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"The Bum's Rush" from Saturday Evening Post

by Ellis Parker Butler
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from Saturday Evening Post
The Bum's Rush
by Ellis Parker Butler

The telephone was in the small entry off the kitchen; and as Gladys hung up the receiver her mother, who was putting the big bowl of onion soup on the table, spoke to her beautiful daughter in a voice of real sorrow.

"Aw, now, Gulladus," she mourned, "what'd you talk to Jimmy that way for? You ain't gotta be so rough with a nice boy like him. Honest, Gulladus, you ain't going to have a male friend left if you talk to them like that."

"Aw, for cat's sake, mother, cheese it!" exclaimed Gladys, swinging into her chair at the table. "What do I wanna waste time with roughnecks like him for?"

"I think he's a real nice boy, Gulladus. He ain't such a roughneck. But if he is or ain't he, it ain't ladylike to yell at him to go chase hisself. First you know you won't have no male friends at all, Gulladus."

"Well, who wants any?" Gladys demanded, and added as she tasted the soup in her plate, "Gee, ma, you putta 'nough salt in this soup to gag a cat! And, say, that Jimmy boy, he gives me a pain anyway. Him having the nerve to ask me to go dance with him! The big green hoof hopper! Say, honest, my anks are black and blue where he tramped on them las' Sat'dy night. I see myself dancin' with him again!"

"Jussa same, Gulladus," said Millicent, the married daughter, who was holding her infant on her lap and sitting sideways at the table, "you ain't going to do so worse if you freeze onto that Jimmy. He's got the real stuff in him, Gulladus, like my Mike has. You gotta remember you gotta get a husband sometime, Gulladus."

"Yeh? Have I? Like cats I have!" scoffed the beauty. "Say, listen, Milsint, what's it got you, your husband, huh? That squallin' kid, huh? And you can come home to stay while he's off to somewhere lookin' up a job. And purt' soon you'll have as many kids as ma has, and gotta shape on you like a laundry bag. No husbands for me! Not in my young life!"

"But, Gulladus --" her mother interrupted.

"Oh, shut up, ma!" Gladys urged. "I said it once and I say it a thousand times -- I ain't got time for no husband. I gotta think of my career. If I gotta have a husband it ain't going to be for ten years yet, when I gotta lot of cash and can support him proper. That's that!"

Mr. Vench, at this, leaned his right elbow on the table and put his chin on his fist and pointed his soup spoon at his beautiful daughter, using his left hand for that purpose.

"Say, listen, you!" he shouted.

Gladys turned to him and raised her delicate eyebrows.

"Is it me you are yelling your head off at?" she asked.

"You bet your eye it is!" shouted Mr. Vench.

That he shouted disturbed no one, for Mr. Vench often shouted. He usually shouted. To shout was his way of making himself heard when he said things, because there was always much noise in the kitchen, which was where the Venches commonly lived. From Millicent down to the youngest Vench, there were so many Venches that no one ever counted them except when Mr. Vench had to deduct them from his income tax paper. They numbered something just over or just under a dozen, boys and girls, and usually they were all making all the noise they could, each in his own way. This was a necessity. No one Vench, perhaps, especially cared to shout and yell; but when they all shouted and yelled, each had to do the same in order to be heard at all.

Mrs. Vench usually shrieked, her voice tending toward the upper registers. All day she was shrieking, "Ed'ard! Ed'ard! Come away from that stove! Oh, my stars, that child!" Or, "Dor'thy, Dor'thy, don't you cut that dress! Oh, that child!" Or going to the door to shriek, "Martin! Martin! C'mere this instant! Oh, that child, that child!"

Usually the family seemed all messed up in the kitchen by dozens, five or six disputing at the tops of their voices and making a noise worse than a Democratic ward convention; and out of this would come, suddenly, loud shrieks of laughter, blaring crashes of dish pans, slamming of doors, cries of infants in dire distress -- and the odors of food.

