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The Madness Of Whistling Wings
by [?]


Ordinarily Sandford is sane–undeniably so. Barring the seventh, upon any other day of the week, fifty-one weeks in the year, from nine o’clock in the morning until six at night–omitting again a scant half-hour at noon for lunch–he may be found in his tight little box of an office on the fifth floor of the Exchange Building, at the corner of Main Avenue and Thirteenth Street, where the elevated makes its loop.

No dog chained beside his kennel is more invariably present, no caged songster more incontestably anchored. If you need his services, you have but to seek his address between the hours mentioned. You may do so with the same assurance of finding him on duty that you would feel, if you left a jug of water out of doors over night in a blizzard, that the jug, as a jug, would be no longer of value in the morning. He was, and is, routine impersonate, exponent of sound business personified; a living sermon against sloth and improvidence, and easy derelictions of the flesh.

That is to say, he is such fifty-one weeks out of the fifty-two. All through the frigid winter season, despite the lure of California limiteds or Havana liners, he holds hard in that den of his, with its floor and walls of sanitary tiling and its ceiling of white enamel, and hews–or grinds rather, for Sandford is a dental surgeon–close to the line.

All through the heat of summer, doggedly superior to the call of Colorado or the Adirondacks or the Thousand Islands, he comes and departs by the tick of the clock. Base-ball fans find him adamant; turf devotees, marble; golf enthusiasts, cold as the tiles beneath his feet.

Even in early June, when Dalton, whose suburban home is next door, returns, tanned and clear-eyed from a week-end at the lake–there is but one lake to Dalton–and calls him mysteriously back to the rear of the house, where, with a flourish, the cover is removed from a box the expressman has just delivered, to disclose a shining five-pound bass reposing upon its bed of packed ice–even then, hands in pockets, Sandford merely surveys and expresses polite congratulation. Certainly it is a fine fish, a noble fish, even; but for the sake of one like it–or, yes, granted a dozen such–to leave the office, the sanitary-tiled office, deserted for four whole days (especially when Dr. Corliss on the floor below is watching like a hawk)–such a crazy proceeding is not to be thought of.

Certainly he will not go along the next week end–or the next, either. The suggestion simply is unthinkable. Such digressions may be all right for the leisure class or for invalids; but for adults, live ones, strong and playing the game? A shrug and a tolerant smile end the discussion, as, hands still in his pockets, an after-dinner cigar firm between his teeth, Sandford saunters back across the dozen feet of sod separating his own domicile from that of his fallen and misguided neighbor.

“Dalton’s got the fever again, bad,” he comments to the little woman upon his own domain, whom he calls “Polly,” or “Mrs. Sandford,” as occasion dictates. She has been watching the preceding incident with inscrutable eyes.

“Yes?” Polly acknowledges, with the air of harkening to a familiar harangue while casting ahead, in anticipation of what was to come next.

“Curious about Dalton; peculiar twist to his mental machinery somewhere.” Sandford blows a cloud of smoke and eyes it meditatively. “Leaving business that way, chopping it all to pieces in fact; and just for a fish! Curious!”

“Harry’s got something back there that’ll probably interest you,” he calls out to me as I chug by in my last year’s motor; “better stop and see.”

“Yes,” I acknowledge simply; and though Polly’s eyes and mine meet we never smile, or twitch an eyelid, or turn a hair; for Sandford is observing–and this is only June.