THE pavement flashed like a river in the sun. Over it slowly moved the churches’ disgorged multitudes, brilliant, deliberate, proud as a pageant, a tumult of reds and blues and greens, oranges, yellows, and browns; from a window above, outrageous, intriguing, like music full of exotic disharmonies; but closer, grating, repellent, like an orchestra tuning up: this big, broad-faced, fawn-colored woman in her wide, floppy leghorn hat with a long cerise ribbon streaming down over its side, and a dress of maize georgette; or that poor scrawny black girl, bareheaded, her patches of hair captured in squares, her beaded cobalt frock girdled with a sash of scarlet satin. But whether you saw with pleasure or pity, you could have no doubt of the display. Harlem’s Seventh Avenue was dressed in its Sunday clothes.

And so was Cyril Sebastian Best. To him this promenade was the crest of the week’s wave of pleasure. Here was show and swagger and strut, and in these he knew none could outvie him. Find if you could a suit of tan gabardine that curved in at the waist and flared at the hips so gracefully as his own; try to equal his wide wing-collar, with its polka-dot bow-tie matching the border of the kerchief in his breast pocket, or his heavy straw hat with its terraced crown and thick saucer-shaped brim, or his white buckskin shoes with their pea-green trimmings, or his silvertopped ebony cane. He challenged the Avenue and found no rival to answer.

Cyril Sebastian Best was a British West Indian. From one of the unheardof islands he had come to Trinidad. From Trinidad, growing weary of coindiving, he had sailed to Southampton as kitchen boy on a freighter, acquiring en route great skill in dodging the Irish cook’s missiles and returning his compliments. From Southampton he had shipped in another freighter for New York under a cook from Barbados, a man who compunctionlessly regarded all flesh as fit for carving; and Cyril had found the blade of his own innate craftiness, though honed to a hairsplitting edge, no match for an unerringly aimed cleaver. The trip’s termination had undoubtedly saved his life; its last twenty-four hours he had spent hiding from the cook, and when the ship had cast anchor he had jumped overboard at night, swimming two miles to shore. From those who picked him up exhausted and restored him to bodily comfort he had stolen what he could get and made his way into New York.

There were British West Indians in Harlem who would have told Cyril Sebastian Best flatly to his face that they despised him — that he would not have dared even address them in the islands; who frequently reproved their American friends for judging all West Indians by the Cyril Sebastian Best standard. There were others who, simply because he was a British West Indian, gathered him to their bosoms in that regardless warmth with which the outsider ever welcomes his like.

Among these latter, the more numerous, Cyril accordingly expanded. His self-esteem, his craftiness, his contentiousness, his acquisitiveness, all became virtues. To him self-improvement meant nothing but increasing these virtues, certainly not eliminating or modifying any of them. He became fond of denying that he was ‘colored,’ insisting that he was ‘a British subject,’ hence by implication unquestionably superior to any merely American Negro. And when two years of contact convinced him that the American Negro was characteristically neither self-esteemed nor crafty nor contentious nor acquisitive, in short was quite virtueless, his conscious superiority became downright contempt.

It was with no effort to conceal his personal excellence that Cyril Sebastian Best proceeded up Seventh Avenue. All this turnout was but his fitting background, his proper setting; it pleased him for no other reason than that it rendered him the more conscious of himself—a diamond surrounded with rhinestones. It did not occur to him as he swung along, flourishing his bright black cane, that any of the frequent frank stares or surreptitious second glances that fell upon him could have any origin other than admiration — envy, of course, as its companion in the cases of the men. That his cocky air could be comic, that the extremeness of his outfit could be ridiculous, that the contrast between his clothes and his complexion could cause a lip to curl — none of these far winds rippled the complacency of his ego. He had studied the fashion books carefully. Like them, he was incontrovertibly correct. Like them, again, he was incontrovertibly British; while these Harlemites were just American Negroes, And then, beyond and above all this, he was Cyril Sebastian Best.

The group of loud-laughing young men near the corner he was approaching had not regard for the Sabbath, appreciation for the splendor of Seventh Avenue, or respect for any particular person who might pass within earshot. Indeed they derived as great a degree of pleasure out of the weekly display as did Cyril Sebastian Best, but of a quite different sort. Instead of joining the procession, they preferred assembling at some point in its course and ‘giving the crowd the once-over.’ They enjoyed exchanging loud comments upon the passers-by, the slightest quip provoking shouts of laughter; and they possessed certain stock subtleties which were always sure to elicit merriment, such as the whistled tune of ‘There she goes, there she goes, all dressed up in her Sunday clothes!’ A really pretty girl usually won a surprised ‘Well, hush my mouth!’ while a really pretty ankle always occasioned wild embraces of mock excitement.

