“It’s hard,” George sighed regretfully—“damn’ hard. But whatever you say goes. I’ll keep your secret.”
“Good!” P. Sybarite extended one of his small, delicately modelled hands. “Shake,” said he, smiling wistfully.
When they had locked in the Genius of the Place to batten upon itself until seven o’clock Monday morning, P. Sybarite and Mr. Bross, with at least every outward semblance of complete amity, threaded the roaring congestion in narrow-chested Frankfort Street, boldly breasted the flood tide of homing Brooklynites, won their way through City Hall Park, and were presently swinging shoulder to shoulder up the sunny side of lower Broadway.
To be precise, the swinging stride was practised only by Mr. Bross; P. Sybarite, instinctively aware that any such mode of locomotion would ill become one of his inches, contented himself with keeping up—his gait an apparently effortless, tireless, and comfortable amble, congruent with bowed shoulders, bended head, introspective eyes, and his aspect in general of patient preoccupation.
From time to time George, who was maintaining an unnatural and painful silence, his mental processes stagnant with wonder and dull resentment, eyed his companion askance, with furtive suspicion. Their association was now one of some seven years’ standing; and it seemed a grievous thing that, after posing so long as the patient butt of his rude humour, P.S. should have so suddenly turned and proved himself the better man—and that not mentally alone.
“Lis’n—” George interjected of a sudden.
P. Sybarite started. “Eh?” he enquired blankly.
“I wanna know where you picked up all that classy footwork.”
“Oh,” returned P.S., depreciatory, “I used to spar a bit with the fellows when I was a—ah—when I was younger.”
“When you was at what?” insisted Bross, declining to be fobbed off with any such flimsy evasion.
“When I was at liberty to.”
“Huh! You mean, when you was at college.”
“Please yourself,” said P. Sybarite wearily.
“Well, you was at college oncet, wasn’t you?”
“I was,” P.S. admitted with reluctance; “but I never graduated. When I was twenty-one I had to quit to go to work for Whigham & Wimper.”
“G’wan,” commented the other. “They ain’t been in business twenty-five years.”
“I’m only thirty-one.”
“More news for Sweeny. You’ll never see forty again.”
“That statement,” said P. Sybarite with some asperity, “is an uncivil untruth dictated by a spirit of gratuitous contentiousness—”
“Good God!” cried Bross in alarm. “I’m wrong and you’re right and I won’t do it again—and forgive me for livin’!”
“With pleasure,” agreed P. Sybarite pleasantly....
“It’s a funny world,” George resumed in philosophic humour, after a time. “You wouldn’t think I could work in the same dump with you seven years and only be startin’ to find out things about you—like to-day. I always thought your name was Pete—honest.”