Cupid En Route/Chapter 1

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HERE, son!" Dave Fisher waved a big, scarred, scintillant hand and addressed the waiter in his mildest voice, which could be plainly heard at the other end of the dining room. "Get us some good see-gars; hear? Somethin' about thirty cents apiece; none o' your cheap stogies."

The waiter hurried away and Dave leaned back in his chair until it creaked, pulled down his waistcoat with a sigh of contentment and grinned across the table. He was a large man, tall, broad and thick-set, with a long neck that emerged bronzed and muscular from his collar and carried a head that would have been entirely out on place on a body under six-feet-three. It was broad across the cheek-bones and the jaw was square, and a pair of pale blue eyes twinkled from a face that was hued like a sheet of leatheroid. A long, drooping mustache hid his mouth and, like his hair, was of an indeterminate shade between white and yellow. Hair and mustache had been recently trimmed, but the barber's efforts had only increased the natural tendency of each to point all ways at once. He was attired in full evening garb, with a shirt-bosom that looked a yard wide, a swallow-tailed coat that drew protestingly across the huge shoulders and a waistcoat with the generous curve of the Washington Arch. Across this hung a heavy gold chain. His collar caused him constant uneasiness and his white lawn tie had loosened until it formed a rakish cross under his chin. In age he might have been anywhere between forty and fifty. As a matter of fact he was forty-six.

His companion at table was his junior by sixteen years, a tall, well-made, good-looking man who wore his dinner clothes as though, contrary to fact, he had appeared in them every night of his life. He was very boyish looking yet, in spite of the lines which told of eight years of labor and struggle and final achievement. Wade Forbes, like his companion, was tanned by sun and wind, and his hands, one of which held the check which the waiter had just presented, although well manicured, bore evidence of toil with pick and shovel, sledge and drill. His face, expressing at once resolution and good temper, was clean shaven, his hair was dark and a pair of calm and steady brown eyes answered his partner's smile.

"Dave, you're getting reckless," he said.

"Huh!" Dave gulped down an oath. "If I lived in this town I reckon I wouldn't have a red at the end of the month. It sure does appeal to your generous nature, Wade. Seems like I coudn't keep my hands out of my pockets here." He glanced about him over the crowded room; the hanging baskets of ferns, the leaf-hidden lights, the splashing fountain, the busy, hurrying waiters. "Remember the Senate restarong at Telluride, Wade? This sort o' reminds you of it, don't it? It's so different! Reckon all these gay dudes live here, boy, or just come in for a good feed?"

"Just here for dinner, I guess, most of them. The quiet folks in the corners and at the side tables are guests of the hotel, probably. The splashy ones are outsiders blowing in a week's salary."

"What? Ain't they all millionaires?" exclaimed Dave. "Gee, I was feelin' poor and humble, boy! Reckon that undersized galoot over there with the golden-haired Venus ain't got no more'n I have, Wade?"

"It's a safe bet," laughed Wade. "I dare say if it came to a show-down, Dave, you'd outstack 'em all."

"Well, I'll be—" Dave swallowed it. "Think o' that! I thought they was all Rockefellers and Goulds and J. P. Morgans. Well, if that little two-by-twice dude ain't got any coin I don't see what a fine lookin' lady like she is wants with him." Dave stroked his mustache, and gazed admiringly across. "She's certainly a winner on looks, ain't she?" He caught Wade's look of amusement and answered it with a shake of his head. "New York ain't no proper place for a married man, partner. I been feelin' frisky ever since I lit out of that Pullman car this mornin'. Don't you go an' leave me alone here, boy. If you do I won't be answerin' for any consequences arisin' therefrom. What you got there?" This to the waiter who was displaying three open cigar boxes. "'Romeo and Juliet,' eh? That's a new one on me, son, but I reckon they're all right. I seen the play once and Juliet was all to the good. How much are they?"

"Forty cents, sir."

"Forty, eh? Didn't I tell you I wanted fifty-centers?"

"Those are all right, Dave," Wade interposed.

"Are they? Well, you know, partner." He picked out a handful and tossed them on the table. "Have some. How much, son?"

"Two dollars and eighty cents, sir. I'll bring a check."

"All right. Ain't anything more we got to eat, is there. Wade? 'Cause I certainly am feelin' kind o' discouraged."

"No, I guess we've done our duty, Dave. I suppose you'll want to go to the theatre, won't you?"

"Anything better in sight?"

"No, not unless you'd rather try opera," answered Wade with a smile.

"Opera? You mean grand opera that you read about? I never been to one of them. How are they, pretty—" Dave waved his cigar—"pretty tony?"

"About the limit on style, Dave."

"Well, there aint nothin' I ain't ready to go up against! Lead me to it! I'm feelin' sort o' rich and dizzy, boy, and I reckon I want the best there is."

Wade took up the evening paper and glanced over the amusement column.

"Then I guess it's the Manhattan for ours, Dave. They're singing Herodiade there. It's Aida at the other house, and I guess Herodiade would suit you better."

"Just as you say. I ain't never heard of either of 'em. How about this Eye-talian feller, Caruso? He doin' anything tonight?"

"Not tonight," Wade answered. "It's Cavalieri and Renaud at the Manhattan."

Dave blinked and waved his cigar acquiescently.

"Sounds all right, boy. I leave it to you. Just as long as there's plenty of style and ginger I'm for it. Pay your bill and let's get along. I ain't spent any money for 'most an hour and my roll's gettin' awful nervous!"