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The Discounters of Money
by [?]

But suddenly Pilkins came upon a youth sitting brave and, as if conflicting with summer sultriness, coatless, his white shirt-sleeves conspicuous in the light from the globe of an electric. Close to his side was a girl, smiling, dreamy, happy. Around her shoulders was, palpably, the missing coat of the cold-defying youth. It appeared to be a modern panorama of the Babes in the Wood, revised and brought up to date, with the exception that the robins hadn’t turned up yet with the protecting leaves.

With delight the money-caliphs view a situation that they think is relievable while you wait.

Pilkins sat on the bench, one seat removed from the youth. He glanced cautiously and saw (as men do see; and women–oh! never can) that they were of the same order.

Pilkins leaned over after a short time and spoke to the youth, who answered smilingly, and courteously. From general topics the conversation concentrated to the bed-rock of grim personalities. But Pilkins did it as delicately and heartily as any caliph could have done. And when it came to the point, the youth turned to him, soft- voiced and with his undiminished smile.

“I don’t want to seem unappreciative, old man,” he said, with a youth’s somewhat too-early spontaneity of address, “but, you see, I can’t accept anything from a stranger. I know you’re all right, and I’m tremendously obliged, but I couldn’t think of borrowing from anybody. You see, I’m Marcus Clayton–the Claytons of Roanoke County, Virginia, you know. The young lady is Miss Eva Bedford–I reckon you’ve heard of the Bedfords. She’s seventeen and one of the Bedfords of Bedford County. We’ve eloped from home to get married, and we wanted to see New York. We got in this afternoon. Somebody got my pocketbook on the ferry-boat, and I had only three cents in change outside of it. I’ll get some work somewhere to-morrow, and we’ll get married.”

“But, I say, old man,” said Pilkins, in confidential low tones, “you can’t keep the lady out here in the cold all night. Now, as for hotels–“

“I told you,” said the youth, with a broader smile, “that I didn’t have but three cents. Besides, if I had a thousand, we’d have to wait here until morning. You can understand that, of course. I’m much obliged, but I can’t take any of your money. Miss Bedford and I have lived an outdoor life, and we don’t mind a little cold. I’ll get work of some kind to-morrow. We’ve got a paper bag of cakes and chocolates, and we’ll get along all right.”

“Listen,” said the millionaire, impressively. “My name is Pilkins, and I’m worth several million dollars. I happen to have in my pockets about $800 or $900 in cash. Don’t you think you are drawing it rather fine when you decline to accept as much of it as will make you and the young lady comfortable at least for the night?”

“I can’t say, sir, that I do think so,” said Clayton of Roanoke County. “I’ve been raised to look at such things differently. But I’m mightily obliged to you, just the same.”

“Then you force me to say good night,” said the millionaire.

Twice that day had his money been scorned by simple ones to whom his dollars had appeared as but tin tobacco-tags. He was no worshipper of the actual minted coin or stamped paper, but he had always believed in its almost unlimited power to purchase.

Pilkins walked away rapidly, and then turned abruptly and returned to the bench where the young couple sat. He took off his hat and began to speak. The girl looked at him with the same sprightly, glowing interest that she had been giving to the lights and statuary and sky- reaching buildings that made the old square seem so far away from Bedford County.

“Mr.–er–Roanoke,” said Pilkins, “I admire your–your indepen–your idiocy so much that I’m going to appeal to your chivalry. I believe that’s what you Southerners call it when you keep a lady sitting outdoors on a bench on a cold night just to keep your old, out-of-date pride going. Now, I’ve a friend–a lady–whom I have known all my life –who lives a few blocks from here–with her parents and sisters and aunts, and all that kind of endorsement, of course. I am sure this lady would be happy and pleased to put up–that is, to have Miss–er– Bedford give her the pleasure of having her as a guest for the night. Don’t you think, Mr. Roanoke, of–er–Virginie, that you could unbend your prejudices that far?”