An especially favored and carefully reserved trick was for one member of the group to push another into a stroller, the latter accomplice apologizing with elaborate deference, while the victim stood helpless between uncertainty and rage. In Harlem, however, an act of this kind required a modicum of selectivity. The group would never have attempted it on the heavy-set, walnut-visaged gentleman just passing, for all of his suede spats and crimson cravat; but when Cyril Sebastian Best lilted into view the temptation was beyond resistance.

‘Push me!’ Punch Anderson pleaded of his neighbor. ‘Not yet, Meg. Wait a minute. Now!’

The impact sent Cyril’s cane capering toward the gutter; his hat described progressively narrower circles on the sidewalk; and before Punch could remove his own hat and frame his polite excuse Cyril’s fulminant temper flashed. Some would have at least considered the possibility of innocent sincerity; others, wiser, would have said nothing, picked up their things, and passed on; but Cyril Sebastian Best reacted only to outraged vanity, and the resultant cloudburst of vituperation staggered even the well-informed Punch Anderson.

‘Soft pedal, friend,’ he protested, grinning. ‘I’m apologizing, ain’t I?’

More damnation. Epithets conceived over kitchen filth; curses born of the sea; worded fetor.

Punch’s round-faced grin faded. He deliberately secured the West Indian’s hat and cane and without a word handed them to him. Cyril snatched them out of Punch’s hand as if from a leper and flung out a parting invective — a gem of obscenity. Punch’s sense of humor died.

‘Say that again, you black son of a simian, and somebody ‘ll be holding an inquest over you!’

In the act of raising his hat to his head Cyril said it again. Punch’s fist went through the crown of the hat to reach the West Indian’s face.

A minute later Cyril, tears streaming, polka-dot kerchief growing rapidly crimson with repeated application, was hurrying through the unbearable stares of gaping promenaders, while in his ears seethed the insult: ‘Now get the hell out o’ here, you ringtail monkeychaser ! ‘


The entrance of the Rosina wears an expression of unmistakable hauteur and you know it immediately to be one of the most arrogant of apartment houses. You need not stand on the opposite side of the Avenue and observe the disdain with which the Rosina looks down upon her neighbors. You have only to pass between her distinguishing gray-granite pillars with their protective, flanking grille-work and pause for a hesitant moment in the spacious hall beyond: the overimmaculate tiled floors, the stiff, paneled mahogany walls, the frigid lights in their crystalline fixtures, the supercilious palms, all ask you at once who you are and what you want here. To reach the elevator you must make between two lordly, contemptuous wall-mirrors, which silently deride you and show you how out of place you are. If you are sufficiently courageous or obtuse, you gain the elevator and with growing discomfiture await the pleasure of the operator, who is just now occupied at the switchboard, listening in on some conversation that does not concern him. If you are sufficiently unimpressed or imprudent, you grumble or call aloud, and in that case you always eventually take to the stairs. Puff, blow, rage, and be damned. This is the Rosina. Who are you?

What more pleasurable occupation for Cyril Sebastian Best, then, than elevatorand switchboard-operator in the Rosina? If ever there was selfexpression, this was it. He was the master of her halls, he was the incarnation of her spirit; in him her attitude became articulate — articulate with a Trinidadian accent, but distinctly intelligible, none the less. There were countless residents and their callers to be laughed at; there were endless silly phone-talks to be tapped at the switchboard; there were great mirrors before which he could be sure of the perfect trimness of his dapper grayand-black uniform; there were relatively few passengers who absolutely required the use of the elevator, and most of those tipped well and frequently. It was a wonderful job.

Cyril’s very conformity with his situation kept him ordinarily in the best of humor, the rendering of good service yielding him a certain satisfaction of his own. It was therefore with a considerable shock that one resident, flatteringly desirous, as she thought, of Cyril’s aid in facilitating a connection, heard herself curtly answered, ‘Ah, tell de outside operator. Whaht you t’ink I keer?’ — and that a familiar caller in the Rosina, upon being asked, ‘Whaht floor?' and answering pleasantly, ‘Third, as usual,’ heard himself rebuked with ‘“As usual”! You t’ink I am a mindreader, ‘ey?’

Clearly Cyril Sebastian Best was in no obliging mood to-day.