Smells! There were always odors of cooking, stale or fresh. Onion soup, fried onions, cabbage! Lurking odors of dinners of yesteryear. Sometimes the odor of three longhaired dogs, damp, just in from the rain, drying by the fire. Or Mr. Vench would come in in his shirtsleeves, bringing a fresh rich odor of sheep manure, blood meal or commercial fertilizer; or of stale pipe or lighted Sudden Death tobacco burning in a stale pipe. Now and then the open cellar door would let up an odor of damp and decay and mold.

Things! There were always things to step over or on, to avoid or sit on or trip over. Children, diapers hung to dry, a nightgown over the back of a chair, a dish pan full of potato parings on the floor, a toy wagon, the dogs' beds, the place where the oilcloth on the floor had split and keeled up. It was lucky the kitchen was not small.

In such a family and such a room there was not much opportunity for gentle melancholy or tender happiness. One of the family might have a grouch for a week on end and no one would notice it; to be noticed, a sorrow had to be expressed in loud yells and screams, and joy had to be let forth in screams of laughter. Now and then the natural warring instincts of male and female would find vent and two of the youngsters would fight it out under the table, pulling hair, biting and whacking fists into faces, and Mrs.Vench would say "Now! Now! Don't be rough!" meaning, "This is all right, but don't be rougher."

It was a richly warm and human family, like a crowded cage in the zoo, and into the kitchen and out of it again came and went Mr. Vench in his baggy-kneed trousers and shirt with rolled-up sleeves and no collar, shouting. Sometimes someone paid attention to what he shouted and sometimes not.

Mr. Vench, until he went into the greenhouse business for himself and married a wife, had been rather vague as to his name. He could pronounce it, but he could not spell it, not having learned to spell. It was, in his opinion, something like Vince or Vens or Ventch; but it might be Finch or Fence. One employer had called him Wrentz and he had not objected. It was not until he had his letterheads and billheads printed that a name seemed important; and the printer, after considering the possibilities, had decided on Vench. Anyhow, the main thing was to make a living, and a man can do that under one name as well as under another. Now, at this later date, Mr. Vench no longer worried about making a living; he was trying to save money and be worth something. He shouted more than ever, especially at potato peelings that were peeled too thick, and other things that threatened to interfere with his being worth something.

In a general way it may be said that Mr. Vench appeared to think that putting water on his person too frequently might dilute him and make it more difficult for him to be worth something. He probably saved quite a few cents a year by not wasting the edge of his razor, and often his neck and the skin under his beard were dark with the black sandy loam of his greenhouses. His hands and nails! And for that matter, while we are distributing the exclamation points, his automobiles!

Mr. Vench had two. One was the runabout he used and the other was the truck in which he took his flowers to market. None of his family, except the youngest children and the dogs, would get into the runabout, and its condition can be imagined.

The delivery truck, on the other hand, seemed always just out of the paint shop. It glittered and shone. Every bit of metal glared.

The Vench greenhouses were one block beyond the end of the car line, and the cars ran every twenty minutes or so, so it was no hardship for Gladys to get to the village and thence to the city. To see her stepping daintily, in high-heeled low shoes, with most of the leather bitten out in catchy designs, and silk stockings that were as delicate as the bloom on a peach, and garb that was like flower petals, you would never imagine what her room at home looked like, shared with three other Venches, none of the four ever putting anything away and no one making the bed until it was time to get into it, and sometimes not then. She was an exquisite thing.

"Yeh," her brothers would have said, "she's the beautiful dumb-bell!" But that was hardly true. But -- back to the kitchen.

"Is it me you are yelling your head off at? " Gladys asked.

"You bet your eye it is!" her father shouted. "I'm gonna tell you where you get off, right now. You got the swelled head since I let you get a job in town. Say, this dance business is all bunk!"

"Oh, is it?" laughed Gladys. "A lot you know!"

"I know what I know!" declared Vench. "I raised you, like I raised the lot of you. What's a matter with you is this man's pumped you full of hot air, see? He strings you because he gets your money. Say, I can tell him I knew you when you was like the rest of the kids, freckle-faced and bow-legged --"

"I am not!" cried Gladys. "That's a lie and I can prove it! My pins are as swell as any you ever saw."

