“Ever hear of Ischl?”
“No,” I said, “what is it? But I warn you beforehand that I sha’n’t touch it if it’s a mixture of sarsaparilla and ginger ale, or lime juice and red ink, or anything like that thing you—”
“It isn’t a drink,” said Jimmie, in disgust. “It’s a town! If people who read your stuff realised how little you know—”
“I am perfectly satisfied,” I said, looking at him firmly, “that it isn’t twenty minutes since you found what Ischl is yourself. You never learned a thing in your life that you didn’t bring it to me as though you had known it for ever, whereas your information is always so fresh that it’s still bubbling, and if Kissingen is a town as well as a drink, why shouldn’t Ischl be a drink as well as a town?”
My triumphant manner was a little annoying that early in the morning, but as Jimmie really had something to say, my gauntlet lay where I cast it, unnoticed by the adversary.
“Now Ischl,” said Jimmie, “is where the Austrian Emperor has his summer residence. It is tucked up in the hills with drives which you would call ‘heavenly.’ People from all over Austria gather there during the season. There will be royalty for my wife; German officers for Bee; heaps of people for you to stare at, and as for me, I don’t need any attraction. I can be perfectly happy where there is no strife and where I can enjoy the delight of a small but interesting family party.”
I smiled at this statement, for when Jimmie is not carefully stirring me up for argument or battle, I always feel his pulse to see if he is ill.
“It will probably please Bee and Mrs. Jimmie,” I said, doubtfully, “and they have been so good to us at the Achensee and Salzburg, perhaps—”
“That’s just what I was thinking,” said Jimmie. “You’re a good old sort. You’re as square as a man.”
At this, I positively gurgled with delight, for it is not once in a million—no, not once in ten million years that Jimmie says anything decent about me to my face. I sometimes hear rumours of approving remarks that he makes behind my back, but I never have been able to run any of them to earth.
“If Ischl is a royal country-seat,” said Jimmie, “I’ll bet you a ’blaue cravatte’ for yourself against a ‘blaue cravatte’ for myself—both to come from Charvet’s—that Bee will know all about it.”
“You can’t bet with me on that because I know I’d lose. I’ll bet that they both know all about it. Let’s ask them.”
“Ever hear of Ischl, Bee?” said Jimmie, as Bee appeared as smartly got up as if she were in New Bond Street.
“Did I ever hear of Ischl?” repeated Bee, in surprise. “Why, certainly. Ischl is where Emperor Franz Josef has his summer home. He is there now with his entire suite, and next Wednesday is his birthday.”
“Say ‘geburt-day,’ Bee,” I pleaded. Nobody paid any attention. Jimmie looked meekly at Bee.