The Rival Janitors
by Charles Hoy Fort
A blue river, white-flecked with the flying of gulls. A slaughter house and a brewery. Then Caskoden's row of tenement houses.
From far away, Caskoden Row would catch your eye. A fluttering, and a waving, and a flapping of quilts, table cloths, towels, shirts, skirts, wrappers, aprons and overalls--all out on the fire-escape landings, which were really balconies, for not a ladder connecting them one with another was to be seen. There were wash tubs on the balconies, jugs, boilers, demijohns, coal scuttles, chopping bowls, baskets. Thirty ash cans, three in front of each house. Women in the windows hissing--like a gallery at an abduction in melodrama--hissing to a rag man, jingling along with a strap full of different-sized dinner bells. Children swarming; some playing marbles on a manhole cover; others taking turns sitting on a letter box which, like a merry-go-round, those awaiting turns whirled around and around its post.
Across the street was the real-estate office of the agent of the property. Caskoden Row was very disreputable looking, but from his office the agent could see only spots of it, for his windows were almost covered with many-colored signs; fire, life, and accident insurance; "Legal documents carefully drawn up," and "Marriages legally performed."
Janitor Bantry, smoking an inverted corn-cob, stood on the stoop of Number 580, and languidly surveyed the Row. Red-nosed, gray-haired man; might have been dapper had he good clothes; wore a cracked hat rakishly inclining towards one eye. There was a good deal of energy in Janitor Bantry; but the energy turned to languid melancholy as he surveyed the Row, and thought of halls and stairs badly in need of a broom. Oh, if a fairy godmother would only come along, and a wand do the work of a broom!
Janitor Bantry knew everybody. The hardware man from the Avenue was just passing the stoop.
"Oh, Mr. Harris!" called the janitor. Not a thing in the world had he to say, but in talking there was escape from unpleasant thoughts of unswept stairs. "Now what was it I was going to say to you? Well, never mind; it can keep. It ain't like a mule, and it won't eat nothing for its keep. What was the trouble in Grogan's the other night?"
The hardware man told about the trouble.
Ten minutes of escape from unswept stairs.
Janitor Bantry looked behind the iron railing extending the length of the Row. Behind the railing were discarded shoes, stove pipes, flower pots, a window shade, tomato cans, papers, rags; at this refuse, which should have to be cleared away, the janitor was looking unhappily, when the harness maker from the next block came along. Then:
"Ah, good morning, Mr. Straggler! Just the man I wanted to see."
Mr. Straggler's mouth widened into an expectant grin, for the janitor always had a good story to tell.
"Well, what do you want to see me about this morning, Bantry?"
"Why, yes! Now, what is it I was going to say? Well, it ain't like an autty-mobile that has just run you down; it will come back again. Did I ever tell you about the hypnotized rats?" Funny story. Harness maker went his way, laughing heartily. Janitor Bantry, himself, looked almost as amused--then melancholy again. Melancholy indeed! Thirty ash cans would have to be set back in the yards. Thirty torments played through the janitorial mind until--
"Ah, Mr. Grossbeak! I've been looking all over for you. Let's see! What was it I wanted to say? Oh, well, it ain't like a burglar you've trapped in your wine cellar; it won't go consuming nothing in the meantime. Did I ever tell you about when I was selling lightning-rods up Canada way?" Another story, and then the janitor sauntered to the corner, turned his back upon work undone, and tried to think of nobler things.
This is why tenants in the neglected houses said:
"Never you fear! The agent will wake up someday, and then Bantry will be out of a job. He'll wish he had done a little work, then."
So, one morning, no one was astonished when, out on the stoop, between waves of his hand to hardware men, harness makers, and tobacconists, the janitor remarked, dejectedly to a tenant:
"It's true you can't tell who your friends are! And him over there in his office, I've knowed twenty years. I'm getting pretty old now to have trouble like this--ah, good morning, Mr. Schmidt. Just the man I've been wanting to see!--Oh, well, it ain't like a marble on a greased plank, it won't run away."
