This retracing of his footsteps had confused Van Bibber, and he made a complete circuit of the block before he discovered that he had lost his bearings. He was standing just where he had started, and gazing along the line of the elevated road, looking for a station, when the familiar accents of the Object again saluted him.
When Van Bibber faced him the beggar looked uneasy. He was not sure whether or not he had approached this particular gentleman before, but Van Bibber conceived an idea of much subtlety, and deceived the Object by again putting his hand in his pocket.
“Nothing to eat for twenty-four hours! Dear me!” drawled the clubman, sympathetically. “Haven’t you any money, either?”
“Not a cent,” groaned the Object, “an’ I’m just faint for food, sir. S’help me. I hate to beg, sir. It isn’t the money I want, it’s jest food. I’m starvin’, sir.”
“Well,” said Van Bibber, suddenly, “if it is just something to eat you want, come in here with me and I’ll give you your breakfast.” But the man held back and began to whine and complain that they wouldn’t let the likes of him in such a fine place.
“Oh, yes, they will,” said Van Bibber, glancing at the bill of fare in front of the place. “It seems to be extremely cheap. Beefsteak fifteen cents, for instance. Go in,” he added, and there was something in his tone which made the Object move ungraciously into the eating-house.
It was a very queer place, Van Bibber thought, and the people stared very hard at him and his gloves and the gardenia in his coat and at the tramp accompanying him.
“You ain’t going to eat two breakfasts, are yer?” asked one of the very tough-looking waiters of the Object. The Object looked uneasy, and Van Bibber, who stood beside his chair, smiled in triumph.
“You’re mistaken,” he said to the waiter. “This gentleman is starving; he has not tasted food for twenty-four hours. Give him whatever he asks for!”
The Object scowled and the waiter grinned behind his tin tray, and had the impudence to wink at Van Bibber, who recovered from this in time to give the man a half-dollar and so to make of him a friend for life. The Object ordered milk, but Van Bibber protested and ordered two beefsteaks and fried potatoes, hot rolls and two omelettes, coffee, and ham with bacon.
“Holy smoke! watcher think I am?” yelled the Object, in desperation.
“Hungry,” said Van Bibber, very gently. “Or else an impostor. And, you know, if you should happen to be the latter I should have to hand you over to the police.”
Van Bibber leaned easily against the wall and read the signs about him, and kept one eye on a policeman across the street. The Object was choking and cursing through his breakfast. It did not seem to agree with him. Whenever he stopped Van Bibber would point with his stick to a still unfinished dish, and the Object, after a husky protest, would attack it as though it were poison. The people sitting about were laughing, and the proprietor behind the desk smiling grimly.