CHAPTER I. JOHN HENRY GETS A PARTNER.
"Seven weeks and then the wedding bells will get busy for you, eh,Bunch?" I chuckled.
"Surest thing you know," my old pal Jefferson replied, somewhat dolefully.
"I must dig up a few old shoes and have a plate of cold rice pudding on the doorstep," I went on. "It's going to afford me a bunch of keen delight to soak you in the midriff with a rusty patent leather and then push a few rice fritters in under your coat collar, believe me!"
Bunch tried to pull a smile, but his face didn't feel like working, and the finish was a mournful sigh.
"John," he said, after the waiter had crowded the sizz-water into the wood alcohol, "I'm a plain case of shrimp!"
"Oh, sush!" I said; "you'll get over that, Bunch. Isn't it a hit how we young fellows begin to warm wise to ourselves the moment we get a flash of the orange blossoms. We think of the beautiful little lady we are leading to the altar and then we think of the many beautiful souses we have led by the hand, and we begin to ask ourselves if we are worthy. Before we can get the right answer the preacher has dropped the flag, the ceremonies are over, and after that the struggle to supply three squares a day puts the boots to every other worry; am I right, Gonsalvo?"
"I s'pose so, John," Bunch replied, "but it isn't a case of rattles with me. I'm shy with the mazume, and it looks now as if that little trip to the minister's will have to be postponed indefinitely."
"Skidoo, skidoo, and quit me, Mr. Josheimer!" I suggested.
"I mean it, John," Bunch came back. "I can't lead a girl like Alice Grey into the roped arena of matrimony when I haven't the price of an omelette for the wedding breakfast, now can I?"
"Great Scott, Bunch, have you been Chadwicked for your roll ?" I asked. "Are you the man from Ohio that was so polite he gave his bank to the lady? If you are, it serves you right."
"No, John," Bunch answered mournfully, "but I had to go toWashington on a business trip, and while there——"
"Wait, Bunch," I chipped in; "I've got you sized. While in Washington you met a couple of wise voices who talked nothing but sure-things, so you for the Bennings race track to spill your coin, eh, Beau?"
"Well, John, I'll tell you how it was," Bunch tried to square himself. "My roll was just five thousand strong, and I began to wish for about two thousand more, so that I could take the little wife over the wild waves and point out Paris and the Riviera to her. In Washington I met a quick talker named Ike Gibson and he played me for a good, steady listener. Ike showered me with cinches and in short order I was down with Bennings fever. And then——"
"I know the answer, Bunch," I sighed, "You followed Ike's clues and finished fainting. I'm wise. But, say! Bunch, didn't you pipe me with the neck bruises often enough in the old days to profit by my experience? Didn't I go up against that horse game so hard that I shook the whole community, and aren't you on to the fact that the only sure thing about a race track is a seat on a trolley car going in the opposite direction?"
"I know, John," Bunch replied, "but this looked awfully good to me, and I went after it."
"Did they sting you for the whole bundle?" I asked....