"All right! All right!" shouted Mr. Vench. "Have it your own way! You doll 'em all up in silk stockings and you get the swell head over them, and some gink tells you you're a swell dancer and you go off your nut. Say, listen! Lemme tell you something! I was talking to a feller that knows more about the dancing game in a minute than you know in a thousand years, and he says these fancy dancers --"

"Oh, piff! I know all that," said Gladys. "What you're talking about are these amachoors that never get anywhere anyhow. You ask him what he's gotta say about a gurrl that's got real talent, like Mr. Socowsky seen I had the first time he seen me dance, and he comes up to me and says --"

"Yeh! Talent!" shouted Mr. Vench. "Where you get that stuff? Where's any talent coming from in this family? Now listen --"

"Well, for cat's sake! If I thought I was like this family --"

"Nemma you mind that! What your mother was yellin' at you about this Jim was all straight -- he's all there. He's got the goods. An' Milsint knows what she's talking about. Girls goin' around learning the high kick and all that business! Bull! What a girl wants is to get her hooks in the right feller and treat him right and marry him and --"

"I see myself! I see myself! Say, you listen, pa --"

"Yeh! And I'll have an old maid on my hands. Not on your life! Say, I'm telling you now --"

"Yeh? Go tell it to --"

Mr. Vench banged his fist on the table and made the onion soup leap like a storm at sea.

"Shut up, you!" he shouted. "I gotta right to say something! You have it your own way, if you wanna! Go on and learn to kick your legs up in the air if you wanna -- it's your money. But you hear me! If you ain't gonna hook onto one of these young fellers that come hanging around, I ain't a-gonna have them hanging around. This is my house and I gotta pay the gas bills and all, and I ain't a-gonna have them young spurts loafin' in the front room. You get that? Now, listen! The next one that comes around here is goin' to get the bum's rush. All of 'em is -- the bum's rush! If you don't want 'em, I don't want 'em!"

Gladys shrugged her shoulders and lifted her eyebrows. She indicated that nothing interested her less than what her father might do. He shook his spoon at her a moment and then ate his onion soup, which was now cool and had a film of grease on top. He did not mind that.

To Mrs. Vench the whole matter was one that seemed beyond her control entirely, so she did not worry about it. It was her experience that when children reached a certain age they began to go out after dinner and presently young men began coming to the house; and at a still later time, presently the child remarked that she was going to marry someone -- usually someone hardly mentioned or seen until then. In the meanwhile meals had to be cooked. The only thing to do was to hope for the best and raise Cain now and then when it seemed desirable, and trust that her girls were good girls and not like some other girls who were not good girls.

Of Gladys, she was proud openly, and still more proud secretly. Once she had hunted up an old photograph of herself when young, hoping to discover that she had been as beautiful as Gladys was and that she had since forgotten it, but she could not have that satisfaction. Gladys was ten times as lovely as her mother had ever been. All Mrs. Vench could see in her old photograph was a sort of placid common sense, and that she could not see in Gladys at all.

She could vaguely understand the ambition that sent Gladys night after night, after a day of hard work, to do still harder work under Professor Socowsky. She had seen enough plays with dancers in them to know that it must be a grand thing to be up there on the stage with a thousand or more down below admiring one -- especially admiring one's physical beauty of face and -- she thought it quite frankly -- legs. And what a life one had in a kitchen!

Mrs. Vench's feeling in regard to life in the kitchen was not that of some. She did not mind the work -- the dishwashing, the cooking. She did not mind having a lot of children or a lot of chores. But the confusion and rush! She felt that she was like a cork in a whirlpool; her feet never got quite firmly on the ground; she was never quite sure whether she was head end up or head end down. She felt that life in the kitchen was just one long series of shrieks at people with nothing resulting, except that once in a long while Vench would remark that things were going pretty well and that it looked as if they would be worth something one of these days. In her imagination she thought it would be rather blessed to be a dancer and be able to pause, standing on one toe, with absolutely nothing to do for several entire seconds but breathe and let admiring hundreds think, "How beautiful her legs are!" What a chance to gather one's wits together and get a full breath! And nobody shouting! And then, when it was time to get busy again, get busy rhythmically in time to music and not in mad haste and chopped-up bits.

