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|Buttered Side Down||Edna Ferber|
The Frog And The Puddle
|Page 3 of 6||
Gertie lay there another hour, staring into the darkness. Then she began to cry softly, lying on her face with her head between her arms. The cold cream and the salt tears mingled and formed a slippery paste. Gertie wept on because she couldn't help it. The longer she wept the more difficult her sobs became, until finally they bordered on the hysterical. They filled her lungs until they ached and reached her throat with a force that jerked her head back.
"Rap-rap-rap!" sounded sharply from the head of her bed.
Gertie stopped sobbing, and her heart stopped ,beating. She lay tense and still, listening. Everyone knows that spooks rap three times at the head of one's bed. It's a regular high-sign with them.
Gertie's skin became goose-flesh, and coldwater effects chased up and down her spine.
"What's your trouble in there?" demanded an unspooky voice so near that Gertie jumped. "Sick?"
It was the Kid Next Door.
"N-no, I'm not sick," faltered Gertie, her mouth close to the wall. Just then a belated sob that had stopped halfway when the raps began hustled on to join its sisters. It took Gertie by surprise, and brought prompt response from the other side of the wall.
"I'll bet I scared you green. I didn't mean to, but, on the square, if you're feeling sick, a little nip of brandy will set you up. Excuse my mentioning it, girlie, but I'd do the same for my sister. I hate like sin to hear a woman suffer like that, and, anyway, I don't know whether you're fourteen or forty, so it's perfectly respectable. I'll get the bottle and leave it outside your door."
"No you don't!" answered Gertie in a hollow voice, praying meanwhile that the woman in the room below might be sleeping. "I'm not sick, honestly I'm not. I'm just as much obliged, and I'm dead sorry I woke you up with my blubbering. I started out with the soft pedal on, but things got away from me. Can you hear me?"
"Like a phonograph. Sure you couldn't use a sip of brandy where it'd do the most good?"
"Well, then, cut out the weeps and get your beauty sleep, kid. He ain't worth sobbing over, anyway, believe me."
"He!" snorted Gertie indignantly. "You're cold. There never was anything in peg-tops that could make me carry on like the heroine of the Elsie series."
"Lost your job?"
"No such luck."
"Well, then, what in Sam Hill could make a woman----"
"Lonesome!" snapped Gertie. "And the floorwalker got fresh to-day. And I found two gray hairs to-night. And I'd give my next week's pay envelope to hear the double click that our front gate gives back home."
"Back home!" echoed the Kid Next Door in a dangerously loud voice. "Say, I want to talk to you. If you'll promise you won't get sore and think I'm fresh, I'll ask you a favor. Slip on a kimono and we'll sneak down to the front stoop and talk it over. I'm as wide awake as a chorus girl and twice as hungry. I've got two apples and a box of crackers. Are you on?"
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