My Roomy by Ring Lardner
No--I ain't signed for next year; but there won't be no trouble about that. The dough part of it is all fixed up. John and me talked it over and I'll sign as soon as they send me a contract. All I told him was that he'd have to let me pick my own roommate after this and not sic no wild man on to me.
You know I didn't hit much the last two months o' the season. Some o' the boys, I notice, wrote some stuff about me gettin' old and losin' my battin' eye. That's all bunk! The reason I didn't hit was because I wasn't gettin' enough sleep. And the reason for that was Mr. Elliott.
He wasn't with us after the last part o' May, but I roomed with him long enough to get the insomny. I was the only guy in the club game enough to stand for him; but I was sorry afterward that I done it, because it sure did put a crimp in my little old average.
And do you know where he is now? I got a letter today and I'll read it to you. No--I guess I better tell you somethin' about him first. You fellers never got acquainted with him and you ought to hear the dope to understand the letter. I'll make it as short as I can.
He didn't play in no league last year. He was with some semi-pros over in Michigan and somebody writes John about him. So John sends Needham over to look at him. Tom stayed there Saturday and Sunday, and seen him work twice. He was playin' the outfield, but as luck would have it they wasn't a fly ball hit in his direction in both games. A base hit was made out his way and he booted it, and that's the only report Tom could get on his fieldin'. But he wallops two over the wall in one day and they catch two line drives off him. The next day he gets four blows and two o' them is triples.
So Tom comes back and tells John the guy is a whale of a hitter and fast as Cobb, but he don't know nothin' about his fieldin'. Then John signs him to a contract--twelve hundred or somethin' like that. We'd been in Tampa a week before he showed up. Then he comes to the hotel and just sits round all day, without tellin' nobody who he was. Finally the bellhops was going to chase him out and he says he's one o' the ballplayers. Then the clerk gets John to go over and talk to him. He tells John his name and says he hasn't had nothin' to eat for three days, because he was broke. John told me afterward that he'd drew about three hundred advance--last winter sometime. Well, they took him in the dinin' room and they tell me he inhaled about four meals at once. That night they roomed him with Heine.
Next mornin' Heine and me walks out to the grounds together and Heine tells me about him. He says:
"Don't never call me a bug again. They got me roomin' with the champion o' the world."
"Who is he?" I says.
"I don't know and I don't want to know," says Heine; "but if they stick him in there with me again I'll jump to the Federals. To start with, he ain't got no baggage. I ast him where his trunk was and he says he didn't have none. Then I ast him if he didn't have no suitcase, and he says: 'No. What do you care?' I was goin' to lend him some pajamas, but he put on the shirt o' the uniform John give him last night and slept in that. He was asleep when I got up this mornin'. I seen his collar layin' on the dresser and it looked like he had wore it in Pittsburgh every day for a year. So I throwed it out the window and he comes down to breakfast with no collar. I ast him what size collar he wore and he says he didn't want none, because he wasn't goin' out nowheres. After breakfast he beat it up to the room again and put on his uniform. When I got up there he was lookin' in the glass at himself, and he done it all the time I was dressin'."
When we got out to the park I got my first look at him. Pretty good-lookin' guy, too, in his unie--big shoulders and well put together; built somethin' like Heine himself. He was talkin' to John when I come up.
"What position do you play?" John was askin' him.
"I play anywheres," says Elliott.
"You're the kind I'm lookin' for," says John. Then he says: "You was an outfielder up there in Michigan, wasn't you?"
"I don't care where I play," says Elliott.
John sends him to the outfield and forgets all about him for a while. Pretty soon Miller comes in and says:
"I ain't goin' to shag for no bush outfielder!"
John ast him what was the matter, and Miller tells him that Elliott ain't doin' nothin' but just standin' out there; that he ain't makin' no attemp' to catch the fungoes, and that he won't even chase 'em. Then John starts watchin' him, and it was just like Miller said. Larry hit one pretty near in his lap and he stepped out o' the way. John calls him in and ast him:
"Why don't you go after them fly balls?"
"Because I don't want 'em," says Elliott.
John gets sarcastic and says:
"What do you want? Of course we'll see that you get anythin' you want!"
"Give me a ticket back home," says Elliott.
"Don't you want to stick with the club?" says John, and the busher tells him, no, he certainly did not. Then John tells him he'll have to pay his own fare home and Elliott don't get sore at all. He just says:
"Well, I'll have to stick, then--because I'm broke."
We was havin' battin' practice and John tells him to go up and hit a few. And you ought to of seen him bust 'em!