Tenants from the next house sauntered up to the stoop to hear what the trouble was. Second-floor tenants with heads out windows. First-floor tenants came out in the hall.
"Why, what's the matter, Mr. Bantry? You ain't leaving us or anything?"
Janitor Bantry groaning: "What was I saying? Well, it ain't like money paid for your rent, it will come back again--oh, yes! I've known Mr. Thomas twenty years and never thought he'd tell me such a thing as that. Ah, Mr. Birchey, I spent all last evening looking for you."
Mr. Birchey was succeeded by Mr. Abrams, then by Mr. Riley. The janitor was holding his morning reception out on the stoop, and tenants could learn no more from him.
A consultation in the first-floor rooms! Mrs. Tarino, tall young Irish woman, was saying to her sprightly little Italian husband:
"Leo, go right over to the agent, before anybody is engaged. I told you long before to put in your application, because anybody could see Mr. Bantry would lose his job." But the shades, visible in spots behind insurance signs, were drawn, and told that the agent had not yet reached his office.
A second-floor consultation! Long-armed Mrs. Mixer, with muscles in crooked ridges on her long arms. And Mixer, himself, furtive-eyed; head thrust out like a vulture's, from lumps of shoulder blades. Mixer was saying:
"I'm tired to death working hotel kitchens for six a week and taking every chef's abuse! We'll get these houses, and our twenty a month and rent free! The agent ain't come to his office yet, but--you and me start right in and be doing the work when he comes. He'll hire us if he comes and finds us--"
"Sweeping down the stairs!" from Mrs. Mixer. She seized a broom; made a turban of a towel; cut a flour bag and made an apron of it.
"I'll put on my jumpers!" cried Mixer. "He never had a janitor in jumpers before. It will look good for his houses to have a janitor in jumpers."
Out in the hall both of them! Two brooms surging down the stairs.
Then in the first-floor rooms!
"Leo," said Mrs. Tarino, petulantly, "you've let someone beat you! Go see who it is that you've let beat you."
Leo darted to the door--paused, not liking to go out, but then darted into the hall, and abruptly returned, slapping at his pockets, as if he had forgotten something.
"Mamie"--jumping on the floor, snapping his fingers, excitedly twitching his eye-lids--"the Mixers are sweeping down the stairs! Mixer has a jumper on."
"Then you put on your bar jacket!" advised Mrs. Tarino. And around her own hair she wound a towel for a turban. But, unlike Mrs. Mixer, she looked in the mirror, patted the turban, pinned it another way, patted it again. And on with white bar-jacket, beside which mere jumpers would indeed look dull and commonplace. Out in the hall with the broom-armed Tarinos. Competition began.
Melancholy voice floating up from the front stoop:
"Yes, sir, knowed the agent twenty years, and never would have believed he'd say such a thing to me!"
Mixers sweeping furiously. The excitable Tarino, on the steps below them, stumbled all over his broom. Mrs. Tarino, holding her neatly turbaned head high, swept daintily. But convulsive sweeping from the others! With the attractions of Jumpers and Bar Jacket in dispute, the decision would probably be won by the most convulsive sweepers.
From Mrs. Mixer, furiously sweeping dust down upon the white jacket below her, her gaunt muscular arm motioning to her husband to do the same:
"Oh, Mrs. Tarino, you was a very nice lady! Me and my husband always said you was a very nice lady---"
Excitedly from Mixer:
"Oh, a very nice lady and a gentleman, too!" Both slyly motioning to each other to cover the white jacket with dust.
"And never meant for rough work like taking care of houses. Oh, no, the soft, pretty hands you got! So, if you don't mind, me and my husband will sweep down the stairs."
From the both of them:
"Oh, a very nice gentleman!" Spouts of dust aimed down upon little Tarino, still stumbling over his long-handled broom.
