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Page:Stanwood Pier--The ancient grudge.djvu/36

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25
STEWART CONFERS A FAVOR

"Oh, shut up!" said Floyd, choking him by the back of the neck playfully.

Stewart cut the song off with an ornate sweep of the ladle.

"Hero, hero," muttered Jim Hobart, squirming in Floyd's grip.

"He is a hero!" Stewart proclaimed contentiously. "I was under water thirty-five minutes. Some say an hour. I was dead."

"How did it feel to be dead?" asked one boy. He swayed a little as he asked the question, but he was serious and pop-eyed.

"Why, just dead, that's all. The way you'll be feeling to-night."

"I'm not tight; I've never been tight in my life. I—"

The indignant protest was suddenly reduced to a gurgle. Stewart had spied the boy's collar-button, and with a whimsical impulse had darted at it and was pressing it into his windpipe.

"Press his button!" shrieked Stewart in delight, releasing him. "Get him talking! Press his button!"

The youth talked in resentment; Stewart sprang again, sure-fingered, and held him writhing and gasping. The others admired the trick; one after another tested it on the impotently raging victim.

Suddenly Stewart turned to Floyd. "Here, you dirty old thing, why don't you get tight? Here's another glass for you. You've got to get tight—can't always be a hero."

"Oh, sure," said Floyd good-humoredly, taking the glass. But he drank only a little of the punch, and after that made a pretense of drinking.

They sang two more songs; then Jim Hobart came up, and after inspecting Floyd again for a while, suggested that they should all dress like heroes. This proposal met with an instant response; neckties were carefully taken