Charlton and Gray sat down to supper at the long table where the Superior Being was already drinking his third cup of coffee. The exquisite privilege of doing as he pleased was a great stimulant to Charlton’s appetite, and knives and forks were the greatest of luxuries.
“Seems to me,” said Jim, as he sat and watched Albert, “seems to me you a’n’t so finicky ‘bout vittles as you was. Sheddin’ some of yer idees, maybe.”
“Yes, I think I am.”
“Wal, you see you hed too thick a coat of idees to thrive. I guess a good curryin’ a’n’t done you no pertickeler hurt, but blamed ef it didn’t seem mean to me at first. I’ve cussed about it over and over agin on every mile ’twixt here and St. Paul. But curryin’s healthy. I wish some other folks as I know could git put through weth a curry-comb as would peel the hull hide offen ’em.”
This last remark was accompanied by a significant look at the rough board partition that separated the dining-room from the bar-room. For Westcott’s drunken voice could be heard singing snatches of negro melodies in a most melancholy tone.
Somebody in the bar-room mentioned Charlton’s name.
“Got out, did he?” said Westcott in a maudlin tone. “How’d ’e get out? How’d ’e like it fur’s he went? Always liked simple diet, you know.
“Oh! if I wuz a jail-bird,
With feathers like a crow,
I’d flop around and—
“Wat’s the rest? Hey? How does that go? Wonder how it feels to be a thief? He! he! he!”
Somehow the voice and the words irritated Albert beyond endurance. He lost his relish for supper and went out on the piazza.
“Git’s riled dreffle easy,” said Jim as Charlton disappeared. “Fellers weth idees does. I hope he’ll gin Wes’cott another thrashin’.”
“He’s powerful techy,” said the Poet. “Kinder curus, though. I wanted to salivate Wes’cott wunst, and he throwed my pistol into the lake.”
What to do about going to see Isabel?
Albert knew perfectly well that he would be obliged to visit her. Isa had no doubt heard of his arrival before this time. The whole village must know it, for there was a succession of people who came on the hotel piazza to shake hands with him. Some came from friendliness, some from curiosity, but none remained long in conversation with him. For in truth conversation was quite embarrassing under the circumstances. You can not ask your acquaintance, “How have you been?” when his face is yet pale from confinement in a prison; you can not inquire how he liked Stillwater or Sing Sing, when he must have disliked what he saw of Stillwater or Sing Sing. One or two of the villagers asked Albert how he had “got along,” and then blushed when they remembered that he couldn’t have “got along” at all. Most of them asked him if Metropolisville had “grown any” since he left, and whether or not he meant to stay and set up here, and then floundered a little and left him. For most people talk by routine. Whatever may be thought of development from monkeys, it does seem that a strong case might be made out in favor of a descent from parrots.