Gladys left the kitchen with a curt "'By, mom" and was on her way to the city and Professor Socowsky's studio; and Vench pushed back his chair and lighted his pipe and put his feet on the oilcloth of the table and closed his eyes. One by one and two by two, Mrs. Vench chased or dragged the children to bed. Millicent took her child to her room over the kitchen and they could hear the loose leg of her rocker clump as she rocked the child to sleep. Mrs. Vench finished the last of the dishwashing and looked for the nail to hang the dishrag on, found a cap on it, and spread the dishrag over the bottom of the dishpan instead.

"I guess I'll go up," she said. "I hadda long day."

She said this every evening.

"All right, I'll be up," said Vench.

He said this every evening too.

"Leave the door for Gulladus," Mrs. Vench said, and went up to her bed.

For half an hour Mr. Vench sat thinking of the day's work and the work to be done tomorrow and of the progress he was making toward being worth something. Presently he yawned and turned out the dogs. They ran forth barking. Mr. Vench put out the light and went to bed himself. In a few minutes he was snoring. Everyone snored. From the many rooms many snores of various qualities came and mingled. Any single snore alone might have been maddening, but thus mingled they suggested comfort and repose and honest rest.

When Gladys came down in the elevator from Professor Socowsky's Art Dancing Academy with his other students of the dance she was so tired she could hardly stand, and as the elevator shot downward her thought was that her knees would surely give way if the elevator stopped with a jerk, and it did and they did. She sank to the floor, laughing, and scrambled up again gracefully. The professor had certainly given them the whole works that evening, and as Gladys rode to the station and on the train homeward she did not think much of ambition; her greatest wish was to get to her own room, where she could rub some spots that seemed to ache with especial vigor. When she stepped from the station in her own suburb she was surprised to find a drizzling rain falling. For a moment she was dismayed by the thought of the run in the wet at the end of the car line, and then her heart leaped, for Jimmy was there, and Jimmy had an umbrella.

"Hello, Glad! How's the girl?" he hailed her as he held her arm with one hand and trotted her across the walk. "Sort of thought this would be your train, so I just nabbed a taxi for us. Hop into it!"

"Why, this is very kind of you indeed," said Gladys as she sank into the seat of the taxi.

She tried to imagine that Jimmy had a high hat and a white-front shirt and one of the million-dollars-a-minute incomes and that this was his limousine; but the taxi certainly had a mean bunch of springs in the rear seat and jounced unmercifully when it hit the high spots.

"Yeh? All right; but just can the swell words when you're with me; I don't understand 'em," Jimmy jollied her. "Say, you looked sick when you saw it was wet! I hadda laugh. Say, what'd you mean giving me such a nasty look over the phone tonight? You'd 'a' thought I was your husband or something."

"Far from that, I'll tell Gilhooley!" said Gladys.

"Well, I don't know about that either, Glad," he said. "Watcha suppose I'm buying taxis for like this? It ain't because I hate you, is it?"

"Oh, that!" scoffed Gladys. "You ain't the only one that don't hate me. That kind comes in bunches."

"No; but honest, I mean what I'm talking about," Jimmy insisted. "I'm crazy about you, Glad. You know that, don't you? And look at the job I got -- fifty big round plunks a week and more ahead."

"And me getting twenty-five!" laughed Gladys scornfully. "And me living at home and no board to pay! Honest, Jimmy, I'd have to be nuts to lissen to a proposition like you put up. Me getting my twenty-five all for my lonesome, and you want me to split your fifty. What'd I get? The same old twenty-five, and then I gotta pay half the rent and half the food, and chuck up my talent, and then what? Along comes a lotta bawling kids, and I gotta pay for half of them! Gosh, no! Not on your life, Jim!"

