Broadway Incident

Damon Runyon

November 1941

One night Ambrose Hammer, the newspaper scribe, comes looking for me on Broadway and he insists that I partake of dinner with him at the Canary Club, stating that he wishes to talk to me. Naturally, I know that Ambrose must be in love again, and when he is in love he always wishes to have somebody around to listen to him tell about how much he is in love and about the way he is suffering, because Ambrose is such a guy as must have his suffering with his love. I know him when he first shows up on Broadway, which is a matter of maybe eight or ten years ago, but in all this time I seldom see him when he is not in love and suffering and especially suffering, and the reason he suffers is because he generally falls in love with some beautiful who does not care two snaps of her fingers about him and sometimes not even one snap.

In fact, it is the consensus of opinion along Broadway that Ambrose is always very careful to pick a beautiful who does not care any snaps of her fingers whatever about him because if he finds one who does care these snaps there will be no reason for him to suffer. Personally, I consider Ambrose’s love affairs a great bore but as the Canary Club is a very high-class gaff where the food department is really above par, I am pleased to go with him.

So there we are sitting on a leather settee against the wall in the Canary Club and I am juggling a big thick sirloin steak smothered in onions while Ambrose is telling me how much he loves a beautiful by the name of Hilda Hiffenbrower and how he is wishing he can marry her and live happily ever afterward, but he is unable to complete this transaction because there is an ever-loving husband by the name of Herbert in the background from whom Hilda is separated but not divorced. And the way Ambrose tells it, Hilda cannot get a divorce because Herbert is just naturally a stinker and does not wish to see her happy with anybody else and will not let her have same. Well, I happen to know Hilda better than Ambrose does. To tell the truth, I know her when her name is Mame something and she is dealing them off her arm in a little eating gaff on Seventh Avenue, which is before she goes in show business and changes her name to Hilda, and I also know that the real reason Herbert will not give her this divorce is because she wants eight gallons of his heart’s blood and both his legs in the divorce settlement, but as Herbert has a good business head he is by no means agreeable to these terms, though I hear he is willing to compromise on one leg to get rid of Hilda.

Furthermore, I know that Hilda is never very sympathetic toward marriage in any manner, shape or form, as she has a few other husbands prior to this and dismisses them before they are in office very long, and I am willing to bet that she has an ice-cream cone where her heart is supposed to be. But of course I do not feel disposed to mention this matter to Ambrose Hammer, especially while I am enjoying his steak.

So I just go on eating and listening and Ambrose seems about ready to burst into tears as he tells me about his suffering because of his love for Hilda, when who comes into the Canary Club all dressed up in white tie and tails but a guy by the name of Brogan Wilmington, who is what is called a playwright by trade, a playwright being a guy who writes plays which are put on the stage for people to see.

As Ambrose is a dramatic critic, it is his duty to go and view these plays and to tell the readers of the blat for which he works what he thinks of them, and it seems that he tells them that the play written by this Brogan Wilmington is a twenty-two-carat smeller. In fact, it seems that Ambrose tells them it is without doubt the worst case of dramatic halitosis in the history of civilization and it is plain to be seen that Brogan Wilmington is somewhat vexed as he approaches our table and addresses Ambrose as follows:

“Ah,” he says, “here you are.”

“Yes,” Ambrose says, “here I am, indeed.”

“You do not care for my play?” Brogan Wilmington says.

“No,” Ambrose says, “I loathe and despise it.”

“Well,” Brogan Wilmington says, “take this.”

Then he lets go with his right and grazes Ambrose Hammer’s chin but in doing so, Brogan Wilmington’s coattails swing out behind him and across a portion of lobster Newburg that a beautiful at the next table is enjoying and in fact the swinging coattails wipe about half the portion off the plate onto the floor.

Before Brogan Wilmington can recover his balance, the beautiful picks up what is left of her lobster Newburg, plate and all, and clops Brogan on the pimple with it and knocks him plumb out onto the dance floor where many parties, male and female, are doing the rumba with great zest.

Naturally, Ambrose is slightly surprised at this incident, but as he is a gentleman at all times, even if he is a dramatic critic, he turns to the beautiful and says to her like this:

“Miss,” Ambrose says, “or madam, I am obliged to you. Waiter,” he says, “bring this lovely creature another dish of lobster Newburg and put it on my check.”

