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Rope

(c. 1929)

by Charles MacArthur


Chapter II.

This show of respect was pleasing, Stovich was forced to admit. Certainly he didn’t get any too much consideration at the jail. There he lived, breathed, and had his being simply and solely as “Sap”, an unfortunate sobriquet he had acquired in the first week of his career. It had become so common an appellation that his real name had long ago been forgotten by his associates. “Sap” had a rather friendly significance now, but somehow Stovich could never forgive its definition. It hurt like a sore toe, and as he moved down the street toward the jail, he meditated for the ten-thousandth time on all the reasons that may have inclined his persecutors to fix so durable and so offensive a name upon him. He finally concluded, as he had every time he had considered the matter in the past, that the unpleasant expression and the motives for its application originated with one Ernest Fink, long an assistant warden at the jail.

Ernest, he reflected, had substantial reasons for wishing to belittle him. Briefly, Stovich had cut him out in the affections of Gracie Blaha -- cut him out thoroughly and forever, and in less than a year’s time. He chuckled at the recollection of how he had courted Gracie right under Ernest’s nose; and he snorted out loud at Ernest’s probable feelings when it became known that on this very day the lovely Gracie would be united in bonds of holy matrimony to the enterprising Mr. Stovich. “Sap” Stovich, if you like. He should worry!

Grace didn’t think he was a sap. Grace thought he was a swell fellow, with a smart head on him. Well, why shouldn’t she? Hadn’t he made good?

“You’re damn right I have!” he said aloud in answer to this speculation.

Not that Gracie hadn’t been responsible for his success. He realized that if it hadn’t been for her, he would be a bum, just like Ernest Fink and all the rest of those smart-alecks at the jail. But she had got after him in time. She made him move into the Y.M.C.A. Hotel and save his money; and when he didn’t save it fast enough she saved it for him. Every week he handed her his pay, earned in guarding prisoners between executions. He reserved just fifteen dollars for his personal expenses. After every hanging, he handed her the hundred-dollar fee untouched; and Gracie banked it all.

Leave it to her! In less than a year she had saved seventeen hundred bucks, and it was right there in the old bank in her name! None of those guys at the jail could touch him for any of it. He could tell them he didn’t have it, and it would be the truth. Gracie had put him wise to that.

“You’re a bad little Stovie, and you spend your money foolish,” she used to tell him. “You let me save it, and we’ll have a nice little nest-egg when we get married.”

Gracie had promised to marry him the moment the bank account reached the two-thousand-dollar mark. Now the glad day was at hand. With the three hundred dollars that would be handed to him this morning, their savings would amount to two thousand dollars even, not counting interest.

He wondered how they would spend it. He supposed Gracie ought to have a silk nightie or two, if they didn’t spend a dime on anything else. He knew where to go to get the very one. It was lavender with a lot of lace frills on it. Every day he had created a thousand intoxicating pictures of how she would look with it on; and now, when he considered how soon that picture would be materialized, he could scarcely repress his exhilaration.

“Oh, boy!” he exclaimed, and quickened his pace.


© 2003-04 The Estate of Charles G. MacArthur. All Rights Reserved.


Continue to Chapter Three or Return to Charles Gordon MacArthur Page

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