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The Caliph And The Cad
by [?]

Beneath a cluster of milky globes of electric light Corny paused to admire the sheen of his low-cut patent leather shoes. The building occupying the angle was a pretentious cafe. Out of this came a couple, a lady in a white, cobwebby evening gown, with a lace wrap like a wreath of mist thrown over it, and a man, tall, faultless, assured — too assured. They moved to the edge of the sidewalk and halted. Corny’s eye, ever alert for “pointers” in “swell” behaviour, took them in with a sidelong glance.

“The carriage is not here,” said the lady. “You ordered it to wait?”

“I ordered it for nine-thirty,” said the man. “It should be here now.”

A familiar note in the lady’s voice drew a more especial attention from Corny. It was pitched in a key well known to him. The soft electric shone upon her face. Sisters of sorrow have no quarters fixed for them. In the index to the book of breaking hearts you will find that Broadway follows very soon after the Bowery. This lady’s face was sad, and her voice was attuned with it. They waited, as if for the carriage. Corny waited too, for it was out of doors, and he was never tired of accumulating and profiting by knowledge of gentlemanly conduct.

“Jack,” said the lady, “don’t be angry. I’ve done everything I could to please you this evening. Why do you act so?”

“Oh, you’re an angel,” said the man. “Depend upon woman to throw the blame upon a man.”

“I’m not blaming you. I’m only trying to make you happy.”

“You go about it in a very peculiar way.”

“You have been cross with me all the evening without any cause.”

“Oh, there isn’t any cause except — you make me tired.”

Corny took out his card case and looked over his collection. He selected one that read: “Mr. R. Lionel Whyte-Melville, Bloomsbury Square, London.” This card he had inveigled from a tourist at the King Edward Hotel. Corny stepped up to the man and presented it with a correctly formal air.

“May I ask why I am selected for the honour?” asked the lady’s escort.

Now, Mr. Corny Brannigan had a very wise habit of saying little during his imitations of the Caliph of Bagdad. The advice of Lord Chesterfield: “Wear a black coat and hold your tongue,” he believed in without having heard. But now speech was demanded and required of him.

“No gent,” said Corny, “would talk to a lady like you done. Fie upon you, Willie! Even if she happens to be your wife you ought to have more respect for your clothes than to chin her back that way. Maybe it ain’t my butt-in, but it goes, anyhow — you strike me as bein’ a whole lot to the wrong.”

The lady’s escort indulged in more elegantly expressed but fetching repartee. Corny, eschewing his truck driver’s vocabulary, retorted as nearly as he could in polite phrases. Then diplomatic relations were severed; there was a brief but lively set-to with other than oral weapons, from which Corny came forth easily victor.

A carriage dashed up, driven by a tardy and solicitous coachman.

“Will you kindly open the door for me?” asked the lady. Corny assisted her to enter, and took off his hat. The escort was beginning to scramble up from the sidewalk.

“I beg your pardon, ma’am,” said Corny, “if he’s your man.”

“He’s no man of mine,” said the lady. “Perhaps he — but there’s no chance of his being now. Drive home, Michael. If you care to take this — with my thanks.”

Three red roses were thrust out through the carriage window into Corny’s hand. He took them, and the hand for an instant; and then the carriage sped away.

Corny gathered his foe’s hat and began to brush the dust from his clothes.

“Come along,” said Corny, taking the other man by the arm.

His late opponent was yet a little dazed by the hard knocks he had received. Corny led him carefully into a saloon three doors away.

“The drinks for us,” said Corny “me and my friend.”

“You’re a queer feller,” said the lady’s late escort — “lick a man and then want to set ’em up.

“You’re my best friend,” said Corny exultantly. “You don’t understand? Well, listen. You just put me wise to somethin’. I been playin’ gent a long time, thinkin’ it was just the glad rags I had and nothin’ else. Say — you’re a swell, ain’t you? Well, you trot in that class, I guess. I don’t; but I found out one thing — I’m a gentleman, by — and I know it now. What’ll you have to drink?”