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The Willow Walk
by [?]


From the drawer of his table Jasper Holt took a pane of window glass. He laid a sheet of paper on the glass and wrote, “Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their party. ” He studied his round business-college script, and rewrote the sentence in a small finicky hand, that of a studious old man. Ten times he copied the words in that false pinched writing. He tore up the paper, burned the fragments in his large ash tray and washed the delicate ashes down his stationary washbowl. He replaced the pane of glass in the drawer, tapping it with satisfaction. A glass underlay does not retain an impression.

Jasper Holt was as nearly respectable as his room, which, with its frilled chairs and pansy-painted pincushion, was the best in the aristocratic boarding house of Mrs. Lyons. He was a wiry, slightly bald, black-haired man of thirty-eight, wearing an easy gray flannel suit and a white carnation. His hands were peculiarly compact and nimble. He gave the appearance of being a youngish lawyer or bond salesman. Actually he was senior paying teller in the Lumber National Bank in the city of Vernon.

He looked at a thin expensive gold watch. It was six-thirty, on Wednesday—toward dusk of a tranquil spring day. He picked up his hooked walking stick and his gray silk gloves and trudged downstairs. He met his landlady in the lower hall and inclined his head. She effusively commented on the weather.

“I shall not be there for dinner,” he said amiably.

“Very well, Mr. Holt. My, but aren’t you always going out with your swell friends though! I read in the Herald that you were going to be a star in another of those society plays in the Community Theater. I guess you’d be an actor if you wasn’t a banker, Mr. Holt. ”

“No, I’m afraid I haven’t much temperament. ” His voice was cordial, but his smile was a mere mechanical sidewise twist of the lip muscles. “You’re the one that’s got the stage presence. Bet you’d be a regular Ethel Barrymore if you didn’t have to take care of us. ”

“My, but you’re such a flatterer!”

He bowed his way out and walked sedately down the street to a public garage. Nodding to the night attendant, but saying nothing, he started his roadster and drove out of the garage, away from the center of Vernon, toward the suburb of Rosebank. He did not go directly to Rosebank. He went seven blocks out of his way, and halted on Fandall Avenue—one of those petty main thoroughfares which, with their motion-picture palaces, their groceries, laundries, undertakers’ establishments and lunch rooms, serve as local centers for districts of mean residences. He got out of the car and pretended to look at the tires, kicking them to see how much air they had. While he did so he covertly looked up and down the street. He saw no one whom he knew. He went into the Parthenon Confectionery Store.

The Parthenon Store makes a specialty of those ingenious candy boxes that resemble bound books. The back of the box is of imitation leather, with a stamping simulating the title of a novel. The edges are apparently the edges of a number of pages. But these pages are hollowed out, and the inside is to be filled with candy.

Jasper gazed at the collection of book boxes and chose the two whose titles had the nearest approach to dignity—Sweets to the Sweet and The Ladies’ Delight. He asked the Greek clerk to fill these with the less expensive grade of mixed chocolates, and to wrap them.

From the candy shop he went to the drugstore that carried an assortment of reprinted novels, and from these picked out two of the same sentimental type as the titles on the booklike boxes. These also he had wrapped. He strolled out of the drugstore, slipped into a lunchroom, got a lettuce sandwich, doughnuts, and a cup of coffee at the greasy marble counter, took them to a chair with a table arm in the dim rear of the lunchroom and hastily devoured them. As he came out and returned to his car he again glanced along the street.