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(c. 1925)

by Charles MacArthur

Chapter VI.

The telephone rang.

“Excuse me,” said Mr. Cunningham. “It’s probably Judge Appleman. He’s not expected to live out the night.”

“I’ll get a taxi as soon as he’s through telephoning,” said Miller, consulting his watch. “Where do you kids live? I’ll drop you.”

“Some people have it soft,” said Eugene with hardly concealed bitterness. “Riding in taxis all the time.”

“I might as well be broke as the way I am,” acquiesced Miller, good humoredly. “I don’t mind telling you, though, that this little event puts me in one hell of a hole. Mind you, I’m not belly-aching, but I don’t know where in hell I’m going to get two hundred dollars.”

“There’s that insurance,” said Mibs.

“What insurance?” almost shouted Eugene. Miller dropped his cigar.

“Why, right after you left the house this lady came over from the lodge,” Mibs informed her husband. “She said it’s over a thousand dollars on account of Mama being Past Exalted Rose.”

“Well, I’ll be damned,” said Miller.

Eugene broke the silence.

“Who’s it made out to?” he asked, in a voice that sought to seem casual.

“Why, to papa.”

“To who?” cried Eugene.

“What did you say?” stammered Miller, completely stunned.

“Mama never would change it,” Mibs snuffled. “She always said you were coming back.”

“Well, what do you know about that!” exclaimed Miller, awe-struck. “Can you beat that, Eugene?”

“I can’t even tie it,” retorted Eugene, his disappointment painfully manifest.

“Even when she was dying,” resumed Mibs, “she kept saying, where were you and all -- and on she talked night and day about some place you went to when you got married, and took her along.”

“Springfield,” said Miller, softly. “Did she remember that? My God, I’d forgotten all about it, myself. We got stuck in a hotel down there and had to hitch hike all the way back to Chicago. One time we slept in a barn and she got laughing so hard in the middle of the night, we got caught by a sore-head farmer. He chased us a mile.”

Gentle lines crept into Miller’s eyes.

“That was the life, all right!” he sighed. “Young. Nothing to worry about. The whole wide world in front of you. And now ...”

He began fumbling for his pocket handkerchief.

“Why, I’m crying,” he remarked, in surprise. “That’s the first time that’s happened to me in a good many years, Son.”

Eugene sniffed at Miller’s paternal tone. The latter discovered an area on his handkerchief suited to his purpose, and dried his eyes.

“It just came over me now that she was too good for me,” he observed. “That was all the trouble and I’m man enough to say so.”

His tears increased.

“It’s too late to do much about it, but I wish ... I wish I’d made her happy -- just once.”

Eugene inconsiderately began to whistle the first few bars of “Swanee River.” It was evident that he regarded his father-in-law with growing distaste, if not horror. But Miller was oblivious to this feeling. He sat wrapped in thought, tears forming, his lips moving. Abruptly his hand came down upon his knee.

“I know something I can do, by God!” he announced. “Excuse me, Kids.”

He arose and passed through the tapestry hangings, into Mr. Cunningham’s private office.

© 2003-04 The Estate of Charles G. MacArthur. All Rights Reserved.

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