The cars came scudding in towards Dublin, running evenly like pellets in th_roove of the Naas Road. At the crest of the hill at Inchicore sightseers ha_athered in clumps to watch the cars careering homeward and through thi_hannel of poverty and inaction the Continent sped its wealth and industry.
Now and again the clumps of people raised the cheer of the gratefull_ppressed. Their sympathy, however, was for the blue cars—the cars of thei_riends, the French.
The French, moreover, were virtual victors. Their team had finished solidly;
they had been placed second and third and the driver of the winning German ca_as reported a Belgian. Each blue car, therefore, received a double measure o_elcome as it topped the crest of the hill and each cheer of welcome wa_cknowledged with smiles and nods by those in the car. In one of these triml_uilt cars was a party of four young men whose spirits seemed to be at presen_ell above the level of successful Gallicism: in fact, these four young me_ere almost hilarious. They were Charles Segouin, the owner of the car; Andr_iviere, a young electrician of Canadian birth; a huge Hungarian named Villon_nd a neatly groomed young man named Doyle. Segouin was in good humour becaus_e had unexpectedly received some orders in advance (he was about to start _otor establishment in Paris) and Riviere was in good humour because he was t_e appointed manager of the establishment; these two young men (who wer_ousins) were also in good humour because of the success of the French cars.
Villona was in good humour because he had had a very satisfactory luncheon;
and besides he was an optimist by nature. The fourth member of the party,
however, was too excited to be genuinely happy.
He was about twenty-six years of age, with a soft, light brown moustache an_ather innocent-looking grey eyes. His father, who had begun life as a_dvanced Nationalist, had modified his views early. He had made his money as _utcher in Kingstown and by opening shops in Dublin and in the suburbs he ha_ade his money many times over. He had also been fortunate enough to secur_ome of the police contracts and in the end he had become rich enough to b_lluded to in the Dublin newspapers as a merchant prince. He had sent his so_o England to be educated in a big Catholic college and had afterwards sen_im to Dublin University to study law. Jimmy did not study very earnestly an_ook to bad courses for a while. He had money and he was popular; and h_ivided his time curiously between musical and motoring circles. Then he ha_een sent for a term to Cambridge to see a little life. His father,
remonstrative, but covertly proud of the excess, had paid his bills an_rought him home. It was at Cambridge that he had met Segouin. They were no_uch more than acquaintances as yet but Jimmy found great pleasure in th_ociety of one who had seen so much of the world and was reputed to own som_f the biggest hotels in France. Such a person (as his father agreed) was wel_orth knowing, even if he had not been the charming companion he was. Villon_as entertaining also—a brilliant pianist—but, unfortunately, very poor.
The car ran on merrily with its cargo of hilarious youth. The two cousins sa_n the front seat; Jimmy and his Hungarian friend sat behind. Decidedl_illona was in excellent spirits; he kept up a deep bass hum of melody fo_iles of the road The Frenchmen flung their laughter and light words ove_heir shoulders and often Jimmy had to strain forward to catch the quic_hrase. This was not altogether pleasant for him, as he had nearly always t_ake a deft guess at the meaning and shout back a suitable answer in the fac_f a high wind. Besides Villona's humming would confuse anybody; the noise o_he car, too.
Rapid motion through space elates one; so does notoriety; so does th_ossession of money. These were three good reasons for Jimmy's excitement. H_ad been seen by many of his friends that day in the company of thes_ontinentals. At the control Segouin had presented him to one of the Frenc_ompetitors and, in answer to his confused murmur of compliment, the swarth_ace of the driver had disclosed a line of shining white teeth. It wa_leasant after that honour to return to the profane world of spectators ami_udges and significant looks. Then as to money—he really had a great sum unde_is control. Segouin, perhaps, would not think it a great sum but Jimmy who,
in spite of temporary errors, was at heart the inheritor of solid instinct_new well with what difficulty it had been got together. This knowledge ha_reviously kept his bills within the limits of reasonable recklessness, and i_e had been so conscious of the labour latent in money when there had bee_uestion merely of some freak of the higher intelligence, how much more so no_hen he was about to stake the greater part of his substance! It was a seriou_hing for him.
Of course, the investment was a good one and Segouin had managed to give th_mpression that it was by a favour of friendship the mite of Irish money wa_o be included in the capital of the concern. Jimmy had a respect for hi_ather's shrewdness in business matters and in this case it had been hi_ather who had first suggested the investment; money to be made in the moto_usiness, pots of money. Moreover Segouin had the unmistakable air of wealth.
Jimmy set out to translate into days' work that lordly car in which he sat.
How smoothly it ran. In what style they had come careering along the countr_oads! The journey laid a magical finger on the genuine pulse of life an_allantly the machinery of human nerves strove to answer the bounding course_f the swift blue animal.
They drove down Dame Street. The street was busy with unusual traffic, lou_ith the horns of motorists and the gongs of impatient tram-drivers. Near th_ank Segouin drew up and Jimmy and his friend alighted. A little knot o_eople collected on the footpath to pay homage to the snorting motor. Th_arty was to dine together that evening in Segouin's hotel and, meanwhile,
Jimmy and his friend, who was staying with him, were to go home to dress. Th_ar steered out slowly for Grafton Street while the two young men pushed thei_ay through the knot of gazers. They walked northward with a curious feelin_f disappointment in the exercise, while the city hung its pale globes o_ight above them in a haze of summer evening.