Lavender was in there workin' and he'd been pitchin' a little all winter, so he was in pretty good shape. He lobbed one up to Elliott, and he hit it 'way up in some trees outside the fence--about a mile, I guess. Then John tells Jimmy to put somethin' on the ball. Jim comes through with one of his fast ones and the kid slams it agin the right-field wall on a line.
"Give him your spitter!" yells John, and Jim handed him one. He pulled it over first base so fast that Bert, who was standin' down there, couldn't hardly duck in time. If it'd hit him it'd killed him.
Well, he kep' on hittin' everythin' Jim give him--and Jim had somethin' too. Finally John gets Pierce warmed up and sends him out to pitch, tellin' him to hand Elliott a flock o' curve balls. He wanted to see if lefthanders was goin' to bother him. But he slammed 'em right along, and I don't b'lieve he hit more'n two the whole mornin' that wouldn't of been base hits in a game.
They sent him out to the outfield again in the afternoon, and after a lot o' coaxin' Leach got him to go after fly balls; but that's all he did do--just go after 'em. One hit him on the bean and another on the shoulder. He run back after the short ones and 'way in after the ones that went over his head. He catched just one--a line drive that he couldn't get out o' the way of; and then he acted like it hurt his hands.
I come back to the hotel with John. He ast me what I thought of Elliott.
"Well," I says, "he'd be the greatest ballplayer in the world if he could just play ball. He sure can bust 'em."
John says he was afraid he couldn't never make an outfielder out o' him. He says:
"I'll try him on the infield to-morrow. They must be Some place he can play. I never seen a lefthand hitter that looked so good agin lefthand pitchin'--and he's got a great arm; but he acts like he'd never saw a fly ball."
Well, he was just as bad on the infield. They put him at short and he was like a sieve. You could of drove a hearse between him and second base without him gettin' near it. He'd stoop over for a ground ball about the time it was bouncin' up agin the fence; and when he'd try to cover the bag on a peg he'd trip over it.
They tried him at first base and sometimes he'd run 'way over in the coachers' box and sometimes out in right field lookin' for the bag. Once Heine shot one acrost at him on a line and he never touched it with his hands. It went bam! right in the pit of his stomach--and the lunch he'd ate didn't do him no good.
Finally John just give up and says he'd have to keep him on the bench and let him earn his pay by bustin' 'em a couple o' times a week or so. We all agreed with John that this bird would be a whale of a pinch hitter--and we was right too. He was hittin' 'way over five hundred when the blowoff come, along about the last o' May.
Before the trainin' trip was over, Elliott had roomed with pretty near everybody in the club. Heine raised an awful holler after the second night down there and John put the bug in with Needham. Tom stood him for three nights. Then he doubled up with Archer, and Schulte, and Miller, and Leach, and Saier--and the whole bunch in turn, averagin' about two nights with each one before they put up a kick. Then John tried him with some o' the youngsters, but they wouldn't stand for him no more'n the others. They all said he was crazy and they was afraid he'd get violent some night and stick a knife in 'em.
He always insisted on havin' the water run in the bathtub all night, because he said it reminded him of the sound of the dam near his home. The fellers might get up four or five times a night and shut off the faucet, but he'd get right up after 'em and turn it on again. Carter, a big bush pitcher from Georgia, started a fight with him about it one night, and Elliott pretty near killed him. So the rest o' the bunch, when they'd saw Carter's map next mornin', didn't have the nerve to do nothin' when it come their turn.
Another o' his habits was the thing that scared 'em, though. He'd brought a razor with him--in his pocket, I guess--and he used to do his shavin' in the middle o' the night. Instead o' doin' it in the bathroom he'd lather his face and then come out and stand in front o' the lookin'-glass on the dresser. Of course he'd have all the lights turned on, and that was bad enough when a feller wanted to sleep; but the worst of it was that he'd stop shavin' every little while and turn round and stare at the guy who was makin' a failure o' tryin' to sleep. Then he'd wave his razor round in the air and laugh, and begin shavin' agin. You can imagine how comf'table his roomies felt!
John had bought him a suitcase and some clothes and things, and charged 'em up to him. He'd drew so much dough in advance that he didn't have nothin' comin' till about June. He never thanked John and he'd wear one shirt and one collar till some one throwed 'em away.
Well, we finally gets to Indianapolis, and we was goin' from there to Cincy to open. The last day in Indianapolis John come and ast me how I'd like to change roomies. I says I was perfectly satisfied with Larry. Then John says:
"I wisht you'd try Elliott. The other boys all kicks on him, but he seems to hang round you a lot and I b'lieve you could get along all right."
