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Buchen, Walther (ed.) / The Wisconsin magazine
Vol. VII, No. 8 (May 1910)

Birchard, Ralph
The dull night,   pp. 21-23


Page 21


THE DULL NIGHT
The Dull Night
     RALPH BIRCHARD
  Collins had been telling me about a girl
he used to know. He said her name was
Mary Willard and that she meant to him
everything that was good in the world.
She lived in a little town in Ohio. Some
day he was going back to get her and bring
her out west. He had never told me so
much about himself before.    The story
brought out a new side of him-a side I
didn't think he had.
  At eleven we left the Courier office and
went out to get something to eat. It.was
a dull night for the newspapers. The
world seemed to be suffering with drowsi-
ness. There was not even a local story of
crime-something unusual in Frisco where
the citizens seem to have the faculty of
getting into action on short notice. Garth
told us he had no assignment worth chas-
ing. He said to come back at one and see
him, and in the meanwhile to ease around.
  A cold drizzling rain was falling. The
streets were almost deserted. We went up
Market two blocks, walking fast. Why we
walked fast I don't know, for we had no
idea of where we were going. When we
came to Geary Street we saw the electric
sign of Eddie Hanlon's cafe. Collins sug-
gested that we go there for our lunch, so
we did. I didn't think -much of it as a
place to eat, but it was as good a place as
anv to hang around.
  The cafe was in the basement of a big
building. The main floor of the building
was used for stores. The upper stories
were occupied by the Crystal Hotel. It
was a cheap hotel without much reputation.
Except for the sign and the globe lights
at the top of th- stairs leading down to the
cafe, the building was all dark. The naked
incandescent lamps were steaminz in the
rain and the white marble stairs were wet
and slippery. I wondered why they built
stairs to a place like that so steep.  I
thought it must be dangerous to some of
their patrons.
  WAe opened the lace-curtained glass door
and went in. The air was as bad as usual.
A cloud of cigarette smoke hung over the
room. When we opened the door a gust
of it rushed out as if even it wanted to
escape the confinement of the place. We
crossed to one of the little tables against
the wall and sat down. A dress suited
waiter dusted off some imaginary crumbs
and waited for our order. He had an
evil, leering face. We ordered club sand-
wiches and beer, and then looked around
the room to see if anyone we knew was
there.
  Most of the people seemed to be regu-
lar habitues. There was the usual sprink-
ling of huge plumed hats and too-elegant
gowns. The men seemed odinary. In the
opposite corner six college boys were seat-
ed around a big table. A girl went over
to them and drank the wine they bought
for her. When they got demonstrative she
returned to her party which left the cafe
amid general laughter. I recognized two
of the boys and was afraid that one of them
had seen me and that he might come over
and perhaps fall on my neck. But he
soon became engrossed in ordering another
round of drinks and forgot all about me.
The four entertainers provided by the cafe
shouted a popular song at the top of their
voices. Afterward, they improvised par-
odies on it and got a good deal of am
plause.
  Rollins is never what vou could call
voluble. That night he was even quieter
than usual. He yawned and said he was
tired and that he would be glad when it
was two o'clock so he could go home and
go to bed. So we did nothing but look
on and perhaps that was why I noticed a
couple that came in just after the waiter
had brought our sandwiches. They sat
at the table next ours toward the middle
of the room.
  The man was tall and dark. He was
verv handsome. His face was strong. He
had one of the most decisive looking
21


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