In Jimmy's house this dinner had been pronounced an occasion. A certain prid_ingled with his parents' trepidation, a certain eagerness, also, to play fas_nd loose for the names of great foreign cities have at least this virtue.
Jimmy, too, looked very well when he was dressed and, as he stood in the hal_iving a last equation to the bows of his dress tie, his father may have fel_ven commercially satisfied at having secured for his son qualities ofte_npurchaseable. His father, therefore, was unusually friendly with Villona an_is manner expressed a real respect for foreign accomplishments; but thi_ubtlety of his host was probably lost upon the Hungarian, who was beginnin_o have a sharp desire for his dinner.
The dinner was excellent, exquisite. Segouin, Jimmy decided, had a ver_efined taste. The party was increased by a young Englishman named Routh who_immy had seen with Segouin at Cambridge. The young men supped in a snug roo_it by electric candle lamps. They talked volubly and with little reserve.
Jimmy, whose imagination was kindling, conceived the lively youth of th_renchmen twined elegantly upon the firm framework of the Englishman's manner.
A graceful image of his, he thought, and a just one. He admired the dexterit_ith which their host directed the conversation. The five young men ha_arious tastes and their tongues had been loosened. Villona, with immens_espect, began to discover to the mildly surprised Englishman the beauties o_he English madrigal, deploring the loss of old instruments. Riviere, no_holly ingenuously, undertook to explain to Jimmy the triumph of the Frenc_echanicians. The resonant voice of the Hungarian was about to prevail i_idicule of the spurious lutes of the romantic painters when Segoui_hepherded his party into politics. Here was congenial ground for all. Jimmy,
under generous influences, felt the buried zeal of his father wake to lif_ithin him: he aroused the torpid Routh at last. The room grew doubly hot an_egouin's task grew harder each moment: there was even danger of persona_pite. The alert host at an opportunity lifted his glass to Humanity and, whe_he toast had been drunk, he threw open a window significantly.
That night the city wore the mask of a capital. The five young men strolle_long Stephen's Green in a faint cloud of aromatic smoke. They talked loudl_nd gaily and their cloaks dangled from their shoulders. The people made wa_or them. At the corner of Grafton Street a short fat man was putting tw_andsome ladies on a car in charge of another fat man. The car drove off an_he short fat man caught sight of the party.
A torrent of talk followed. Farley was an American. No one knew very well wha_he talk was about. Villona and Riviere were the noisiest, but all the me_ere excited. They got up on a car, squeezing themselves together amid muc_aughter. They drove by the crowd, blended now into soft colours, to a musi_f merry bells. They took the train at Westland Row and in a few seconds, a_t seemed to Jimmy, they were walking out of Kingstown Station. The ticket-
collector saluted Jimmy; he was an old man:
"Fine night, sir!"
It was a serene summer night; the harbour lay like a darkened mirror at thei_eet. They proceeded towards it with linked arms, singing Cadet Roussel i_horus, stamping their feet at every:
"Ho! Ho! Hohe, vraiment!"
They got into a rowboat at the slip and made out for the American's yacht.
There was to be supper, music, cards. Villona said with conviction:
"It is delightful!"
There was a yacht piano in the cabin. Villona played a waltz for Farley an_iviere, Farley acting as cavalier and Riviere as lady. Then an imprompt_quare dance, the men devising original figures. What merriment! Jimmy too_is part with a will; this was seeing life, at least. Then Farley got out o_reath and cried "Stop!" A man brought in a light supper, and the young me_at down to it for form's sake. They drank, however: it was Bohemian. The_rank Ireland, England, France, Hungary, the United States of America. Jimm_ade a speech, a long speech, Villona saying: "Hear! hear!" whenever there wa_ pause. There was a great clapping of hands when he sat down. It must hav_een a good speech. Farley clapped him on the back and laughed loudly. Wha_ovial fellows! What good company they were!
Cards! cards! The table was cleared. Villona returned quietly to his piano an_layed voluntaries for them. The other men played game after game, flingin_hemselves boldly into the adventure. They drank the health of the Queen o_earts and of the Queen of Diamonds. Jimmy felt obscurely the lack of a_udience: the wit was flashing. Play ran very high and paper began to pass.
Jimmy did not know exactly who was winning but he knew that he was losing. Bu_t was his own fault for he frequently mistook his cards and the other men ha_o calculate his I.O.U.'s for him. They were devils of fellows but he wishe_hey would stop: it was getting late. Someone gave the toast of the yacht Th_elle of Newport and then someone proposed one great game for a finish.
The piano had stopped; Villona must have gone up on deck. It was a terribl_ame. They stopped just before the end of it to drink for luck. Jimm_nderstood that the game lay between Routh and Segouin. What excitement! Jimm_as excited too; he would lose, of course. How much had he written away? Th_en rose to their feet to play the last tricks. talking and gesticulating.
Routh won. The cabin shook with the young men's cheering and the cards wer_undled together. They began then to gather in what they had won. Farley an_immy were the heaviest losers.
He knew that he would regret in the morning but at present he was glad of th_est, glad of the dark stupor that would cover up his folly. He leaned hi_lbows on the table and rested his head between his hands, counting the beat_f his temples. The cabin door opened and he saw the Hungarian standing in _haft of grey light: