Forsyte's Retreat

Language: English
Published: 1 month ago
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At last he was second in line. He squared his shoulders and pulled at the lower edges of his black double-breasted suitcoat to erase the travel wrinkles. The applicant ahead of him exploded the words, "Nuts! I'll leave town first. I just came from the Phony-Plaza. You can take that squirrel-cage and—"

"Next!" the employment agent called sadly. Sextus Rollo Forsyte moved up and sat in the oak chair before the oak desk and faced the oak-featured man with the jobs.

"Forsyte is the name," Sextus reminded. The man riffled through the application cards.

"Yes. Indeed. Lucky you came back. I have a fine position for you, Mr. Forsyte. Right in your line." He held out a blue slip. "The general manager's position is open at the Mahoney-Plaza. Six hundred a month, board and room. Now if you will...."

Sextus staggered from the employment office stunned.

He could handle the job, all right. As he'd said on the application form, in his forty years he had managed half a dozen large hotels. But they were handing him this plum without comment on his failure to fill in the spaces marked: COMPLETE REFERENCES (names and addresses).

He shrugged. They did a lot of things different in California. The most he had hoped for was a waiter's job or maybe a short order cook in a fry joint. But if they wanted to ignore the hotel associations' black list, he wouldn't argue.

Sextus Forsyte craved anonymity with the passion that most men seek fame and glory. Beneath his suave, mature exterior beat the shrinking heart of a perennial hermit whose delight was an adventure book and a bottle of whiskey.

His recent employer had not objected to his fondness for reading nor solitude, but his appetite for liquor had revealed itself in a series of unfortunate crises which plague the life of any hotel executive.

Yes, Sextus Forsyte had sought his solitude in that remotest of all places, the large city hotel. His career of smiling at strange faces, welcoming famous people and snapping crisp commands to assistant managers had provided the near-perfect isolation from normal society. To the transient eye he was the poised, gregarious greeter. Actually he lived in a deep well of introversion. Of course, this was no affair of the succession of boards of directors who had uttered the harsh charges of "dipsomania" and fired him. But then boards of directors are never notable for their sympathy or understanding.

And finally word got around the eastern seaboard about Sextus. "A competent man, yes. Drinks on the job. Wouldn't have him as a busboy."

Worse than the mere prospect of unemployment was the notoriety. Coldly sober, Sextus had fled panic-stricken to the west coast, vaguely determined to become a beach-comber or an oyster-fisherman or whatever they did out there.

He stared now at the blue slip and turned in to a florist shop. He broke his last five-dollar bill to buy a pink carnation for his buttonhole then headed down the sunny walk to the hotel. It was a fine December morning in the little beach town, such as only Florida and California can advertise. He breathed the salt air and turned an appreciative ear to the gentle wash of the Pacific surf. He felt so good he might even take a little breakfast before his first drink of whiskey of the day.

At the bus depot he traded his baggage checks for two old, but fine leather, two-suiters....