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The Pepper and Salt Man

He was a man, I should say about sixty years old, a most uninteresting age, and a homely, weather-beaten fellow too, when you stopped to look at him. His suit was pepper-and-salt, and he was just like his suit. Good as gold, I have no doubt, a roomer of whom his landlady could say: "He comes and he goes and is never a speck of trouble."

Still, he might have been as good as Saint Anthony but no one would ever have noticed him except for what happened. What happened wasn't so much either but it was enough to illumine that dun, common-place man so that everyone in the side-seating trolley was suddenly aware of his presence. What happened was ten months old and was a girl.

A regular girl, one hundred per cent feminine. One could tell just by the way she wore her clothes, by her daintiness, by the tilt of her bonnet and by the way smiled out from under it. I can't describe a baby girl any more than I describe a sunset or moonlight or any of the wonders of God - I can only say that she was everything that a baby girl should have been.

When she entered with her mother we all edged and crowded over but the pepper-and-salt man won. Down she sat close beside him. Then you should have seen that man, the foolish, old fellow. He turned toward her; he beamed; he mentally devoured her; he never took his eyes off her long enough to wink.

When she seemed about to turn her restlessly bobbing head toward him, his hands moved and the strong muscles of his face worked in excitement. Then, when she smiled his way and for an instant there was a flash of tiny, milk teeth, that man, the old silly, made the most dreadful facial contortion, something between a wink, a smile, a booh and a grimace.

Then when she turned from him he sat there eating her up. I saw him look reverently at her exquisite hands and at the awkward little legs sticking out straight ahead. When her mother arranged her ruffles he watched every move - absorbed. Then he would wait eager, hoping and praying for her to smile his way again. . .

Why, I was waiting for her smile too and so was every one of the staid and grown-up people in the car. I don't know when we would ever have come out from the spell of that ten-months-old baby girl if just then the conductor had not called out reproachfully - "Central Avenue - Central Avenue." Then the pepper-and-salt man jumped and looked nervously out and rushed for the door. I, myself, had to walk back two blocks and when I turned at my corner he was still going back to his street.

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