Potash & Perlmutter - Their Copartnership Ventures and Adventures
by Montague Glass
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At three o'clock Minnie entered swathed in veils and a huge fur coat.

"Well, Abe," she said, "did you hear the latest? We are going to move to Johnsonhurst."

"I wish you joy," Abe grunted.

"We got a swell place down there," she went on. "Five bedrooms, a parlor and a library with a great big kitchen and a garage."

"A what?" Abe cried.

"A place what you put oitermobiles into it," Morris explained.

"Is that so?" Abe said as he jammed his hat on with both hands. "Well, that don't do no harm, Mawruss, because you could also use it for a dawg house."

He slammed the door behind him and five minutes later he entered the business premises of Klinger & Klein. There he found the senior member of the firm busy over the sample line.

"Hallo, Sol!" he cried. "I just seen it Mr. Brady, credit man for the Manhattan Mills, and he says he come across you riding in an oitermobile near Coney Island at nine o'clock this morning already. He says he always thought you and Klein was pretty steady people, but I says nowadays you couldn't never tell nothing about nobody. 'Because a feller is a talmudist already, Mr. Brady,' I says, 'that don't say he ain't blowing in his money on the horse races yet.'"

Klinger turned pale.

"Ain't that a fine thing," he exclaimed, "that a feller with a responsible position like Brady should be fooling away his time at Coney Island in business hours."

Abe laughed and clapped Sol Klinger on the back.

"As a matter of fact, Sol," he said, "I ain't seen Brady in a month, y'understand, but supposing Brady should come across you in an oitermobile down at Coney Island at nine o'clock in the morning, y'understand. I bet yer he would call for a new statement from you and Klein the very next day, Sol, and make you swear to it on a truck load of Bibles already. A feller shouldn't take no chances, Sol."

"I was in good company anyhow, Abe," Sol declared. "I was with J. Edward Kleebaum, but I suppose Mawruss Perlmutter told it you. Ain't it?"

"Sure, he did," Abe said, "and he also told it me last week that you says J. Edward Kleebaum was a crook because he runs a couple of oitermobiles out in Minneapolis."

"I made a mistake about Kleebaum, Abe," Klinger interrupted. "I changed my mind about him."

"That's all right, Sol," Abe said, "but if Kleebaum was a crook last week, Sol, and a gentleman this week, what I would like to know is, what he will be next week, because I got for twenty-one hundred dollars an order from that feller and I got to ship it next week. So if you got any information about Kleebaum, Sol, you would be doing me a favor if you would let me know all about it."

"All I know about him is this, Abe," Klinger replied. "We drew on him two reports and both of 'em gives him fifty to seventy-five thousand credit good. He's engaged to be married to Miss Julia Pfingst, who is Joseph Pfingst's a daughter."

"Joseph Pfingst," Abe repeated. "I don't know as I ever hear that name before."

"It used to be Pfingst & Gusthaler," Klinger went on, "in the rubber goods business on Wooster Street. First they made it raincoats, and then they went into rubber boots, and just naturally they got into bicycle tires, and then comes the oitermobile craze, and Gusthaler dies, and so Pfingst sells oitermobile tires, and now he's in the oitermobile business."

"Certainly, he got there gradually," Abe commented.

"Maybe he did, Abe," Klinger said, "but he also got pretty near a million dollars, and you know as well as I do, Abe, a feller what's a millionaire already don't got to marry off his daughter to a crook, y'understand. No, Abe, I changed my mind about that feller. I think Kleebaum's a pretty decent feller, and ourselves we sold him goods for twenty-five hundred dollars."

Abe puffed hard on his cigar for a moment.

"Couldn't you get from the old man a guarantee of the account maybe?" he asked.

"I sent Klein around there this morning, Abe," Klinger answered, "and Pfingst says if Kleebaum is good enough to marry his daughter, he's good enough for us to sell goods to, and certainly, Abe, you couldn't blame the old man neither."

Abe nodded, and a moment later he rose to leave.

"You shouldn't look so worried about it, Abe," Sol Klinger said. "Everybody is selling that feller this year."

"Well, Mawruss," Abe cried on Tuesday morning, "I got to confess that I ain't learned nothing new about that feller Kleebaum. Everybody what I seen it speaks very highly of him, Mawruss, and the way I figure it, he bought goods for fifty thousand dollars in the last four days. Klinger & Klein sold him, Sammet Brothers sold him, and even Lapidus & Elenbogen ain't left out. I couldn't understand it at all."

"Couldn't you?" Morris retorted. "Well, I could, Abe. That feller is increasing his business, Abe, because he's got good backing, y'understand. He's engaged to be married to Julie Pfingst and her father Joseph Pfingst is a millionaire."

"Sure, I know, Mawruss, I seen lots of them millionaires in my time already. Millionaires which everyone thinks is millionaires until the first meeting of creditors, and then, Mawruss, they make a composition for twenty cents cash and thirty cents notes at three, six and nine months. Multi-millionaires sometimes pay twenty-five cents cash, but otherwise the notes is the same like millionaires, three, six and nine months, and you could wrap up dill pickles in 'em for all the good they'll do you."

"What are you talking nonsense, Abe? This feller, Pfingst, is a millionaire. He's got a big oitermobile business and sells ten cars a week at twenty-five hundred dollars apiece. Here it is only Tuesday, Abe, and that feller sold two oitermobiles already."

"Did you count 'em, Mawruss?" Abe asked.

"Sure, I counted 'em," Morris replied. He looked boldly into Abe's eyes as he spoke. "One of 'em he sold to Sol Klinger and the other he sold to me."

If Morris anticipated making a sensation he was not disappointed. For ten minutes Abe struggled to sort out a few enunciable oaths from the mass of profanity that surged through his brain and at length he succeeded.

"I always thought you was crazy, Mawruss," he said after the first paroxysm had exhausted itself, "and now I know it."

"Why am I crazy?" Morris asked. "When a feller lives out in Johnsonhurst you must practically got to have an oitermobile, otherwise you are a dead one. And anyhow, Abe, couldn't I spend my money the way I want to?"

"Sure, you could," Abe said. "But you didn't spend it the way you wanted to, Mawruss. Kleebaum got you to buy the oitermobile. Ain't it?"

"Suppose he did, Abe? Kleebaum is a customer of ours. Ain't it? And he got me also a special price on the car. Twenty-one hundred dollars he will get me the car for, Abe, and Fixman looked over the car and he says it's a great piece of work, Abe. He ain't got the slightest idee what I am paying for the car and he says it is well worth twenty-five hundred dollars."

Abe shrugged his shoulders.

"All right, Mawruss," he said. "It's your funeral. Go ahead and buy the oitermobile; only I tell you right now, Mawruss, you are sinking twenty-one hundred dollars cash."

"Not cash, Abe," Morris corrected. "Pfingst is willing to take a six months' note provided it is indorsed by Potash & Perlmutter."

It seemed hardly possible to Morris that more poignant emotion could be displayed than in Abe's first reception of his news, but this last suggestion almost finished Abe. For fifteen minutes he fought off apoplexy and then the storm burst.

"Say, lookyhere, Abe," Morris protested at the first lull, "you'll make yourself sick."

But Abe paused only to regain his breath, and it was at least five minutes more before his vocabulary became exhausted. Then he sat down in a chair and mopped his brow, while Morris hastened off to the cutting-room from whence he was recalled a minute later by a shout from Abe.

"By jimminy, Mawruss!" he cried slapping his knee. "I got an idee. Go ahead and buy your oitermobile from Pfingst and I will agree that Potash & Perlmutter should endorse the note, y'understand, only one thing besides. Pfingst has got to guarantee to us Kleebaum's account of twenty-one hundred dollars."

"I'm afraid he wouldn't do it, Abe," Morris said.

"All right, then I wouldn't do it neither," Abe declared. "But anyhow, Mawruss, it wouldn't do no harm to ask him. Ain't it? Where is this here feller Pfingst?"

"At Fiftieth Street and Broadway," Morris said.

"Well, lookyhere, Mawruss," Abe announced jumping to his feet, "I'm going right away and fill out one of them guarantees what Henry D. Feldman fixes up for us, and also I will write out a note at six months for twenty-one hundred dollars and indorse it with the firm's name. Then if he wants to you could exchange the note for the guarantee, Mawruss, and we could ship the goods right away."

Morris shook his head doubtfully, while Abe went into the firm's private office. He returned five minutes afterward flourishing the guarantee.

It read as follows:

In consideration of one dollar and other good and valuable considerations I do hereby agree to pay to Potash & Perlmutter Twenty-one hundred dollars ($2100) being the amount of a purchase made by J. Edward Kleebaum from them, if he fails to pay said twenty-one hundred dollars ($2100) on May 21st, 1909. I hereby waive notice of Kleebaum's default and Potash & Perlmutter shall not be required to exhaust their remedy against the said Kleebaum before recourse is had to me. If a petition in bankruptcy be filed by or against said Kleebaum in consideration aforesaid I promise to pay to Potash & Perlmutter on demand the said sum of twenty-one hundred dollars.

"If he signs that, Mawruss," Abe said, "you are safe in giving him the note."

Morris put on his hat and lit a cigar.

"I will do this thing to satisfy you, Abe," he said, "but I tell you right now, Abe, it ain't necessary, because Kleebaum is as good as gold, y'understand, and if you don't want to ship him the goods you don't have to."

Abe grinned ironically.

