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    Chapter 15

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    Chapter 15
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    For five minutes or so there was no sound but that of one man's food going in and going down. Then suddenly the man stopped, with his knife and fork upright on the table in each hand, and cried: "Mr. Carpenter, you ain't eatin' nuttin'!"

    The stranger, who had apparently been in a daydream, came suddenly back to Prince's. He looked at the quantities of food spread about him. "If you'd only let me take a little to those men outside!" He said it pleadingly.

    But T-S tapped imperiously on the table, with both his knife and fork together. "Mr. Carpenter, eat your dinner! Eat it, now, I say!" It was as if he were dealing with one of the five little T-S's. And Carpenter, strange as it may seem, obeyed. He picked up a bit of bread, and began to nibble it, and T-S went to work again.

    There was another five minutes of silence; and then the picture magnate stopped, with a look of horror on his face. "My Gawd! He's cryin'!" Sure enough, there were two large tears trickling, one down each cheek of the stranger, and dropping on the bread he was putting into his mouth!

    "Look here, Mr. Carpenter," protested T-S. "Is it dem strikers?"

    "I'm sorry; you see--"

    "Now, honest, man, vy should you spoil your dinner fer a bunch o' damn lousy loafers--"

    "Abey, vot a vay to talk at a dinner-party!" broke in Maw.

    And then suddenly Mary Magna spoke. It was a strange thing, though I did not realize it until afterwards. Mary, the irrepressible, had hardly said one word since we left the beauty parlors! Mary, always the life of dinner parties, was sitting like a woman who had seen the ghost of a dead child; her eyes following Carpenter's, her mind evidently absorbed in probing his thoughts.

    "Abey!" said she, with sudden passion, of a sort I'd never seen her display before. "Forget your grub for a moment, I have something to say. Here's a man with a heart full of love for other people--while you and I are just trying to see what we can get out of them! A man who really has a religion--and you're trying to turn him into a movie doll! Try to get it through your skull, Abey!"

    The great man's eyes were wide open. "Holy smoke, Mary! Vot's got into you?" And suddenly he almost shrieked. "Lord! She's cryin' too!"

    "No, I'm not," declared Mary, vialiantly. But there were two drops on her cheeks, so big that she was forced to wipe them away. "It's just a little shame, that's all. Here we sit, with three times as much food before us as we can eat; and all over this city are poor devils with nothing to eat, and no homes to go to--don't you know that's true, Abey? Don't you know it, Maw?"

    "Looka here, kid," said the magnate; "you know vot'll happen to you if you git to broodin' over tings? You git your face full o' wrinkles--you already gone and spoilt your make-up."

    "Shucks, Abey," broke in Maw, "vot you gotta do vit dat? Vy don't you mind your own business?"

    "Mind my own business? My own business, you say? Vell, I like to know vot you call my business! Ven I got a contract to pay a girl tirty-five hunded dollars a veek fer her face, and she goes and gits it all wrinkles, I ask any jury, is it my business or ain't it? And if a feller vants to pull de tremulo stop fer a lot o' hoboes and Bullsheviki, and goes and spills his tears into his soup--"

    It sounded fierce; but Mary apparently knew her Abey; also, she saw that Maw was starting to cry. "There's no use trying to bluff me, Abey. You know as well as I do there are hungry people in this city, and no fault of theirs. You know, too, you eat twice what you ought to, because I've heard the doctor tell you. I'm not blaming you a bit more than I do myself--me, with two automobiles, and a whole show-window on my back." And suddenly she turned to Carpenter. "What can we do?"

    He answered: "Here, men gorge themselves; in Russia they are eating their dead."

    T-S dropped his knife and fork, and Maw gave a gulp. "Oh, my Gawd!"

    "There are ten million people doomed to starve. Their children eat grass, and their bellies swell up and their legs dwindle to broom-sticks; they stagger and fall into the ditches, and other children tear their flesh and devour it."

    "O-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-oh!" wailed Maw; and the diners at Prince's began to stare.

    "Now looka here!" cried T-S, wildly. "I say dis ain't no decent way to behave at a party. I say it ain't on de level to be a feller's guest, and den jump on him and spoil his dinner. See here, Mr. Carpenter, I tell you vot I do. You be good and eat your grub, so it don't git vasted, and I promise you, tomorrow I go and hunt up strike headquarters, and give dem a check fer a tousand dollars, and if de damn graftin' leaders don't hog it, dey all git someting to eat. And vot's more, I send a check fer five tousand to de Russian relief. Now ain't dat square? Vot you say?"

    "What I say is, Mr. T-S, I cannot be the keeper of another man's conscience. But I'll try to eat, so as not to be rude."

    And T-S grunted, and went back to his feeding; and the stranger made a pretense of eating, and we did the same.
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