With austerity, from Mrs. Tarino:
"Whatever my husband tells me, I must do. When he tells me to sweep down stairs, I must sweep down stairs." And then all four were in the front hall, finding it embarrassing to pass melancholy Bantry on the stoop, but all four determined to be janitors. All four going to the next house to sweep there the Mixers pausing to whine.
"Oh, we're so sorry you're going to leave us, Mr. Bantry! We always said you was such a nice gentleman."
"Oh, such a nice gentleman!" Head over heels to sweep down the next house. But the headlong rush was stopped by something overheard by Mixer. He heard Bantry saying to a man and woman:
"Well, those people seem to be in charge now; you'd better see them if you want rooms."
Mixer turned about, caught his wife's long arm, yanked her about with him; both ran back to the stoop.
"Have you rooms to rent?" A bull-dog looking woman; flat nose and remarkably wide nostrils; unsmiling, solid face; fine fresh complexion; tousled hair. And a man with a hanging head, taking no interest in rooms, turned away, digging with a stick in an ash barrel.
"They do be going to tear down the houses cross the way." Bull-dog woman mouthing every word, looking straight ahead, not a trace of expression on her face, nor of inflexion in her words. "The lot of us is put out. Have you rooms for me and Jawn, here? Jawn, don't be fooling with the gentleman's barrels!" Jawn, tapping with his stick on a barrel, paying no attention to the transaction going on.
"Oh, yes, we have a floor!" from the Mixers. They looked at each other, eyes blinking with cunning. "A very nice floor, the third floor." Then an impediment, for Janitor Bantry had the keys, and they had not the courage to ask him for his badges of office, the bunch of keys. Ah, but any key would do--all keys fitted all locks in this house, the tenants not using the house locks, but padlocks or spring locks of their own. The Mixers led the way to a door, punctured as if it had been a gatling-gun target, where many different-sized spring locks had been fitted, most of the holes plugged with corks.
The Mixers rented the only vacant floor in the row. There was a high-class point scored by the Mixers.
Into the third house with Jumpers--White Jacket just entering from the second house. Mrs. Tarino patted and adjusted her turban, Tarino stumbled over his broom. They glanced up the street. Bantry had wandered away, but two strangers were standing on the stoop of Number 580.
"Maybe they want to rent the third floor, Mamie!" from Tarino. "We rent the third floor to them, and then where will the Mixers be with the agent? We get him a tenant and he give us the job, sure thing!"
Tarino leapt up the street, and alarmed the strangers by forcing them back in the doorway, so that if the Mixers should appear, the Mixers should know nothing of this coup.
A placid, motherly-looking, old lady, hands calmly folded in front of her upon a little leather bag. And her son; irregular-featured young fellow of twenty; a mouth that seemed to sprawl from cheek to cheek; soft-mannered, looking not very strong.
"We heard you have a floor to let here."
The excited little Tarino pushed them into the hall and up the stairs. Mrs. Tarino followed with stately tread, turbaned head held high.
And to be sure the Tarinos had a floor to let! Bright, fine rooms, with a sunbeam that came in almost five minutes every clear day! "Right here!" Tarino danced over the floor to show where the sunbeam came in. And such a quiet house--never any quarrelling, and everybody minding his own business,--indeed one would have to search far before finding such desirable rooms. Passionately did Tarino praise the most desirable rooms. And then:
"What is it these young people are saying, Eddie?" asked the old lady, Deaf old lady! Convincing arguments and descriptions quite thrown away. But:
"Yes, these rooms will do very well. We'll move right in."
Then back to sweep down more houses. Busy Mixers chuckled and nudged each other slyly. Busy Tarinos chuckled and winked. To meet the agent with news of a rented floor would certainly make a favorable impression upon him.
Houses all swept down! They would have to find something else to do. Over the iron railing with the Tarinos--out into the barrels with the refuse there. And, oh, vile imitators that the Mixers were!--they, too, cleared up the rubbish that had been accumulating for years.