"How could you talk like that, Mawruss, when the feller is doing you a favor by selling you that oitermobile for twenty-one hundred dollars!" he said. "And besides, Mawruss, if we ship him the goods and he does bust up on us, Pfingst is got to pay the twenty-one hundred dollars, and he couldn't make no claims for shortages or extra discounts neither."

"The idee is all right, Abe," Morris replied as he opened the show-room door, "if the feller would sign it, which I don't think he would."

With this ultimatum he hastened uptown to Pfingst's warerooms, where he assured the automobile dealer that unless the guarantee was signed, there would be no sale of the car, for he flatly declined to pay cash and Pfingst refused to accept the purchaser's note without Potash & Perlmutter's indorsement. After a lengthy discussion Pfingst receded from his position and signed the guarantee, whereupon Morris surrendered the note and returned to his place of business.

On April 21st Potash & Perlmutter shipped Kleebaum's order, and one week later Morris moved out to Johnsonhurst. Five days after his migration to that garden spot of Greater New York he entered the firm's show-room at a quarter past ten.

"We got blocked at Flatbush Avenue this morning," he said to Abe, "and——"

But Abe was paying no attention to his partner's excuses. Instead he thrust a morning paper at Morris and with a trembling forefinger indicated the following scarehead:


"What d'ye think of that, Mawruss," Abe cried.

Morris read the story carefully before replying.

"That's a hard blow to Kleebaum and old man Pfingst, Abe," he said.

"I bet yer," Abe replied, "but it ain't near the hard blow it's going to be to a couple of concerns what you and me know, Mawruss. Klinger told me only yesterday that Kleebaum would get twenty thousand with that girl, Mawruss, and I guess he needed it, Mawruss. Moe Rabiner says that they got weather like January already out in Minnesota, and every retail dry-goods concern is kicking that they ain't seen a dollar's worth of business this spring."

"But Kleebaum's got a tremendous following in Minneapolis, Abe," Morris said. "He's got an oitermobile delivery system."

"Don't pull that on me again, Mawruss," Abe broke in. "Women ain't buying summer garments in cold weather just for the pleasure of seeing the goods delivered in an oitermobile, which reminds me, Mawruss: Did Pfingst deliver you his oitermobile yet?"

Morris blushed.

"It was delivered yesterday, Abe," he replied. "But the fact is, Abe, I kinder changed my mind about that oitermobile. With oitermobiles I am a new beginner already, so I figure it out this way. Why should I go to work and try experiments with a high price car like that Pfingst car? Ain't it? Now, you take a feller like Fixman who is already an expert, y'understand, and that's something else again. Fixman tried out the car last night, Abe, and he thinks it's an elegant car. So I made an arrangement with him that he should pay me fifteen hundred dollars cash and I would swap the Pfingst car for a 1907 model, Appalachian runabout. That's a fine oitermobile, Abe, that Appalachian runabout. In the first place, it's got a detachable tonneau and holds just as many people as the Pfingst car already, only it ain't so complicated. Instead of a six cylinder engine, Abe, it's only got a two cylinder engine."

"Two is enough for a start, Mawruss," Abe commented.

"Sure," Morris agreed, "and then again instead of a double chain drive its only got a single chain drive, y'understand."

Abe nodded. To him planetary and selective transmission were even as conic sections.

"Also it's got dry battery ignition, Abe," Morris concluded triumphantly, "instead of one of them—now—magneto arrangements, which I ain't got no confidence in at all."

Abe nodded again.

"I never had no confidence in dagoes neither," he said. "Fellers which couldn't speak the English language properly, y'understand, is bound to do you sooner or later."

"So Fixman and me goes around last night to see a feller what lives out in Johnsonhurst by the name Eleazer Levy which Fixman got it for a lawyer, and we drew a bill of sale then and there, Abe, and Fixman give me a check for fifteen hundred dollars on the Kosciusko Bank."

"Was it certified?" Abe asked.

"Well, it wasn't," Morris replied, "but I stopped off at the Kosciusko Bank this morning and——"

"You done right, Mawruss," Abe interrupted. "The first thing you know Fixman would claim that the oitermobile ain't the same shade of red like the sample, Mawruss, and stops the check."

"Fixman ain't that kind, Abe," Morris retorted. "The only reason I certified the check was that I happened to be in the neighborhood of the bank, because when you are at the Bridge, Abe, all you got to do is to take a Third Avenue car up Park Row to the Bowery and transfer to Grand Street. Then you ride over ten blocks and get out at Clinton Street, y'understand, and walk four blocks over. So long as it's so convenient, Abe, I just stopped in and got it certified."

"A little journey like that I would think convenient, too, if I would got to travel to Johnsonhurst every day, Mawruss," Abe commented, "and anyhow, Mawruss, in a swap one of the fellers is always got an idee he's stuck."

"Well, it ain't me, Abe," Morris protested, "and just to show you, Abe, me and Minnie wants you and Rosie you should come out and take dinner with us on Sunday, and afterwards we could go out for a ride in the runabout."

"Gott soll hueten," Abe replied piously.

"What d'ye mean!" Morris cried. "You wouldn't come out and have dinner with us?"

"Sure, we will come to dinner, Mawruss," Abe said, "but if we want to go for a ride, Mawruss, a trolley car is good enough for Rosie and me."

Nevertheless the following Sunday found Abe and Rosie snugly enclosed in the detachable tonneau of the Appalachian runabout, while Morris sat at the tiller with Minnie by his side and negotiated the easy grades of rural Long Island at the decent speed of ten miles an hour.

"Ain't it wonderful," Abe exclaimed, "what changes comes about in a couple of years already! Former times when a lodge brother died, I used to think the ride out to Cypress Hills was a pleasure already, Mawruss, but when I think how rotten the roads was and what poor accommodations them carriages was compared to this, Mawruss, I'm surprised that I could have enjoyed myself at all. This here oitermobile riding is something what you would call really comfortable, Mawruss."

But Abe's observations were ill-timed, for hardly had he finished speaking when the runabout slowed down to the accompaniment of loud explosions in the muffler. Rosie's shrieks mingled with Abe's exclamations, and when at length the car came to a stand-still and the explosions ceased Abe scrambled down and helped out the half-fainting Rosie.

"Any car is liable to do that," Morris explained as Minnie searched for a bottle of liquid restorative. "I could fix it in five minutes."

At length Minnie found the bottle in the tire box, which contained, instead of a tire, two dozen sandwiches, eight cold frankfurters, some dill pickles and a ringkuchen, for they did not contemplate returning to Johnsonhurst until long past supper time.

Morris' estimate of the repair job's duration proved slightly inaccurate. He messed around with his tool bag and explored the carburetter again and again until two hours had elapsed without result. During this period only a few motor cars had passed, for the road was not a popular automobile thoroughfare. At length a large red car bore down on them, and as it came within a hundred yards it slowed down and came to a stop beside the Appalachian runabout.

"Well, well," cried a familiar voice, "if this ain't the whole firm of Potash & Perlmutter."

Abe looked up.

"Hallo, Kleebaum," he exclaimed, "I thought you was home in Minneapolis. What are you doing in New York?"

"This ain't New York by about forty miles," Kleebaum replied. He was seated at the side of a square-jawed professional chauffeur who eyed with ill-concealed mirth Morris' very unprofessional handling of automobile tools.

"Lemme look at it," the chauffeur said, as he climbed from his seat. He gave a hasty glance at the dry battery ignition and laughed uproariously.

"You'se guys will stay here till Christmas if you expect to get that car into running condition," he said. "The only thing for you'se to do is to let me give you a tow into Jamaica. They'll fix you up at the garage there."

"I'm much obliged to you," Morris replied.

"Don't mention it," the chauffeur went on. "I won't charge you unreasonable. Ten dollars is my figure."

"What!" Abe and Morris cried with one voice.

"Why, you wouldn't charge these gentlemen nothing," Kleebaum said with a violent wink. "They're friends of mine."

"I know they was friends of yours," the chauffeur replied, "and that's why I made it ten dollars. Anyone else I'd say twenty."

For almost half an hour Abe and Morris haggled with the chauffeur. They were vigorously supported by Kleebaum, who punctuated his scathing condemnation of the chauffeur's greed with a series of surreptitious winks which encouraged the latter to remain firm in his demand. Finally Morris peeled off two five-dollar bills and an hour later the Appalachian runabout was ignominiously hauled into a Jamaica garage.

The chauffeur alighted from his car and drew the proprietor of the garage aside into his private office.

"Billy," he said in a hoarse whisper, "this here baby carriage is got the oldest brand of dry battery ignition and one of the wires has come loose from the binding screw. It'll take about a minute and a half to fix."

The proprietor nodded and passed over a dollar bill. Then he sprang out onto the floor of the garage.

"Ryan," he bellowed to his foreman, "get the big jack, and tell Schwartz to start up the motor lathe."

Then he turned to Abe and Mawruss.

"This here'll be a two hours' job, gents," he said, "and I advise you to get your supper at the hotel acrosst the street."

"But how much is it going to cost us?" Morris asked.

For five minutes the proprietor figured on the back of an envelope.

"Fifteen dollars and twenty-two cents," he said, and Abe and Morris staggered to the street, followed by their wives.

Twenty minutes later Kleebaum and the chauffeur drew up in front of a road house.

"Your blow," the chauffeur cried.

Kleebaum nodded.

"Come across with that five first," he said, and after the transfer had been made they disappeared into the sabbatical entrance.