"Why don't you room him alone?" I ast.
"The boss or the hotels won't stand far us roomin' alone," says John. "You go ahead and try it, and see how you make out. If he's too much for you let me know; but he likes you and I think he'll be diff'rent with a guy who can talk to him like you can."
So I says I'd tackle it, because I didn't want to throw John down. When we got to Cincy they stuck Elliott and me in one room, and we was together till he quit us.
I went to the room early that night, because we was goin' to open next day and I wanted to feel like somethin'. First thing I done when I got undressed was turn on both faucets in the bathtub. They was makin' an awful racket when Elliott finally come in about midnight. I was layin' awake and I opened right up on him. I says:
"Don't shut off that water, because I like to hear it run."
Then I turned over and pretended to be asleep. The bug got his clothes off, and then what did he do but go in the bathroom and shut off the water! Then he come back in the room and says: "I guess no one's goin' to tell me what to do in here."
But I kep' right on pretendin' to sleep and didn't pay no attention. When he'd got into his bed I jumped out o' mine and turned on all the lights and begun stroppin' my razor. He says:
"What's comin' off?"
"Some o' my whiskers," I says. "I always shave along about this time."
"No, you don't!" he says. "I was in your room one mornin' down in Louisville and I seen you shavin' then."
"Well," I says, "the boys tell me you shave in the middle o' the night; and I thought if I done all the things you do mebbe I'd get so's I could hit like you."
"You must be superstitious!" he says. And I told him I was. "I'm a good hitter," he says, "and I'd be a good hitter if I never shaved at all. That don't make no diff'rence."
"Yes, it does," I says. "You prob'ly hit good because you shave at night; but you'd be a better fielder if you shaved in the mornin'."
You see, I was tryin' to be just as crazy as him--though that wasn't hardly possible.
"If that's right," says he, "I'll do my shavin' in the mornin'--because I seen in the papers where the boys says that if I could play the outfield like I can hit I'd be as good as Cobb. They tell me Cobb gets twenty thousand a year."
"No," I says; "he don't get that much--but he gets about ten times as much as you do."
"Well," he says, "I'm goin' to be as good as him, because I need the money."
"What do you want with money? " I says.
He just laughed and didn't say nothin'; but from that time on the water didn't run in the bathtub nights and he done his shavin' after breakfast. I didn't notice, though, that he looked any better in fieldin' practice.
It rained one day in Cincy and they trimmed us two out o' the other three; but it wasn't Elliott's fault.
They had Larry beat four to one in the ninth innin' o' the first game. Archer gets on with two out, and John sends my roomy up to hit--though Benton, a lefthander, is workin' for them. The first thing Benton serves up there Elliott cracks it a mile over Hobby's head. It would of been good for three easy--only Archer--playin' safe, o' course--pulls up at third base. Tommy couldn't do nothin' and we was licked.
The next day he hits one out o' the park off the Indian; but we was 'way behind and they was nobody on at the time. We copped the last one without usin' no pinch hitters.
I didn't have no trouble with him nights durin' the whole series. He come to bed pretty late while we was there and I told him he'd better not let John catch him at it. "What would he do?" he says.
"Fine you fifty," I says.
"He can't fine me a dime," he says, "because I ain't got it."
Then I told him he'd be fined all he had comin' if he didn't get in the hotel before midnight; but he just laughed and says he didn't think John had a kick comin' so long as he kep' bustin' the ball.
"Some day you'll go up there and you won't bust it," I says.
"That'll be an accident," he says.
That stopped me and I didn't say nothin'. What could you say to a guy who hated himself like that?
The "accident" happened in St. Louis the first day. We needed two runs in the eighth and Saier and Brid was on, with two out. John tells Elliott to go up in Pierce's place. The bug goes up and Griner gives him two bad balls--'way outside. I thought they was goin' to walk him--and it looked like good judgment, because they'd heard what he done in Cincy. But no! Griner comes back with a fast one right over and Elliott pulls it down the right foul line, about two foot foul. He hit it so hard you'd of thought they'd sure walk him then; but Griner gives him another fast one. He slammed it again just as hard, but foul. Then Griner gives him one 'way outside and it's two and three. John says, on the bench:
"If they don't walk him now he'll bust that fence down."
I thought the same and I was sure Griner wouldn't give him nothin' to hit; but he come with a curve and Rigler calls Elliott out. From where we sat the last one looked low, and I thought Elliott'd make a kick. He come back to the bench smilin'.
