THE DIMES OF COFFEE JOHN

“Well,” said the Harvard Freshman, after the last tale was told, “I’m
dead broke, and my brain seems to have gone out of business.”

“I’m broke, and my heart’s broke, too,” said the Hero of Pago Bridge.

“I’m broke, similar,” said the ex-medium, “and my nerves is a-sufferin’
from a severe disruption.”

Coffee John thumped his red fist upon the table.

“Bryce up, gents!” he exclaimed. “Remember there’s nothink in the ryce
but the finish, as the dark ’orse says, w’en ’e led ’em up to the wire!
They’s many a man ’as went broke in this ’ere tarn, an’ ’as lived to
build a four-story ’ouse in the Western Addition; an’ they’s plenty more
as will go broke afore the trams stop runnin’ on Market Street! This
’ere is a city o’ hextremes, you tyke me word for thet! It ain’t on’y
that Chinatarn is a stone’s throw from the haristocracy o’ Nob Hill, an’
they’s a corner grocery with a side entrance alongside of every Methody
chapel. It ain’t on’y that the gals here is prettier an’ homblier, an’
stryter an’ wickeder than anyw’eres else in Christendom, but things go
up an’ darn every other wye a man can nyme. It’s corffee an’ sinkers
to-dye an’ champyne an’ terrapin to-morrer for ’arf the people what hits
the village. They’s washwomen’s darters wot’s wearin’ of their dimonds
art on Pacific Avenoo, an’ they’s larst year’s millionaires wot’s livin’
in two rooms darn on Minnie Street. It’s the wye o’ life in a new
country, gents, but they’s plums a-gettin’ ripe yet, just the syme,
every bleedin’ dye, I give yer _my_ word! Good Lawd! Look at me, myself!
Lemme tell yer wot’s happened to me in my time!”

And with this philosophic introduction, Coffee John began

THE STORY OF BIG BECKY

When I fust struck this ’ere port, I was an yble seaman on the British
bark _Four Winds_ art o’ Iquique, with nitrytes, an’ I was abart as
green a lad as ever was plucked. When I drored the nine dollars that was
a-comin’ to me, I went ashore an’ took a look at the tarn, an’ I decided
right then that this was the plyce for me. So I calmly deserts the bark,
an’ I ain’t set me foot to a bloomin’ gang-plank from that dye to this,
syvin’ to tyke the ferry to Oakland.

Me money larsted abart four dyes. The bleedin’ sharks at the sylor
boardin’-’ouse charged five, a femile in a box at the “Golden West”
darnce-hall got awye with three more, an’ the rest was throwed into
drinks promiscus. The fourth dye in I ’adn’t a bloomin’ penny to me
nyme, an’ I was as wretched as a cow in a cherry-tree. After abart
twelve hours in “’Ell’s Arf-Acre” I drifted into a dive, darn on Pacific
Street, below Kearney, on the Barbary Coast, as _was_ the Barbary Coast
in them dyes! It was a well-known plyce then, an’ not like anythink else
wot ever done business that I ever seen, “Bottle Myer’s” it was; per’aps
yer may have heard of it? No?

Yer went in through a swing door with a brarss sign on, darn a ’allwye
as turned into a corner into a wider plyce w’ere the bar was, an’ beyond
that to a ’all that might ’ave ’eld, I should sye, some sixty men or
thereabart. The walls was pynted in a blue distemper, but for a matter
of a foot or so above the floor there was wot yer might call a dydo o’
terbacker juice, like a bloomin’ coat o’ brarn pynte. The ’all smelled
full strong o’ fresh spruce sawdust on the floor, an’ the rest was
whiffs o’ kerosene ile, an’ sylor’s shag terbacker an’ style beer, an’
the combination was jolly narsty! Every man ’ad ’is mug o’ beer on a
shelf in front of ’is bench, an’ the parndink of ’em after a song was
somethink awful. On a bit of a styge was a row of performers in farncy
dress like a nigger minstrel show, an’ a beery little bloke sat darn in
front, bangin’ a tin-pan pianner, reachin’ for ’is drink with one ’and
occysional, withart leavin’ off plyin’ with the other.