"Well, Mawruss," Abe exclaimed when Morris entered the show-room at ten o'clock the next morning. "What did I told you last week! Wasn't I right?"

"I know you told me that one party to a swap was practically bound to get stuck, Abe," Morris admitted, "but with an oitermobile——"

"Again oitermobile!" Abe cried. "You got oitermobile on the brain, Mawruss. Whenever I open my mouth, Mawruss, you got an idee I'm going to talk about oitermobiles. This is something else again. Didn't you get a morning paper, Mawruss?"

Morris shrugged.

"When a feller lives out in a place called Johnsonhurst, Abe," he replied sadly, "he is lucky if he could get a cup of coffee before he leaves the house. Our range is busted."

"Something else is busted, too, Mawruss," Abe said as he handed the morning paper to Morris. The page which contained the "Business Troubles" column was folded at the following news item:

J. EDWARD KLEEBAUM, Minneapolis, Minn. The Wonder Cloak and Suit Store, J. Edward Kleebaum, Proprietor, was closed up by the sheriff under an execution in favor of Joseph Pfingst, who recovered a judgment yesterday in the Supreme Court for $5800, money loaned. Kleebaum is supposed to be in New York trying to make some arrangements with his creditors. Later in the day a petition in bankruptcy was filed against him by Kugler, Jacobi and Henck representing the following New York creditors:—Klinger & Klein, $2500; Sammet Brothers, $1800; Lapidus & Elenbogen, $750.

Morris handed the paper back to his partner.

"Well, Abe," he said, "what are we going to do about it?"

"We already done it, Mawruss," Abe replied. "I sent down Pfingst's guarantee to Henry D. Feldman at nine o'clock already, and I told him he shouldn't wait, but if Pfingst wouldn't pay up to-day yet to sue him in the courts."

Morris shrugged his shoulders.

"We shouldn't be in such a hurry, Abe," he said. "Pfingst treated us right, and why shouldn't we give him a chance to make good?"

"Because he don't deserve it, Mawruss," Abe rejoined as he started off for the show-room. "If he would of took better care of his daughter she wouldn't of run off with this here chauffeur, and Kleebaum wouldn't got to fail. Also, Mawruss, you shouldn't talk that way neither, because if it wouldn't be for Pfingst you wouldn't got stuck with that oitermobile which we rode in it yesterday."

"Well, I ain't out much on it, Abe."

"What d'ye mean you ain't out much on it?" Abe exclaimed. "It stands you in six hundred dollars, ain't it?"

"Sure, I know," Morris replied, "but this morning I come downtown with the feller what rents us the house out in Johnsonhurst and you never seen a feller so crazy about oitermobiles in all your life, Abe."

"Except you, Mawruss," Abe broke in.

"Me, I ain't so crazy about 'em no longer," Morris declared. "So I fixed it up with this feller that he should take the Appalachian runabout off my hands for four hundred dollars and he should also give me a cancelation of the lease which we got of his house. Furthermore, Abe, he pays our moving expenses back to a Hundred and Eighteenth Street."

Abe sat down in the nearest chair.

"So you're going to move back to a Hundred and Eighteenth Street, Mawruss," he exclaimed. "Why, what's the matter with Johnsonhurst, Mawruss? I thought you told it me Johnsonhurst was such a fine place."

"So it is, Abe," Morris admitted. "The air is great out there, Abe, but at the same time, Abe, the air ain't so rotten on a Hundred and Eighteenth Street neither, y'understand, and the train service is a whole lot better."

"You're right, Mawruss," Abe said, "and with all these oitermobile rides and things you waste too much time already. A feller should always consider business ahead of pleasure."

Morris looked at his bruised and oil stained hands.

"Oitermobile riding!" he cried. "That's a pleasure, Abe. Believe me I'd as lief work in a rolling mill."


Morris Perlmutter's front parlor represented an eclectic taste, and the fine arts had been liberally patronized in its decoration. On the wall hung various subjects in oil, including still life, landscapes, marine scenes and figures, all of which had been billed to Morris by a Fourteenth Street dealer as:

8/12 dozen assorted oil paintings @ $96 $64 8/12 dozen shadow boxes for paintings @ 12 8 _ $72

But it was not at the oil paintings that B. Rashkin gazed. His eyes sought instead the framed and glazed certificate of membership of Morris Perlmutter in Harmony Lodge 41, Independent Order Mattai Aaron.

"Them very people hold the mortgage, Mr. Perlmutter," Rashkin said, "and with the influence what you got it in the order, why——"

"Lookyhere, Rashkin," Perlmutter interrupted, "you're a real estater, and if you don't get up at eight o'clock then you get up at nine, and it's all the same; but me, I am in the cloak business, and I got to get downtown at seven o'clock, and so I'm going to tell you again what I told it you before. Go and see Abe to-morrow, and put this proposition up to him like it was something you never told me nothing about, y'understand? Then if he makes the suggestion to me, Rashkin, I would say all right. Because if it should be me what would make the suggestion to him, y'understand, he wouldn't have nothing to do with it. And even if he should consent to go into it, and if we lost money on the deal, Rashkin, I wouldn't never hear the end of it."

Rashkin nodded and seized his hat.

"All right," he said, "I will do what you say, Mr. Perlmutter. But with them three lots it's like this: they're owned by——"

Morris yawned with a noise like a performing sea lion.

"Tell it to Potash to-morrow, Rashkin," he said, and led the way to the hall door.

Accordingly the next morning Rashkin entered the salesroom of Potash & Perlmutter, where Abe was scanning the "Arrival of Buyers" column in the Daily Cloak and Suit Record.

"Good morning, Mr. Potash," B. Rashkin said. "Ain't it a fine weather?"

"Oh, good morning," Abe cried.

"You don't know my face, do you?" Rashkin said.

"I know your face," Abe said, "but your name ain't familiar. I guess I seen you in Seattle, ain't it?"

B. Rashkin nodded. He had never been farther West than Jersey City Heights.

"Well, how is things in Seattle, Mister—er——"

"Rashkin," B. Rashkin supplied.

"Rashkin?" Abe went on, and then he paused, but not for an answer. "Rashkin—why, I don't know no one from that name in Seattle."

"No?" Rashkin replied. "Well, the fact is, Mr. Potash, I ain't come to see you about Seattle. I come to see you about three lots up in Two Hundred and Sixty-fourth Street."

The urbane smile faded at once from Abe's face and gave place to a dark scowl.

"Oh!" he exclaimed, "a real estater. I ain't got no time to fool away with real estaters."

"This ain't fooling away your time, Mr. Potash," Rashkin said. "Let me explain the proposition to you."

Without waiting for permission he at once divulged the object of his visit, while Abe listened with the bored air of an unemployed leading man at a professional matinee.

"Yes, Mr. Potash," B. Rashkin concluded, after half an hour's conversation, "I seen it bargains in my time, but these here lots is the biggest bargains yet."

"Vacant lots ain't never bargains, Rashkin," Abe commented. "What's the use from vacant lots, anyway? A feller what's got vacant lots is like I would say I am in the cloak business if I only get it an empty store with nothing in it."

Abe glanced proudly around him at the well-stocked racks, where the new season's goods were neatly arranged for prospective buyers.

"But the real-estate business ain't like the cloak business, Mr. Potash," B. Rashkin said.

"Real estate!" Abe interrupted. "Vacant lots ain't no real estate, Rashkin. Vacant lots is just imitation real estate. You couldn't say you got it real estate when you only got vacant lots, no more as a feller what buys a gold setting could say he's got it a diamond ring."

"Diamonds is something else again," said B. Rashkin. "I ain't no judge of diamonds, Mr. Potash, but about real estate, Mr. Potash, I ain't no fool neither, y'understand, and these here three lots what I talk to you about is the only three vacant lots in the neighborhood."

"Might you think that's a recommendation, maybe, Rashkin," Abe replied, "but I don't. You come around here to try to sell it me a couple of lots, and you got to admit yourself they're stickers."

"They ain't stickers, Mr. Potash," B. Rashkin protested.

"No?" Abe said. "What's the reason they ain't stickers, Rashkin? If they ain't stickers why ain't somebody built on 'em?"

"You don't understand," B. Rashkin explained. "Them lots is an estate that was in litigation, and it's only just been settled up; so that they couldn't sell 'em no matter who would want to buy 'em. Now I got 'em to entertain an offer of eighty-three thirty-three apiece, or twenty-five thousand for the three lots, all cash above a blanket mortgage of ten thousand dollars held by the Independent Order Mattai Aaron. I seen it also Milton M. Sugarman, the attorney for the I. O. M. A., and he tells me that they would probably be agreeable to make a building loan on them lots of twenty-five thousand on each thirty-seven six front."

"That don't interest me none neither," Abe replied, "because I ain't in the building business, Rashkin; I am in the cloak and suit business."

"Sure, I know," said Rashkin; "but this is an opportunity which it wouldn't occur again oncet in twenty years."

"Don't limit yourself, Rashkin," Abe retorted. "Make it fifty years. It's all the same to me, because I wouldn't touch it, Rashkin."

"But, Mr. Potash," Rashkin broke in, "if your partner, Mr. Perlmutter, would be agreeable, wouldn' you consider it?"

