“—No, he doesn’t come along,” chimed in Pancoast, who so far had kept silence, his palm-leaf fan having done all the talking. “I wish he would.”
“You are right, judge,” chuckled Clayton, “and that is just my point. Here I say, comes along this man Poe and spoils my dinner. Something, I tell you, has got to be done or I shall collapse. By the way, Kennedy—didn’t you send Poe a suit of clothes once in which to come to your house?”
The distinguished statesman, who had been smiling at the major’s good-natured badinage, made no reply: that was a matter between the poet and himself.
“And didn’t he keep everybody waiting?” persisted Clayton, “until your man found him and brought him back in your own outfit—only the shirt was four sizes too big for his bean-pole of a body. Am I right?” he laughed.
“He has often dined with me, Clayton,” replied Kennedy in his most courteous and kindly tone, ignoring the question as well as all allusion to his charity—“and never in all my experience have I ever met a more dazzling conversationalist. Start him on one of his weird tales and let him see that you are interested and in sympathy with him, and you will never forget it. He gave us parts of an unfinished story one night at my house, so tremendous in its power that every one was frozen stiff in his seat.”
Again Clayton cut in, this time to St. George. He was getting horribly hungry, as were the others. It was now twenty minutes past the dinner hour and there were still no signs of Poe, nor had any word come from him. “For mercy’s sake, St. George, try the suit-of-clothes method—any suit of clothes—here—he can have mine! I’ll be twice as comfortable without them.”
“He couldn’t get into them,” returned St. George with a smile—“nor could he into mine, although he is half our weight; and as for our hats—they wouldn’t get further down on his head than the top of his crown.”
“But I insist on the experiment,” bubbled Clayton good-naturedly. “Here we are, hungry as wolves and everything being burned up. Try the suit-of-clothes trick—Kennedy did it—and it won’t take your Todd ten minutes to go to Guy’s and bring him back inside of them.”
“Those days are over for Poe,” Kennedy remarked with a slight frown. The major’s continued allusions to a brother writer’s poverty, though pure badinage, had begun to jar on the author.
For the second time Todd’s face was thrust in at the door. It now looked like a martyr’s being slowly roasted at the stake.
“Yes, Todd—serve dinner!” called St. George in a tone that showed how great was his disappointment. “We won’t wait any longer, gentlemen. Geniuses must be allowed some leeway. Something has detained our guest.”
“He’s got an idea in his head and has stopped in somewhere to write it down,” continued Clayton in his habitual good-natured tone: it was the overdone woodcock—(he had heard Todd’s warning)—that still filled his mind.