John starts for his position, but stopped and ast the bug what was the matter with that one. Any busher I ever knowed would of said, "It was too low," or "It was outside," or "It was inside." Elliott says:
"Nothin' at all. It was right over the middle."
"Why didn't you bust it, then?" says John.
"I was afraid I'd kill somebody," says Elliott, and laughed like a big boob. John was pretty near chokin'.
"What are you laughin' at?" he says.
"I was thinkin' of a nickel show I seen in Cincinnati," says the bug.
"Well," says John, so mad he couldn't hardly see, "that show and that laugh'll cost you fifty."
We got beat, and I wouldn't of blamed John if he'd fined him his whole season's pay.
Up 'n the room that night I told him he'd better cut out that laughin' stuff when we was gettin' trimmed or he never would have no pay day. Then he got confidential.
"Pay day wouldn't do me no good," he says. "When I'm all squared up with the club and begin to have a pay day I'll only get a hundred bucks at a time, and I'll owe that to some o' you fellers. I wisht we could win the pennant and get in on that World's Series dough. Then I'd get a bunch at once."
"What would you do with a bunch o' dough?" I ast him.
"Don't tell nobody, sport," he says; "but if I ever get five hundred at once I'm goin' to get married."
"Oh!" I says. "And who's the lucky girl?"
"She's a girl up in Muskegon," says Elliott; "and you're right when you call her lucky."
"You don't like yourself much, do you?" I says.
"I got reason to like myself," says he. "You'd like yourself, too, if you could hit 'em like me."
"Well," I says. "you didn't show me no hittin' to-day."
"I couldn't hit because I was laughin' too hard," says Elliott.
"What was it you was laughin' at?" I says.
"I was laughin' at that pitcher," he says. "He thought he had somethin' and he didn't have nothin'."
"He had enough to whiff you with," I says.
"He didn't have nothin'!" says he again. "I was afraid if I busted one off him they'd can him, and then I couldn't never hit agin him no more."
Naturally I didn't have no comeback to that. I just sort o' gasped and got ready to go to sleep; but he wasn't through.
"I wisht you could see this bird!" he says.
"What bird?" I says.
"This dame that's nuts about me," he says.
"Good-looker?" I ast.
"No," he says; "she ain't no bear for looks. They ain't nothin' about her for a guy to rave over till you hear her sing. She sure can holler some."
"What kind o' voice has she got?" I ast.
"A bear," says he."
"No," I says; "I mean is she a barytone or an air?"
"I don't know," he says; "but she's got the loudest voice I ever hear on a woman. She's pretty near got me beat."
"Can you sing?" I says; and I was sorry right afterward that I ast him that question.
I guess it must of been bad enough to have the water runnin' night after night and to have him wavin' that razor round; but that couldn't of been nothin' to his singin'. Just as soon as I'd pulled that boner he says, "Listen to me!" and starts in on 'Silver Threads Among the Gold.' Mind you, it was after midnight and they was guests all round us tryin' to sleep!
They used to be noise enough in our club when we had Hofman and Sheckard and Richie harmonizin'; but this bug's voice was louder'n all o' theirn combined. We once had a pitcher named Martin Walsh--brother o' Big Ed's--and I thought he could drownd out the Subway; but this guy made a boiler factory sound like Dummy Taylor. If the whole hotel wasn't awake when he'd howled the first line it's a pipe they was when he cut loose, which he done when he come to "Always young and fair to me." Them words could of been heard easy in East St. Louis.
He didn't get no encore from me, but he goes right through it again--or starts to. I knowed somethin' was goin' to happen before he finished--and somethin' did. The night clerk and the house detective come bangin' at the door. I let 'em in and they had plenty to say. If we made another sound the whole club'd be canned out o' the hotel. I tried to salve 'em, and I says:
"He won't sing no more."
But Elliott swelled up like a poisoned pup.
"Won't I?" he says. "I'll sing all I want to."
"You won't sing in here," says the clerk.
"They ain't room for my voice in here anyways," he says. "I'll go outdoors and sing."
And he puts his clothes on and ducks out. I didn't make no attemp' to stop him. I heard him bellowin' 'Silver Threads' down the corridor and dawn the stairs, with the clerk and the dick chasin' him all the way and tellin' him to shut up.
Well, the guests make a holler the next mornin'; and the hotel people tells Charlie Williams that he'll either have to let Elliott stay somewheres else or the whole club'll have to move. Charlie tells John, and John was thinkin' o' settlin' the question by releasin' Elliott.
I guess he'd about made up his mind to do it; but that afternoon they had us three to one in the ninth, and we got the bases full, with two down and Larry's turn to hit. Elliott had been sittin' on the bench sayin' nothin'.