"What's the use asking me hypocritical questions, Rashkin?" Abe replied. "Mawruss would no more touch it as I would. You don't know what a crank I got it for a partner, Rashkin. If I would just hint that I wanted to buy real estate, y'understand, that feller would go all up in the air. And even if he would buy it with me yet, and we should lose maybe a little money, I would never hear the end of it. That's the way it goes with a feller like Mawruss Perlmutter, Rashkin."

B. Rashkin put on his hat and rose sadly.

"Well, Mr. Potash," he concluded, "all I can say is you lost a splendid opportunity. Why, if I could only get it a feller to take over one of them thirty-seven six parcels, I would buy the other one myself and put up a fine building there?"

"I'm sure I ain't stopping you, Rashkin," Abe said. "Go ahead and build, and I wish you all the luck you could want; and if you should get somebody else to take the other one and a half lots, I wish him the same and many of 'em. Also, Rashkin, if I was a real estater I would be glad to fool away my time with you, Rashkin, but being as I am in the cloak business I—you ain't going, Rashkin, are you?"

Rashkin answered by banging the door behind him and Abe repaired to the cutting-room, where Morris Perlmutter was superintending the reception and disposal of piece goods.

"Who was that salesman you was talking to a while ago, Abe?" he asked innocently.

"That wasn't no salesman, Mawruss; that was a loafer," Abe replied.

"A loafer!" Morris said. "He didn't look like a loafer, Abe. He looked like a real estater."

"Well, Mawruss," said Abe, "to me a real estater looks like a loafer, especially, Mawruss, when he comes around with a bum proposition like he got it."

"What for a proposition was it, Abe?" Morris asked.

"Ask me!" Abe exclaimed. "That real estater gives me a long story about some vacant lots, and an estate, and the Independent Order Mattai Aaron, and a lot more stuff what I don't believe the feller understands about himself."

"But there you was talking to that real estater pretty near an hour, Abe, and you couldn't even tell it me what he wants at all," Morris protested.

"To tell you the truth, Mawruss," Abe replied, "I ain't interested in what real estaters says. Real estaters, insurance canvassers and book agents, Mawruss, is all the same to me. They go in by one ear and come out by the other."

"Why, for all you know, Abe, the feller would have maybe some big bargains."

"If you are looking for bargains like that feller got it, Mawruss," Abe retorted, "you could find plenty of 'em by green-goods men. If you give me my choice between gold bricks and vacant lots, Mawruss, I would say gold bricks."

Morris turned away impatiently.

"What do you know about real estate, Abe?" he cried.

"Not much, Mawruss," Abe admitted, "but I know one thing about gold bricks, Mawruss: you don't got to pay no taxes on 'em."

That evening B. Rashkin again presented himself at the One Hundred and Eighteenth Street residence of Morris Perlmutter, and with him came Isaac Pinsky, of the firm of Pinsky & Gubin, architects. Mr. Pinsky had a roll of blue-prints under his arm and a strong line of convincing argument at the tip of his tongue, and the combination proved too much for Morris. Before Rashkin and Pinsky left that evening, Morris had undertaken to purchase a plot thirty-seven feet six inches by one hundred feet, adjacent to a similar plot to be purchased by Rashkin. Moreover, he and Rashkin engaged themselves to erect two houses, one on each lot, from the plans and specifications that Pinsky held under his arm. Each house was to be identical with the other in design, construction and material, and an appointment was then and there made for noon the next day at the office of Henry D. Feldman, attorney at law, for the purpose of more formally consummating the deal.

Thus, when Morris entered the show-room the next morning it became his duty to break the news to his partner, and he approached Abe with a now-for-it air. "Well, Abe," he said, "you was wrong."

"Sure, I was, Mawruss," Abe replied amiably. "With you I am always wrong. What's the matter now?"

"You was wrong about that feller Rashkin," Morris explained. "He was up to my house last night, and put the same proposition up to me what he told it you yesterday, and the way I figure it, Abe, we would make money on the deal."

"I ain't so good on figures what you are, Mawruss," Abe replied. "All I can figure is I got enough to do to attend to my own business, Mawruss, without going into the building business."

"But we wouldn't got to go into the building business, Abe," Morris protested. "All we got to do is to put down eight thousand dollars for the lot. Then the I. O. M. A. makes us a building loan of twenty-five thousand dollars. Rashkin's got plans and specifications drawn by Pinsky & Gubin, a first-class, A Number One archy-teck concern, for which he wouldn't charge us nothing, and then, Abe——"

He paused to fix Abe's attention before finishing his explanation.

"And then, Abe," he continued, "we hire my Minnie's brother, Ferdy, what knows the building business from A to Z, to build it the house for us. All we would got to do is to put up the four thousand apiece, Abe, and when the house is finished Rashkin says we could sell it like a flash."

"I never sold a flash, Mawruss," Abe said; "and, anyhow, Mawruss, while I ain't saying nothing about your Minnie's family, y'understand, if I would got to go into a deal with a horse-thief like Ferdy Rothschild, y'understand, I would take my money first and deposit it for safety with some of them fellers up in Sing Sing. Such a show I should have of getting it back, Mawruss."

"Lookyhere, Abe," Morris said, "before you would make some cracks about my Minnie's family, how about your Rosie's brother, the one what——"

"S'all right, Mawruss," Abe broke in. "I ain't saying my wife's brother is so much, neither. This is the way I feel about a feller's wife's brother: If he got a little money then he treats you like a dawg, Mawruss, and if he's broke, y'understand, then your wife gives him all your cigars and ties, and if you should happen to have the same size neck, Mawruss, then all your life you are buying collars and shirts for two. No, Mawruss, I ain't got no confidence in anybody's wife's brother, especially, Mawruss, if a feller should make it a dirty failure like Ferdy Rothschild did and then takes all the money and blows it in on the horse-races."

"That's from old times already," Morris protested. "To-day he's a decent, hard-working feller, Abe, and for two years he's been working for the Rheingold Building and Construction Company. What he don't know about putting up tenement houses, Abe, ain't worth knowing."

"And what I don't know about putting up tenement houses, Mawruss," Abe said, "would fill one of them Carnegie Libraries, Mawruss; and also, furthermore, Mawruss, I don't want to know nothing about it, neither. And also, Mawruss, if you should stand there and talk to me all day it wouldn't make no difference. If you want to build tenement houses, Mawruss, you got my permission; but you could leave me out. I got my own troubles with cloaks."

Morris rose.

"All right, Abe," he said. "I give you your chance, Abe, and you wouldn't take it."

"What d'ye mean, Mawruss?" Abe asked.

"I mean, Abe, that I will go into this alone by myself, and only one thing I beg of you, Abe: don't come to me in six months' time and claim that I wouldn't let you in on a good thing. I have done my best."

The air of simple dignity with which Morris delivered his ultimatum was marred to some extent by a raucous laugh from Abe.

"Don't do me no favors, Mawruss," he jeered. "All I got to say is that if I was you, Mawruss, I would get this here archy-teck and B. Rashkin, and also your brother-in-law, Ferdy, together, and I would make 'em an offer of settlement for, say, three thousand dollars, Mawruss. Because the way I figure it out, this thing would stand you in as much money as that and a whole lot of worry, too."

"You shouldn't be so generous with your advice, Abe," Morris retorted.

"Oh, I don't charge you nothing for it, Mawruss," Abe said, as he turned to the "Arrival of Buyers" column, and, for lack of appropriate rejoinder, Morris snorted indignantly and banged the show-room door behind him.

For the remainder of the afternoon Abe's face wore a malicious grin. It was there when Morris left to keep his appointment at Henry D. Feldman's office, and when he returned four hours later the malice, if anything, had intensified.

"Well, Mawruss," Abe cried, "I suppose you fixed it all up?"

"It don't go so quick, Abe," Morris replied. His manner was as cheerful as only that of a man who has struggled hard to repress a fit of violent profanity can be—for the meeting at Henry D. Feldman's office had been fraught with many nerve-racking incidents. Imprimis, there had been Feldman's retainer, a generous one, and then had come the discussion of the building-loan agreement with Milton M. Sugarman, attorney for the I. O. M. A.

Feldman assured Morris that it was customary for the borrower to pay the fees of the attorney for the lender, incidental to drawing and recording the necessary papers, and Morris had also learned that the high premiums of insurance for the building to be erected would come out of his pocket. Moreover, he had seen B. Rashkin credited with commissions for bringing about Morris' purchase of the lot, and for the first time he had ascertained that he also owed B. Rashkin two hundred and fifty dollars commission for procuring a building loan from the I. O. M. A.

So far he reckoned that his investment exceeded B. Rashkin's by a thousand dollars, and when he considered that B. Rashkin would be his own superintendent of construction, while he, Morris, would be obliged to hire Ferdy Rothschild, at a compensation of seven hundred and fifty dollars, to perform that same office for him, Abe's advice appeared too sound to be pleasant.

"No, Abe," he said, "it don't go so quick. I got another appointment for next week."

Abe grunted.

"All I got to say, Mawruss," he commented, "you shouldn't forget you are a partner in a cloak and suit business."

"Don't worry," Morris replied; "you wouldn't let me forget that, Abe." He strode off toward the cutting-room and once more Abe resumed his fixed grin.

It must be confessed that through the entire six months of his building operations Morris maintained a stoic calm that effectually hid the storm raging within his breast. All the annoyances incidental to building a house were heaped on Morris, and both he and Rashkin, equally, suffered petty blackmail at the hands of the attorney and the architect for the building-loan mortgagee.