Then the Mixers cast their eyes heavenward and failed to understand how human nature could fall so low--for they found door knobs to polish. They shuddered with disgust; the execrably imitative Tarinos were rubbing other door knobs.
A furniture cart stopped in front of Number 580. Then the Mixers ran to a back yard, hoping that the Tarinos would follow and know nothing about the rented floor; and through the next hall the Tarinos were falling over each other to lure the Mixers after them. Then Jumpers and Bar Jacket peered through the cracks in a back yard fence, each rival peering to see what the other was doing. Oh, what could one do? What that is industrious could one do in a back yard? Oh, quick, for at any moment the agent might appear and one must be found working hard!
The Mixers dragged a frayed strip of hall-matting out into their yard, and fiercely shook it between them. Another strip of matting in the next yard, undulating like stage waves between the Tarinos!
And not only one furniture cart, but two furniture carts had unloaded at Number 580.
Then came the bull-dog woman following her furniture, finding it piled along the east wall of the third-floor rooms. Old lady and her son came up the stairs; their furniture in a line along the west wall.
"Who are you and what do you want here?" from the bull-dog woman. She glowered as much as she could with her flat, coarse, pink-and-white face.
"You're Eddie O'Rourke, and I've seen you lounging on the corners with a lot of loafers since you were knee high--but what are you doing in my rooms?"
Eddie O'Rourke was chipper. No bull-dog woman would bully him!
"And I know you, Mrs. Plank!" he said. "And your husband, who has the falling sickness, and you not never letting him go to the hospital, where he'd get better treatment than you neglecting him at home. We're the tenants here."
The old lady, her hands folded on the little black bag, one ear turned to the speakers, tried to understand. Jawn stood by a window, picking out strips of putty.
"You're the tenants here? Then it's yourself says you are! 'Tis myself is the proper-ietor here!"
"What is she saying, Eddie?" from Mrs. O'Rourke, taking off her hat, fussing along the mantelpiece with it to put it in just the exact spot she wanted to put it.
But Eddie O'Rourke ran down the stairs to find the people that had rented him the rooms. And Mrs. Plank ran down to find the people who had rented her the rooms. Both returned, after having rapped vainly upon doors.
"Why, what's the trouble, Eddie?" from old Mrs. O'Rourke.
"Ah, don't be bothering with her, mother," young fellow shouting close to the old lady's ear. "It's some mistake she's made, and she'll move right out as soon as she gets other rooms."
Kindly, motherly smile. And:
"I'm sure the lady is welcome to stay until she gets another place. Then we'll not put the house to order, Eddie, till we have it to ourselves."
Bull-dog mouth and eyes and remarkable nostrils wide open; sluggish brain trying hard to comprehend. And then:
"Till you have it to yourselves? Till I have it to myself, me and Jawn, you mean!" Bull-dog woman was chanting, like a child speaking a piece:
"The rooms is mine, and I stays in them, and one word from you and I'll have Jawn throw a fit on the floor before you. And 'tis terrible sight he is with his fingers clutching, and the froth of his mouth--Jawn, throw a fit this minute." Jawn, paying attention to nobody, poked his finger in holes in a cane-bottomed chair.
"You'll get out of our rooms, or I'll put you out!" from angry Eddie O'Rourke.
"Is that so? You will?" Bull-dog woman was yelping with laughter.
"Eddie O'Rourke lay hands on me? Or the likes of him! Or anybody laying hands on me, a decent, respectable, hard-working woman?"
"What is she saying, Eddie?"
"Oh, that's all right, mother! Nothing." Eddie O'Rourke nervous and far less chipper.
"Eddie O'Rourke, who all the neighbors knows what he is, and was pinched last summer!"
The old lady was fussing along the west side of the room, extricating her easy chair from the tangle of furniture, getting some sewing from a trunk. She made herself comfortable; fussing a good deal first, and then taking up her sewing.