Then he resumes his conversation with me and thinks no more of the matter, because of course it is by no means a novelty for Ambrose Hammer to have playwrights throw punches at him, although generally it is actors and sometimes producers. In the meantime, the parties out on the dance floor find they cannot rumba with any convenience unless Brogan Wilmington is removed from their space, so a couple of waiters pick Brogan up and carry him away and Ambrose notices that the beautiful who slugs Brogan with the lobster Newburg now seems to be crying.

“Miss,” Ambrose says, “or madam, dry your tears. Your fresh portion of lobster Newburg will be along presently.”

“Oh,” she says, “I am not crying about the loss of my lobster Newburg. I am crying because in my agitation I spill the little bottle of cyanide of potassium I bring in here with me and now I cannot commit suicide. Look at it all over my bag.”

“Well,” Ambrose says, “I am sorry, but I do not approve of anybody committing suicide in the Canary Club. It is owned by a friend of mine by the name of Joe Gloze and every Christmas he sends me a dozen expensive ties, besides permitting me to freeload here at will. A suicide in his club will be bad publicity for him. It may get around that death ensues because of the cooking. However, miss,” Ambrose says, “or madam, if you are bound and determined to commit this suicide you may walk around the corner to a deadfall called El Parcheeso, which is Joe’s rival, and I will follow you and observe your action in all its sad details and it will be a fine story for me.”

Well, the beautiful seems to be thinking this proposition over and Ambrose is so occupied watching her think that he loses the thread of his story of his love for Hilda and seems to forget some of his suffering, too, and finally the beautiful turns to him and says:

“Sir, do you rumba?”

“Do I rumba?” Ambrose says. “Miss,” he says, “or madam, you now behold the best rumba dancer in the Western Hemisphere, bar Havana. There is one guy there who can defeat me, although,” Ambrose says, ”it is a photo finish. Let us put it on.”

So they get out on the floor and rumba quite a while and after that they samba some and then they conga and Ambrose can see that the beautiful has a very liberal education, indeed, along these lines. In fact, he can see that she rumbas and sambas and congas much better than any married beautiful should, because between a rumba and a samba she informs him that her name is Mrs. Brumby News and that she is the ever-loving wife of a doctor by the same name without the Mrs., who is much older than she is.

Finally they get all tuckered out from dancing and are sitting at the table talking of this and that and one thing and another, and I can tell from Mrs. News’s conversation that she is far from being as intellectual as Professor Einstein and to tell the truth she does not seem right bright and Ambrose Hammer probably notices the same thing, but when it comes to beautifuls, Ambrose does not care if they are short fifteen letters reciting the alphabet. So he is really enjoying his chat with her and presently he asks her why she ever figures on knocking herself off and she relates a somewhat surprising story.

She states that her husband is always too busy trying to find out what is wrong with his patients to pay much attention to her and as she has no children but only a chow dog by the name of Pepe to occupy her time and as her maid can look after the dog better than she can, she takes to visiting this same Canary Club and similar traps seeking diversion.

She says that on one of these afternoons some months back she meets a fat blonde by the name of Mrs. Bidkar and they become great friends as they both like to gab and sip cocktails and sometimes pick up rumbas with stray guys as beautifuls will do when they are running around loose, although it seems from what Mrs. News says that Mrs. Bidkar is by no means a beautiful but is really nothing but a bundle and a little smooth on the tooth in the matter of age. However, she is good company and Mrs. News says they find they have much in common including the cocktails and the rumbas.

It seems they both also like to play bridge and Mrs. Bidkar invites Mrs. News to her apartment, stating that she has several friends in every so often to play this bridge. So Mrs. News goes to the apartment, which is in East Fifty-seventh Street and very nice, at that, and she discovers that the friends are all young and married beautifuls like herself. There are three of them and one has the name of Mrs. Smythe and another the name of Mrs. Brown, but what the third one’s name is Mrs. News says she does not remember as it is a long name, and anyway this one does not seem as well acquainted with Mrs. Bidkar as the others and does not have much to say.

Anyway, from now on they all play bridge in Mrs. Bidkar’s apartment three or four afternoons a week and sip plenty of cocktails in between hands and a pleasant time is had by one and all, according to Mrs. News. Then one day after playing bridge they are sitting around working on the cocktail and talking of different matters, when it comes out that they are all unhappy in their married lives. In fact, it comes out that they all hate their husbands no little and wish to be shed of them and Mrs. News states that the one who wishes this the most is Mrs. Bidkar.