Well, after a guy ’ad sung “All through a lydy wot was false an’ fyre,”
an’ one o’ the ’ens ’ad cracked art “Darn the lyne to Myry,” or
somethink like that, Old Bottle Myer, ’e got up, with a ’ed like a
cannon-ball an’ cock eyes an’ eyebrars like bits o’ thatch, an’ a farncy
flannel shirt, an’ ’e says:

“If any gent present wants to sing a song, he can; an’ if ’e don’t want
to, ’e don’t ’ave to!”

Nar, I wa’n’t no singer myself, though I ’ad piped occysional, to me
mytes on shipboard, but I thought if I couldn’t do as well as them as
’ad myde us suffer, I ought to be jolly well ashymed o’ meself. Wot was
more to the point, I didn’t ’ave the price of a pot o’ beer to bless
myself with, an’ thinks I, this might be a charnst to pinch a bit of a
’aul. So I ups an’ walks darn to the styge, gives the bloke at the
pianner a tip on the chune, an’ starts off on old “Ben Bobstye.” They
was shellbacks in the audience quite numerous as I seen, an’ it done me
good to ’ear ’em parnd their mugs after I’d gort through. W’en I picked
up the abalone shell like the rest of ’em done, an’ parssed through the
’all, wot with dimes an’ two-bit pieces I ’ad considerable, an’ I was
natchurly prard o’ me luck.

Old Bottle Myer come up an’ says, “’Ow much did you myke, me friend?
Five fifteen, eh? Well, me charge will be on’y a dollar this time, but
if yer want to come rarnd to-morrow night, yer can. If yer do all right,
I’ll tyke yer on reg’lar.”

Well, I joined the comp’ny sure enough, an’ sung every night, pickin’ up
a feerly decent livin’ at the gyme, for it was boom times then, an’
money was easier to come by. I had me grub with all the other hartists
in a room they called the “Cabin,” darn below the styge, connected to a
side dressin’-room by a narrer styre. Nar, one o’ the lydies in the
comp’ny was the feature o’ the show, an’ she _were_ a bit out o’ the
ord’n’ry, I give you _my_ word!

She was a reg’lar whyle of a great big trouncin’ Jew woman as ever I
see. Twenty stone if she were an arnce, an’ all o’ six foot two, with
legs like a bloomin’ grand pianner w’en she put on a short petticoat to
do a comic song. She was billed as “Big Becky,” an’ by thet time she was
pretty well known abart tarn.

She ’ad started in business in San Francisco at the hextreme top o’ the
’Ebrew haristocracy of the Western Addition, ’avin ’parssed ’erself off
for a member o’ one o’ the swellest families o’ St. Louis, an’ she did
cut a jolly wide swath here, an’ no dart abart thet! She was myde
puffickly at ’ome everyw’eres, an’ flashed ’er sparklers an’ ’er silk
garns with the best o’ ’em. Lord, it must ’ave took yards o’ cloth to
cover ’er body! Well, she gort all the nobs into line, an’ ’ad
everythink ’er own wye for abart two months, as a reg’lar full-blowed
society favoryte. Day an’ night she ’ad a string o’ men after ’er, or
’er money, w’ich was quite two things, seein’ she ’ad to graft for every
penny she bloomin’ well ’ad.