Nothing amused, nothing even interested him: neither the complexion of the very dark girl who persisted in using too much rouge with an alarmingly cyanotic result, nor the leprously overpowdered nose of the young lady who lived in fifty-nine and ‘ passed ‘ for white in her downtown position. He did not even grin at the pomposity of the big yellow preacher who, instead of purchasing ecclesiastic collars, simply put his lay ones on backward.

Cyril sat before the switchboard brooding, his memory raw with ‘monkey-chaser’ and ‘ringtail.’ Now and then a transient spasm of passion contorted his features. In the intervals he was sullen and glum and absorbed in contemplated revenge.

‘Cyril! Are n’t you ever going to take me up? I’m starving to death!’

He looked up. Hilda Vogel’s voice was too sweet, even in dissatisfaction, not to be heeded; and she was too pretty — fair, rougelessly rosy, with dimpled cheeks and elbows. How different from the picture just now in his mind!

Cyril had secret ambitions about Hilda. Like himself, she was foreign — from Bermuda; a far cry, to be sure, from Trinidad, but British just the same. And she was sympathetic. She laughed at his jests, she frankly complimented his neatness, she never froze his pleasantries with silence, nor sneered, nor put on airs. One day, after a week of casual cordialities during their frequent ascents, she had paused for as long as five minutes at her landing to listen to his description of the restaurant he was going to own some day soon. It could n’t be meaningless. She saw something in him. Why should n’t he have ambitions about her?

‘Cyril! How’d you hurt your lip?’ she asked in the surprise of discovery as the car mounted.

Merely that she noticed elated him; but he would have bitten the lip off rather than tell her. ‘I bump’ into de door doonsteers.’

‘Shame on you, Cyril. That’s an old one. Do I look as dumb as that?’

He was silent for three floors.

‘ Goodness! It must have been something terrible. Oh well, if you ignore me — ‘ And she began humming a ditty.

She had never been so personal before. Had his soul not been filled with bitterness, he might have betrayed some of those secret ambitions at once, right there between floors in the elevator. As it was he was content with a saner resolution: he would ask permission to call Wednesday night. He was ‘off’ Wednesdays.

‘You soun’ quite happy,’ he observed, to make an opening, as he slid back the gate at her floor.

‘You said it!’ she answered gayly, stepping out; and before he could follow his opening her dimples deepened, her eyes twinkled mysteriously, and she added, ‘I may be in love — you’d never know! ‘ Then she vanished down the hallway with a laugh, while the speechless Cyril wondered what she could mean.


In the flat’s largest room a halfdozen young men played poker around a dining-table. A spreading gas-dome of maroon-and-orange stained glass hung low over the table, purring softly, confining its whitish halo to the circle of players, and leaving in dimness the several witnesses who peered over their shoulders. One player was startlingly white, with a heavy rash of brown freckles and short kinky red hair. Another was almost black, with the hair of an Indian and the features of a Moor. The rest ranged between.

A phonograph in a corner finished its blatant ‘ If You Don’t I Know Who Will,’ and someone called for the ‘West Indian Blues.’

‘That reminds me, Punch,’ said Meg Minor over his cards. ‘Remember that monk you hit Sunday?’

‘Never hit anybody on Sunday in my life,’ grinned Punch across the table. ‘I’m a Christian.’

‘Punch hit a monk? Good-night! There’s gonna be some carvin’ done.’

‘Name your flowers, Punch!’

‘ “Four Roses” for Punch!’

Meg went on through the comments: ‘He’s an elevator-boy at the Rosina up the Avenue.’

‘What’d you hit him for, Punch?’

‘Deal me threes, Red,’ requested Punch, oblivious, while Meg told the others what had happened.

‘Serves you right for actin’ like a bunch of infants,’ judged Red. ‘Punch in the Post Office and you supposed to be studyin’ — what the hell are you studyin’ now, Meg?’

‘Serves us right? It was the monk that got hit.’

‘Hmph! D’ you think that’s the end of it? Show me a monk that won’t try to get even and I ‘ll swallow the Woolworth Building.’

‘Well, we were just feeling kind o’ crazy and happened to meet up with that bunch of don’t-give-a-kitty kids. It was fun, only—'

‘ Bet fifteen cents on these four bullets,’ said Punch.



’You stole the last pot, bluffin’,’ calculated Eight-Ball, nicknamed for his complexion’s resemblance to the pool ball of that number. He tossed a blue chip into the growing pile.

‘Have to protect my ante,’ decided his neighbor, resignedly.

