Few young couples in the Big-City-of-Bluff began their married
existence with greater promise of happiness than did Mr. and Mrs.
Claude Turpin. They felt no especial animosity toward each other;
they were comfortably established in a handsome apartment house that
had a name and accommodations like those of a sleeping-car; they were
living as expensively as the couple on the next floor above who had
twice their income; and their marriage had occurred on a wager, a
ferry-boat and first acquaintance, thus securing a sensational
newspaper notice with their names attached to pictures of the Queen of
Roumania and M. Santos-Dumont.
Turpin's income was $200 per month. On pay day, after calculating the
amounts due for rent, instalments on furniture and piano, gas, and
bills owed to the florist, confectioner, milliner, tailor, wine
merchant and cab company, the Turpins would find that they still had
$200 left to spend. How to do this is one of the secrets of
The domestic life of the Turpins was a beautiful picture to see. But
you couldn't gaze upon it as you could at an oleograph of "Don't Wake
Grandma," or "Brooklyn by Moonlight."
You had to blink when looked at it; and you heard a fizzing sound just
like the machine with a "scope" at the end of it. Yes; there wasn't
much repose about the picture of the Turpins' domestic life. It was
something like "Spearing Salmon in the Columbia River," or "Japanese
Artillery in Action."
Every day was just like another; as the days are in New York. In the
morning Turpin would take bromo-seltzer, his pocket change from under
the clock, his hat, no breakfast and his departure for the office. At
noon Mrs. Turpin would get out of bed and humour, put on a kimono,
airs, and the water to boil for coffee.
Turpin lunched downtown. He came home at 6 to dress for dinner. They
always dined out. They strayed from the chop-house to chop-sueydom,
from terrace to table d'hote, from rathskeller to roadhouse, from cafe
to casino, from Maria's to the Martha Washington. Such is domestic
life in the great city. Your vine is the mistletoe; your fig tree
bears dates. Your household gods are Mercury and John Howard Payne.
For the wedding march you now hear only "Come with the Gypsy Bride."
You rarely dine at the same place twice in succession. You tire of
the food; and, besides, you want to give them time for the question of
that souvenir silver sugar bowl to blow over.
The Turpins were therefore happy. They made many warm and delightful
friends, some of whom they remembered the next day. Their home life
was an ideal one, according to the rules and regulations of the Book
There came a time when it dawned upon Turpin that his wife was getting
away with too much money. If you belong to the near-swell class in the
Big City, and your income is $200 per month, and you find at the end
of the month, after looking over the bills for current expenses, that
you, yourself, have spent $150, you very naturally wonder what has
become of the other $50. So you suspect your wife. And perhaps you
give her a hint that something needs explanation.
"I say, Vivien," said Turpin, one afternoon when they were enjoying in
rapt silence the peace and quiet of their cozy apartment, "you've been
creating a hiatus big enough for a dog to crawl through in this
month's honorarium. You haven't been paying your dressmaker
anything on account, have you?"
There was a moment's silence. No sounds could be heard except the
breathing of the fox terrier, and the subdued, monotonous sizzling of
Vivien's fulvous locks against the insensate curling irons. Claude
Turpin, sitting upon a pillow that he had thoughtfully placed upon the
convolutions of the apartment sofa, narrowly watched the riante,
lovely face of his wife.
"Claudie, dear," said she, touching her finger to her ruby tongue and
testing the unresponsive curling irons, "you do me an injustice. Mme.
Toinette has not seen a cent of mine since the day you paid your
tailor ten dollars on account."
Turpin's suspicions were allayed for the time. But one day soon there
came an anonymous letter to him that read:
"Watch your wife. She is blowing in your money secretly. I was
a sufferer just as you are. The place is No. 345 Blank Street.
A word to the wise, etc.
A MAN WHO KNOWS"
Turpin took this letter to the captain of police of the precinct that
he lived in.
"My precinct is as clean as a hound's tooth," said the captain. "The
lid's shut down as close there as it is over the eye of a Williamsburg
girl when she's kissed at a party. But if you think there's anything
queer at the address, I'll go there with ye."
On the next afternoon at 3, Turpin and the captain crept softly up the
stairs of No. 345 Blank Street. A dozen plain-clothes men, dressed in
full police uniforms, so as to allay suspicion, waited in the hall
At the top of the stairs was a door, which was found to be locked.
The captain took a key from his pocket and unlocked it. The two men
They found themselves in a large room, occupied by twenty or twenty-
five elegantly clothed ladies. Racing charts hung against the walls,
a ticker clicked in one corner; with a telephone receiver to his ear a
man was calling out the various positions of the horses in a very
exciting race. The occupants of the room looked up at the intruders;
but, as if reassured by the sight of the captain's uniform, they
reverted their attention to the man at the telephone.
