the tube here!"
it off I was ashamed It was too late to
of it. It was n't a play another card. Into the noisy north- good line. It did n't mean anything at all. west we turned together.
But I could n't unsay it now. I became reckless. There are moments The train started with a grunt and a when we wish the earth would swallow
heave. us up. This was one of them for me. I "What?" said the importer. should escape by diving into a hole in the Again I pointed at the window. ground.
“You can't see the woods for the We approached the Hudson Tube en- threes," I repeated fatly. trance. I chose my moment, fixed my Mr. Bond looked again, and as he most winning smile of farewell on my looked, the platform swept by and was face, and began –
left behind. He considered. The train Then a remarkable thing happened. roared on through the blackness. Simultaneously to the instant, as if we "I 'm afraid I did n't quite get that," were rehearsing a speech marked All in a
he said above the uproar. play, Mr. Bond and I announced, "Well, Have you ever had to repeat a fleeting I'm taking the tube here."
jest in a forty-two centimeter voice to a The laugh that we laughed was for- deaf grandmother? lorn, and the words that we murmured "It is n't important," I shouted at the about "delightful coincidences" were fee- top of my lungs. "I only said that you ble, as we descended the steps.
could n't see the woods for the threes. Was I never going to be free of this There were lots of threes on the posts in
the station, and -and the idea occurred to back into the car. Clearly he had merely me. It 's all over now. It's gone by. It moved out to let the passengers by. The was back in the station."
door shut. I wished to heaven Mr. Bond would I waved to him through the window. drop the subject. He merely looked puz- The train went off, carrying Mr. Bond zled. I knew he was asking himself what with it. I was free. was back in the station.
Whenever I get complacent nowadays “Did you say woods?” he asked finally. I try to imagine what Mr. Bond thinks "Yes!”
of a publisher who goes from Fourth AveA pause for further reflection.
nue and Twenty-fifth Street to Sixth Ave“What woods?"
nue and Twenty-eighth Street by way of How could I explain to him that the Thirty-second Street and the Hudson thing did n't make sense ? Discretion had Tube. Then I writhe. left me.
Sometimes, though, I wonder if Mr. "No woods," I yelled.
Bond was really bound for Jersey that The train was just stopping for the afternoon. I wonder if he really stepped Twenty-eighth Street Station. The door off the train just to let those passengers beside us slid open, and in a panic I by. I wonder why he went all the way stepped out.
up to Thirty-third Street to take the HudMr. Bond stepped out beside me.
I wonder – Then I stop Two or three other people pushed by writhing.
. Then quickly, before I could make a dash Personally, I think importers are pretty for the door again, the importer stepped dull talkers.
“. It is n't important,' I shouted. ... 'I
only said that you could n't see
the woods for the threes'"
Elegy Written in a Country Coal-bin
By CHRISTOPHER MORLEY
HE furnace tolls the knell of falling steam,
The coal supply is virtually done,
As though we could afford another ton.
Now fades the glossy, cherished anthracite;
The radiators lose their temperature:
The "short and simple flannels of the poor."