COMMENTAIRE BREF ON CHRISTMAS GIVING

My friend and partner Waldemar von Zedtwitz elects occasionally to patronize a venerable and quite famous eating-place in our city, and early in this month of December, 1961, he took me there with him and we had a nice lunch, for which he paid as he always does. I knew about the place, of course, but I had not been there for so many years that it had passed from my consciousness and I was grateful for the reminder. Less than two weeks afterward, while doing my belated Christmas shopping in the same neighborhood, I found myself with the time and the inclination to have lunch, so I went to the same restaurant and settled myself at a table in the same sector with the same waitress.

The waitress, a matronly and pleasant woman of middling age, showed no sign of recognition until I had finished my meal and she had deposited my check on the table, face down; but then she asked, tentatively,

"That man you were in here with last time..."

"Yes?" I said with an encouraging inflection.

"Do you know him pretty well?"

"Indeed I do," I replied. "He is Baron von Zedtwitz, who is a senior partner of the firm in which I am also a partner."

"He's pretty rich, isn't he?"

"I'm sure one would say that," I acknowledged.

"And sort of eccentric, isn't he?"

"On the contrary," I said, "I would describe Mr. von Zedtwitz as a conservative, of quite conventional behavior -- a gentleman of the old school."

"Well, that's the way he seems to me now," my waitress conceded, "but you know what happened the first time he came in here, that was maybe five, six years ago?"

"I don't know," I said; "but" -- being candid for a change -- "I would like to know."

"Well," said my waitress, "this man, this Mr. Fonce Edwards, he came in and sat down about where you're sitting, all alone like you are, and he ordered something real expensive, his check was maybe three-eighty-five or something, and he ate it and I brought him his check and put it on the table and then walked away like I always do, and he just sat there.

"He wasn't reading a newspaper or a book like some people do after they eat. He wasn't waiting for anybody, I could tell that. He was just sitting. He sat there for half an hour, maybe an hour."

"Probably he was considering his next move in a correspondence chess match," I suggested, "or the solution to a bridge problem, or how to construe some obscure verse in Latin or Greek poetry."

"Could be," said my waitress dubiously, "but the way it looked to us -- me and the other waitresses here -- he didn't have enough to pay his bill and he didn't have the nerve to stand up and say so. After all, he hadn't had a shave, and he needed a haircut, and his pants hadn't been pressed in I don't know how long. But he was such a nice-looking gentleman! So we took up a collection for him."

"You what?"

"We took up a collection -- us waitresses -- so he could pay his check. I put in a dollar, because he was my customer, you know, and the other girls chipped in a quarter, or thirty-five cents, or maybe a half, until we had about four dollars, and I put it in a saucer and sort of casually walked by his table and put it down next to the check. And you know what happened then?"

"No, I don't know," I admitted, "but I'm dying to find out."

"Well," said my waitress, " this Mr. Edwards reached into his pants pocket and pulled out what he had there and it was something like a nickel and two or three pennies (we were all watching). He shook his head and us girls got a warm feeling all over. Then he reached into his coat pocket and pulled out a wad of bills that would choke a horse and he put a five-dollar bill in the saucer and passed it along to the next table."

--Albert H. Morehead