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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThey Call Me Carpenter: A Tale Of The Second Coming - Chapter 16
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They Call Me Carpenter: A Tale Of The Second Coming - Chapter 16 Post by :JuvioSuccess Category :Long Stories Author :Upton Sinclair Date :May 2012 Read :2618

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They Call Me Carpenter: A Tale Of The Second Coming - Chapter 16

CHAPTER XVI

It happens that I was brought up in a highly conscientious family. To my dear mother, and to her worthy sisters, there is nothing in the world more painful than what they call a "scene"--unless possibly it is what they call a "situation." And here we had certainly had a "scene," and still had a "situation." So I sat, racking my brains to think of something safe to talk about. I recalled that T-S had had pretty good success with his "Tale of Two Cities" as a topic of Conversation, so I began:

"Mr. Carpenter, the spectacle you are going to see this evening is rather remarkable from the artistic point of view. One of the greatest scenic artists of Paris has designed the set, and the best judges consider it a real achievement, a landmark in moving picture work."

"Tell me about it," said Carpenter; and I was grateful for his tone of interest.

"Well, I don't know how much you know about picture making--"

"You had better explain everything."

"Well, Mr. T-S has built a large set, representing a street scene in Paris over a century ago. He has hired a thousand men--"

"Two tousand!" broke in T-S.

"In the advertisements?" I suggested, with a smile.

"No, no," insisted the other. "Two tousand, really. In de advertisements, five tousand."

"Well," said I, "these men wear costumes which T-S has had made for them, and they pretend to be a mob. They have been practicing all day, and by now they know what to do. There is a man with a megaphone, shouting orders to them, and enormous lights playing upon them, so that men with cameras can take pictures of the scene. It is very vivid, and as a portrayal of history, is truly educational."

"And when it is done--what becomes of the men?"

Utterly hopeless, you see! We were right back on the forbidden ground! "How do you mean?" I evaded.

"I mean, how do they live?"

"Dey got deir five dollars, ain't dey?" It was T-S, of course.

"Yes, but that won' last very long, will it? What is the cost of this dinner we are eating?"

The magnate of the movies looked to the speaker, and then burst into a laugh. "Ho, ho, ho! Dat's a good vun!"

Said I, hastily: "Mr. T-S means that there are cheaper eating places to be found."

"Well," said Carpenter, "why don't we find one?"

"It's no use, Billy. He thinks it's up to me to feed all de bums on de lot. Is dat it, Mr. Carpenter?"

"I can't say, Mr. T-S; I don't know how many there are, and I don't know how rich you are."

"Vell, dey got five million out o' verks in this country now, and if I vanted to bust myself, I could feed 'em vun day, maybe two. But ven I got done, dey vouldn't be nobody to make pictures, and somebody vould have to feed old Abey--or maybe me and Maw could go back to carryin' pants in a push cart! If you tink I vouldn't like to see all de hungry fed, you got me wrong, Mr. Carpenter; but vot I learned is dis--if you stop fer all de misery you see in de vorld about you, you vouldn't git novhere."

"Well," said Carpenter, "what difference would that make?"

The proprietor of Eternal City really wanted to make out the processes of this abnormal mind. He wrinkled his brows, and thought very hard over it.

"See here, Mr. Carpenter," he began at last, "I tink you got hold o' de wrong feller. I'm a verkin' man, de same as any mechanic on my lot. I verked ever since I vas a liddle boy, and if I eat too much now, maybe it's because I didn't get enough ven I vas liddle. And maybe I got more money dan vot I got a right to, but I know dis--I ain't never had enough to do half vot I vant to! But dere's plenty fellers got ten times vot I got, and never done a stroke o' vork fer it. Dey're de vuns y'oughter git after!"

Said Carpenter: "I would, if I knew how."

"Dey's plenty of 'em right in dis room, I bet." And Mary added: "Ask Billy; he knows them all!"

