K (Chapter 10, page 1 of 8)


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Chapter 10

On Monday morning, shortly after the McKee prolonged breakfast was over, a
small man of perhaps fifty, with iron-gray hair and a sparse goatee, made
his way along the Street. He moved with the air of one having a definite
destination but a by no means definite reception.

As he walked along he eyed with a professional glance the ailanthus and
maple trees which, with an occasional poplar, lined the Street. At the
door of Mrs. McKee's boarding-house he stopped. Owing to a slight change
in the grade of the street, the McKee house had no stoop, but one flat
doorstep. Thus it was possible to ring the doorbell from the pavement, and
this the stranger did. It gave him a curious appearance of being ready to
cut and run if things were unfavorable.

For a moment things were indeed unfavorable. Mrs. McKee herself opened the
door. She recognized him at once, but no smile met the nervous one that
formed itself on the stranger's face.

"Oh, it's you, is it?"

"It's me, Mrs. McKee."

"Well?"

He made a conciliatory effort.

"I was thinking, as I came along," he said, "that you and the neighbors had
better get after these here caterpillars. Look at them maples, now."

"If you want to see Tillie, she's busy."

"I only want to say how-d 'ye-do. I'm just on my way through town."

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