W’ile she were at the top notch of the social w’irl, as you might sye,
along come another Jewess from the East, reckernized ’er, an’ spoils Big
Becky’s gyme, like a kiddie pricks a ’ole in a pink balloon. She was
showed up for a hadventuress, story-book style, wot ’ad ’oodwinked all
St. Louis a year back, an’ then ’er swell pals dropped awye from ’er
like she was a pest-’ouse. Them wot ’ad accepted ’er invites, an’ ’ad
’er to dinner an’ the theatre an’ wot-not, didn’t myke no bones abart
it—they just natchully broke an’ run. Then all sorts o’ stories come
art, ’ow she borrowed money ’ere, there an’ everyw’ere, put ’er nyme to
bad checks, an’ fleeced abart every bloomin’ ’Ebrew in tarn. She’d a bin
plyin’ it on the grand, an’ on the little bit too grand.

She was on trial for abart two dyes, an’ the city pypers was so full o’
the scandal that the swells she ’oodwinked ’ad to leave tarn till it
blew over, an’ San Francisco quit larfin at ’em. I give yer me word the
reporters did give art some precious rycy tyles, an’ every ’Ebrew wot
’ad ’ad Big Becky at a five o’clock tea didn’t dyre go art o’ doors
dye-times.

Well, for the syke o’ ’ushin’ matters up, her cyse were compromised an’
the prosecution withdrawed, she bein’ arsked in return to git art o’
tarn. Instead o’ thet, not ’avin’ any money, she went an’ accepted an
offer from a dime museum here, an’ begun fer to exhibit of ’erself in
short skirts every afternoon an’ evenink reg’lar, to the gryte an’ grand
delight of every chappie who ’adn’t been fooled ’imself. After that she
done “Mazeppa” at the Bella Union Theatre in a costume wot was
positively ’orrid. It was so rude that the police interfered, an’ thet
was back ten year ago, w’en they wa’n’t so partickler on the Barbary
Coast as they be naradyes. Then she dropped darn to Bottle Myer’s an’
did serios in tights. She was as funny as a bloomin’ helephant on
stilts, if so yer didn’t see the plyntive side of it, an’ we turned men
awye from the door every night.

I don’t expect Becky ever ’ad more’n a spoonful o’ conscience. But with
all ’er roguery, she was as big a baby inside as she were a giant
outside, w’en yer onct knew ’ow to tyke ’er, was Big Becky. ’Ard as
brarss she was w’en yer guyed ’er, but soft as butter w’en yer took ’er
part, w’ich were somethink as she weren’t much used to, for most treated
’er brutle. Some’ow I couldn’t help likin’ ’er a bit, in spite o’
meself. I put in a good deal o’ talk with ’er, one wye an’ another, till
I ’ad ’er confidence, an’ could get most anythink art of ’er I wanted.
She told me ’er whole story, bit by bit, an’ it were a reg’lar shillin’
shocker, I give yer _my_ word!

Amongst other things, she told me that a Johnnie in tarn nymed Ikey Behn
’ad gort precious balmy over ’er, before she was showed up, an’ ’ad went
so far as to tyke art a marriage license in ’opes, when she seen ’e
meant biz, she’d marry ’im. ’E’d even been bloomin’ arss enough to give
it to ’er, and she ’ad it yet, an’ was ’oldin’ it over ’is ’ed for
blackmyle, if wust come to wust. She proposed for to ’ave a parson’s
nyme forged into the marriage certificate that comes printed on the
other side from the license.

Nar, things bein’ like this, one night I come up the styre from the
“Cabin” w’ere I’d been lyte to dinner, an’ went into the room w’ere
Becky was a-gettin’ ready to dress for ’er turn. There was a toff there,
in a topper, an’ a long black coat, an’ ’e was havin’ it art, ’ot an’
’eavy, with Becky. Just as I come up, ’e broke it off, cursink ’er
something awful, an’ she was as red as a bleedin’ ’am, an’ shykin’ a
herthquyke with ’er ’air darn, an’ ’er breath comin’ like a smith’s
bellus. The gentleman slum the door, an’ she says to me, “’Ere, Jock,
old man, will yer do me a fyvor? Just ’old this purse o’ mine an’ keep
it good an’ syfe till I get through my song, for that’s Ikey Behn wot
just went art, an’ ’e’ll get my license sure, if I leave it abart. I
carn’t trust nobody in this ’ole but you. It’s in there,” an’ she showed
me the pyper, shovin’ the purse into me ’and. I left an’ went darn front
w’ile she put on ’er rig an’ done ’er turn.

