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Two for a Cent
by [?]

“My name’s Hemmick.”

“Glad to know you.” Abercrombie took the hand without rising. “Abercrombie’s mine.”

“I’m mighty glad to know you, Mr. Abercrombie.”

Then for a moment they both hesitated, their two faces assumed oddly similar expressions, their eyebrows drew together, their eyes looked far away. Each was straining to force into activity some minute cell long sealed and forgotten in his brain. Each made a little noise in his throat, looked away, looked back, laughed. Abercrombie spoke first.

“We’ve met.”

“I know,” agreed Hemmick, “but whereabouts? That’s what’s got me. You from New York, you say?”

“Yes, but I was born and raised in this town. Lived in this house till I left here when I was about seventeen. As a matter of fact, I remember you — you were a couple of years older.”

Again Hemmick considered.

“Well,” he said vaguely, “I sort of remember, too. I begin to remember — I got your name all right and I guess maybe it was your daddy had this house before I rented it. But all I can recollect about you is, that there was a boy named Abercrombie and he went away.”

In a few moments they were talking easily. It amused them both to have come from the same house — amused Abercrombie especially, for he was a vain man, rather absorbed that evening in his own early poverty. Though he was not given to immature impulses he found it necessary somehow to make it clear in a few sentences that five years after he had gone away from the house and the town he had been able to send for his father and mother to join him in New York.

Hemmick listened with that exaggerated attention which men who have not prospered generally render to men who have. He would have continued to listen had Abercrombie become more expansive, for he was beginning faintly to associate him with an Abercrombie who had figured in the newspapers for several years at the head of shipping boards and financial committees. But Abercrombie, after a moment, made the conversation less personal.

“I didn’t realize you had so much beat here, I guess I’ve forgotten a lot in twenty-five years.”

“Why, this is a cool day,” boasted Hemmick, “this is cool. I was just sort of overheated from walking when I came up.”

“It’s too hot,” insisted Abercrombie with a restless movement; then he added abruptly, “I don’t like it here. It means nothing to me — nothing — I’ve wondered if I did, you know, that’s why I came down. And I’ve decided.

“You see,” he continued hesitantly, “up to recently the North was still full of professional Southerners, some real, some by sentiment, but all given to flowery monologues on the beauty of their old family plantations and all jumping up and howling when the band played ‘Dixie.’ You know what I mean,” he turned to Hemmick, “it got to be a sort of a national joke. Oh, I was in the game, too, I suppose, I used to stand up and perspire and cheer, and I’ve given young men positions for no particular reason except that they claimed to come from South Carolina or Virginia — ” again he broke off and became suddenly abrupt, “but I’m through, I’ve been here six hours and I’m through!”

“Too hot for you?” inquired Hemmick, with mild surprise.

“Yes! I’ve felt the heat and I’ve seen the men — those two or three dozen loafers standing in front of the stores on Jackson Street — in thatched straw hats.” Then he added, with a touch of humor, “They’re what my son calls ‘slash-pocket, belted-back boys.’ Do you know the ones I mean?”

“Jelly-beans,” Hemmick nodded gravely, “We call ’em Jelly-beans. No-account lot of boys all right. They got signs up in front of most of the stores asking ’em not to stand there.”

“They ought to!” asserted Abercrombie, with a touch of irascibility. “That’s my picture of the South, now, you know — a skinny, dark-haired young man with a gun on his hip and a stomach full of corn liquor or Dope Dola, leaning up against a drug store waiting for the next lynching.”

Hemmick objected, though with apology in his voice.