Mrs. News says that Mrs. Bidkar declares she wishes her Olaf is dead so she can collect his life insurance and lead her own life in her own way, and then she starts asking the others if their husbands carry such insurance and it seems they do and finally Mrs. Bidkar says as if in a joke that it will be a good idea if they dispose of their husbands and put the insurance moo in a common pool. She says one may put more in the jackpot than another, but since it will scarcely be possible for them to dispose of five different husbands all at once the pool will give each a drawing account after it starts until the whole deal is carried out.

Well, it seems from the way Mrs. News tells it that Mrs. Bidkar keeps making quite a joke about the idea and the others join in, especially as they keep pecking away at cocktails, and after a while it is a big laugh all the way around. Then Mrs. Bidkar suggests that to make it more of a joke they deal out the cards to see which is to be the first to dispose of her husband and the one who draws the nine of diamonds is to be it, and Mrs. News gets the nine.

So the party breaks up with everybody still laughing and joking with Mrs. News over winning the prize and she is laughing, too, but as she is leaving Mrs. Bidkar calls her back and hands her a little vial which she states contains cyanide of potassium and whispers that after Mrs. News thinks it over she will see that many a true word is said in jest and that perhaps she will wish to use the cyanide where it will do the most good. Then Mrs. News says before she can say aye, yes, or no, Mrs. Bidkar pushes her out the door and closes it, still laughing.

“So,” Mrs. News says, “I come here to the Canary Club and I get to thinking what a great sin I am guilty of in participating in such a joke, even though my husband is really nothing but an old curmudgeon and is related to Clarence Closeclutch when it comes to money, and I become so remorseful that I decide to take the cyanide myself when I am interrupted by the good-looking gentleman striking you. By the way,” she says, “do you know if he rumbas?”

Now this story seems rather interesting to me and I am expecting Ambrose Hammer to become greatly excited by it, because it sounds like a crime mystery and next to love Ambrose Hammer’s greatest hobby is crime mystery. He often vexes the cops quite some by poking his nose into their investigations and trying to figure out who does what. To tell the truth, Ambrose’s interest is sometimes so divided between love and crime that it is hard to tell whether he wishes to be Clark Gable or Sherlock Holmes, though the chances are he wishes to be both. But I can see that Ambrose is half asleep and when Mrs. News concludes her tale he speaks to her quite severely as follows:

“Madam,” he says, “of course you are a victim of a gag. However,” he says, “you are such a swell rumba dancer I will overlook your wasting my time with such a dreary recital. Let us shake it up a little more on the dance floor and then I must return to my office and write a Sunday article advising the sanitation authorities to suppress Brogan Wilmington’s play before it contaminates the entire community. He is the guy you flatten with your lobster Newburg. He is not good-looking, either, and he cannot rumba a lick. I forget to mention it before,” Ambrose says, “but I am Ambrose Hammer.”

Mrs. News does not seem to know the name and this really cuts Ambrose deeply, so he is not sorry to see her depart. Then he goes to his office and I go home to bed and the chances are neither of us will give the incident another thought if a guy by the name of Dr. Brumby News does not happen to drop dead in the Canary Club one night while in the act of committing the rumba with his wife.

Ambrose and I are sitting in Mindy’s restaurant on Broadway when he reads an item in an early edition of a morning blat about this, and as Ambrose has a good memory for names he calls my attention to the item and states that the wife in question is undoubtedly the beautiful who tells us the unusual story.

“My goodness, Ambrose,” I say, “do you suppose she gives the guy the business after all?”

“No,” Ambrose says, “such an idea is foolish. It says here he undoubtedly dies of heart disease. He is sixty-three years old and at this age the price is logically thirty to one that a doctor will die of heart disease. Of course,” Ambrose says, “if it is known that a doctor of sixty-three is engaging in the rumba, the price is one hundred to one.”

“But Ambrose,” I say, “maybe she knows the old guy’s heart is weak and gets him to rumba figuring that it will belt him out quicker than cyanide.”

“Well,” Ambrose says, “it is a theory, of course, but I do not think there is anything in it. I think maybe she feels so sorry for her wicked thoughts about him that she tries to be nice to him and gets him to go out stepping with her, but with no sinister motives whatever. However, let us give this no further consideration. Doctors die of heart disease every day. Do I tell you that I see Hilda last night and that she believes she is nearer a settlement with Hiffenbrower? She is breakfasting with him at his hotel almost every morning and feels that he is softening up. Ah,” Ambrose says, “how I long for the hour I can take her in my arms and call her my own dear little wife.”