Art in the bar, there was the toff, talkin’ to one o’ the wyters, an’ I
knew ’e was tryin’ to tip somebody to frisk Big Becky’s pockets. W’en I
come up, ’e says, “’Ow de do, me man? I sye, ’ave a glarss with me,
won’t yer? Wot’ll yer ’ave?”

I marked ’is gyme then an’ there, an’ I sat darn to see ’ow ’e’d act. ’E
done it ’andsome, ’e did; ’e was a thoroughbred, an’ no mistake abart
_thet_! ’E wan’t the bloke to drive a bargain like most would ’ave done
under the syme irritytin’ circumstances.

“See ’ere,” ’e says, affable, an’ ’e opens ’is wallet an’ tykes art a
pack o’ bills. “’Ere’s a tharsand in ’undred-dollar greenbacks. You get
me that pyper Big Becky’s got in ’er purse!”

There I was, sittin’ right in front of ’im, with the license in me
pocket, an’ there was a fortune in front o’ me as would ’ave set me up
in biz for the rest o’ me life. Wot’s more, if they’s anythink I do
admire, it’s a thoroughbred toff, for I was brought up to reckernize
clarss, an’ I seen at a wink that this ’ere Johnnie was a dead sport. I
knew wot it meant to ’im to get possession o’ thet pyper, for Becky
could myke it jolly ’ot for ’im with it. I confess, gents, thet for
abart ’alf a mo I hesityted. But I couldn’t go back on the woman, seem’
she ’ad trusted me partickler, an’ so I shook me ’ed mournful, an’
refused the wad.

’E was a bit darn in the mouth at thet, not lookin’ to run up agin such,
in a plyce like Bottle Myer’s, I expeck. “See ’ere, me man,” ’e says, “I
just _gort_ to ’ave thet pyper. I’ll tell yer wot, w’en I gort art thet
license, I swyre I thought the woman was stryte an’ all she pretended to
be. We was all of us took in. I wa’n’t after ’er money, I was plum balmy
on ’er, sure, an’ nar I’m engyged to the nicest little gal as ever
lived, an’ it’ll queer the whole thing if this ’ere foolishness gets
art!”

With my respeck for the haristocracy, I was jolly sorry for the chap,
but I wa’n’t a-goin’ to sell Becky art, not _thet_ wye. I wa’n’t no holy
Willie, but I stuck at that. So I arsked, “Wot’s the gal’s nyme?”

“That’s none of your biz,” says Behn, gettin’ ’ot in the scuppers, “an’
that little gyme won’t do yer no good, nohow, for the gal knows all
abart this matter, ’an yer can’t trip me up there. Not much. I’ll pye
yer all the docyment’s worth, if yer’ll get it for me.”

“Yer won’t get it art o’ Becky not at no price,” I says, “an’ yer won’t
get it art o’ me, unless yer answer my questing. If yer want me to
conduck this ’ere affyre, I got to know all abart it, an’ yer gal won’t
be put to no bother, neither.”

’E looked me over a bit, an’ then ’e says, low, so that nobody couldn’t
’ear, “It’s Miss Bertha Wolfstein.” Then ’e give me ’is address, ’an
left the matter for me to do wot I could.

I thought if anybody could work Becky, it would be me, an’ I expected
the gal’s nyme might come in ’andy, though I ’ad no idea then how strong
it would pull. So I goes up to the big woman after she was dressed, and
tykes ’er up to the “Poodle Dog” for supper. She ’ad gort over the worry
by this time, an’ was feelink as chipper as a brig in a west wind.

“Did ever yer ’ear tell of a Bertha Wolfstein?” I says, off-hand.