‘I’m a dutiful nephew, too,’ followed Meg.

Punch threw down three aces and a joker and reached for the pile of chips.

‘Four bullets sure ‘nough!’

‘An’ I had a full house!’

‘The luck o’ the Nigrish. Had a straight myself.’

‘Luck, hell. Them’s the four bullets that monk’s gonna put into him.’

‘ Right. Get enough for a decent burial, Punch.’

’Deal, friend,’ grinned the unruffled Punch. ‘ I’m up.’

‘On the level, Punch,’ resumed Meg, ‘keep your eyes open. That little ape looks evil to me.’

‘Aw, he’s harmless.’

‘There ain’t no such thing as a harmless monkey-chaser,’ objected Red. ‘If you ‘ve done anything to him, he ‘ll get you sooner or later. He can’t help it — he’s just made that, way, like a spring.’

‘I ain’t got a thing for a monk to do, anyhow,’ interjected a spectator. ‘Hope Marcus Garvey takes ‘em all back to Africa with him. He ‘ll sure have a shipload.’

Eight-Ball finished riffling the cards and began to distribute them carefully. ‘You jigs are worse ‘n ofays,’ he accused. ‘You raise hell about prejudice, and look at you — doin’ just what you’re raisin’ hell over yourselves.’

‘Maybe so,’ Red rejoined, ‘but that don’t make me like monks any better.’

‘What don’t you like about ‘em?’

‘There ain’t nothin’ I do like about ‘em. They’re too damn conceited. They ‘re too aggressive. They talk funny. They look funny — I can tell one the minute I see him. They’re always startin’ an argument an’ they always want the last word. An’ there’s too many of ‘em here.’

‘Yeah,’ Eight-Ball dryly rejoined. ‘An’ they stick too close together an’ get ahead too fast. They put it all over us in too many ways. We could stand ‘em pretty well if it was n’t for that. Same as ofays an’ Jews.’

‘Aw, can the dumb argument,’ said Meg. ‘ Open for a nickel.’

‘Raise a nickel.’

‘Who was the pretty pink you were dancin’ with the other night, Punch?’ inquired the observer behind him.

The lethargic Punch came to life. ‘Boy, was n’t she a sheba? And I don’t even know her name.’

‘Sheikin’ around some, hey?’

‘Nope. My sister Marian introduced me. But I’m so busy looking I don’t catch the name, see? When I dance with her she finds out I don’t know it and refuses to tell. I ask if I can come to see her and she says nothing doing — would n’t think of letting a bird call who did n’t even know her name.’

‘Really got you goin’, hey?’

‘Damn right, she did. I ask Marian her name afterwards and she won’t come across either. Says she’s promised not to tell and if I really want to locate the lady nothing’ll stop me. Can y’ beat it?’

‘Why don’t y’ bribe Marian?’

‘ Ii you can bribe Marian I can be President.’

‘All right, heavy lover,’ interpolated Meg impatiently. ‘You in this game?’

Punch discovered then that he had discarded the three queens he had intended to keep, and had retained a deuce and a fivespot.

‘Well, cut me in my neck!’ he ejaculated. ‘Did you see what I did?’

The man behind him laughed. ‘Boy, you’re just startin’,’ he said. ‘Wait till you locate the pink!’

The gloomy dinginess that dimmed the stuffy little front room of the Rosina’s basement flat was offset not so much by the two or three one-bulb lights in surprisingly useless spots as by the glow of the argument, heated to incandescence. Payner, the housesuperintendent, whose occupancy of these rooms constituted part of his salary, had not forgotten that he was a naturalized American of twenty years’ standing, and no longer fresh from Montserrat; but Barbadian Gradyne had fallen fully into his native wordthrottling, and Chester of Jamaica might have been chanting a loud response to prayer in the intervals when the others let his singsong have its say.

‘No people become a great people,’ he now insisted, with his peculiar stressing of unaccented syllables, ‘except where it dominate. You t’ink de Negro ever dominate America? Pah!’

‘Africa,’ Gradyne lumberingly supported him, ‘dat de only chance. Teng mo’ years, mahn, dis Harl’m be jes’ like downg Georgia. Dis a white mahn’s country!’

‘Back to Africa!’ snorted Payner. ‘Go on back, you b’ys. Me— I doan give a dahm f’ all de Garveys an’ all de Black Star liners in Hell. I stay right here! ‘

‘You t’ink only for you’self,’ charged Chester. ‘You t’ink about you’ race an’ you see I am right. Garvey is de Moses of his people!’