I am less interested in Hilda than ever at this moment, but I am compelled to listen for two hours to Ambrose tell about his love for her and about his suffering and I make up my mind to give him a miss until he gets over this one. Then about a week later he sends for me to come to his office saying he wishes me to go with him to see a new play, and while I am there waiting for Ambrose to finish some work, who comes in but Mrs. News. She is all in mourning and as soon as she sees Ambrose she begins to cry and she says to him like this:

“Oh, Mr. Hammer,” she says, “I do not kill my husband.”

“Why,” Ambrose says, “certainly not. By no means and not at all. But,” Ambrose says, “it is most injudicious of you to permit him to rumba at his age.”

“It is his own desire,” Mrs. News says. “It is his method of punishing me for being late for dinner a few times. He is the most frightful rumba dancer that ever lives and he knows it is torture to me to dance with a bad rumba dancer, so he takes me out and rumbas me into a state approaching nervous exhaustion before he keels over himself. Mr. Hammer, I do not like to speak ill of the dead but my late husband really has a mean disposition. But,” she says, “I do not kill him.”

“Nobody says you do,” Ambrose says.

“Yes,” Mrs. News says, “somebody does. Do you remember me telling you about drawing the cards at Mrs. Bidkar’s apartment to see who is to dispose of her husband first?”

“Oh,” Ambrose says, “you mean the little joke they play on you? Yes,” he says, “I remember.”

“Well,” Mrs. News says, “Mrs. Bidkar now says it is never a joke at all. She says it is all in earnest and claims I know it is all the time. She is around to see me last night and says I undoubtedly give my husband poison and that I must turn his insurance money into the pool when I collect it. There is quite a lot of it. Over two hundred thousand dollars, Mr. Hammer.”

“Look,” Ambrose says, “this is just another of Mrs. Bidkar’s little jokes. She seems to have quite a sense of humor.”

“No,” Mrs. News says, “it is no joke. She is very serious. She says unless I turn in the money she will expose me to the world and there will be a horrible scandal and I will go to jail and not be able to collect a cent of the insurance money. She just laughs when I tell her I spill the cyanide she gives me and says if I do, I probably get more poison somewhere else and use it and that she and the others are entitled to their share of the money just the same because she furnishes the idea. Mr. Hammer, you must remember seeing me spill the cyanide.”

“Mrs. N.,” Ambrose says, “does anyone tell you yet that you make a lovely widow? But no matter,” he says. “Yes I remember hearing you say you spill something but I do not look to see. Are you positive you do not do as Mrs. Bidkar suggests and get some other destructive substance and slip it to your husband by accident?”

Well, at this Mrs. News begins crying very loudly indeed, and Ambrose has to spend some time soothing her and I wish to state that when it comes to soothing a beautiful there are few better soothers than Ambrose Hammer on the island of Manhattan. Then when he gets her quieted down he says to her like this:

“Now,” Ambrose says, “just leave everything to me. I am commencing to sniff something here. But,” he says, “in the meantime remain friendly with Mrs. Bidkar. Let her think you are commencing to see things her own way. Maybe she will hold another drawing.”

“Oh,” Mrs. News says, “she has. She tells me the one whose name I cannot remember draws the nine of diamonds only the day before my husband departs this life. It is a long name with a kind of a foreign sound. Mrs. Bidkar says she has a lot of confidence in this one just on her looks although she does not know her intimately. I only wish I can think of the name. I have a dreadful time thinking of names. I remember yours when I happen to see it over an article in the paper the other day about Brogan Wilmington’s play and then I remember, too, that you mention that he is the good-looking gentleman in the Canary Club the night we meet. Mr. Hammer,” she says, “you say some very mean things about his play.”

“Well,” Ambrose says, “I do not know about the propriety of a beautiful in widow’s weeds attending the theater, but I happen to have a couple of skulls to Wilmington’s play right here in my desk and I will give them to you and you can go and see for yourself that it really is most distressing. Probably you will see Wilmington himself standing in the lobby taking bows for no reason whatever, and I hope and trust you take another close glaum at him and you will see that he is not good looking. And,” Ambrose says, “I tell you once more he is a total bust at the rumba.”

“Why,” Mrs. News says, “I will be delighted to see his play. It may help break the monotony of being a widow, which is quite monotonous to be sure, even after a very short time. I almost miss poor Brummy in spite of his narrow views on punctuality for dinner, but please do something about Mrs. Bidkar.”