Then wot does she do but begins to bryke darn an’ blubber. “She was the
on’y one in tarn as come to see me after I was pulled,” she says. “I
done all kinds o’ fyvors for lots of ’em, but Miss Wolfstein was the
on’y one who ’ad called me friend, as ever remembered it. She was a
lydy, was Miss Wolfstein; she treated me angel w’ite, she did, Gawd
bless ’er pretty fyce!”

Then I knowed I ’ad ’er w’ere I wanted ’er, ’an I give it to ’er tender
an’ soft, with all the sugar an’ cream she could stand. I let art Ikey
Behn’s story, hinch by hinch, an’ I pynted the feelinks o’ thet Bertha
Wolfstein with all the tack I knew how, till I gort Becky on the run an’
she boohooed again, right art loud, an’ I see I ’ad win ’er over. My
word! she _did_ look a sight for spectytors after she’d wiped a ’arf
parnd o’ pynte off’n ’er fyce with ’er napkin, sobbink awye, like ’er
’eart was as soft as a slug in a mud-puddle. She parssed over the pyper
art of ’er purse an’ she says, “Yer can give it to Ikey an’ get the
money. I don’t want to ’urt a ’air o’ thet gal’s ’ead.”

Seein’ she was so easy worked, I thought it was on’y right I should be
pyde for me trouble, for it ’ad stood me somethink for a private room
an’ drinks an’ such to get her into proper condition.

So I says, “Thet’s all right, Becky, an’ it’s jolly ’andsome o’ yer to
be willin’ to let go of the docky-ment, but I’ll be blowed if I see ’ow
yer can tyke ’is money, w’en yer feel that wye. If yer sell art the
pyper, w’ere does the bloomin’ gratitude to the gal come in, anywye?”

At this, Becky looked all wyes for a Sunday, an’ I perceeded to rub it
in. “Nar, see here, Becky, w’ich would yer rather do—get five ’undred
dollars for the license from Ikey, or let Miss Wolfstein know yer’d made
a present of it to ’er, for wot she done to yer?”




That was a ’ard conundrum for a woman like that, who ’ad fleeced abart
every pal she ever ’ad, an’ the money was a snug bit for anybody who was
as ’ard up as she was then. I thought I’d mark the price darn a bit so’s
to myke the sacrifice easier for ’er. I didn’t dyre to trust her with a
offer of the tharsand Ikey ’ad flashed at me. Besides, I thought I see a
charnst to myke a bit meself withart lyin’. Sure enough, I ’ad read the
weather in ’er fyce all right, an’ she was gyme to lose five ’underd
just to sye “thank you,” as yer might sye. I farncy I’d found abart the
only spot in ’er ’eart as wa’n’t rotten.

“I guess I’d rather ’ave ’er know I ain’t quite so bad as they think,”
she says, an’ she gulluped an’ rubbed ’er eyes. “You go to Ikey, an’ you
tell ’im ’e’s a—” Well, I won’t sye wot she called ’im. “But Bertha
Wolfstein is the on’y lydy in tarn, an’ it’s on’y for ’er syke I’m
givin’ up the license.”

Then she kerflummuxed again, an’ if yer think I left her time to think
it over, yer don’t know old John. I took the pyper before the words was
feerly art of ’er marth, an’ in ’arf an’ ’our I was pullin’ Ikey Behn’s
door-bell. When ’e seen me, ’e grinned like a cat in a cream-jug, an’ ’e
arsked me into the li’bry like I was a rich uncle just ’ome from the
di’mond fields.

