I was doing work on a newspaper.
One day Tripp came in and leaned on my table.
Tripp was something in the mechanical department. He was about twenty-five and looked forty. Half of his face was covered with short, curly red whiskers that looked like a door-mat. He was pale and unhealthy and miserable and was always borrowing sums of money from twenty-five cents to a dollar. One dollar was his limit. When he leaned on my table he held one hand with the other to keep both from shaking. Whisky.
«Well, Tripp,» said I, looking up at him rather impatiently, «how goes it?» He was looking more miserable than I had ever seen him.
«Have you got a dollar?» asked Tripp looking at me with his dog-like eves.
That day I had managed to get five dollars for my Sunday story. «I have,» said I; and again I said, «I have,» more loudly, «and four besides. And I had hard work getting them. And I need them all.»
«I don’t want to borrow any,» said Tripp, «I thought you’d like to get a good story. I’ve got a really fine one for you. It’ll probably cost you a dollar or two to get the stuff. I don’t want anything out of it myself.»
«What is the story?» I asked.
«It’s girl. A beauty. She has lived all her life on Long Island and never saw New York City before. I ran against her on Thirty-fourth Street. She stopped me on the street and asked me where she could find George Brown. Asked me where she could find George Brown in New York City! What do you think of that?! I talked to her. It’s like this. Some years ago George set off for New York to make his fortune. He did not reappear. Now there’s a young farmer named Dodd she’s going to marry next week. But Ada – her name’s Ada Lowery – couldn’t forget George, so this morning she saddled a horse and rode eight miles to the railway station to catch the 6.45 a.m. train. She came to the city to look for George. She must have thought the first person she inquired of would tell her where her George was! You ought to see her! What could I do? She had paid her last cent f or her railroad ticket. I couldn’t leave her in the street, could I? I took her to a boarding-house. She has to pay a dollar to the landlady. That’s the price per day.»
«That’s no story,» said I. «Every ferry-boat brings or takes away girls from Long Island.»
Tripp looked disappointed. «Can’t you see what an amazing story it would make? You ought to get fifteen dollars for it. And it’ll cost you only four, so you’ll make a profit of eleven dollars.»
«How will it cost me four dollars?» I asked suspiciously.
«One dollar to the landlady and two dollars to pay the girl’s fare back home.»
«And the fourth?» I inquired.
«One dollar to me,» said Tripp. «Don’t you see,» he insisted, «that the girl has got to get back home today?»
And then I began to feel what is known as the sense of duty. In a kind of cold anger I put on my coat and hat. But I swore to myself that Tripp would not get the dollar.
Tripp took me in a street-car to the boarding-house. I paid the fares.
In a dim parlour a girl sat crying quietly and eating candy out of a paper bag. She was a real beauty. Crying only made her eyes brighter.
«My friend, Mr. Chalmers. He is a reporter,» said Tripp «and he will tell you, Miss Lowery, what’s best to do.»
I felt ashamed of being introduced as Tripp’s friend in the presence of such beauty. «Why – er – Miss Lowery,» I began feeling terribly awkward, «will you tell me the circumstances of the case?»
«Oh,» said Miss Lowery, «there aren’t any circumstances, really. You see, everything is fixed for me to marry Hiram Dodd next Thursday. He’s got one of the best f arms on the Island. But last night I got to thinking about G – George –»
«You see, I can’t help it. George and I loved each other since we were children. Four years go he went to the city. He said he was going to be a policeman of a railroad president or something. And then he was coming back for me. But I never heard from him any more. And I – I – liked him.»
«Now, Miss Lowery,» broke in Tripp, «you like this young man, Dodd, don’t you? He’s all right, and good to you, isn’t he?»
«Of course I like him. And of course he’s good to me. He’s promised me an automobile and a motorboat. But somehow I couldn’t help thinking about George. Something must have happened to him or he would have written. On the day he left, he got a hammer and a chisel and cut a cent into two pieces. I took one piece and he took the other, and we promised to be true to each other and always keep the pieces till we saw each other again. I’ve got mine at home. I guess I was silly to come here. I never realised what a big place it is.»
Tripp broke in with an awkward little laugh. «Oh, the boys from the country forget a lot when they come to the city. He may have met another girl or something. You go back home, and you’ll be all right.»
In the end we persuaded Miss Lowery to go back home. The three of us then hurried to the ferry, and there I f ound the price of the ticket to be but a dollar and eighty cents. I bought one, and a red, red rose with the twenty cents for Miss Lowery. We saw her aboard her ferry-boat and stood watching her wave her handkerchief at us. And then Tripp and I f aced each other.
«Can’t you get a story out of it?» he asked. «Some sort of a story?»
«Not a line,» said I.
«I’m sorry,» he said quietly. There was disappointment in his tone. Tripp unbuttoned his shabby coat to reach for something that had once been a handkerchief. As he did so I saw something shining on his cheap watch-chain. It was the half of a silver cent that had been cut in halves with a chisel.
«What?!» I exclaimed looking at him in amazement.
«Oh yes,» he replied. «George Brown, or Tripp. What’s the use?»