Then she leaves us, and Ambrose and I gaze at the new play which seems to me to be all right but which Ambrose says is a great insult to the theater because Ambrose is very hard to please about plays, and it is some days before I see him again. Naturally, I ask him if he does anything about Mrs. News’s case and Ambrose says:

“Yes,” he says, “I prod around in it to some extent and I find it is an attempt at blackmail, just as I suspect. It is a most ingenious setup, at that. I look up Mrs. Smythe and Mrs. Brown and one is a chorus gorgeous by the name of Beerbaum and the other is a clerk in a Broadway lingerie shop by the name of Cooney. Neither of them is ever married as far as anybody knows. Mrs. Bidkar is originally out of Chicago and has a husband, but,” Ambrose says, “nobody seems to know who he is or where he is.”

“But Ambrose,” I say, “how can Mrs. Smythe and Mrs. Brown enter into a deal to dispose of their husbands as Mrs. News states when they have no husbands? Is this entirely honest?”

“Why,” Ambrose says, “they are stooges. You see,” he says, “Mrs. Bidkar has a little moo and she rents this apartment and uses these two as trimming. Her idea is to pick up dumb beautifuls such as Mrs. News who are not too happy with their husbands and get them wedged in on such a situation as develops here, and the other two help out.”

“Ambrose,” I say, “do you mean to tell me this Mrs. Bidkar is so heartless as to plan to have these beautifuls she picks up chill their husbands?”

“No,” Ambrose says. “This is not her plan at all. She has no idea they will actually do such a thing. But she does figure to maneuver them into entering into the spirit of what she calls a joke just as she does Mrs. News, the cocktails helping out no little. It all sounds very harmless to the married beautiful until Mrs. Bidkar comes around afterward and threatens to tell the husband that his wife is a party to a scheme of this nature. Naturally,” Ambrose says, “such a wife is very eager to settle with Mrs. Bidkar for whatever she can dig up.”

“Why, Ambrose,” I say, “it is nothing but a shakedown, which is very old-fashioned stuff.”

“Yes,” Ambrose says, “it is a shake, all right. And,” he says, “it makes me very sad to learn from Mrs. Smythe and Mrs. Brown, who work with Mrs. Bidkar in other cities, that many husbands must be willing to believe anything of their ever-lovings, even murder, and that the wives know it, because they always settle promptly with Mrs. Bidkar. She is a smart old broad. It is a pity she is so nefarious. Mrs. Smythe and Mrs. Brown are very grateful when they find I am not going to put them in jail,” Ambrose says. “I have their phone numbers.”

“Well,” I say, “now there is nothing left to be done but to clap this Mrs. Bidkar in the pokey and inform Mrs. News that she can quit worrying. Why, goodness gracious, Ambrose,” I say, “Mrs. Bidkar is really a great menace to be at large in a community. She ought to be filed away for life.”

“Yes,” Ambrose says, “what you say is quite true, but if we put her in jail it will all come out in the blats and Mrs. News cannot afford such notoriety. It may bother her in collecting her insurance. Let us go and see Mrs. Bidkar and explain to her that the best thing she can do is to hit the grit out of town.”

So we get in a taxicab and go to an address in East Fifty-seventh Street that turns out to be a high-toned apartment house, and Ambrose stakes the elevator guy to a deuce and the guy takes us up to the sixth floor without going to the trouble of announcing us on the house phone first and points to a door. Then Ambrose pushes the buzzer and presently a female character appears and gazes at us in a most hospitable manner.

She is short and is wearing a negligee that permits her to widen out freely all the way around and she has straw-colored hair and a large smile and while she is by no means a beautiful, still you cannot say she is a crow. In fact, I am somewhat surprised when Ambrose asks her if she is Mrs. Bidkar and she states that she is, as I am expecting a genuine old komoppo. We enter an elegantly furnished living room and she asks our business, and Ambrose says:

“Well, Mrs. B.,” he says, “you almost get a good break when old Doc News drops dead after you stake his wife to the poison because it looks as if you have her where she can never wiggle off no matter what she says. But,” Ambrose says, “my friend Mrs. News is cute enough to seek my advice and counsel.”

“Yes?” Mrs. Bidkar says. “And who are you?”

“Never mind,” Ambrose says. “I am here to tell you that if you are present in these parts tomorrow morning you will find yourself in the canneroo.”

At this, Mrs. Bidkar stops smiling and a very hard look indeed comes into her eyes and she says:

“Listen, guy, whoever you are,” she says. “If you are a friend of Mrs. News you will tell her to get it on the line at once and save herself trouble. I may go to jail,” she says, “but so will she and I can stand it better than she can because I am there before, and anyway the charge against me will not be poisoning my husband.”

