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The Boy Grew Older   By: (1888-1939)

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First Page:




[Illustration: colophon]

G. P. Putnam's Sons New York & London The Knickerbocker Press 1923

Copyright, 1922, by Heywood Broun

Made in the United States of America

First Printing, October 1922 Second Printing, October 1922 Third Printing, November 1922 Fourth Printing, December 1922 Fifth Printing, February 1923 Sixth Printing, March 1923

[Illustration: The Knickerbocker Press New York]

Made in the United States of America




The Boy Grew Older

Book I


"Your son was born ten minutes ago," said the voice at the other end of the wire.

"I'll be up," replied Peter Neale, "right away."

But it wasn't right away. First he had to go upstairs to the card room and settle his losses. Indeed he played one more pot for when he returned to the table his deal had come around again. He felt that it was not the thing to quit just then. The other men might think he had timed his departure in order to save the dollar ante. He dealt the cards and picked up four spades and a heart. Eventually, he paid five dollars to draw and again he had four spades and a heart. Nevertheless, he bet ten dollars but it was no go. His hands shook as he dropped the two blue chips in the centre of the table. The man with a pair of jacks noticed that and called. Peter threw his cards away.

"I've got nothing a busted flush. I want to cash in now. I owe for two stacks. That's right, isn't it? I haven't any chips left. If somebody'll lend me a fountain pen I'll make out a check. I guess I need a check too. Any kind'll do. I can cross the name off."

"Why are you quitting so soon?" asked the banker as Peter waved the check back and forth to let it dry. "We're all going to quit at seven o'clock."

"Two rounds and a consolation pot," corrected somebody across the table.

Peter was curiously torn between reticence and an impulse to tell. He felt a little as if he might begin to cry. When he spoke his voice was thick. "I've got to go up to see my son," he said. "He's just been born."

He shoved the check over to the banker and was out of the room before anybody could say anything.

He thought that the banker said, "Congratulations," as he slammed the door behind him, but he could not be certain of it.

All the way up in the taxi he worried. The hospital was half a mile away. He wished that the nurse had said, "A fine boy," but he remembered it was just, "Your son was born ten minutes ago."

"If anything had been wrong," he thought, "she wouldn't have said it over the telephone."

"Is everything all right?" was his first question when a nurse came to the door of the small private hospital and let him in. "My name's Peter Neale," he explained. "My son's just been born half an hour ago."

"Everything's fine, Mr. Neale," she said and she smiled. "The baby weighs nine pounds. Mrs. Neale is fine too. You can see them both, but she's asleep now. You can't really see her today, but I think they'll let you have a good look at your son. He's a little darling."

Peter was reassured but irritated. Formula was all over the remark, "He's a little darling." He thought she ought not to use it until she had learned to do it better. Some place or other he had read that babies were fearfully homely. Still it didn't look so bad when he came into the room. Black was smudged all around the eyes which gave the child a rakish look.

"Miss Haine," said the nurse who brought him in, "this is Mr. Neale."

"Mr. Neale," she added, "meet your son." Then she went out.

"Is he all right, Miss Haine?" was Peter's first question as soon as the door closed. After all, the other woman was just supposed to answer the bell. Miss Haine might know more about it.

"He's a cherub," said Miss Haine.

"How did his eyes get blacked?" Peter wanted to know... Continue reading book >>

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