“Bet you fifty!”
“Aw, make it worth while.”
“You’re on. Let Jack hold the stakes.”
Four hundred dollars was placed in the hands of Jack Strong by the disputatious sports, and he carefully put it away with the lone five-dollar bill of which he was possessed.
Jack, although sportily inclined, lacked the cash to be a sport himself, but he was known to the two who thus disagreed, and they trusted him. He might be poor, but he was honest.
Nor was this confidence misplaced — at least so far as his honesty was concerned, although there might be question as to his judgment and discretion.
For instance, carrying that much money, it was a foolish thing to let an affable stranger scrape a barroom acquaintance with him when he stopped in at Pete’s on his way to his little mortgaged home. He realized that later. He was not drunk — positively, he was not drunk, for he recalled everything distinctly, but he did fraternize briefly with the jovial stranger. And in seeking his lone five-dollar bill, that he might return the stranger’s hospitality, he did display the four-hundred-dollar roll. It was all very clear to him the next morning, when he found nothing in his pockets but the change from the five-dollar bill.
Naturally, he hastened to Pete’s to learn what he could of the amiable stranger, which was nothing. Then he sought his sporty friends, and made full confession. They regarded him with coldly suspicious eyes, deeming it strange that one so wise should happen to be robbed when he was carrying their money. He promised restitution, but they were not appeased, for well they knew that it would take him about four years to repay four hundred dollars.
He went to the police, and the police promised to do what they could to identify, locate, and apprehend the sociable stranger, but there was still much in the attitude of the sporty pair to make him uneasy.
He remained at home that evening, having neither heart nor money for livelier places, and about eight o’clock he had his reward. The police telephoned him that they had the genial stranger in custody.
“Hold him!” he cried jubilantly. “I’ll be right down.”
He was rushing for his hat when his wife, who had been strangely silent and thoughtful, stopped him.
“John,” she said, “I’d like a word with you before you go out. Why have you deceived me?”
“Deceived you!” he exclaimed.
“Yes, deceived me,” she repeated severely. “I’ve suspected this duplicity for some time, and now I have proof. When I asked you for ten dollars yesterday you said you didn’t have it, but last night I found four hundred dollars in your pocket.”
“Howling Petey!” he cried. “Great jumping grasshoppers! I’ve had a man arrested for that, and two others are just about ready to beat me up! Where is it, Mary — quick!”
“I applied it to the mortgage,” she answered calmly.
Elliott Flower (1863-1920) wrote novels and short stories in the early 20th century. He was published in Lippincott’s, Ladies’ Home Journal, Atlantic Monthly, Collier’s, The Saturday Evening Post, Town Talk, Canada West, and Reader Magazine, among many others. His most famous novels were apparently The Spoilsman and Policeman Flynn. He also wrote criticism and editorial tips, as in “When Characters Are Real” in The Editor, a journal for literary workers.
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