In the meantime Abe's grin gained in breadth and malice, and on more than one occasion Morris had foregone the pleasure of assaulting his partner only by the exercise of remarkable self-control.

"Do me the favor, Abe," he said at length, "and let me in on this joke."

"It ain't no joke, Mawruss," Abe replied. "I thought you found that out already."

"If you mean the house, Abe," Morris answered, "all I got to say is that, if there should be any joke about it, Abe, the joke is on you, for that house is pretty near finished."

"I'm glad to hear it, Mawruss," Abe said. "I suppose Ferdy Rothschild did it a good job on the house."

"Sure, he did," Morris said.

"He didn't get no rake-offs from material men or nothing, Mawruss. What?" Abe asked.

"Rake-offs!" Morris cried. "What d'ye mean by that?"

"I mean I seen it Gussarow, the glass man, on the subway last night, Mawruss," Abe explained, "and he says that for every pane of glass what went into your house, Mawruss, Ferdy Rothschild gets his rake-off."

"Well, what do I care?" Morris retorted. "If Gussarow could stand it, Abe, I can."

"Gussarow can stand it all right, Mawruss," Abe said reassuringly. "All he's got to do is to put it on the bill."

"Well, if he put it on my bill, Abe," Morris replied, "he also put it on Rashkin's bill, because him and me bought the same building material all the way through, and I wouldn't pay no bills till I saw that Rashkin don't get charged less as I do."

This was conclusive, and Abe's grin relaxed for several inches, nor did it resume its normal width until some days later when Morris began to negotiate for his permanent mortgage loan. Once Morris remonstrated with him for his levity.

"Must you go around looking like a crazy idiot, Abe?"

"I must got to laugh, Mawruss," Abe protested, "when I seen it Sam Feder, of the Kosciusko Bank, this morning, and he tells it me you got a permanent mortgage from the I. O. M. A. He says Milton M. Sugarman told him you got it ahead of Rashkin, because you got influence as a lodge brother of Sugarman."

"Sure, I did," Morris admitted.

"And then, Mawruss," Abe went on, "Rashkin hears that the I. O. M. A. is going to make you a permanent loan, so he goes to see Sugarman too."

"That's right," Morris agreed.

"And he says to Sugarman that so long as Sugarman is got to search the title to your house he wouldn't have to search the title to Rashkin's house, because both houses stands on the same piece of property. So he makes a proposition that if Sugarman would charge him only a hundred dollars he would put in an application by the I. O. M. A. for a permanent loan. Otherwise he would get it from a life-insurance company."

Morris nodded ironically.

"And Sugarman says he would do it, I suppose," he broke in. "No, Abe, Sugarman ain't built that way. It costs me five hundred dollars for that loan, Abe."

"I know it did, Mawruss," Abe said, "and Feder says that Sugarman told him he charges you five hundred dollars, and so he don't want to be a hog, Mawruss, and, therefore, he closes with Rashkin for a hundred and fifty."

Morris' jaw dropped and he stared at Abe.

"Furthermore, Mawruss," Abe went on, "Rashkin comes in to see Feder the other day and tells Feder he would be glad to make a quick turn. And he tells Feder that house stands him in eight thousand dollars cash and he would be glad to sell it for forty-four five, all cash above the new first mortgage of thirty-three thousand."

Morris nodded.

"But, Abe," he croaked, "how could he do that? Reckoning all the mortgages and everything, and what I invested and paid out for building material over and above the building loan, that house stands me in just eleven thousand two hundred and fifty dollars cash. If I would come out even on that house I got to sell it for forty-five seven-fifty, and I reckoned on forty-seven thousand as a fair price for the house."

"Sure, you did," Abe said cheerfully.

"And how that feller, Rashkin, could claim that his house stands him in eight thousand dollars cash is more as I could understand, Abe," Morris said. "Because while I know it I spent for commissions and for Ferdy Rothschild a couple thousand more as Rashkin, Abe, our building material cost the same, Abe."

"Sure it did—on the bills, Mawruss," Abe replied; "but Gussarow says that of course he don't know nothing about the other material men, but when he sends the bill to you he also sends the same bill to Rashkin, and when you send him a check for your bill, Ferdy Rothschild gets five per cent. Also Rashkin sends Gussarow a check for his bill with five per cent. discount, and Ferdy Rothschild schmiers Rashkin a twenty-dollar note, and that's the way it goes."

Morris sat down in the nearest chair and blinked helplessly at Abe.

"What do you think for a couple of crooks like that, Abe?" he croaked.

"What do I think, Mawruss?" Abe repeated. "I think that one of 'em is a brother-in-law, Mawruss, and the other is a real estater, Mawruss, and that's a bad combination."

"But I could make 'em arrested, Abe?" Morris declared, "and, by jimminy, I will do it, too."

Abe shrugged.

"You couldn't do that, Mawruss," he said, "because in the first place, Mawruss, your Minnie wouldn't stand for it; and in the second place, them two fellers would fix up a fine story between 'em and the judge would let 'em go. And then, Mawruss, they would turn around and go to work and sue you for false arresting; and the first thing you know, Mawruss, it would stand you in a couple of thousand dollars more."

Morris nodded sadly.

"I believe you're right, Abe," he murmured.

"Sure, I'm right, Mawruss," Abe said; "and also, Mawruss, while I wouldn't want to say nothing to make you feel worse already, I got to say, Mawruss, that if you would believe I was right six months ago yet, you wouldn't got to believe I was right now."

Morris nodded again. He was thoroughly crushed, and he looked so appealingly at his partner that Abe was unable to withhold his comfort and advice.

"Lookyhere, Mawruss," he said, "a feller's got to make a mistake sometimes. Ain't it? And if he didn't get stuck for a couple of thousand dollars oncet in a while he wouldn't know the value of his money. Ain't it? But as this thing stands now, Mawruss, I got an idee you ain't stuck so bad as what you think."

"No?" Morris said. "Why ain't I, Abe?"

"Well, Mawruss, I'll tell you," Abe began, with no clear conception of how he would finish. "You know me, Mawruss; I ain't a feller what's got a whole lot to say for myself, but I ain't got such bad judgment, neither, Mawruss."

"I seen fellers with worser judgment as you, Abe," Morris said.

Abe could not forbear a stare of astonishment at this grudging admission.

"At last you got to admit it, Mawruss," he cried; "but anyhow, Mawruss, go ahead and finish up this here permanent-mortgage-loan business, and then, Mawruss, I will do all I can to help you out."

Morris rose to his feet.

"Well, Abe," he began in shaking tones, "I must got to say that I——"

"Lookyhere, Mawruss," Abe broke in savagely, "ain't we fooled away enough time here this morning? Just because you got your troubles with this here building, Mawruss, ain't no reason why we shouldn't attend to business, Mawruss."

He handed Morris a black cigar, and as they started for the cutting-room they gave vent to their pent-up emotions in great clouds of comforting smoke.

The next fortnight was fraught with so many disagreeable experiences for Morris that he appeared to age visibly, and once more Abe was moved to express his sympathy.

"You shouldn't take on so, Mawruss," he said, the morning after the permanent loan was closed. "The first thing you know, Mawruss, you will be getting a nervous break-up, already."

"I bet yer I would get a nervous break-up, Abe," Morris agreed. "If you would be me, Abe, you would get a nervous break-up, too. In the first place, Abe, I got to pay them suckers—them archy-tecks, Pinsky & Gubin, a hundred dollars before they would give it me their final certificate, and then, Abe, I got to schmier it a feller in the tenement-house department another hundred dollars. And then, Abe, I told it them other two crooks what I thought of 'em, Abe, and you ought to hear the way that horse-thief talks back to me, already."

"Horse-thief!" Abe said. "Which one, Mawruss?"

"That Ferdy Rothschild, Abe," Morris continued. "So sure as I stand here, Abe, if that feller wouldn't be my wife's brother, I would make for him a couple blue eyes he wouldn't forgot so quick."

"With a feller like that, Mawruss," Abe said, "you shouldn't bother yourself at all. If you make a lowlife bum a couple blue eyes, he will make you also a couple blue eyes, maybe, and that's all there is to it, Mawruss. But when you make it a crook like Ferdy Rothschild a couple blue eyes, then that's something else again. Such a schwindler like him, Mawruss, would turn right around and sue you in the courts yet for damages, and the first thing you know you are stuck for a couple thousand dollars."

"Well, I am through with him, anyhow," Morris replied, "so we wouldn't talk no more about him. A dirty dawg like him, Abe, ain't worth a—a——" He was searching his mind for a sufficiently trivial standard of comparison when Abe interrupted him.

"I thought you wasn't going to talk about him, Mawruss," he said; "and, anyhow, Mawruss, what's the use talking about things what is past already? What we got to do now, Mawruss, is to sell that house."

"I know it, Abe," Morris replied ruefully, "but how are we going to sell that house with B. Rashkin going around offering to sell the identical same house for forty-four five? If I would be lucky enough to get forty-five seven-fifty for mine, Abe, I would still be out several hundred dollars."

"You talk foolish, Mawruss; you would get forty-seven thousand, sure, for that house."

"Would I?" Morris cried. "How would I do that?"

"Leave that to me," Abe replied.

He put on his hat and coat.

"Where are you going, Abe?" Morris asked.

Abe waggled his head solemnly.

"You shouldn't ask me, Mawruss," he said. "I got an idee."