Mrs. Plank went to a window, she sat upon the window sill, and opening the window: "Here I stay, and if others wants to stay, let them, but it's meself know how to destroy whatever pleasure they think they'll get by it. Let them stay and hear what everybody knows about them!" She was looking at opposite windows and beginning to chant:
"Sure, everybody knows what Eddie O'Rourke is! He stole the plumbing out of the new flats around the corner, and was pinched last summer." Raising her voice. Bellowing over to opposite windows:
"Sure, we all know who Eddie O'Rourke is, and him trying to take the rooms off a decent, respectable, hard-working woman! Eddie O'Rourke was pinched last summer! Eddie O'Rourke was pinched last summer!"
"What is she saying, Eddie?" asked old lady; pausing in her sewing.
Eddie O'Rourke paced to the window, back, to the window again, as if he would implore the woman to cease, but felt that nothing but giving up the rooms he was determined not to give up, would appease her. He stammered:
"She's telling some folks across the way about me saving lives at the pier last summer."
Terrific snort of disgust from Mrs. Plank, who was called the "horse" in the neighborhood, because of her burliness and steady, plodding ways.
"Why, Eddie, you never told me that!" said the astonished old lady, dropping her sewing.
"Oh, there's lots I done I never told you, mother."
"And it was lives you saved? Why, Eddie, tell me about it! Why, Eddie!"
Another snort. And then:
"Everybody knows Eddie O'Rourke!"--bellowing it out of the window, in tones that, if bellowed in the room, any person not totally deaf would have heard:
"Eddie O'Rourke was taken up for shooting craps in the cigar store last winter!"
Mrs. O'Rourke was beaming upon the "horse," who was eulogizing her son. "Whisper, Eddie! She seems a very nice woman. I'm sure she couldn't say anything that wasn't creditable to you, Eddie, but it's good of her to acquaint the neighbors of what you did that I never heard before. Was it somebody fell off of a boat? Or in swimming? And you never told me! Eddie, put up the stove, and I'll make her a drop of tea. She's a very nice woman!"
Eddie O'Rourke set to work to put the stove in place; nervously bungling with the stove pipe and clattering stove covers to drown further disclosures.
Then an oath from the "very nice woman." An oath bellowed with:
"Eddie O'Rourke's a corner loafer, and I seen the cop club the two knees from under him!"
"Yes, Eddie, I must make a cup of tea for her. She must be a good woman to speak so nice of you."
But neither the Tarinos nor the Mixers heard this bellowing, for they were in the street again. No agent yet, and the work done so that never before had the houses been in such condition. But they tried to find more work yet. Twenty dollars a month and rent free! Quick! What else could they be found doing by the agent, who might appear at any moment?
The Mixers scraped fragments of signs pasted on sides of doorways. Tarinos scraped away at other doorways. Tarinos and Mixers rubbed off chalk marks, which were the scrawled biography of one Johnnie McGill, and the exposed sinfulness of Johnnie McGill was lost to fame.
Continued bellowing from the third-floor windows, Number 580:
"Eddie O'Rourke hangs out in the back room of Riley's, and goes through the pockets of the drunks there. Sure you all know what Eddie O'Rourke is! Eddie O'Rourke makes his living by thieving!"
The windows across the yards were opening--Italian women looking out wonderingly. The Italian women were chattering to one another, seeking an explanation, unable to understand what it was all about until--one Italian woman exclaiming:
"Oh, to be sure!"--that would explain anything.
Stove put up. Cup of tea made. "Why, what is it she's saying now, Eddie?"
The distressed Eddie O'Rourke, still clattering a stove cover, stammered:
"Why, she seems to be telling things about me, mother. You make out my name mentioned, don't you?"
"And what things, Eddie?"
"Well, it ain't modest-like for me to tell them, mother. Just about--how good I was to a poor family once, mother."
