Page:Manhattan Transfer (John Dos Passos, 1925).djvu/395

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The Burthen of Nineveh


Congo bit his lips. Then he tapped Jimmy gently on the knee with his forefinger. "In a minute we'll get to the 'ouse. . . . I give you one very good drink." . . . Yes wait," Congo shouted to the chauffeur as he walked with a stately limp, leaning on a goldknobbed cane, into the streaky marble hallway of the apartmenthouse. As they went up in the elevator he said, "Maybe you stay to dinner." "I'm afraid I cant tonight, Con . . . Armand."

"I have one very good cook. . . . When I first come to New York maybe twenty years ago, there was a feller on the boat. . . . This is the door, see A. D., Armand Duval. Him and me ran away togedder an always he say to me, 'Armand you never make a success, too lazy, run after the leetle girls too much. . . . Now he's my cook . . . first class chef, cordon bleu, eh? Life is one funny ting, Meester 'Erf."

"Gee this is fine," said Jimmy Herf leaning back in a highbacked Spanish chair in the blackwalnut library with a glass of old Bourbon in his hand. "Congo . . . I mean Armand, if I'd been God and had to decide who in this city should make a million dollars and who shouldnt I swear you're the man I should have picked."

"Maybe by and by the misses come in. Very pretty I show you." He made curly motions with his fingers round his head. "Very much blond hair." Suddenly he frowned. "But Meester 'Erf, if dere is anyting any time I can do for you, money or like dat. you let me know eh? It's ten years now you and me very good frien. . . . One more drink?"

On his third glass of Bourbon Herf began to talk. Congo sat listening with his heavy lips a little open, occasionally nodding his head. "The difference between you and me is that you're going up in the social scale, Armand, and I'm going down. . . . When you were a messboy on a steamboat I was a horrid little chalkyfaced kid living at the Ritz. My mother and father did all this Vermont marble blackwalnut grand Babylonian stuff . . . there's nothing more for me to do about it. . . . Women are like rats, you know, they leave a sinking ship. She's going to marry this man Baldwin