"Do you think you can hit one today?" says John.
"I can hit one any day," says Elliott.
"Go up and hit that lefthander, then," says John, "and remember there's nothin' to laugh at."
Sallee was workin'--and workin' good; but that didn't bother the bug. He cut into one, and it went between Oakes and Whitted like a shot. He come into third standin' up and we was a run to the good. Sallee was so sore he kind o' forgot himself and took pretty near his full wind-up pitchin' to Tommy. And what did Elliott do but steal home and get away with it clean!
Well, you couldn't can him after that, could you? Charlie gets him a room somewheres and I was relieved of his company that night. The next evenin' we beat it for Chi to play about two weeks at home. He didn't tell nobody where he roomed there and I didn't see nothin' of him, 'cep' out to the park. I ast him what he did with himself nights and he says:
"Same as I do on the road--borrow some dough same place and go to the nickel shows."
"You must be stuck on 'em," I says.
"Yes." he says; "I like the ones where they kill people--because I want to learn how to do it. I may have that job some day."
"Don't pick on me," I says.
"Oh," says the bug, "you never can tell who I'll pick on."
It seemed as if he just couldn't learn nothin' about fieldin', and finally John told him to keep out o' the practice.
"A ball might hit him in the temple and croak him," says John. But he busted up a couple o' games for us at home, beatin' Pittsburgh once and Cincy once.
They give me a great big room at the hotel in Pittsburgh; so the fellers picked it out for the poker game. We was playin' along about ten o'clock one night when in come Elliott--the earliest he'd showed up since we'd been roomin' together. They was only five of us playin' and Tom ast him to sit in.
"I'm busted," he says.
"Can you play poker?" I ast him.
"They's nothin' I can't do!" he says. "Slip me a couple o' bucks and I'll show you."
So I slipped him a couple o' bucks and honestly hoped he'd win, because I knowed he never had no dough. Well, Tom dealt him a hand and he picks it up and says:
"I only got five cards."
"How many do you want?" I says.
"Oh," he says, "if that's all I get I'll try to make 'em do."
The pot was cracked and raised, and he stood the raise. I says to myself: "There goes my two bucks!" But no--he comes out with three queens and won the dough. It was only about seven bucks; but you'd of thought it was a million to see him grab it. He laughed like a kid.
"Guess I can't play this game!" he says; and he had me fooled for a minute--I thought he must of been kiddin' when he complained of only havin' five cards.
He copped another pot right afterward and was sittin' there with about eleven bucks in front of him when Jim opens a roodle pot for a buck. I stays and so does Elliott. Him and Jim both drawed one card and I took three. I had kings or queens--I forget which. I didn't help 'em none; so when Jim bets a buck I throws my hand away.
"How much can I bet?" says the bug.
"You can raise Jim a buck if you want to," I says.
So he bets two dollars. Jim comes back at him. He comes right back at Jim. Jim raises him again and he tilts Jim right back. Well, when he'd boosted Jim with the last buck he had, Jim says:
"I'm ready to call. I guess you got me beat. What have you got?"
"I know what I've got, all right," says Elliott. "I've got a straight." And he throws his hand down. Sure enough, it was a straight, eight high. Jim pretty near fainted and so did I.
The bug had started pullin' in the dough when Jim stops him.
"Here! Wait a minute!" says Jim. "I thought you had somethin'. I filled up." Then Jim lays down his nine full.
"You beat me, I guess," says Elliott, and he looked like he'd lost his last friend.
"Beat you?" says Jim. "Of course I beat you! What did you think I had?"
"Well," says the bug, "I thought you might have a small flush or somethin'."
When I regained consciousness he was beggin' for two more bucks.
"What for?" I says. "To play poker with? You're barred from the game for life!"
"Well," he says, "if I can't play no more I want to go to sleep, and you fellers will have to get out o' this room."
Did you ever hear o' nerve like that? This was the first night he'd came in before twelve and he orders the bunch out so's he can sleep! We politely suggested to him to go to Brooklyn.
Without sayin' a word he starts in on his 'Silver Threads' and it wasn't two minutes till the game was busted up and the bunch--all but me--was out o' there. I'd of beat it too, only be stopped yellin' as soon as they'd went.
"You're same buster!" I says. "You bust up ball games in the afternoon and poker games at night."
"Yes," he says; "that's my business--bustin' things." And before I knowed what he was about he picked up the pitcher of ice-water that was on the floor and throwed it out the window--through the glass and all.
