Bunker Bean by Harry Leon Wilson


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Page 2

A rustling of papers from the opposite side of the desk promised a
diversion of his thoughts. Bean was a hireling and the person who
rustled the papers was his master, but the youth bestowed upon the great
man a look of profound, albeit not unkindly, contempt. It could be seen,
even as he sat in the desk-chair, that he was a short man; not an inch
better than Bean, there. He was old. Bean, when he thought of the
matter, was satisfied to guess him as something between fifty and
eighty. He didn't know and didn't care how many might be the years of
little Jim Breede. Breede was the most negligible person he knew.

He was nearly nothing, in Bean's view, if you came right down to it.
Besides being of too few inches for a man and unspeakably old, he was
unsightly. Nothing of the Gordon Dane about Breede. The little hair left
him was an atrocious foggy gray; never in order, never combed, Bean
thought. The brows were heavy, and still curiously dark, which made them
look threatening. The eyes were the coldest of gray, a match for the
hair in colour, and set far back in caverns. The nose was blunt, the
chin a mere knobby challenge, and between them was the unloveliest
moustache Bean had ever been compelled to observe; short, ragged, faded
in streaks. And wrinkles--wrinkles wheresoever there was room for them:
across the forehead that lost itself in shining yellow scalp; under the
eyes, down the cheeks, about the traplike mouth. He especially loathed
the smaller wrinkles that made tiny squares and diamonds around the back
of Breede's neck.

Sartorially, also, Bean found Breede objectionable. He forever wore the
same kind of suit. The very same suit, one might have thought, only Bean
knew it was renewed from time to time; it was the kind called "a decent
gray," and it had emphatically not been cut "to give the wearer the
appearance of perfect physical development." So far as Bean could
determine the sole intention had been to give the wearer plenty of room
under the arms and at the waist. Bean found it disgusting--a man who had
at least enough leisure to give a little thought to such matters.

Breede's shoes offended him. Couldn't the man pick out something natty,
a shapelier toe, buttons, a neat upper of tan or blue cloth--patent
leather, of course? But nothing of the sort; a strange, thin, nameless
leather, never either shiny or quite dull, as broad at the toe as any
place, no buttons; not even laces; elastic at the sides! Not _shoes_, in
any dressy sense. Things to be pulled on. And always the same, like the
contemptible suits of clothes.

He might have done a little something with his shirts, Bean thought; a
stripe or crossed lines, a bit of gay colour; but no! Stiff-bosomed
white shirts, cuffs that "came off," cuffs that fastened with hideous
metallic devices that Bean had learned to scorn. A collar too loose, a
black satin cravat, _and_ no scarf-pin; not even a cluster of tiny
diamonds.

From Breede and his ignoble attire Bean shifted the disfavour of his
glance to Breede's luncheon tray on the desk between them. Breede's
unvarying luncheon consisted of four crackers composed of a substance
that was said, on the outside of the package, to be "predigested," one
apple, and a glass of milk moderately inflated with seltzer. Bean
himself had fared in princely fashion that day on two veal cutlets
bathed in a German sauce of oily richness, a salad of purple cabbage, a
profusion of vegetables, two cups of coffee and a German pancake that of
itself would have disabled almost any but the young and hardy, or,
presumably, a German.

Bean guessed the cost of Breede's meal to be a bit under eight cents.
His own had cost sixty-five. He despised Breede for a petty economist.

Breede glanced up from his papers to encounter in Bean's eyes only a
look of respectful waiting.

"Take letter G.S. Hubbell gen' traffic mag'r lines Wes' Chicago dear sir
your favour twen'th instant--"

The words came from under that unacceptable moustache of Breede's like a
series of exhausts from a motorcycle. Bean recorded them in his
note-book. His shorthand was a marvel of condensed neatness. Breede had
had trouble with stenographers; he was not easy to "take." He spoke
swiftly, often indistinctly, and it maddened him to be asked to repeat.
Bean had never asked him to repeat, and he inserted the a's and the's
and all the minor words that Breede could not pause to utter. The letter
continued:

"--mus' have report at your earl's' convenience of earnings and expenses
of Grand Valley branch for las' four months with engineer's est'mate of
prob'le cost of repairs and maintenance for nex' year--"

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Books | Photos | Paul Mutton | Sun 18th Aug 2019, 19:32