"Ah, sure, you always was good, Eddie! You'd give away the shirt off your back if I wasn't nigh to hold you back in your generosity." Old lady was beaming upon the bellowing "horse," and fussing with a cup of tea. She turned to the window. "Ah, my dear, now won't you have a little cup of tea before you go out searching for rooms for yourself? 'Tis exhausting searching for rooms. Here's a cup of strong tea to put heart into you for it."
The "horse" glared in slow, stolid savagery.
"Go 'way with your cup of tea, that'll never slick me over. You'll try long before a cup of tea will charm a decent, respectable, hard-working woman out of her own rooms for you. Go 'way, or I'll have Jawn throw a fit this minute. Jawn!" Jawn, standing by the mantelpiece, paid attention to nobody; he was pressing and bursting blisters on the black-painted fireboard. "Jawn, throw a fit this minute!" Jawn, was cracking more blisters.
"Then you're not caring for a cup of tea, my dear?" said the old lady, going to a trunk and opening it. Fussing through it. Drawing out a scarf and returning to the window. "My dear, put this on your head while you're waiting, and you're welcome to wait to your own convenience; but, at this time of year, to catch cold is so easy."
Then the look of the "horse" was as uncomprehending as the look of the Italian women had been. But the Italian women had found a satisfactory explanation for their perplexity. The "horse" could find no explanation. Someone was kind to her.
With wide, staring eyes, dilated nostrils and mouth open, she started to bellow, but only murmured:
"Eddie O'Rourke makes his living by thieving!"
"My dear, put this on!" The old lady, fussing with the scarf, folded it and patted it to have it exactly to her liking; put it on the "horse's" head, tying it over the tousled mane and under the delicately pink-tinted chin, and fussing with the tying to have it exactly to her liking.
"What is it, my dear? I'm just a wee bit hard of hearing."
"She was remarking about me!" from the unhappy Eddie O'Rourke, who had found stove covers too hot to clatter. He glanced appealingly at the "horse." "Just remarking how faithful I am in my church duties." Shouting this close to an aged ear "just a wee bit hard of hearing."
"Ah, you were always a good boy, Eddie! He's me only comfort, ma'am." Holding back her head and surveying the youth proudly. "I have had fears he might be a wee bit wild at times, but he's settled down so he's my only comfort. Sure, the poor boy tries hard, but he's unfortunate. He's as willing as the day is long, but 'tis hard to find work nowadays--"
"Eddie O'Rourke is a--" but the soft scarf seemed to hold her chin from moving. Starting again:
"Eddie O'Rourke is--"
"Such a comfort to me!" sighed the old lady. "As willing as the day is long, but unfortunate. Never mind, Eddie; we always have the pension to fall back on." Pouncing upon the "horse's" coarse, red hands: "My dear, see how red your hands are! You must come over and sit by the stove and warm them."
Then again there was wondering upon the faces of the Italian women in opposite windows. Utter inability to comprehend; chattering from window to window; and then explanation:
For the "horse" was weeping violently. Seemingly as stolid as brass, she was as easily moved as brass scales, up or down with any emotion.
"Ah, sure, but you're the kind old creature!" violently wept the "horse." "Oh, Eddie O'Rourke, how can you be the bad boy you are, with the good, old mother you have?"
And, an appealing whisper from the youth, huddled up to the window sill:
"Oh, now, Mrs. Plank, don't go telling these things on me! Honest, it's all because I was in with a gang I'm through with forever. Honest to Gawd! I've shook the gang and got no more to do with it. I'll hustle for some other rooms for ourselves, if you'll only promise not to go telling on me while I'm gone."
"And you saved lives down to the pier, last summer?"--the old lady astonished at the emotion of the "horse," yet returning to the subject with which her mind was filled. "And, my dear, but the close-mouthed lad he is! Me never before hearing it."