Right then I give him a plain talkin' to. I tells him how near he come to gettin' canned down in St. Louis because he raised so much Cain singin' in the hotel.
"But I had to keep my voice in shape," he says. "If I ever get dough enough to get married the girl and me'll go out singin' together."
"Out where?" I ast.
"Out on the vaudeville circuit," says Elliott.
"Well," I says, "if her voice is like yours you'll be wastin' money if you travel round. Just stay up in Muskegon and we'll hear you, all right!"
I told him he wouldn't never get no dough if he didn't behave himself. That, even if we got in the World's Series, he wouldn't be with us--unless he cut out the foolishness.
"We ain't goin' to get in no World's Series," he says, "and I won't never get a bunch o' money at once; so it looks like I couldn't get married this fall."
Then I told him we played a city series every fall. He'd never thought o' that and it tickled him to death. I told him the losers always got about five hundred apiece and that we were about due to win it and get about eight hundred. "But," I says, " we still got a good chance for the old pennant; and if I was you I wouldn't give up hope o' that yet--not where John can hear you, anyway."
"No," he says, "we won't win no pennant, because he won't let mime play reg'lar; but I don't care so long as we're sure o' that city-series dough."
"You ain't sure of it if you don't behave," I says.
"Well," says he, very serious, "I guess I'll behave." And he did--till we made our first Eastern trip.
went to Boston first, and that crazy bunch goes out and piles up a three-run lead on us in seven innin's the first day. It was the pitcher's turn to lead off in the eighth, so up goes Elliott to bat for him. He kisses the first thing they hands him for three bases; and we says, on the bench: "Now we'll get 'em!"--because, you know, a three-run lead wasn't nothin' in Boston.
"Stay right on that bag!" John hollers to Elliott.
Mebbe if John hadn't said nothin' to him everythin' would of been all right; but when Perdue starts to pitch the first ball to Tommy, Elliott starts to steal home. He's out as far as from here to Seattle.
If I'd been carryin' a gun I'd of shot him right through the heart. As it was, I thought John'd kill him with a bat, because he was standin' there with a couple of 'em, waitin' for his turn; but I guess John was too stunned to move. He didn't even seem to see Elliott when he went to the bench. After I'd cooled off a little I says:
"Beat it and get into your clothes before John comes in. Then go to the hotel and keep out o' sight."
When I got up in the room afterward, there was Elliott, lookin' as innocent and happy as though he'd won fifty bucks with a pair o' treys.
"I thought you might of killed yourself," I says.
"What for?" he says.
"For that swell play you made," says I.
"What was the matter within the play?" ast Elliott, surprised. "It was all right when I done it in St. Louis."
"Yes," I says; "but they was two out in St. Louis and we wasn't no three runs behind."
"Well," he says, "if it was all right in St. Louis I don't see why it was wrong here."
"It's a diff'rent climate here," I says, too disgusted to argue with him.
"I wonder if they'd let me sing in this climate?" says Elliott.
"Na," I says. "Don't sing in this hotel, because we don't want to get fired out o' here--the eats is too good."
"All right," he says. "I won't sing." But when I starts down to supper he says: "I'm li'ble to do somethin' worse'n sing."
He didn't show up in the dinin' roam and John went to the boxin' show after supper; so it looked like him and Elliott wouldn't run into each other till the murder had left John's heart. I was glad o' that--because a Mass'chusetts jury might not consider it justifiable hommercide if one guy croaked another for givin' the Boston club a game.
I went down to the corner and had a couple o' beers; and then came straight back, intendin' to hit the hay. The elevator boy had went for a drink or somethin', and they was two old ladies already waitin' in the car when I stepped in. Right along after me comes Elliott.
"Where's the boy that's supposed to run this car?" he says. I told him the boy'd be right back; but he says: "I can't wait. I'm much too sleepy."
And before I could stop him he'd slammed the door and him and I and the poor old ladies was shootin' up.
"Let us off at the third floor, please!" says one o' the ladies, her voice kind o' shakin'.
"Sorry, madam," says the bug; "but this is a express and we don't stop at no third floor."
I grabbed his arm and tried to get him away from the machinery; but he was as strong as a ox and he throwed me agin the side o' the car like I was a baby. We went to the top faster'n I ever rode in an elevator before. And then we shot dawn to the bottom, hittin' the bumper down there so hard I thought we'd be smashed to splinters.
The ladies was too scared to make a sound durin' the first trip; but while we was goin' up and down the second time--even faster'n the first--they begun to scream. I was hollerin' my head off at him to quit and he was makin' more noise than the three of us--pretendin' he was the locomotive and the whole crew o' the train.
