pippi considered betty's question about "pickings" and took a sip of her cocoa before replying.
"i don't know how many souls i've shown the light. not as many as i might have." she looked at gwendolyn over the rim of her cup as she said this.
betty laughed. "that's great, kiddo. i mean that's too bad. i was talking about stuff you can take to the bank. or to mose."
mose? gwendoyn was immediately attentive. surely, she thought, they must be talking about mr golden, the nice man who owned the pawn shop on morton street.
"no, i haven't found much lately," pippi told betty. she dropped her eyes from gwendolyn.
"might you," gwendolyn asked boldly, "be referring to mr golden, who operates old reliable loans over on morton street?"
"yeah, we were," betty answered. she did not seem too surprised by the question. "sometimes we find stuff in the street, you know? because we keep our ears to the ground and our eyes on the sparrow. you know how it is, here in the big city."
"oh, yes," said gwendolyn, "i too, often find things that can be redeemed for a little ready money. and without even looking. it is amazing what people throw away."
"i think, " said pippi, "that the lord sometimes guides them in throwing things away, that his servants may make good use of them to spread his word."
"right," betty agreed. "speaking of good use, i could use a quarter if you got one to spare. or even a lousy dime."
"uh -" pippi looked at gwendolyn. "somebody might have."
"oh, i have a quarter i can spare, " said gwendolyn. she still had change from the two dollar bill she had given louise and she took a quarter out of her purse and dropped into betty's palm.
"hey thanks, kid," said betty. "you're people. i seen you in here before, right? usually at night. "
"i believe we've spoken before. may i ask a question? of either of you?"
"shoot," betty replied. pippi just stared at gwendolyn.
"do you know of any other establishments nearby like mr golden's - that give such courteous service? i know there is one at bleecker and carmine, but i thought the man there was a bit nasty."
betty laughed. "ha ha, you mean joe? he's not exactly the queen of the may or the prince of wales, but he'll give a good deal to regular customers."
"i did not care for his attitude," gwendolyn repeated.
"you could try larry's on the bowery."
"is 'larry's' the name of the establishment ?"
"no. it's called happy loans or something like that - "
"friendly loans," said pippi.
"whatever," betty continued, "you can't miss it, it's right around the corner from bleecker, on the left."
"thank you so much."
"no, thank you." betty tossed the quarter gwendolyn had given her into the air and caught it, and moved away to the machines.
"so," said pippi to gwendolyn, " you find a lot of stuff in the street, huh?"
"occasionally. but more often auntie margaret or her friends are just throwing things away, and i tell them, oh no, let me see what i can get for it, so they let me have it."
"ah. it's nice to have friends like that. who just give you things."
"yes, i find it so. and i enjoying bargaining with the men in the shops. so long as they act like gentlemen, of course. it's ever so much fun."
"of course. nobody likes to deal with riffraff. " pippi took another sip of her cocoa.
"you know," said gwendolyn, "there was one thing mister nolan said to you, that i thought was particularly obnoxious. "
"mm. what was that?"
"his suggestion that you wanted to get into people's rooms so that you could steal things - i thought that was a terrible thing to even think."
"yes," pippi replied. "but do you know, when you are out and about doing the lord's work, people will say even much worse things to you."
"oh?" said gwendolyn, "like what?'
"things a young lady who goes to miss churchill's school for girls wouldn't even know about."
gwendolyn flushed a little. "i know all sorts of things. i have been to london and paris, you know. and berlin. and once even to vienna."
"right. well, let's talk about something else. something not so nasty."
"very well." gwendolyn was disappointed that pippi had not taken her bait about going into the rooms. "what would you like to talk about?"
"something you seem interested in - money."
gwendolyn flushed again. "there's nothing wrong with money."
"no, there isn't. so how would you like to help me make a little money? and do the lord's work at the same time?"
gwendolyn had no idea where the conversation was going. "perhaps," she answered, after taking a sip of her orange juice. "what exactly are you suggesting?"
"sometimes i go over to the parks - usually washington square but i go all over - and i do a little preaching." pippi looked steadily at gwendolyn. "and people who are moved give me a little money to continue my good work."
"but - i can't - that doesn't sound like anything i could do- , " gwendolyn stammered.
"i'm not asking you to preach. just collect the money while i do. it goes better if one person preaches and another collects. then the preacher can get up a good head of steam and not be interrupted. "
"yes - i can see that."
"the socialists and anarchists and communists do the same thing."
"i am sure."
"so how about it? you want to help me?"
"um -." this was so unexpected that gwendolyn felt her head spin. what would auntie margaret or pierre or serge think? or say? they all made fun of religion if they talked about it at all which they hardly ever did.
and the girls at miss churchill's school - what if any of them saw her? or one of the teachers? like miss cromwerth, the history and english teacher who was so elegant, and so sarcastic?
but - maybe there was some real money in it? she would never know if she didn't try.
pippi was staring at her, waiting for an answer.
"i'll - i'll give it a go," gwendolyn heard herself say. "why not?"
"good. can you shake a tambourine?"
"uh - i don't think i ever have."
"it's not hard."
"then i'll give that a go, too," said gwendolyn. in for a penny, in for a pound, she thought.
"all right," said pippi. she looked out the window. "it looks like the sun might come out. preaching always goes better when the sun shines." she turned back to gwendolyn. "there's no rush. you can finish your cheesecake."
"we'll stop at my place on the way over and pick up some stuff." when gwendolyn looked blank, pippi added, "like the tambourine. and a bible."
"oh, of course."
how strange this was, thought gwendolyn. stranger than any dream. well, maybe she would learn something. you could always learn something from new experiences, right? maybe she would learn something that auntie margaret or serge or pierre did not know. or that even miss cromwerth did not know.
she finished her cheesecake and orange juice, taking her time.