“Well,” said the Fool-Killer, briskly, “I must be going. You had better go home and sleep it off. Good-night.”
At this I was moved by a sudden fear for Kerner to a softer and more pleading mood. I leaned against the gray man’s sleeve and besought him:
“Good Mr. Fool-Killer, please don’t kill little Kerner. Why can’t you go back South and kill Congressmen and clay-eaters and let us alone? Why don’t you go up on Fifth Avenue and kill millionaires that keep their money locked up and won’t let young fools marry because one of ’em lives on the wrong street? Come and have a drink, Jesse. Will you never get on to your job?”
“Do you know this girl that your friend has made himself a fool about?” asked the Fool-Killer.
“I have the honor,” said I, “and that’s why I called Kerner a fool. He is a fool because he has waited so long before marrying her. He is a fool because he has been waiting in the hopes of getting the consent of some absurd two-million-dollar-fool parent or something of the sort.”
“Maybe,” said the Fool-Killer—“maybe I—I might have looked at it differently. Would you mind going back to the restaurant and bringing your friend Kerner here?”
“Oh, what’s the use, Jesse,” I yawned. “He can’t see you. He didn’t know you were talking to him at the table, You are a fictitious character, you know.”
“Maybe he can this time. Will you go fetch him?”
“All right,” said I, “but I’ve a suspicion that you’re not strictly sober, Jesse. You seem to be wavering and losing your outlines. Don’t vanish before I get back.”
I went back to Kerner and said:
“There’s a man with an invisible homicidal mania waiting to see you outside. I believe he wants to murder you. Come along. You won’t see him, so there’s nothing to be frightened about.”
Kerner looked anxious.
“Why,” said he, “I had no idea one absinthe would do that. You’d better stick to Wuerzburger. I’ll walk home with you.”
I led him to Jesse Holmes’s.
“Rudolf,” said the Fool-Killer, “I’ll give in. Bring her up to the house. Give me your hand, boy.”
“Good for you, dad,” said Kerner, shaking hands with the old man. “You’ll never regret it after you know her.”
“So, you did see him when he was talking to you at the table?” I asked Kerner.
“We hadn’t spoken to each other in a year,” said Kerner. “It’s all right now.”
I walked away.
“Where are you going?” called Kerner.
“I am going to look for Jesse Holmes,” I answered, with dignity and reserve.
TRANSIENTS IN ARCADIA