"Oh, Eddie O'Rourke," from the emotional "horse," "how can you be the bad boy you are---" but then, close to aged ear, "Sure, ma'am, you have indeed the lad to be proud of!" Another wail:
"Oh, if I only had an old mother like that to be good to
me--I'd work my fingers to the bone, I would and gladly! I'd scrub on me knees all day and all night, I would! If I had someone to be good to me!"
Again in the ear that was "just a wee bit hard of hearing:"
"Sure, everybody knows what Eddie O'Rourke is--a decenter, willinger lad ain't to be found in the district!"
"Oh, gee, Mrs. Plank," from Eddie O'Rourke, in a whisper, "may my tongue be paralyzed, but I'm sorry for any hasty words I said to you."
"He was always a good boy!"--proud and happy old lady. "And, Eddie, perhaps, while we have a cup of tea, anyway, you'll go down and put in an ad for lodgers?"
"For lodgers?"--from the "horse," snorting, and gasping and, altogether, making a fearful time of it. "Then, sure, why can't the lot of us take the rooms together, and the two of us pay halves, and the lot of us dwell in peace and happiness?"
"What is she saying, Eddie? My dear, excuse me, but sometimes, I don't quite catch exactly every word spoken."
"There's room for all of us, and the floor's too big for one family, and we'll half up on it and share the kitchen," said grateful Eddie O'Rourke.
"Yes, the rent is too much for one to pay," agreed his mother. "And, sure, I'd not be feeling we was at all with strangers, as you know my son so well, ma'am."
"Oh, we can get along fine!" cried the "horse," "and there wasn't use quarrelling in the first place. And, Jawn--pay attention to me, Jawn! Jawn, you can have your fits, which it would be unnatural to deprive you of, but when you feel them coming, always run downstairs and into someone else's room, and throw them there, mind you!"
The old lady fussing about the rooms, then fussing back and forth from the stove to a table, said finally: "And, now, my dear, perhaps you will have a cup of tea with me?"
"I will, and with all the heart of me! And, Jawn, show your manners by never throwing fits at tea time!"
"And my Eddie saved lives, which I'd never know about, wasn't it for you!" Mrs. O'Rourke was exclaiming.
"Gee!" murmured Eddie.
"Then, my dear, we'll all share the rooms, and, perhaps, we'd better begin putting them to order--but where are you going, Eddie?"
"Gee," murmured Eddie O'Rourke, "I've got to live up to that reputation of mine!
"Where am I going? Going to hustle out for a job, I am!" Repeating to himself:
"Gee! I got to live up to that reputation!"
Down in the street again! Bantry stands on the stoop, looking worried. The Tarinos come up the street, Mixers following them, watching them warily, almost exhausted--Mixers, but vigilant Mixers, who would not let thoroughly exhausted Tarinos out of their sight for one moment.
"I'm all beat out!" said Mrs. Tarino. She lifted her hand, but dropped it, too weary to find out how the turban was fitting. Tarino, dragging his broom after him, in dust-covered jacket, breathed heavily. Four forms straggled to the stoop and there lingered, without energy to ascend it. All the day gone, and no agent!
"Good evening!" said Bantry, "But I don't know what Mr. Thames will say about this! You've gone and each of you rented that floor, and there's been the deuce to pay between the different parties."
Tarinos and Mixers looked at one another too tired for comments. They leaned on their brooms languidly.
"He'll hold me responsible," from worried Bantry, "if them parties don't come to some agreement."
"You?" asked Mixer. The three others panted among them:
"But you're discharged, ain't you?"
"Me?" drawled Bantry. "Why, that's a queer idea! Oh, old Thames wouldn't bounce me in a thousand years, but he did insult me. `Bantry,' he says, last night, `I'll be out of town tomorrow, and, when I come back, I want to see them houses in some sort of condition.'"
Mrs. Tarino sat down limply. Tarino dropped his broom and was too weak to pick it up. The Mixers had no strength to express their indignation.
Janitor Bantry surveyed the transformed Row critically. "Why, no!" he decided. "I can't see as it needs very much going over."
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