Jimmie didn’t venture any farther, because he knew that the Honourable Beatrice was laughing at him, and he had never been laughed at by a woman before, and didn’t know quite how to take it. He could not have been expected to understand that the Honourable Beatrice was a suffragette, and laughed at all men on general principles. Jimmie lay quietly in his bed and concealed the unworthy excitement in his soul. Wasn’t that the devil now? Him, a little runt of a working man from nowhere in particular, that had been brought up on a charity-farm, and spent a good part of his life as a tramp—him to be meeting the king of England! Jimmie had a way of disposing of kings that was complete and final; he called them “kinks” and when he had called them that he had settled them, wiped them clean out. “None o’ them kinks for me!” he had said to the Honourable Beatrice.
But now a “kink” was coming to the hospital! And what was Jimmie going to do? How the devil did you talk to ’em? Did you have to say, “Your Majesty”? Jimmie gripped his hands under the bed-covers. “I’ll be damned if I do!” He summoned his revolutionary fervour, he called up the spirits of his “wobbly” friends, “Wild Bill” and “Strawberry” Curran and “Flathead Joe” and “Chuck” Peterson. What would they do under these circumstances? What would the Candidate do? Somehow, Jimmie’s revolutionary education had been neglected—nothing had ever been said in any Socialist local as to how a comrade should behave when a “kink” came to visit him!
Jimmy was naturally a kindly human being; he was ready to respond to the kindness of other human beings. But was it in accord with revolutionary ethics to be polite to a “kink”? Was it not his duty to do something to show his contempt for “kinks”? Maybe his Royal Nibs never had anybody to “stand up to him” in all his life before. Well, let him have it to-day!
A nurse rushed into the ward in great excitement, and whispered, “They’re coming!” And after that the nurses all stood round, twisting their hands together nervously, and the patients lay with their eyes glued on the door where the apparition was to appear.
At last there came in sight a man dressed in uniform, who Jimmie would never have dreamed could be a king—except that he had seen his picture in the illustrated papers. He was a medium-sized, rather stoop-shouldered little gentleman, decidedly commonplace-looking, with a closely-trimmed brown beard turning grey, and rosy cheeks such as all Englishmen have. He was escorted by the head of the hospital staff; and behind him came a lady, a severe-looking lady dressed in black, with a couple more doctors escorting her, and behind them several officers in uniform.
The king and queen stopped at the head of the room, and looked down the rows of beds. Each of them wore a friendly smile, and nodded, and said: “How do you do?” And, of course, everybody smiled back, and the nurses curtsied and said, “How do you do, Your Majesties?”