"Yes, but lissen, Glad, you ain't got the dope right."

"For cat's sake, stop pawin' for my hand!"

"No, but you ain't got it right," Jimmy insisted. "You left out one thing -- we'd be married, wouldn't we? Don't that count for nothing? And who says you gotta give up your twenty-five a week? You can go right ahead earning it, can't you? And go on learning the dance stuff, for all I care. All would be, we'd be married and we'd have a home."

"Merry Christmas! A home!" cried Gladys. She thought, briefly, of the Vench home as it was from something like six in the morning till eight at night. "Say!" she exclaimed. "All I gotta do is run a home and earn me my twenty-five a week holding down a job and go on taking these dancing lessons at nights, is it? Say, you sure are nuts, Jimmy. You got this marry stuff on the brain, that's all that's the matter with you. Now, lissen! I ain't going to marry no man for ten years from now, not at least! Do you get that? And I ain't a going to talk to no man that talks to me about it. Honest, I'm sick and tired of the way you fellas think a girl's gotta get married all the time. The' ain't one of you can be decent and loving and maybe do a little decent necking now and then, and flirt a little, and trade kisses once in a while and be just friends. You gotta yell, 'Marry! Marry! Marry! Marry!' as soon as a girl lets you get your arm around her or anything."

"Yes, but Glad --"

"Aw, you gimme a pain, the whole lot of you!" said Gladys, looking out of the cab window. "What th' heck do any of you care whether a girl makes a swell name fur herself, with the genius she's got, like that bald-headed old pimple of a Socowsky is always yowling I've got? Swell lot you care! I might as well have a face like a prune pie and a pair of sticks like a grandpa. You just come fooling around and squalling at me to go and get tied for life, like any doll-faced flapper."

With this, Gladys began to cry for no reason whatever except that her legs ached from the soles of her heels right up to the top of her head, and that it was a pretty state of things to be riding in a perfectly good taxi on a dark street and nobody putting an arm around you! Lots of things. Having to get up early in the morning to go to work again, for instance.

"Aw, Glad!" exclaimed Jimmy, and he moved over and put both arms around her. "Forget it! I'm a fierce hog, I am!"

He contritely kissed her for three blocks and she held her mouth against his and sobbed and let her tears run lusciously down to moisten the kisses.

"Say, bo, it's the third house from the end of the line, ain't it?" asked the taxicab man, turning in his seat.

"Yeh! Vench's, like I told you," said Jimmy, drawing his mouth away long enough to answer.

Then the cab began to jounce over the rougher road beyond the end of the tracks, and Gladys pushed Jimmy away and began to straighten her hat and smooth down her waist. She felt tremendously better, much rested and clearer-brained, as if trouble had departed, leaving a clear sky.

"You gotta come in and have a samwich," she told Jimmy.

"This time of night? And me gotta get up with the chickens?"

"Aw, Jimmy!"

"Well --"

"Maybe I could fry you an egg samwich, if we got any eggs. It ain't so late, at that. I'm a gonna have a samwich before I go to bed, anyway."

"Well --"

When the taxi stopped Jimmy handed the driver a dollar.

"Beat it, kid!" he said, indicating that he did not desire the equipage to wait.

Gladys opened the back door cautiously, making no noise, and they stepped inside. She made a light and put her hat on the table and went to the ice box in the entry, throwing open the door and peering in. There were eggs.

"We got eggs!" she whispered, bringing four in her hands, two in each hand, smiling.

"Atta girl!" Jimmy applauded.

She went about the frying of the eggs deftly, breaking the eggs on the edge of the frying pan with what she knew very well was artistry. It might have been called the Dance of the Egg Fryer. The subtitle might have been, "A young girl, untouched by love, finds herself in a kitchen with a young man. In a spirit of harmless merriment she fries four eggs and cuts and butters eight slices of bread, imitating the serious-minded movements of an elderly matronly egg-fryer and bread-cutter-and-butterer. The young man watches her admiringly."