"You flatter me, Mary," I laughed.

"Ain't dey some of 'em here?" demanded T-S.

"Yes, that's true. There are some not far away, who are developing a desire to meet Mr. Carpenter, unless I miss the signs."

"Vere are dey at?" demanded T-S.

"I won't tell you that," I laughed, "because you'd turn and stare into their faces."

"So he vould!" broke in Maw. "How often I gotta tell you, Abey? You got no more manners dan if you vas a jimpanzy."

"All right," said the magnate, grinning good naturedly. "I'll keep a-eatin' my dinner. Who is it?"

"It's Mrs. Parmelee Stebbins," said I. "She boasts a salon, and has to have what are called lions, and she's been watching Mr. Carpenter out of the corner of her eye ever since he came into the room--trying to figure out whether he's a lion, or only an actor. If his skin were a bit dark, she would be sure he was an Eastern potentate; as it, she's afraid he's of domestic origin, in which case he's vulgar. The company he keeps is against him; but still--Mrs. Stebbins has had my eye three times, hoping I would give her a signal, I haven't given it, so she's about to leave."

"Vell, she can go to hell!" said T-S, keeping his promise to devote himself to his dinner. "I offered Parmelee Stebbins a tird share in 'De Pride o' Passion' fer a hunded tousand dollars, and de damn fool turned me down, and de picture has made a million and a quarter a'ready."

"Well," said I, "he's probably paying for it by sitting up late to buy the city council on this new franchise grab of his; and so he hasn't kept his date to dine with his expensive family at Prince's. Here is Miss Lucinda Stebbins; she's engaged to Babcock, millionaire sport and man about town, but he's taking part in a flying race over the Rocky Mountains tonight, and so Lucinda feels bored, and she knows the vaudeville show is going to be tiresome, but still she doesn't want to meet any freaks. She has just said to her mother that she can't see why a person in her mother's position can't be content to meet proper people, but always has to be getting herself into the newspapers with some new sort of nut."

"My Gawd, Billy!" cried Maw. "You got a dictaphone on dem people?"

"No, but I know the type so well, I can tell by their looks. Lucinda is thinking about their big new palace on Grand Avenue, and she regards everyone outside her set as a burglar trying to break in. And then there's Bertie Stebbins, who's thinking about a new style of collar he saw advertised to-day, and how it would look on him, and what impression it would make on his newest girl."

It was Mary who spoke now: "I know that little toad. I've seen him dancing at the Palace with Dorothy Doodles, or whatever her name is."

"Well," said I, "Mrs. Stebbins runs the newer set--those who hunt sensations, and make a splurge in the papers. It costs like smoke, of course--" And suddenly I stopped. "Look out!" I whispered. "Here she comes!"

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CHAPTER XVIII heard Maw catch her breath, and I heard Maw's husband give a grunt. Then I rose. "How are you, Billy?" gurgled a voice--one of those voices made especially for social occasions. "Wretched boy, why do you never come to see us?""I was coming to-morrow," I said--for who could prove otherwise? "Mrs. Stebbins, permit me to introduce Mrs. Tszchniczklefritszch.""Charmed to meet you, I'm sure," said Mrs. Stebbins. "I've heard my husband speak of your husband so often. How well you are looking, Mrs.--"She stopped; and Maw, knowing the terrors of her name, made haste to say something agreeable. "Yes, ma'am;
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CHAPTER XVFor five minutes or so there was no sound but that of one man's food going in and going down. Then suddenly the man stopped, with his knife and fork upright on the table in each hand, and cried: "Mr. Carpenter, you ain't eatin' nuttin'!"The stranger, who had apparently been in a daydream, came suddenly back to Prince's. He looked at the quantities of food spread about him. "If you'd only let me take a little to those men outside!" He said it pleadingly.But T-S tapped imperiously on the table, with both his knife and fork together. "Mr. Carpenter, eat
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