Nar, yer might think as I was a-goin’ to try to sell ’im the pyper on me
own account, leavin’ ’im to think that Becky was gettin’ the price of
it, an’ me a percentage. Not much I wa’n’t; not on yer blessed life! I
was too clever for thet! I’ve seen reel toffs before, an’ I knew Ikey
for best clarss when I piped ’im off. ’Ave yer ever watched the
bootblacks in Piccadilly Circus? D’yer think they has a trades-union
price for a shine? Nar! W’en a bleedin’ swell comes along an’ gits a
polish an’ arsks ’ow much, it’s “Wot yer please, sir,” an’ “I leave it
to you, sir,” an’ the blackie gits abart four times wot ’e’d a-dared to
arsk, specially if the toff’s a bit squeegee. That’s the on’y wye to
treat a gentleman born, an’ I knew it. So I tipped ’im off the stryte
story, leavin’ nothing art to speak of, an’ ’e listens affable. I ’ands
’im over the license at the end.

W’en ’e’d stuck the pyper in a candle ’andy, an’ ’ad lighted a big cigar
with it, offerink the syme an’ a drink to me, ’e says, as cool as a pig
before Christmas, says ’e, “Nar, me man, wot d’yer want for yer trouble?
Yer done me a fyvor, an’ no dart abart _thet_!”

“No trouble at all,” I says. “I’m proud to oblige such a perfeck
gentleman as you be,” an’ with that I picks up me ’at an’ walks toward
the door.

“Wyte a bit,” ’e says, “I’ll see if I ain’t gort a dollar on me,” an’ ’e
smiles cordial. But ’e watches me fyce sharp, too, as I seen in the
lookin-glarss. Then ’e goes to a writin’-desk an’ looks in a dror. “If
happen yer don’t want any o’ this yerself, yer can give it to Becky,” he
says, an’ ’e seals up a packet an’ gives it to me like ’e was the
bloomin’ Prince o’ Wyles. Sure, ’e _was_ toff, clean darn to ’is
boot-pegs, I give yer _my_ word!

When I gort out o’ doors an’ opened the packet, I near fynted awye. They
was a wad o’ hundreds as come to a cool four tharsand dollars. I walked
back on the bloomin’ hatmosphere!

I come into Bottle Myer’s, just as Big Becky was a-singin’ “Sweet
Vylets,” in a long w’ite baby rig an’ a bunnit as big as a ’ogshead.
Lord, old Myer _did_ myke a guy o’ thet woman somethink awful! W’en she
come off, I was wytin’ in the dressin’-room for ’er.

“My Lawd, Jock!” she says, w’en she seen me, “yer didn’t give up the
pyper, did yer? Yer knew I was on’y foolin’, didn’t yer? Don’t sye yer
let Ikey get a-hold of it! It was good for a hunderd to me any dye I
needed the money, if I wanted to give it to the pypers.”

Well, that myde me sick, though I’d expecked as much. I was thet
disgusted thet she couldn’t stand by ’er word for a hour, thet I
couldn’t ’elp syin’, “An’ ’ow abart Miss Wolfstein, as was a friend to
yer, w’en all the other women in tarn went back on yer, Becky? Yer know
wot _she’ll_ think of yer, don’t yer?”

Right then I seen abart as plucky a fight between good an’ bad worked
art on ’er fyce, as I ever seen in the ring, London Prize rules to a
finish. An’ if you’ll believe it, gents, the big woman’s gratitude to
the Wolfstein gal come art on top, an’ the stingy part of ’er was
knocked art flat.

It were a tough battle, though, I give yer _my_ word, before I got the
decision. She bit ’er lip till the blood come through the rouge,
standin’ there, a great whoopin’ big mounting o’ flesh with baby clothes
an’ a pink sash on, an’ a wig an’ bunnit like a bloomin’ Drury Lyne
Christmas Pantymime. I just stood an’ looked at ’er! I’m blowed if she
didn’t git almost pretty for ’alf a mo, w’en she says:

“I’m glad yer did give it up, Jock; I’m glad, nar it’s all over. But
thet five hundred would ’ave syved me life, for old Myer ’as give me the
sack to-dye, an’ I don’t know wot’ll become o’ me.”

Wot did I do? I done wot the dirtiest sneak in the Pen would a did, an’
’anded art the envelope an’ split the pile with ’er.

