“He just went crazy. Will you have some more coffee, Mister Adams?”
“I seen her a couple of times,” the Negro went on. “She was an awful good-looking woman. Looked enough like him to be twins. He wouldn’t be bad-looking without his face all busted.”
He stopped. The story seemed to be over.
“Where did you meet him?” asked Nick.
“I met him in jail,” the Negro said. “He was busting people all the time after she went away and they put him in jail. I was in for cuttin’ a man.”
He smiled, and went on soft-voiced: “Right away I liked him and when I got out I looked him up. He likes to think I’m crazy and I don’t mind. I like to be with him and I like seeing the country and I don’t have to commit no larceny to do it. I like living like a gentleman.”
“What do you all do?” Nick asked.
“Oh, nothing. Just move around. He’s got money.”
“He must have made a lot of money.”
“Sure. He spent all his money, though. Or they took it away from him. She sends him money.”
He poked up the fire.
“She’s a mighty fine woman,” he said. “She looks enough like him to be his own twin.”
The Negro looked over at the little man, lying breathing heavily. His blond hair was down over his forehead. His mutilated face looked childish in repose.
“I can wake him up any time now, Mister Adams. If you don’t mind I wish you’d sort of pull out. I don’t like to not be hospitable, but it might disturb him back again to see you. I hate to have to thump him and it’s the only thing to do when he gets started. I have to sort of keep him away from people. You don’t mind, do you, Mister Adams? No, don’t thank me, Mister Adams. I’d have warned you about him but he seemed to have taken such a liking to you and I thought things were going to be all right. You’ll hit a town about two miles up the track. Mancelona they call it. Good-by. I wish we could ask you to stay the night but it’s just out of the question. Would you like to take some of that ham and some bread with you? No? You better take a sandwich,” all this in a low, smooth, polite nigger voice.
“Good. Well, good-by, Mister Adams. Good-by and good luck!”
Nick walked away from the Ere across the clearing to the railway tracks. Out of the range of the fire he listened. The low soft voice of the Negro was talking. Nick could not hear the words. Then he heard the little man say, “I got an awful headache, Bugs.”
“You’ll feel better, Mister Francis,” the Negro’s voice soothed. “Just you drink a cup of this hot coffee.”
Nick climbed the embankment and started up the track. He found he had a ham sandwich in his hand and put it in his pocket. Looking back from the mounting grade before the track curved into the hills he could see the firelight in the clearing.
The door of Henry’s lunchroom opened and two men came in. They sat down at the counter.
“What’s yours?” George asked them.
“I don’t know,” one of the men said. “What do you want to eat, Al?”
“I don’t know,” said Al. “I don’t know what I want to eat.”
Outside it was getting dark. The streetlight came on outside the window. The two men at the counter read the menu. From the other end of the counter Nick Adams watched them. He had been talking to George when they came in.
“I’ll have a roast pork tenderloin with applesauce and mashed potatoes,” the first man said.
“It isn’t ready yet.”
“What the hell do you put it on the card for?”
“That’s the dinner,” George explained. “You can get that at six o’clock.”
George looked at the clock on the wall behind the counter.
“It’s five o’clock.”
“The clock says twenty minutes past five,” the second man said.
“It’s twenty minutes fast.”
“Oh, to hell with the clock,” the first man said. “What have you got to eat?”