“Come on, you’re not allowed up ’ere, you know,” he observes.
“Ho, ain’t I?” retorts the man defiantly. “Is this Buckingham Pallis?”
“You can’t come up ’ere unless you’ve got business in the ’otel,” states the porter unmoved.
“So I ’ave got bisness ’ere,” declares the other. “Bisness c’nected with my son’s b’loon.”
“An’ we don’t leave ’ere till it’s settled, neither,” cries the lady on the pavement. “‘Alf-a-crown that balloon cost, an’ we don’t budge from ’ere till we get it.”
This is altogether too much for the owner of the Rolls-Royce.
“’Alf-a-crown?” he explodes and turns indignantly to the company. “’Alf-a-crown for a child’s balloon, and then they go on strike.”
Derisive cheers and counter-cheers go up from the crowd below as the incensed balloon-owner bursts forth into an impassioned defence of his inalienable right as a free-born Briton to strike or to buy half-crown balloons as the spirit moves him. Simultaneously the lady in the diamonds rises and, producing a coin from her gold bag, holds it with a superb gesture at arm’s length beneath his nose. For a moment or two he pays no attention to her, then takes the coin impatiently with the air of one brushing aside an irritating interruption and continues his harangue.
“Come on,” puts in the porter; “you’ve got yer ’alf-crown. S’pose you move on.”
“Got me ’alf-crown, ’ave I’?” he retorts. “Wot about my rights as a man? Does ’alf-a-crown buy them?”
No one venturing to solve this social problem he turns slowly and, glaring over his shoulder at Rolls-Royce, descends the steps.
“I’m an Englishman, I am,” he concludes from the pavement. “No one can’t close my mouth with ’alf-crowns.”
For a brief space he stands scowling up at the porch as though challenging all and sundry to perform this feat, then, taking his wife by the arm, moves off with her and the still insistent child towards the beach. The crowd on the pavement, regretfully convinced that the entertainment is at an end, disperses slowly. Rolls-Royce, seemingly unconscious of the interest of Charteris and our host, who are looking at him covertly as at some zoological specimen, relights his cigar and sits glowering across the road, and silence falls upon the scene—a silence broken at last by the lady in the diamonds, who has resumed her languid pose in the wicker-chair.
“’Orrible people!” she observes, addressing the occupants of the porch generally. “Nice state o’ things when you can’t even be safe from ’em in yer own ’otel. You don’t seem to be able to get away from these low-class people hanywhere—you don’t reely!”
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[Illustration: Energetic Motor-Cyclist. “WHY THE DEUCE DON’T YOU SIT STILL? YOU’LL HAVE US OVER IN A MINUTE.”]
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