* * * * *

Coffee John fetched a deep sigh. “Well, gents, thet’s w’ere I got me
start. The wad didn’t larst long, for I was green an’ unused to money,
but I syved art enough to set me up here, an’ ’ere I am yet. I never
seen Big Becky sinct.

“Nar you see wot a man might ’appen to strike in a tarn like this. Every
bloomin’ dye they’s somebody up an’ somebody darn. I started withart a
penny, an’ I pulled art a small but helegant fortune in a week’s time.
So can any man.

“Gents, I give you this stryte: Life in San Francisco is a bloomin’
fayry tyle if a man knows ’is wye abart, an’ a bloke can bloomin’ well
blyme ’is own liver if ’e carn’t find a bit of everythink ’ere ’e wants,
from the Californy gal, w’ich is the noblest work o’ Gawd, to the
’Frisco flea, w’ich is a bleedin’ cousin to the Old Nick ’isself! They
ain’t no tarn like it, they ain’t never been none, an’ they ain’t never
goin’ to be. It ain’t got neither turf nor trees nor kebs, but it’s
bloody well gort a climate as mykes a man’s ’eart darnce in ’is bussum,
an’ cable-cars wot’ll tyke a guy uphill to ’eaven or rarnd the bloomin’
next corner to ’ell’s cellar! They’s every sin ’ere except ’ypocrisy,
for that ain’t needed, an’ they’s people wot would ’ave been synted if
they’d lived in ancient times.

“An’ nar, I want to egspress somethink of wot I thinks o’ you bums. As
fur as I can see every one o’ yer is a ’ard cyse, ’avin’ indulged in wot
yer might call questingable practices, withart yet bein’, so to speak,
of the criminal clarss. It don’t go to myke a man particklerly prard o’
’umanity to keep a dime restaurant; ’arrivver, ’Evving knows wot I’d do
if I couldn’t sometimes indulge in the bloomin’ glow of ’ope. Vango, I
allar you’ll be a bad ’un, and I don’t expeck to make a Sunday-school
superintendent o’ yer. Coffin uses such lengwidge as mykes a man wonder
if ’e ain’t a bleedin’ street fakir on a ’arf-’oliday, so I gives ’im up
frankly an’ freely an’ simply ’opes for the best. But you, Dryke, is
just a plyne ornery lad as ’as ’ad ’is eart broke, an’ you ’as me
sympathy, as a man with feelinks an’ a conscience.

“Nar, I’ll tell yer wot I’ll do. I’ll styke the three of yer a dime
apiece, an’ yer git art o’ ’ere with the firm intentions o’ gettin’ rich
honest. Mybe yer won’t myke it, an’ then again mybe yer will, but it’s a
good gamble an’ I’d like to have it tried art. Anywye, come back ’ere
to-morrow at nine, an’ ’ave dinner on me, ’an tell me all abart it. Wot
d’yer sye?”

It was a psychological moment. The proposition, fantastic as it was,
seemed, under the spell of Coffee John’s enthusiasm, to promise
something mysteriously new, something grotesquely romantic. It was a
chance to turn a new leaf. The three vagabonds were each stranded at a
turn of the tide. The medium, with his nerves unstrung, was only too
willing to cast on Fate the responsibility of the next move. The Harvard
Freshman, with no nerves at all, one might say, hailed the adventure as
a Quixotic quest that would be amusing to put to the hazard of chance.
The hero of Pago Bridge had little spirit left, but, like Vango, he
welcomed any fortuitous hint that would tell him which way to turn in
his misery. All three were well worked upon by the solace of the moment,
and a full stomach makes every man brave. Coffee John’s appeal went
home, and from the sordid little shop three beggars went forth as men.
One after the other accepted the lucky dime and fared into the night, to
pursue the firefly of Fortune.

In ten minutes the restaurant was dark and empty, and Coffee John was
snoring in a back room. Three Picaroons were busy at the Romance of
Roguery.

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