"Gee, you're swell, Glad!" Jimmy said. "What I mean, you get me, hard, fussing with eggs like that. What I mean, if we had a little place of our own, like a flat maybe, or something --"

"Say, there you go again!" said Gladys, instantly serious. "Ain't I told you I don't want any of that talk?"

"Yeh! But, lissen, Glad --"

Frankly, though marriages may be made in heaven, more would be made if more young men could come in contact with young women cooking, in the odor of good food being cooked. That, at any rate, was how it affected Jimmy. Next to Gladys, a fried-egg sandwich, with the bread moist, was one of the things he was most fond of.

"Lissen, Glad --" he said, and went over to help her listen by getting in touch with her.

"Oh, stop!" she exclaimed, frowning, and jounced him with her elbow, and then she screamed, for the four eggs slithered up the side of the frying pan and one leaped into the air over the edge.

Jimmy slid a flat palm to catch it, and he did catch it, and yelped. A fried egg straight out of the frying pan is a hot egg. He shook his hand violently, bashing the egg on the floor, and then laughed. He yowled with laughter, falling back on a sway-backed couch and licking the burned palm of his hand, and Gladys shrieked with laughter too.

"You poor fish! Grabbing a hot egg!" she shrieked, and between shrieks of laughter -- "You otta seen yourself leggo of that egg!"

"I'll say I did!" laughed Jimmy.

Upstairs, Mr. Vench opened his eyes. It always made him angry to be awakened from his night's sleep, and his first feeling was anger. As he realized that the house was not afire and that Gladys had a young man in the kitchen again, he slid his feet to the floor and got up. He drew on his trousers and buttoned them and started for the door, making no other preparations for giving the fellow down there the promised bum's rush.

The bum's rush, as I understand it, is the action resulting when the bouncer of an eating place or drinking place has been signaled to eject an undesired and probably penniless intruder. In these latter days the term has been much debased and misused. One hears quite strengthless young ladies who have said to a young gentleman "No, Bill, I don't care to go to the dance with you" tell their friends, "I gave Bill the bum's rush." This is mistreating a virile phrase. Though I have never been given the legitimate bum's rush myself, I believe it consists in grasping the intruder suddenly and unexpectedly by the collar and running him hastily through the doorway into the street, the knee of the rusher hitting the base of the rushed's spine at each leap. Just beyond the door the hand holding the collar gives an extra tremendous push and the bum catapults across the sidewalk and sprawls in the gutter. As one hand feels the base of his spine tenderly the bum knows he is not welcome in that eating or drinking place, as the case may be. This was the sort of bum's rush Mr. Vench meant.

Because of his bare feet, the first notice Gladys and Jimmy had of the coming of Vench was when they saw him standing in the doorway of the stairs, and they saw him simultaneously.

"Again! And this time of night! I'll show you!" shouted Mr. Vench in his loud voice, and he started for Jimmy.

Unfortunately, because of the table, Vench had to go in the direction of Gladys to reach Jimmy, and that was where Jimmy misunderstood Vench's intention. It was late, and Vench was violent by nature, and thousands of girls do catch Hail Columbia every night from irate fathers for staying out until unseemly hours. Jimmy gathered that Vench was about to chastise Gladys in some inhuman manner, and he could not stand for that.

"Here, you!" he shouted, and jumped past Gladys, pushing her aside.

He met Vench shoulder to chest and butted him against the table, which skidded; and as Vench struggled to save himself from falling, Jimmy got arm under arm and swung behind Vench. He put his full weight behind Vench and rushed him the length of the kitchen and through the entry. They slammed up against the outer door and the door cracked and splintered, but it did not yield. In the confined space of the entry Jimmy and the father of Gladys tugged and swayed, banging the brooms and the dustpan and the ice box, until Jimmy, gasping and panting, crowded Vench into a corner and held him jammed there while he opened the door. Then with a new burst of vigor he turned Vench about and gave him the real bum's rush out into the night and slammed the door. He stood with his back against the door, breathing hard.

"Gee, Jimmy, he'll kill you!" Gladys cried.