It was a quarter to twelve when Abe left the loft building on Nineteenth Street, and he repaired immediately to the real-estate salesroom on Vesey Street, where auction sales of real estate are held at noon daily. To this center of real-estate activity comes every real-estate broker of the East Side, together with his brothers from Harlem and the Bronx, and Abe felt reasonably sure that B. Rashkin would be on hand.

Indeed, he had hardly entered the salesroom when he descried B. Rashkin standing on the outskirts of a little throng that surrounded the rostrum of a popular auctioneer.

"Now, gentlemen," said the auctioneer, "what am I offered for this six-story, four-family house. Remember, gentlemen, it is practically new and stands on a lot forty by a hundred."

"Forty thousand," said a voice at Abe's elbow.

"Come, gentlemen," the auctioneer cried, "we ain't making you a present of this house, exactly. Do I hear forty-one? Thank you, sir. At forty-one—at forty-one—at——"

Abe sidled up to B. Rashkin and in firm tones he made the next bid.

"Forty-one five," he said.

"Forty-one five," the auctioneer repeated, and B. Rashkin turned to look at the bidder. He started visibly as he recognized Abe, who bowed coldly.

"Why, hallo, Mr. Potash," Rashkin exclaimed. "I didn't know you was in the market for property."

"Why not?" Abe said.

"Well, on account you got a partner who——"

"You don't got to rub it in, Mr. Rashkin," Abe interrupted. "If my partner did know a good thing when he seen it, Mr. Rashkin, I don't need to be reminded of it."

"A good thing!" Rashkin said in puzzled accents. "Why, I ain't——"

He stopped in time and forced himself to smile amiably.

"Yes, Mr. Rashkin," Abe went on, as he imperceptibly edged away from the crowd. "Would you believe it, that feller tells me this morning he's got already a fine offer for the house?"

"You don't tell me," Rashkin said as they approached one of the salesroom doors. He too was edging away from the crowd and congratulated himself that Abe had made no further bid. "I'm glad he should get it. For mein part, Mr. Potash, I would be glad to sell my house, too."

Here he made a rapid mental calculation and arrived approximately at the price that would yield Morris a profit.

"I had myself an offer of forty-six seven-fifty for my house, Mr. Potash," he hazarded.

Abe was ostentatiously surprised.

"So!" he said, with an elaborate assumption of recovering his composure.

"Yes, Mr. Potash," Rashkin went on. He was beginning to feel that the figure was too low. "That's the offer I received and I wouldn't take a cent less than forty-eight."

"Let me see," Abe mused, as they paused in front of a bakery and lunchroom a few doors down the street. "You got a first mortgage thirty-three thousand dollars, and that would give you a pretty big equity there, Mr. Rashkin."

"Wouldn't you come inside and take maybe a cup of coffee, Mr. Potash?" Rashkin suggested.

"I shouldn't mind if I will," Abe said; and they entered the bakery together. "Would you want all cash above the mortgage, Mr. Rashkin?"

"Just now, Mr. Potash," Rashkin replied, "I want a little something to eat. Give me a piece of stollen and a cup of coffee."

"Milk separate?" the waitress asked.

B. Rashkin nodded haughtily and then turned to Abe.

"What will you have, Mr. Potash?" he asked.

"Give me also a cup of coffee and a tongue sandwich," he announced to the waitress.

"White or rye bread?" said the waitress.

"Rye bread," Abe replied.

"We ain't got no rye bread; I could give you a roll sandwich," she declared solemnly.

"All right, give me a roll tongue sandwich," Abe concluded, and once more addressed B. Rashkin.

"Of course you would take back a second mortgage, Mr. Rashkin," he said.

"Well, I might take two or three thousand dollars, a purchase-money mortgage, but no more," Rashkin replied, as the waitress returned empty-handed.

"Rolls is all out," she said. "I'll have to give you white bread."

"All right," Abe replied.

"Did you say Swiss cheese or store cheese?" she inquired mildly.

"Tongue!" Abe and B. Rashkin roared with one voice.

"Well, don't get mad about it," the waitress cried, as she whisked away toward the coffee urns.

"I'll tell you the truth, Mr. Potash," B. Rashkin continued. "I give that house to a number of real estaters, already, and I'm considering a good offer from a feller what Ferdy Rothschild brings me. The feller makes me a fine offer, Mr. Potash, only he wants me to take back a second mortgage of five thousand dollars; and I told Ferdy Rothschild if he could get his customer to make it all cash above a second mortgage of three thousand dollars I would consider it. Ferdy says he expects his customer in to see him this afternoon, already, and he will let me know before I go home to-night."

In this rare instance B. Rashkin was undergoing the novel experience of speaking the truth only slightly modified, for that very morning Ferdy Rothschild had produced a purchaser who was willing to pay forty-six thousand dollars for Rashkin's house. This deal the purchaser proposed to consummate by taking the property subject to a first mortgage of thirty-three thousand dollars, by executing a second mortgage of seven thousand dollars, and by paying the six thousand balance of the purchase price in cash.

B. Rashkin had told Ferdy that if the customer would agree to pay eight thousand five hundred dollars in cash and to reduce the second mortgage proportionately, the deal would be closed; and Ferdy had promised to let him know during the afternoon.

"Lookyhere, Rashkin," Abe said at length, "what's the use beating bushes around? You know as well as I do that me and my partner don't get along well together, and I would like to teach that sucker a lesson that he shouldn't monkey no more with real estate, y'understand. I'll tell you right now, Rashkin, I would be willing to lose maybe a couple hundred dollars if I could get that house from you and sell it to the feller what makes the offer to Mawruss Perlmutter."

"You and Perlmutter must be pretty good friends together," Rashkin commented. "But, anyhow, I am perfectly willing to help you all I can, because when a feller practically calls you a bloodsucker and a horse-thief, Mr. Potash, naturally you don't feel too friendly toward him. But one thing I got to say, Mr. Potash, and that is I couldn't sell my house for a penny less than forty-eight thousand dollars."

Abe put down his cup of coffee and stared at Rashkin.

"That's a lot of money, Mr. Rashkin," Abe said, "and that would mean pretty near twelve thousand cash."

B. Rashkin nodded calmly and Abe pondered for a moment.

"Well, Rashkin," Abe said, "I am willing I should spend some money, y'understand, and so I would make you this offer: Would you give me an option on the house at forty-eight thousand for two weeks, supposing I paid you, we will say, two hundred dollars?"

Rashkin shook his head.

"We will say then two hundred and fifty dollars," Abe said; but Rashkin declined.

Immediately they commenced to bargain vigorously, and at intervals of five minutes each modified his price for the option, until half an hour had expired, when they met at four hundred dollars.

"All right," B. Rashkin cried, "let us go and see Milton M. Sugarman and draw up the option."

"I am agreeable," Abe said; "any lawyer could draw it up, so far as I am concerned."

They rose from the table without leaving the customary nickel for the waitress and, as they passed out of the door, she glared after them and indignantly adjusted her pompadour with both hands.

"Pipe them two high-livers," she hissed to the waitress at the next table. "I knew them guys was going to pass me up as soon as I laid me eyes on 'em."

She heaved a tremendous sigh.

"Y'orter heard the roar they put up about a tongue sandwich," she said. "Ain't it funny, Kitty, how tightwads is always fussy about their feed?"

When Abe returned to his place of business a couple of hours later, he found Morris adding up figures on the back of an envelope.

"Well, Abe," Morris cried, "what's new about the house?"

"I'll tell you what's new, Mawruss," Abe replied. "Just add four hundred dollars to them figures on that envelope, and you'll find out what that house costs you up to date."

"What do you mean?"

"Never mind what I mean, Mawruss," Abe said. "I'll tell you later what I mean. The thing is now, Mawruss, I got to know one thing and I got to know it quick. Where could I find this here lowlife brother-in-law of yours?"

"Let me see," said Morris. "It's already two o'clock, so I guess, Abe, you would be liable to get him in the back room of Wasserbauer's Cafe. Him and a feller by the name Feinson and that lowlife Rabiner plays there auction pinochle together."

"But ain't he got no office, Mawruss?" Abe asked.

"Sure, he's got an office," Morris replied. "He's got it desk-room with a couple of real estaters on Liberty Street, Abe. Look him up in the telephone book. He's got a phone put in too, Abe, with my money, I bet yer."

Abe consulted the telephone book and again put on his hat.

"Where are you going now, Abe?" Morris asked.

"I'm going down to Ferdy Rothschild's office," Abe replied.

"But you wouldn't find him in, Abe," Morris protested.

"I hope not," Abe replied; and for the second time that day he left his place of business and boarded a downtown L train.

Ferdy Rothschild's office was tucked away in an obscure corner of a small office building on Liberty Street, and as Abe plodded wearily up three flights of stairs he overtook a short, stout gentleman headed in the same direction.

"A feller what's got his office on the top floor of a back-number building like this," said the exhausted traveler, "should keep it airships for his customers."

"I bet yer," Abe gasped, as they reached the landing together, and then in silence they both walked side by side to the office of Ferdy Rothschild.

Abe opened the door and motioned his companion to enter first, whereat the stranger nodded politely and walked into the office.

"Is Mr. Rothschild in?" he said to the office-boy, who was the sole occupant of the room.

"Mr. Rothschild, now, telephoned," the boy replied, "and he says, now, that if a guy comes in by the name of Marks to tell him he should wait."

"Did he say he would be right in?" Mr. Marks asked.

"No," the boy answered, "but he'll be in soon, all right."

