Page:O Henry Prize Stories of 1924.djvu/186

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’Ow about some beer?”

Not a dissenting voice—practical thinking like this has built up the British Empire. They looked around them for a coffee shop.

“We’ll have to get a move on or it’ll be closing time,” remarked a gob.

At last they found one at a curve in the street.

“Well, well, well!” exclaimed Hardtack, jovially, as they drew several tables together and sat down.

“Wot ho, matey!” It was the hairy gent who had engaged his attention earlier in the evening. They grinned at each other.

“You can beat me runnin’,” said Hardtack. “Yus, and I can beat your blinkin’ ’ead orf at anythink,” retorted the bluejacket, giving him a lusty slap on the back, and proceedings started in all good fellowship.

There was no beer to be had, but the landlord produced a fair quality of cognac. They stayed there for nearly an hour, long past closing time. In vain the harassed proprietor besought them to leave. They pretended not to understand.

As the minutes passed, the entente cordiale became a love feast. They pledged one another; they solemnly vowed eternal friendship. ‘There were songs, all of them sentimental, with bluejackets and gobs roaring the chorus in close harmony.

And then—“Strike me dead, but you blokes just got there in the nick o’ time,” remarked the hairy-chested man as he wiped his mouth with the back of his hand.

“But we always do,” replied Hardtack. “Ain’t you noticed that, ol’-timer?”

“Wot d’you mean by that?”

“Well, we saved your hides, didn’t we?”

“Wot of it?”


“I know wot you mean! You tyke that back, do you ’ear? Tyke it back!”

“Take back nothin’! That goes as she lays!” Hardtack retorted.

The bluejacket pushed back his chair and very deliberately moved the table aside in order to make room for the ceremonies.