“Mrs. Bidkar,” Ambrose says, “you know Mrs. News does not poison her husband.”

“No?” Mrs. Bidkar says. “Who does, then? They cannot pin it on me because Mrs. News herself claims she spills the stuff I give her and which she thinks is cyanide but which is really nothing but water, so she must get something else to do the job. Her own statement lets me out. But if you take her story that she does not poison him at all, you must be dumber than she is, although,” Mrs. Bidkar says, “I will never believe such a thing is possible.”

“Water, hey?” Ambrose says. ‘Well, Mrs. Bidkar,” he says, “I can see that you really believe Mrs. News is guilty of this poisoning, so I will have to show you something I have here,” he says, “a little document from the medical examiner stating that an autopsy on the remains of the late Dr. Brumby News discloses no sign of poison whatever. You can confirm this by calling up the district attorney, who has the autopsy performed and who is still very angry at me for putting him to a lot of bother for nothing,” Ambrose says.

“An autopsy?” Mrs. Bidkar says, taking the paper and reading it. “I see. Tomorrow morning, do you say? Well,” she says, “you need not mind looking in again as I will be absent. Good day,” she says.

Then Ambrose and I take our departure and when we are going along the street I suddenly think of something and I say to him like this:

“An autopsy, Ambrose?” I say. “Why, such an action indicates that you never entirely believe Mrs. News yourself, does it not?”

“Oh,” Ambrose says, “I believe her, all right, but I always consider it a sound policy to look a little bit behind a beautiful’s word on any proposition. Besides, cyanide has an odor and I do not remember noticing such an odor in the Canary Club and this makes me wonder somewhat about Mrs. News when I begin looking the situation over. But,” Ambrose says, “of course Mrs. Bidkar clears this point up. Do you know what I am wondering right this minute? I am wondering what ever happens to Mrs. Bidkar’s husband,” he says.

Well, personally I do not consider this a matter worth thinking about, so I leave Ambrose at a corner and I do not see him again for weeks when we get together in the Canary Club for another dinner, and while we are sitting there who comes past our table without her mourning and looking very gorgeous indeed but Mrs. Brumby News.

When she sees Ambrose she stops and gives him a large good evening and Ambrose invites her to sit down and she does same but she states that she is on a meet with a friend and cannot remain with us long. She sits there chatting with Ambrose about this and that and he is so attentive that it reminds me of something and I say to him like this:

“Ambrose,” I say, “I understand the course of your true love with Hilda may soon be smoothed out. I hear Hiffenbrower is in a hospital and may not be with us much longer. Well,” I say, “let me be the first to congratulate you.”

Now Mrs. News looks up and says:

“Hilda?” she says. “Hiffenbrower?” she says. “Why, this is the name of the other girl at Mrs. Bidkar’s I am never able to remember. Yes, Hilda Hiffenbrower.”

Naturally, I am greatly surprised and I gaze at Ambrose and he nods and says:

“Yes,” he says, “I know it from the day I begin my investigation, but,” he says, “I am too greatly shocked and pained to mention the matter. She becomes acquainted with Mrs. Bidkar the same way Mrs. News does. Hilda is always quick to learn and personally I feel that Hiffenbrower makes a mistake in not canceling her out as the beneficiary of his insurance when they first separate. It is unfair to place great temptation before any beautiful and,” Ambrose says, “especially Hilda.”

“Well,” he says, “Hiffenbrower is suffering from prolonged doses of powdered glass in his cereal but you are wrong about his condition. They are laying even money he beats it, although of course his digestion may be slightly impaired. I hear the cops trace Hilda to South America. Oh, well,” Ambrose says, “I am through with the beautifuls forever. Mrs. N., do you care to push a rumba around with me?”

“No,” Mrs. News says, “here comes my friend. I think you meet him before. In fact,” she says, “you are responsible for us getting together by sending me to the theater on the free tickets that night.”

And who is the friend but this Brogan Wilmington, the playwright, whose play is now running along quite successfully and making plenty of beesom in spite of what Ambrose states about it, and as Mrs. News gets up from the table to join him, Brogan Wilmington gazes at Ambrose and says to him like this:

“Bah,” Brogan Wilmington says.

“Bah right back to you,” Ambrose says, and then he begins going through his pockets looking for something.

“Now where do I put those phone numbers of Mrs. Smythe and Mrs. Brown?” Ambrose says.