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|Strictly Business||O Henry|
V. The Fifth Wheel
|Page 7 of 8||
"Professor Ch-- Dont' know the guy. What saloon does he work in?"
"He's a clairvoyant, Thomas; the greatest in the world. He found you with the Chaldean telescope, he said."
"He's a liar," said Thomas. "I never had it. He never saw me have anybody's telescope."
"And he said you came in a chariot with five wheels or something."
"Annie," said Thoms solicitously, "you're giving me the wheels now. If I had a chariot I'd have gone to bed in it long ago. And without any singing and preaching for a nightcap, either."
"Listen, you big fool. The Missis says she'll take you back. I begged her to. But you must behave. And you can go up to the house to-night; and your old room over the stable is ready."
"Great!" said Thomas earnestly. "You are It, Annie. But when did these stunts happen?"
"To-night at Professor Cherubusco's. He sent his automobile for the Missis, and she took me along. I've been there with her before."
"What's the professor's line?"
"He's a clairvoyant and a witch. The Missis consults him. He knows everything. But he hasn't done the Missis any good yet, though she's paid him hundreds of dollars. But he told us that the stars told him we could find you here."
"What's the old lady want this cherry-buster to do?"
"That's a family secret," said Annie. "And now you've asked enough questions. Come on home, you big fool."
They had moved but a little way up the street when Thomas stopped.
"Got any dough with you, Annie?" he asked.
Annie looked at him sharply.
"Oh, I know what that look means," said Thomas. "You're wrong. Not another drop. But there's a guy that was standing next to me in the bed line over there that's in bad shape. He's the right kind, and he's got wives or kids or something, and he's on the sick list. No booze. If you could dig up half a dollar for him so he could get a decent bed I'd like it."
Annie's fingers began to wiggle in her purse.
"Sure, I've got money," said she. "Lots of it. Twelve dollars." And then she added, with woman's ineradicable suspicion of vicarious benevolence: "Bring him here and let me see him first."
Thomas went on his mission. The wan Bed Liner came readily enough. As the two drew near, Annie looked up from her purse and screamed:
"Mr. Walter-- Oh--Mr. Walter!:
"Is that you, Annie?" said the young man meekly.
"Oh, Mr. Walter!--and the Missis hunting high and low for you!"
"Does mother want to see me?" he asked, with a flush coming out on his pale cheek.
"She's been hunting for you high and low. Sure, she wants to see you. She wants you to come home. She's tried police and morgues and lawyers and advertising and detectives and rewards and everything. And then she took up clearvoyants. You'll go right home, won't you, Mr. Walter?"
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