"How do you know that?" Abe asked.

"Because, now, I heard him tell the other boys that he wouldn't set no longer time limit," the boy replied; "but he says he'd play four more deals and then he'd quit. See?"

Mr. Marks looked at Abe and broke into a laugh.

"That's a fine lowlife for you," he said. "That feller tells me I should be here at three o'clock sharp and he fools away my time like this."

Abe nodded.

"What could you expect from a feller like that?" Abe commenced, and then broke off suddenly—"but excuse me. He may be a friend of yours."

"Gott soll hueten," Mr. Marks replied piously. "All I got to do with him is that he brings me a proposition I should buy a piece of property which he got it to sell."

"That's a funny thing," Abe said. "I came here myself about a piece of property what I just bought, and I understand he tried to sell the property for the feller what I bought it from."

Abe took the option from his breast pocket and opened it on his knee, while Mr. Marks glanced at it furtively, not unnoticed by Abe, who aided his companion's inspection by spreading out the paper until its contents were plainly visible.

"Why!" Mr. Marks cried. "Why, that is the house what this here Rothschild said he would sell it me."

Abe looked up sharply.

"You don't say so?" he said. "How could he sell you that house when I got this here option on it this morning for forty-eight thousand dollars?"

"Forty-eight thousand dollars!" Mr. Marks exclaimed. "Why, he says I could buy it for forty-six thousand dollars."

Abe laughed with forced politeness.

"Well, if you could of got it for forty-six thousand you should of took it," he said. "I want forty-nine thousand for it."

It was now Mr. Marks' turn to laugh.

"You couldn't get forty-nine thousand for that house," he said, "if the window-panes was diamonds already."

"No?" Abe retorted. "Well, then, I'll keep it, Mister——"

"Marks," suggested Mr. Marks.

"Marks," Abe went on. "I'll keep it, Mr. Marks, until I can get it, so sure as my name is Abe Potash."

"Of Potash & Perlmutter?" Mr. Marks asked.

"That's my name," Abe said.

"Why, then, your partner owns yet the house next door!" Mr. Marks cried.

"That ain't no news to me, Mr. Marks," Abe said. "In fact, he built that house, Mr. Marks, and I got so tired hearing about the way that house rents and how much money he is going to get out of it that I bought the place next door myself."

"But ain't that a funny thing that one partner should build a house and the other partner shouldn't have nothing to do with it?" Mr. Marks commented.

"We was partners in cloaks, Mr. Marks, not in houses," Abe explained. "And I had my chance to go in with him and I was a big fool I didn't took it."

Mr. Marks rose to his feet.

"Well, all I can say is," he rejoined, "if I got it a partner and we was to consider a proposition of building, Mr. Potash, we would go it together, not separate."

"Yes, Mr. Marks," Abe agreed, "if you had it a partner, Mr. Marks, that would be something else again, but the partner what I got it, Mr. Marks, you got no idee what an independent feller that is. I can assure you, Mr. Marks, that feller don't let me know nothing what he is doing outside of our business. For all I would know, he might of sold his house already."

"You don't mean to say that his house is on the market, do you?" Marks said sharply.

"I don't mean to say nothing," Abe replied, as he started to leave. "All I mean to say is that I am tired of waiting for that lowlife Rothschild, and I must get back to my store."

"Wait a bit; I'll go downstairs with you," Marks broke in.

As they walked down to the elevated road they exchanged further confidences, by which it appeared that Mr. Marks was in the furniture business on Third Avenue, and that he lived on Lenox Avenue near One Hundred and Sixteenth Street.

"Why, you are practically a neighbor of Mawruss Perlmutter," Abe cried.

"Is that so?" Mr. Marks said, as they reached the elevated railway.

"Yes," Abe went on, "he lives on a Hundred and Eighteenth Street and Lenox Avenue."

"You don't say so?" Mr. Marks replied. "Well, Mr. Potash, I guess I got to leave you here."

They shook hands, and after Abe had proceeded half-way up the steps to the station platform he paused to observe Mr. Marks penciling an address in his memorandum book.

When he again entered his show-room Morris had just hung up the telephone receiver.

"Yes, Abe," he said, "you've gone and stuck your feet in it all right."

"What d'ye mean?" Abe asked.

"Ferdy Rothschild just rung me up," Morris explained, "and he says you went down to his office while he was out, and you seen it there a feller what he was going to sell Rashkin's house to, and you went and broke up the deal, and that he will sue you yet in the courts."

"Let him sue us," Abe said. "All he knows about is what the office-boy tells him. I didn't break up no deal, because there wasn't no deal to bust up, Mawruss."

"Why not?" Morris asked.

"Because if the deal was to sell Rashkin's house," Abe explained, "Rothschild ain't in it at all, because I myself is the only person what could sell that house."

He drew the option from his breast pocket and handed it to Morris, who read it over carefully.

"Well, Abe," Morris commented, "that's only throwing away good money with bad, because you couldn't do nothing with that house in two weeks or in two years, neither."

"I know it," Abe said confidently, "but so long as I got an option on that house nobody else couldn't do nothing with it, neither. And so long as Rashkin ain't able to undersell you, Mawruss, you got a chance to get rid of your house and to come out even, Mawruss. My advice to you is, Mawruss, that you should get a hustle on you and sell that house for the best price you could. For so sure as I sit here, after this option expires, and Rashkin is again offering his house at forty-five thousand, you would be positively stuck."

"I bet yer I would be stuck, Abe," Morris agreed. "But I ain't going to let no grass grow on me, Abe. I will put in an ad. in every paper in New York this afternoon, and I'll keep it up till I sell the house."

"Maybe that wouldn't be necessary, Mawruss," Abe said, with a twinkle in his eye.

"What d'ye mean?" Morris asked.

Whereupon, Abe unfolded at great length his adventures of the day, beginning with his meeting B. Rashkin at the Real-Estate Exchange, and concluding with Mr. Marks' penciled memorandum of Morris' address.

"And now, Mawruss," Abe concluded, "you seen the position what I took it, and when that feller Marks calls at your house to-night you should be careful and not make no cracks. Remember, Mawruss, you got to tell him that as a partner I am a crank and a regular highbinder. Also, Mawruss, you got to tell him that if I wasn't held by a copartnership agreement I would do you for your shirt, y'understand?"

Morris nodded.

"I know you should, Abe," he said.

"What!" Abe roared.

"I mean I know I should," Morris explained; "I know I should tell this here Marks what you say."

Abe grew calm immediately, but he left further tactics to Morris' discretion; and when Mr. Marks called at the latter's house that evening Morris showed that he possessed that discretion to a degree hardly equaled by his partner.

"Yes, Mr. Marks," he said, after he had seated his visitor in the easiest chair in the front parlor and had supplied him with a good cigar, "it is true that I got it a house and that the house is on the market for sale."

He paused and nodded sadly.

"But I also got it a partner, Mr. Marks, and no doubt you heard already what a cutthroat that feller is. I assure you, Mr. Marks, that feller goes to work and gets an option on the house next door which you know is identical the same like my house is. Yes, Mr. Marks, he gets an option on that house for forty-seven thousand five hundred dollars from the feller what owns it, when he knows I am already negotiating to sell my house for forty-seven seven-fifty."

This willful misstatement of the amount of the option produced the desired result.

"Did you seen it the option?" Marks asked cautiously.

"Well, no, I ain't seen it, but I heard it on good authority, Mr. Marks," he said, and allowed himself two bars' rest, as the musicians say, for the phrase to sink in.

"Yes, Mr. Marks, on good authority I heard it that Potash pays five hundred dollars for a two-weeks' option at forty-seven thousand five hundred dollars."

"Forty-seven thousand five hundred dollars?" Marks said with a rising inflection.

"Forty-seven thousand five hundred," Morris replied blandly, "and I guess he got a pretty cheap house, too."

"Well, I ain't got the same opinion what you got," Marks retorted. "I got an opinion, Mr. Perlmutter, that your partner pays a thousand dollars too much for his house."

"Is that so?" Morris replied, and then and there began a three-hours' session which terminated when they struck a bargain at forty-seven thousand dollars. Ten minutes later Marks left with a written memorandum of the terms of sale on his person while Morris pocketed a similar memorandum and fifty dollars earnest money.

The next morning an executory contract of sale was signed in Henry D. Feldman's office, and precisely two weeks later Mr. Marks took title to Morris' property which, after deducting all expenditures, netted its builder a profit of almost two thousand dollars. This sum Morris deposited to the credit of the firm account of Potash & Perlmutter, and hardly had the certified check been dispatched to the Kosciusko Bank when the door opened and Rashkin and Ferdy Rothschild burst into the show-room.

"Bloodsucker!" Rashkin cried, shaking his fist under Abe's nose. "What for you didn't take up your option?"

Abe stepped back hurriedly and put a sample table between himself and B. Rashkin.

"Must I take it up the option?" he said calmly. "Couldn't I let you keep it the four hundred dollars if I wanted to?"

Rashkin looked at Ferdy Rothschild.

"That's a fine murderer for you. What?" he exclaimed.

"Him, I ain't surprised about," Ferdy Rothschild replied, "but when a feller should do his own wife's brother out of a commission of four hundred and sixty-five dollars, Rashkin, what a heart he must have it. Like a piece of steel."