"Well, I wasn't -- going to let -- him beat -- you up," Jimmy panted.

"Me?" cried Gladys, her eyes opening wide. "Why, he wasn't a-gonna beat me up, Jimmy! He was giving you the bum's rush. Say, he wouldn't beat me up! He wouldn't even jaw me. He was throwing you out."

Jimmy breathed hard, like a gladiator in the movies, and stared at Gladys.

"Say!" he began, but a brick hit the door against which his back leaned, and he straightened up suddenly. "Ouch!" he said. He put his shoulder against the heavier wood of the door and braced himself against it. "But what's he giving me the bum's rush for, huh? What I done to him?"

Another brick hit the door and came through the thin panel. Upstairs, Mrs. Vench screamed. Outside, Mr. Vench was yelling and cursing, looking for bricks possibly. There was something in the tone of his voice that indicated he was irritated enormously.

Gladys grasped Jimmy's arm.

"You gotta get away from here! You gotta beat it!" she cried. "I don't know what paw'll do. I ain't ever seen him madder than what he always is, and he'll kill you. Jimmy! Jimmy!" She pulled at his arm, but he could not be moved in that way, and she began to cry. "Oh, Jimmy, please!" she begged. "Come on out the front way. You can beat it the front way; he won't ever think of anyone using the front door. Please, Jimmy, please!"

"I will not! What right's he got to gimme the bum's rush?"

"Oh, come! Come!" wept Gladys, pulling at the arm. "He'll get an ax or something. It's because I won't marry you. Jimmy!"

"Well, I ain't said I wouldn't, did I?" demanded Jimmy. "I said I wanted to. What right's he got --"

But Gladys was no longer there. She rushed the length of the kitchen and squeezed past her mother on the narrow stairs and ran through Millicent's room to the window. Out of the window she leaned far.

"Paw! Paw!" she screamed. "Don't you! Stop it! It's all right -- we're going to be married."

"Huh?" inquired Mr. Vench, looking upward and withholding the brick he was about to throw.

"Can it, you!" cried Gladys. "Ain't I telling you it's all right? You cut out the rough stuff; hear me, paw? He ain't a bum; we're going to be married."

"Well, for cat's sake!" shouted Vench. "Whyn't you say so in the first place? Don't you know this here is all raw cinders out here? Lemme get in the house."

"Well, you going to be decent?" asked Gladys.

"Say, lissen!" said Mr. Vench. "Ain't I always?"

"Sure," agreed Gladys, and she went below.

A few minutes later Mrs. Vench was busy, a bungalow apron over her nightgown as a sop to respectability, putting oil and lime water on Jimmy's palm, while Gladys sat on his knee and a good many little Venches stood and stared at him. Mr. Vench had lighted his high-powered pipe, and with his almost-free hand Jimmy was trying to smoke a cigar that Alderman Curtis had given to Bill Rotherwhite, and that Bill Rotherwhite had given to Mr. Vench two months ago. The cigar looked as if moths had been nesting in it, but it had a glorious paper band.

"Well, I gotta go to bed," said Vench, getting up from his chair. "You get, you kids! And you come up soon as you can, maw. And don't you two set up too long; you gotta get to work in the morning."

He held out his hand to Jimmy.

"Well, I'm glad I met yeh," he said rather inappropriately. "I guess you and Gulladus will hit it off pretty good; she ain't so worse, at that. But say, I come pretty near getting in wrong, didn't I? A little more and I'd 'a' got mad and give you the bum's rush."

"Ah, forget it!" said Jimmy happily. "That's all old stuff," and after a fractional pause he added "paw."

Gladys leaned forward and hit Jimmy square in the middle of the forehead with a snappy little kiss, and Mrs. Vench, without being aware of it, shed two tears into the palm of Jimmy's hand where the hot egg had been.

"Don't set up too late," she said gently.

"We gotta eat them three eggs yet -- maw," said Jimmy, and Mrs. Vench kissed the top of his head, so he must have been a nice boy and everything all right.



Saturday, October 07 at 1:18:02am USA Central
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