‘Maybeso. But I be dahm’ if Moses git any my money. Back to Africa! How de hell I’m goin’ back where I never been?’

Neither Gradyne’s retaliative cudgel nor Chester’s answering thrust achieved its mark, for at that moment Cyril Sebastian Best broke unceremoniously in and announced: ‘De house is pinch’! ‘

Like a blast furnace’s flame, the argument faded as swiftly as it had flared.

‘Where you was raised, boy? Don’t you got no manners a-tall?’

Cyril banged the door behind him, stuck out his chest, and strutted across the room. ‘I tell you whaht I hahve got,’ he grinned.

‘A hell of a nerve,’ grunted Gradyne.

‘An’ I tell you whaht I’m goin’ get,’ Cyril proceeded. ‘I’m goin’ get rich an’ I’m goin’ get married.’

‘How much you pays, ‘ey?’ asked Chester.

‘ Pays ? For whaht ? ‘

‘For you’ licker. You’s drunk as hell.’

‘Den I stays drunk all ‘e time. I got de sweetes’ woman in de worl’, boy — make a preacher lay ‘is Bible downg!’

‘Who it is?’

‘Never min’ who is it.’ But he described Hilda Vogel with all the hyperbole of enthusiasm.

Gradyne inspected him quizzically. ‘Dat gel mus’ got two glass eyes,’ he grinned.

‘Or else you have,’ Payner amended.

‘How you know she care anyt’ing about you?’ Chester asked.

‘I know.’ Cyril was positive. ‘She tell me so dis ahfternoon in de elevator. I been makin’ time all along, see? So dis ahfternoon when I get to de top floor I jes’ staht to pop de question an’ she look at me an’ roll ‘er eyes like dis, an’ say, “I may be in love!” an’ run like hell downg de hall laughin’! Boy, I know!’

Payner and Chester and Gradyne all looked at him with pitying sympathy. Then Chester laughed.

‘You cahn’t tell anything by that, mahn.’

‘I cahn’t, ‘ey? Why not?’

‘You had de poor girl too far up in de air! ‘


‘Did you see the awful thing Harriet wore?’

‘Did I? Who in the world made it?’

‘Noah’s grandmother.’

‘And that King Tut bob — at her age!’

‘Maybe she’s had monkey glands — ‘

Cyril, listening in at the switchboard, found it very uninteresting and, leaving off, deigned to take up three passengers who had been waiting for five minutes in the elevator. When he reached the street floor again, the instrument’s familiar rattle was calling him back.

‘Apartment sixty-one, please.’

Something in the masculine voice made Cyril stiffen, something more than the fact that it sought connection with Hilda Vogel’s apartment. He plugged in and rang.

‘Can I speak to Miss Vogel, please?’

‘This is Miss Vogel.’

‘Miss Hilda Vogel?’


The masculine voice laughed.

‘Thought you’d given me the air, did n’t you?’

‘Who is it, please?’ Cyril noted eagerness in Hilda’s voice.

‘Give you one guess.’

‘My, you ‘re conceited.’

‘Got a right to be. I’m taking the queeniest sheba in Harlem to a show to-night, after which we’re going to Happy’s and get acquainted.’

‘Indeed? Why tell me about it?’

‘You ‘re the sheba.’

Hilda laughed. ‘You don’t lose any time, do you, Mr. — Punch?’

‘I don’t dare, Miss — Hilda.’

Cyril, bristling attention, shivered. Despite its different tone, he knew the voice. A hot wave of memory swept congealingly over him; he felt like a raw egg dropped in boiling water.

‘How did you find out I was — me?’

‘Oho! Now it’s your turn to wonder! ‘

‘Tell me.’

‘Sure — when I see you.’

‘I think you’re horrid.’


‘Well, I’ve got to let you come now or I ‘ll die of curiosity.’

‘ Dark eyes, but a bright mind. When do I save your life?'

‘Are you sure you want to?’

‘Am I talking to you?’

‘You don’t know a thing about me.’

‘More ‘n you know about me. I looked you up in Whos Who!'

‘Now you’re being horrid again. What did you find?’

‘You work in the Model Shop on the Avenue, you live with your ma and pa, and you ‘re too young and innocent to go around with only girls, sheikless and unprotected.’

‘How do you know I’m sheikless?’ Cyril’s heart stumbled.

‘You ‘re not — now,’ said the audacious Punch.

The girl gasped. Then, ‘You did n’t find out the most important thing.’

‘To wit and namely?’

