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Argosy All-Story Weekly, December 30, 1922

Art for Artie

By THOMAS THURSDAY

THE first thing that I missed when I ambled into the All-Pure Lunch was Nellie Magee, the horn-rimmed cashier. I had been away on the road for two months and on my return I hotfooted it for the one-arm-pay-as-you-leave foodatarium.

But where was the charming Nellie? In her place sat an austere blonde. Blue eyes that pierced, hair that reminds one of a slice of Heaven, and a mouth that would have made Mr. Antony think Cleopatra was Topsy. I grabbed the proffered ticket and walked up to the counter. There I found Artie Magee, Nellie's brother, still on the job, serving ham and eggs, et cetera, to all comers.

"Howdy, Joe!" welcomed Artie. "Just blow in town?"

"Yep," I said. "Where's Nellie?"

"Not here any more. How d'ye like the new one?"

"Not so bad," I admitted. "She could pose for the magazine covers, and get away with it."

"Fine girl," volunteered Artie, as he changed his apron.

"But why did Nellie leave?" I persisted, Frankly, I was sort of partial to Nellie.

"It's a good story. Wait a moment—I'll tell you all about it while I eat. Go over there and sit down. I'll get Mike to watch the counter. Hey, Mike!"

I sat at the table, and Artie joined me a minute later with a tray, containing beef stew, a side of macaroni, and several other mysteries. He abstractedly stirred the stew with a fork, then grinned boyishly.

"Joe," he began, "d'ye remember a tall, solemn- looking bird that used to come in here for breakfast?"

"Do you mean the one that looked like a professional humorist or a college professor?" I asked.

"I don't know what them there college professors look like—but you know the guy I mean—the one that used to come in most of the time with a bunch of books under his wing, see? Yeah, maybe he did look like what you said, only it turns out that he wasn't. Well, he used to stare at Nellie, you remember, but when he would slip her his check he'd never say a word."

"One of those timid boys, eh?"

"Yeah—sort of bashful. Well, you know how Nellie always had some books around up there near the register, and when she wasn't busy relieving the customers of the coin, she'd open 'em up and read. She was what you calls romantic, see, but anyway one day he asks me who the cashier was and when I told him that she was no less than my sister, he asks me would I care to introduce him."

"What was the idea?" I wanted to know.

"Wait a minute—I'm coming to that part, see. I asks him what he wants to know her for, and he says that he has noticed that she was always reading and says that he likes highbrow girls, and all that. So I says to him that I would speak to Nellie about it and then let him know what she says. Well, what d'ye suppose she does say, hey?"

"How should I know?" I asked. "But I hope that she gave him the air!"

"No, sir! I no more than mentions that Mr. Brown was willing to meet her than she up and near shouts for joy! Says she was tired of talking to a bunch of lowbrows, and that she would be glad to meet a highbrow for a change. Right away, see, she must have took him for what you says he was, so I introduces 'em the next day and she was tickled silly to meet him, and so they talks for a while and I went behind the counter.

"That night," went on Artie, "Nellie tells me that she has been asked by Mr. Brown to go to some highbrow lecture about a nipper named Nietzsche—did you ever hear of 'im?—that was to be held down in that there Greenwich Village place. She's all excited, s...

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