Don't never ask me how many times we went up and dawn! The women fainted on the third trip and I guess I was about as near it as I'll ever get. The elevator boy and the bellhops and the waiters and the night clerk and everybody was jumpin' round the lobby screamin'; but no one seemed to know how to stop us.
Finally--on about the tenth trip, I guess--he slowed down and stopped at the fifth floor, where we was roomin'. He opened the door and beat it for the room, while I, though I was tremblin' like a leaf, run the car down to the bottom.
The night clerk knowed me pretty well and knowed I wouldn't do nothin' like that; so him and I didn't argue, but just got to work together to bring the old women to. While we was doin' that Elliott must of run down the stairs and slipped out o' the hotel, because when they sent the officers up to the room after him he'd blowed.
They was goin' to fire the club out; but Charlie had a good stand-in with Amos, the proprietor, and he fixed it up to let us stay--providin' Elliott kep' away. The bug didn't show up at the ball park next day and we didn't see no more of him till we got on the rattler far New York. Charlie and John both bawled him, but they give him a berth--an upper--and we pulled into the Grand Central Station without him havin' made no effort to wreck the train.
I'd studied the thing pretty careful, but hadn't come to no conclusion. I was sure he wasn't no stew, because none o' the boys had ever saw him even take a glass o' beer, and I couldn't never detect the odor o' booze on him. And if he'd been a dope I'd of knew about it--roomin' with him.
There wouldn't of been no mystery about it if he'd been a lefthand pitcher--but he wasn't. He wasn't nothin' but a whale of a hitter and he throwed with his right arm. He hit lefthanded, o' course; but so did Saier and Brid and Schulte and me, and John himself; and none of us was violent. I guessed he must of been just a plain nut and li'ble to break out any time.
They was a letter waitin' for him at New York, and I took it, intendin' to give it to him at the park, because I didn't think they'd let him room at the hotel; but after breakfast he come up to the room, with his suitcase. It seems he'd promised John and Charlie to be good, and made it so strong they b'lieved him.
I give him his letter, which was addressed in a girl's writin' and came from Muskegon.
"From the girl?" I says.
"Yes," he says; and, without openin' it, he tore it up and throwed it out the window.
"Had a quarrel?" I ast.
"No, no," he says; "but she can't tell me nothin' I don't know already. Girls always writes the same junk. I got one from her in Pittsburgh, but I didn't read it."
"I guess you ain't so stuck on her," I says.
He swells up and says:
"Of course I'm stuck on her! If I wasn't, do you think I'd be goin' round with this bunch and gettin' insulted all the time? I'm stickin' here because o' that series dough, so's I can get hooked."
"Do you think you'd settle down if you was married?" I ast him.
"Settle down?" he says. "Sure, I'd settle down. I'd be so happy that I wouldn't have to look for no excitement."
Nothin' special happened that might 'cep' that he come in the room about one o'clock and wake me up by pickin' up the foot o' the bed and droppin' it on the floor, sudden-like.
"Give me a key to the room," he says.
"You must of had a key," I says, "or you couldn't of got in."
"That's right!" he says, and beat it to bed.
One o' the reporters must of told Elliott that John had ast for waivers on him and New York had refused to waive, because next mornin' he come to me with that dope.
"New York's goin' to win this pennant!" he says.
"Well," I says, "they will if some one else don't. But what of it?"
"I'm goin' to play with New York," he says, "so's I can get the World's Series dough."
"How you goin' to get away from this club?" I ast.
"Just watch me!" he says. "I'll be with New York before this series is over."
Well, the way he goes after the job was original, anyway. Rube'd had one of his good days the day before and we'd got a trimmin'; but this second day the score was tied up at two runs apiece in the tenth, and Big Jeff'd been wobblin' for two or three innin's.
Well, he walks Saier and me, with one out, and Mac sends for Matty, who was warmed up and ready. John sticks Elliott in in Brid's place and the bug pulls one into the right-field stand.
It's a cinch McGraw thinks well of him then, and might of went after him if he hadn't went crazy the next afternoon. We're tied up in the ninth and Matty's workin'. John sends Elliott up with the bases choked; but he doesn't go right up to the plate. He walks over to their bench and calls McGraw out. Mac tells us about it afterward.
"I can bust up this game right here!" says Elliott.
"Go ahead," says Mac; "but be careful he don't whiff you."
Then the bug pulls it.
"If I whiff," he says, "will you get me on your club?"
"Sure!" says Mac, just as anybody would.
