Page:Manhattan Transfer (John Dos Passos, 1925).djvu/399

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The Burthen of Nineveh

387

inspiration has been my triune loyalty to my wife, my mother, and my flag.

The long ash from his cigar had broken and fallen on his knees. James Merivale got to his feet and gravely brushed the light ash off his trousers. Then he settled down again and with an intent frown began to read the article on Foreign Exchange in the Wall Street Journal.

They sit up on two stools in the lunchwaggon,

"Say kid how the hell did you come to sign up on that old scow?"

"Wasnt anything else going out east."

"Well you sure have dished your gravy this time kid, cap'n 's a dopehead, first officer's the damnedest crook out o Sing Sing, crew's a lot o bohunks, the ole tub aint worth the salvage of her. . . . What was your last job?"

"Night clerk in a hotel."

"Listen to that cookey . . . Jesus Kerist Amighty look at a guy who'll give up a good job clerkin in a swell hotel in Noo York City to sign on as messboy on Davy Jones' own steam yacht. . . . A fine seacook you're goin to make." The younger man is flushing. "How about that Hamburgher?" he shouts at the counterman.

After they have eaten, while they are finishing their coffee, he turns to his friend and asks in a low voice, "Say Rooney was you ever overseas . . . in the war?"

"I made Saint Nazaire a couple o times. Why?"

"I dunno. . . . It kinder gave me the itch. . . . I was two years in it. Things aint been the same. I used to think all I wanted was to get a good job an marry an settle down, an now I dont give a damn. . . . I can keep a job for six months or so an then I get the almighty itch, see? So I thought I ought to see the orient a bit. . . ."

"Never you mind," says Rooney shaking his head. "You're goin to see it, dont you worry about that."

"What's the damage?" the young man asks the counterman.