‘Where I am from.’

‘ Nope. I’m more interested in where you ‘re going.’

‘We’re—’ she hesitated gravely. ‘I’m — Do you—object to — foreigners?’

It was Punch’s gasp. ‘What?’

‘There! You see, I told you you did n’t want to come.’

‘What are you talking about?’

‘We’re—I’m a Bermudan, you know.’

Punch’s ringing laugh stabbed the eavesdropping ears. ‘I thought you were an Eskimo, the way you froze me that night.’

‘You ‘re not — prejudiced?’

‘Who, me? Say, one of the finest boys down at the P. O. is from Bermuda. Always raving about it. Says it’s Heaven. Guess he means it’s the place angels come from.’

She was reassured. ‘Not angels. Onions.’

’I like onions,’ said Punch.

‘What time are you coming?’

’Right away! Now! ‘

‘No. Eight.’

‘Seven! ‘

‘ Well — seven-thirty.’



‘Not on your life. So long, Hilda.’

‘So long, Punch.’

‘ Seven-thirty.’


The lift was full of impatient people audibly complaining of the delay. The only response from the ordinarily defiant Cyril was a terrific banging open and shut of the gates as he let them out, floor by floor. His lips were inverted and pressed tightly together, so that his whole mouth bulged, and his little eyes were reddened between their narrowed lids.

‘I may be in love — you’d never know.’ He had thought she was encouraging him. He would have made sure the next day had there not been too many people in the car. Fortunately enough, he saw now; for she had been thinking of the ruffian whose blow still rent his spirit, whose words still scalded his pride; ‘Now get the hell out o’ here, you ringtail — ‘

He had seen Counselor Absalom. Absalom had said he could n’t touch the case — no witnesses, no money, prolonged litigation Absalom had n’t even been sympathetic. Street brawls were rather beneath Absalom.

Cyril slammed the top gate to and reversed the controlling lever. As the car began to drop, something startled him out of his grim abstraction: the gate was slowly sliding open. It had failed to catch, recoiling under the force with which he had shut it. Yet the car was moving normally. The safety device whereby motion was possible only when all the gates were shut had been rendered useless — perhaps by his own violence just now. He released the lever. The car halted. He pushed the lever down forward. The car ascended. He released it. The car halted again. He pushed the lever down backward. The car descended. Its movements were entirely unaffected.

Cyril paused, undecided. For a long moment he remained motionless. Then with a little grunt he rose again and carefully closed the open gate. His smile as he reached the ground floor was incarnate malevolence, triumphant.


Meg Minor was following a frizzly bobbed head and a bright-red sweater up the Avenue. In the twilight he was n’t sure he knew her; but even if he did n’t — he might. Introductions were old stuff. If the spark of attraction gleamed, blow on it: you might kindle a blaze.

As he crossed a side street an ambulance suddenly leaped from nowhere and rushed at him with terrifying clangor. He jumped back, the driver swore loudly, and the machine swept around the corner into the direction Meg was going.

‘Swore like he was sorry he did n’t hit me,’ he grinned to himself. ‘Must be out making patients or something. Where’s that danger signal I was pacing?’

The red sweater had stopped in the middle of the next block. So had the ambulance. When Meg reached the place, a gathering crowd was already beginning to obstruct passage. Since the sweater had halted, Meg saw no reason for going on himself, and so, edging as close to it as he could, he prayed that the forthcoming sight might make the girl faint into his arms.

He paid no attention to the growing buzz about him. There was a long wait. Then the buzz abruptly hushed and the crowd shifted, opening a lane to the ambulance. In the shift Meg, squirming still nearer to the red sweater, found himself on the edge of the lane.

Two men, one in white, came out of the house, bearing a stretcher covered with a blanket. As they passed, Meg, looking, felt his heart trip and his skin tingle. He started forward.

‘Punch! For God’s sake —’

‘Stand back, please!’

‘It’s Punch Anderson, Doc! What — what — is he — ?’ Meg pressed after the white coat. ‘Doc — good Lord, Doc — tell me what happened! He’s my buddy, Doc!’

‘Tried to hop a moving elevator. Both legs — compound fractures.’

Doors slammed. The ambulance made off with a roar and a clamor. Meg stood still. He did not see the brightred sweater beside him or hear the girl asking if his friend would live. He was staring with mingled bewilderment and horror into the resplendent entrance of the Rosina. And, as he stared, the sound of the ambulance gong came back to his ears, peal upon peal, ever more distant, like receding derisive laughter.