“Yes, but, good Lord! it was the story of the war. You never read such a story! And he got it through by Panama a day ahead of all the other stories! And nobody read them, anyway. Why, Captain Mahan said it was ‘naval history,’ and the Evening Post had an editorial on it, and said it was ‘the only piece of literature the war has produced.’ We never thought Keating had it in him, did you? The Consolidated Press people felt so good over it that they’ve promised, when he comes back from Paris, they’ll make him their Washington correspondent. He’s their ‘star’ reporter now. It just shows you that the occasion produces the man. Come on in, and have a drink with him.”
Channing pulled his arm away, and threw a frightened look toward the open door of the dining-room. Through the layers of tobacco-smoke he saw Keating seated at the head of a long, crowded table, smiling, clear-eyed, and alert.
“Oh, no, I couldn’t,” he said, with sudden panic. “I can’t drink; doctor won’t let me. I wasn’t coming in, I was just passing when I saw you. Good-night, I’m much obliged. Good-night.”
But the hospitable Norris would not be denied.
“Oh, come in and say ‘good-by’ to him, anyhow,” he insisted. “You needn’t stay.”
“No, I can’t,” Channing protested. “I—they’d make me drink or eat and the doctor says I can’t. You mustn’t tempt me. You say ‘good-by’ to him for me,” he urged. “And Norris—tell him—tell him—that I asked you to say to him, ‘It’s all right,’ that’s all, just that, ‘It’s all right.’ He’ll understand.”
There was the sound of men’s feet scraping on the floor, and of chairs being moved from their places.
Norris started away eagerly. “I guess they’re drinking his health,” he said. “I must go. I’ll tell him what you said, ‘It’s all right.’ That’s enough, is it? There’s nothing more?”
Channing shook his head, and moved away from the only place where he was sure to find food and a welcome that night.
“There’s nothing more,” he said.
As he stepped from the door and stood irresolutely in the twilight of the street, he heard the voices of the men who had gathered in Keating’s honor upraised in a joyous chorus.
“For he’s a jolly good fellow,” they sang, “for he’s a jolly good fellow, which nobody can deny!”
LA LETTRE D’AMOUR
When Bardini, who led the Hungarian Band at the Savoy Restaurant, was promoted to play at the Casino at Trouville, his place was taken by the second violin. The second violin was a boy, and when he greeted his brother Tziganes and the habitues of the restaurant with an apologetic and deprecatory bow, he showed that he was fully conscious of the inadequacy of his years. The maitre d’hotel glided from table to table, busying himself in explanations.
“The boy’s name is Edouard; he comes from Budapest,” he said. “The season is too late to make it worth the while of the management to engage a new chef d’orchestre. So this boy will play. He plays very good, but he is not like Bardini.”