"Don't talk that way, Ferdy," Morris commented, without emotion. "You make me feel bad. I got lots of consideration for you, Ferdy, after the way you treated me already. Yes, Ferdy, I think a whole lot of you, Ferdy. You could come to me with your tongue hanging out from hunger yet, and I wouldn't lift a little finger."

Ferdy turned and appealed to B. Rashkin.

"Ain't them fine words to hear from my own brother-in-law?" he said.

"Nobody compels you to stay here and listen to 'em, Rothschild," Abe interrupted. "And, anyhow, Rothschild, you could make it more money if instead you stayed here you would go downtown to Henry D. Feldman's office and sue this here Rashkin in the courts for your commission. I was telling Feldman all about it this morning, and he says you got it a good case."

"Rothschild," Rashkin cried pleadingly, "where are you going?"

"You shouldn't talk to me," Rothschild answered. "Potash is right. I brought this here Marks to you and he was ready and willing to purchase at your terms, and so, therefore, you owe me a commission of four hundred and sixty-five dollars."

The next moment he banged the door behind him and five minutes later he was followed by B. Rashkin, who had filled that short space of time with an exhaustive and profane denunciation of Potash & Perlmutter, individually and as copartners.

Five days afterward Morris examined the list of real-estate conveyances in the morning paper, after the fashion of the reformed race-track gambler who occasionally consults the past performances of the day's entries.

He handed the paper to Abe and pointed his finger to the following item:

264th St. 2044 East 37.6 x 100.10; Baruch Rashkin to the Royal Piccadilly Realty Co. (mtg $33,000), $100.

"That's only a fake," Abe said. "I seen in the paper yesterday that Rashkin incorporated the Royal Piccadilly Realty Company with his wife, Goldie Rashkin, as president; and I guess he done it because he got scared that Rothschild would get a judgment against him. And so he transfers the house to the corporation."

"But if he does that, Abe," Morris cried gleefully, "Ferdy Rothschild would never collect on that judgment, because that house is all the property Rashkin's got."

"I hope you don't feel bad about it, Mawruss," Abe said.

"I bet yer I feel terrible, Abe," Morris said ironically. "But why did Rashkin call it the Royal Piccadilly Realty Company, Abe?"

"For the sake of old times yet," Abe answered. "I hear it from Sol Klinger that before Rashkin busted up in the waist business he used to make up a garment called the Royal Piccadilly."

"Is that so?" Morris commented. "I never heard he busted up in the waist business, Abe. Why couldn't he make a go of it, Abe?"

"Well, Mawruss, it was the same trouble with him like with some other people, I know," Abe replied significantly. "He was a good manufacturer but a poor salesman; and you know as well as I do, Mawruss, any fool could make up an article, Mawruss, but it takes a feller with judgment to sell it."


"Did the sponger send up them doctors yet?" said Morris with a far-away look in his bloodshot eyes, as he entered his place of business at half past seven one morning in March.

"Doctors?" Abe repeated. "What are you talking about—doctors?"

Morris snapped his fingers impatiently.

"Doctors! Hear me talk!" he cried. "I meant kerseys."

"Listen here, Mawruss," Abe suggested. "What's the use you monkeying with business to-day? Why don't you go home?"

"Me, I don't take things so particular, Abe," Morris replied. "Time enough when I got to go home, then I will go home."

"You could do what you please, Mawruss," Abe declared. "We ain't so busy now that you couldn't be spared, y'understand. With spring weather like we got it now, Mawruss, we could better sell arctic overshoes and raincoats as try to get rid of our line already. I tell you the truth, Mawruss, I ain't seen business so schlecht since way before the Spanish War already."

"We could always find something to do, Abe," said Morris. "Why don't you tell Miss Cohen to get out them statements which you was talking about?"

"That's a good idee, Mawruss," Abe agreed. "Half the time we don't know where we are at at all. Big concerns get out what they call a balancing sheet every day yet, and we are lucky if we do it oncet a year already. How long do you think it would take her to finish 'em up, Mawruss?"

The far-away look returned to Morris' eyes as he replied. "I am waiting for a telephone every minute, Abe," he said.

Abe stared indignantly at his partner, then he took a cigar out of his waistcoat pocket and handed it to Morris.

"Go and sit down and smoke this, Mawruss," he said. "Leon Sammet gives it to me in the subway this morning, and if it's anything like them souvenirs which he hands it out to his customers, it'll make you forget your troubles, Mawruss. The last time I smoked one, I couldn't remember nothing for a week."

Morris carefully cut off the end of Abe's gift with a penknife, but when he struck a match the telephone bell rang sharply. Immediately he threw the cigar and the lighted match to the floor and dashed wildly to the firm's office.

"Do you got to burn the place up yet?" Abe cried, and after he had extinguished the match with his foot, he followed his partner to the office in time to view Morris' coat tails disappearing into the elevator. For two minutes he stood still and shook his head slowly.

"Miss Cohen," he said at length, "get out them statements which I told it you yesterday, and so soon you got the drawing account finished, let me have it. I don't think Mr. Perlmutter will be back to-day, so you would have lots of time to do it in."

It was almost two o'clock before Miss Cohen handed Abe the statement of the firm's drawing account, and Abe thrust it into his breast pocket.

"I'm going out for a bite, Miss Cohen," he said. "If anybody wants me, I am over at Hammersmith's and you could send Jake across for me."

He sighed heavily as he raised his umbrella and plunged out into a heavy March downpour. It had been raining steadily for about a week to the complete discouragement of garment buyers, and Hammersmith's rear cafe sheltered a proportionately gloomy assemblage of cloak and suit manufacturers. Abe glanced around him when he entered and selected a table at which sat Sol Klinger, who was scowling at a portion of Salisbury steak.

"Hallo, Sol," Abe cried. "What's the trouble. Ain't the oitermobile running again?"

"Do me the favor, Abe," Sol replied, "and cut out them so called alleged jokes."

He turned toward a waiter who was dusting off the tablecloth in front of Abe.

"Max," he said, stabbing at the steak with a fork held at arm's length and leaning back in his chair as though to avoid contagion. "What d'ye call this here mess anyway?"

The waiter examined the dish critically and nodded his head.

"Sally's-bury steak, Mr. Klinger," he murmured. "Very nice to-day."

"Is that so?" Sol Klinger rejoined. "Well, lookyhere Max, if I would got it a dawg which I wanted to get rid of bad, y'understand, I would feed him that mess. But me, I ain't ready to die just yet awhile, y'understand, even though business is rotten, so you could take that thing back to the cook and bring me a slice of roast beef; and if you think I got all day to sit here, Max, and fool away my time——"

"Right away, Mr. Klinger, right away," Max cried as he hurried off the offending dish, and once more Sol subsided into a melancholy silence.

"Don't take it so hard, Sol," Abe said. "We got bad weather like this schon lots of times yet, and none of us busted up. Ain't it?"

"The weather is nix, Abe," Sol replied. "If it's wet to-day then it's fine to-morrow, and if a concern ain't buying goods now—all right. They'll buy 'em later on. Ain't it? But, Abe, the partner which you got it to-day, Abe, that's the same partner which you got it to-morrow, and that sucker Klein, Abe, he eats me up with expenses. What that feller does with his money, Abe, I don't know."

"Maybe he buys oitermobiles, Sol," Abe suggested.

"Supposing I did buy last spring an oitermobile, Abe," Sol retorted. "That is the least. I bet yer that feller Klein spends enough on taxicab rides for customers, and also one or two of 'em which she ain't customers, as he could buy a dozen oitermobiles already. No, Abe, that ain't the point. The first year Klein and me goes as partners together, he overdraws me two hundred and fifty dollars. Schon gut. If the feller is a little extravagent, y'understand, he's got to make it up next year."

Sol paused to investigate the roast beef which Max had brought, and being apparently satisfied, he proceeded with his narrative.

"Next year, Abe," he continued, "Klein not only ain't made up the two hundred and fifty, Abe, but he gets into me three hundred dollars more. Well, business is good, y'understand, and so I don't kick and that's where I am a great big fool, Abe, because every year since then, Abe, that sucker goes on and on, until to-day our balance sheet shows I got five thousand more invested in the business as Klein got it. And if I would tell him we are no longer equal partners, Abe, he would go right down to Henry D. Feldman, and to-morrow morning there would be a receiver in the store."

Sol plunged his fork into the slice of roast beef as though it were Klein himself, and he hacked at it so viciously that the gravy flew in every direction.

"Max," he roared, clapping his handkerchief to his face, "what the devil you are bringing me here—soup?"

It was at least five minutes before Sol had exhausted his stock of profanity, and when at length the tablecloth was changed and Abe had ministered to the front of his coat with a napkin dipped in water, Sol ceased to upbraid the waiter and resumed his tirade against his partner.

"Yes, Abe," he said, "you are in luck. You got a partner, y'understand, which he is a decent respectable feller. I bet yer Mawruss would no more dream of overdrawing you, than he would fly in the air."

"Wait till they gets to be popular, Sol," Abe replied. "You could take it from me, Sol, Mawruss would be the first one to buy one of them airyplanes, just the same like he bought that oitermobile yet."

"That's all right," Sol said. "Mawruss is a good live partner. He sees people round him—good, decent, respectable people, mind you—is buying oitermobiles, Abe, and so he thinks he could buy one, too. There ain't no harm in that, Abe, so long as he keeps inside his drawing account, but so soon as one partner starts to take more as the other money out of the business, Abe, then there is right away trouble. But certainly, Abe, Mawruss wouldn't do nothing like that."

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