"You see," said the captain to Turpin, "the value of an anonymous
letter! No high-minded and self-respecting gentleman should
consider one worthy of notice. Is your wife among this assembly, Mr.
"She is not," said Turpin.
"And if she was," continued the captain, "would she be within the
reach of the tongue of slander? These ladies constitute a Browning
Society. They meet to discuss the meaning of the great poet. The
telephone is connected with Boston, whence the parent society
transmits frequently its interpretations of the poems. Be ashamed of
yer suspicions, Mr. Turpin."
"Go soak your shield," said Turpin. "Vivien knows how to take care of
herself in a pool-room. She's not dropping anything on the ponies.
There must be something queer going on here."
"Nothing but Browning," said the captain. "Hear that?"
"Thanatopsis by a nose," drawled the man at the telephone.
"That's not Browning; that's Longfellow," said Turpin, who sometimes
"Back to the pasture!" exclaimed the captain. "Longfellow made the
pacing-to-wagon record of 7.53 'way back in 1868."
"I believe there's something queer about this joint," repeated Turpin.
"I don't see it," said the captain.
"I know it looks like a pool-room, all right," persisted Turpin, "but
that's all a blind. Vivien has been dropping a lot of coin somewhere.
I believe there's some under-handed work going on here."
A number of racing sheets were tacked close together, covering a large
space on one of the walls. Turpin, suspicious, tore several of them
down. A door, previously hidden, was revealed. Turpin placed an
ear to the crack and listened intently. He heard the soft hum of many
voices, low and guarded laughter, and a sharp, metallic clicking and
scraping as if from a multitude of tiny but busy objects.
"My God! It is as I feared!" whispered Turpin to himself. "Summon
your men at once!" he called to the captain. "She is in there, I
At the blowing of the captain's whistle the uniformed plain-clothes
men rushed up the stairs into the pool-room. When they saw the
betting paraphernalia distributed around they halted, surprised and
puzzled to know why they had been summoned.
But the captain pointed to the locked door and bade them break it
down. In a few moments they demolished it with the axes they carried.
Into the other room sprang Claude Turpin, with the captain at his
The scene was one that lingered long in Turpin's mind. Nearly a score
of women--women expensively and fashionably clothed, many beautiful
and of refined appearance--had been seated at little marble-topped
tables. When the police burst open the door they shrieked and ran
here and there like gayly plumed birds that had been disturbed in a
tropical grove. Some became hysterical; one or two fainted; several
knelt at the feet of the officers and besought them for mercy on
account of their families and social position.
A man who had been seated behind a desk had seized a roll of currency
as large as the ankle of a Paradise Roof Gardens chorus girl and
jumped out of the window. Half a dozen attendants huddled at one end
of the room, breathless from fear.
Upon the tables remained the damning and incontrovertible evidences
of the guilt of the habituees of that sinister room--dish after dish
heaped high with ice cream, and surrounded by stacks of empty ones,
scraped to the last spoonful.
"Ladies," said the captain to his weeping circle of prisoners, "I'll
not hold any of yez. Some of yez I recognize as having fine houses and
good standing in the community, with hard-working husbands and childer
at home. But I'll read ye a bit of a lecture before ye go. In the
next room there's a 20-to-1 shot just dropped in under the wire three
lengths ahead of the field. Is this the way ye waste your husbands'
money instead of helping earn it? Home wid yez! The lid's on the
ice-cream freezer in this precinct."
Claude Turpin's wife was among the patrons of the raided room. He led
her to their apartment in stem silence. There she wept so
remorsefully and besought his forgiveness so pleadingly that he forgot
his just anger, and soon he gathered his penitent golden-haired Vivien
in his arms and forgave her.
"Darling," she murmured, half sobbingly, as the moonlight drifted
through the open window, glorifying her sweet, upturned face, "I know
I done wrong. I will never touch ice cream again. I forgot you were
not a millionaire. I used to go there every day. But to-day I felt
some strange, sad presentiment of evil, and I was not myself. I ate
only eleven saucers."
"Say no more," said Claude, gently as he fondly caressed her waving
"And you are sure that you fully forgive me?" asked Vivien, gazing at
him entreatingly with dewy eyes of heavenly blue.
"Almost sure, little one," answered Claude, stooping and lightly
touching her snowy forehead with his lips. "I'll let you know
later on. I've got a month's salary down on Vanilla to win the
three-year-old steeplechase to-morrow; and if the ice-cream hunch
is to the good you are It again--see?"