By this time Bill Koem was hollerin' about the delay; so up goes Elliott and gives the worst burlesque on tryin' to hit that you ever see. Matty throws one a mile outside and high, and the bug swings like it was right over the heart. Then Matty throws one at him and he ducks out o' the way--but swings just the same. Matty must of been wise by this time, for he pitches one so far outside that the Chief almost has to go to the coachers' box after it.
Elliott takes his third healthy and runs through the field down to the clubhouse.
We got beat in the eleventh; and when we went in to dress he has his street clothes on. Soon as he seen John comin' he says: "I got to see McGraw!" And he beat it.
John was goin' to the fights that night; but before he leaves the hotel he had waivers on Elliott from everybody and had sold him to Atlanta.
"And," says John, "I don't care if they pay for him or not." My roomy blows in about nine and got the letter from John out of his box. He was goin' to tear it up. but I told him they was news in it. He opens it and reads where he's sold. I was still sore at him; so I says:
"Thought you was goin' to get on the New York club?"
"No," he says. "I got turned down cold. McGraw says he wouldn't have me in his club. He says he'd had Charlie Faust--and that was enough for him."
He had a kind o' crazy look in his eyes; so when he starts up to the room I follows him.
"What are you goin' to do now?" I says.
"I'm goin' to sell this ticket to Atlanta," he says, "and go back to Muskegon, where I belong."
"I'll help you pack," I says.
"No," says the bug. "I come into this league with this suit o' clothes and a collar. They can have the rest of it." Then he sits dawn on the bed and begins to cry like a baby. "No series dough for me," he blubbers, "and no weddin' bells! My girl'll die when she hears about it!"
Of course that made me feel kind o' rotten, and I says:
"Brace up, boy! The best thing you can do is go to Atlanta and try hard. You'll be up here again next year."
"You can't tell me where to go!" he says, and he wasn't cryin' no more. "I'll go where I please--and I'm li'ble to take you with me."
I didn't want no argument, so I kep' still. Pretty soon he goes up to the lookin'-glass and stares at himself for five minutes. Then, all of a sudden, he hauls off and takes a wallop at his reflection in the glass. Naturally he smashed the glass all to pieces and he cut his hand somethin' awful.
Without lookin' at it he come over to me and says: "Well, good-by, sport!"--and holds out his other hand to shake. When I starts to shake with him he smears his bloody hand all over my map. Then he laughed like a wild man and run out o' the room and out o' the hotel.
Well, boys, my sleep was broke up for the rest o' the season. It might of been because I was used to sleepin' in all kinds o' racket and excitement, and couldn't stand for the quiet after he'd went--or it might of been because I kep' thinkin' about him and feelin' sorry for him.
I of'en wondered if he'd settle down and be somethin' if he could get married; and finally I got to b'lievin' he would. So when we was dividin' the city series dough I was thinkin' of him and the girl. Our share o' the money--the losers', as usual--was twelve thousand seven hundred sixty bucks or somethin' like that. They was twenty-one of us and that meant six hundred seven bucks apiece. We was just goin' to cut it up that way when I says:
"Why not give a divvy to poor old Elliott?"
About fifteen of 'em at once told me that I was crazy. You see, when he got canned he owed everybody in the club. I guess he'd stuck me for the most--about seventy bucks--but I didn't care nothin' about that. I knowed he hadn't never reported to Atlanta, and I thought he was prob'ly busted and a bunch o' money might make things all right for him and the other songbird.
I made quite a speech to the fellers, tellin' 'em how he'd cried when he left us and how his heart'd been set on gettin' married on the series dough. I made it so strong that they finally fell for it. Our shares was cut to five hundred eighty apiece, and John sent him a check for a full share.
For a while I was kind o' worried about what I'd did. I didn't know if I was doin' right by the girl to give him the chance to marry her.
He'd told me she was stuck on him, and that's the only excuse I had for tryin' to fix it up between 'em; but, b'lieve me, if she was my sister or a friend o' mine I'd just as soon of had her manage the Cincinnati Club as marry that bird. I thought to myself:
"If she's all right she'll take acid in a month--and it'll be my fault; but if she's really stuck on him they must be somethin' wrong with her too, so what's the diff'rence?"
Then along comes this letter that I told you about. It's from some friend of hisn up there--and they's a note from him. I'll read 'em to you and then I got to beat it for the station:
I can't make out his last name--but it don't make no diff'rence. Now I'll read you his note:
That's all of it, fellers; and you can see I had same excuse for not hittin'. You can also see why I ain't never goin' to room with no bug again--not for John or nobody else!