As Nick crossed the open field above the orchard the door of the cottage opened and Bill came out. He stood on the porch looking out.
“Well, Wemedge,” he said.
“Hey, Bill,” Nick said, coming up the steps.
They stood together looking out across the country, down over the orchard, beyond the road, across the lower fields and the woods of the point of the lake. The wind was blowing straight down the lake. They could see the surf along Ten Mile point.
“She’s blowing,” Nick said.
“She’ll blow like that for three days,” Bill said.
“Is your dad in?” Nick asked.
“No. He’s out with the gun. Come on in.”
Nick went inside the cottage. There was a big fire in the fireplace. The wind made it roar. Bill shut the door.
“Have a drink?” he said.
He went out to the kitchen and came back with two glasses and a pitcher of water. Nick reached the whiskey bottle from the shelf above the fireplace.
“All right?” he said.
“Good,” said Bill.
They sat in front of the fire and drank the Irish whiskey and water.
“It’s got a swell, smoky taste,” Nick said, and looked at the fire through the glass.
“That’s the peat,” Bill said.
“You can’t get peat into liquor,” Nick said.
“That doesn’t make any difference,” Bill said.
“You ever seen any peat?” Nick said.
“No,” said Bill.
“Neither have I,” Nick said.
His shoes, stretched out on the hearth, began to steam in front of the fire.
“Better take your shoes off,” Bill said.
“I haven’t got any socks on.”
“Take them off and dry them and I’ll get you some,” Bill said. He went upstairs into the loft and Nick heard him walking about overhead. Upstairs was open under the roof and was where Bill and his father and he, Nick, sometimes slept. In back was a dressing room. They moved the cots back out of the rain and covered them with rubber blankets.
Bill came down with a pair of heavy wool socks.
“It’s getting too late to go around without socks,” he said.
“I hate to start them again,” Nick said. He pulled the socks on and slumped back in the chair, putting his feet up on the screen in front of the fire.
“You’ll dent in the screen,” Bill said. Nick swung his feet over to the side of the fireplace.
“Got anything to read?” he asked.
“Only the paper.”
“What did the Cards do?”
“Dropped a double-header to the Giants.”
“That ought to cinch it for them.”
“It’s a gift,” Bill said. “As long as McGraw can buy every good ballplayer in the league there’s nothing to it.”
“He can’t buy them all,” Nick said.
“He buys all the ones he wants,” Bill said. “Or he makes them discontented so they have to trade them to him.”
“Like Heinie Zim,” Nick agreed.
“That bonehead will do him a lot of good.”
Bill stood up.
“He can hit,” Nick-offered. The heat from the fire was baking his legs.
“He’s a sweet fielder, too,” Bill said. “But he loses ball games.”
“Maybe that’s what McGraw wants him for,” Nick suggested.
“Maybe,” Bill agreed.
“There’s always more to it than we know about,” Nick said.
“Of course. But we’ve got pretty good dope for being so far away.”
“Like how much better you can pick them if you don’t see the horses.”
Bill reached down the whiskey bottle. His big hand went all the way around it. He poured the whiskey into the glass Nick held out.
“How much water?”
“Just the same.”
He sat down on the floor beside Nick’s chair.
“It’s good when the fall storms come, isn’t it?” Nick said.
“It’s the best time of year,” Nick said.
“Wouldn’t it be hell to be in town?” Bill said.
“I’d like to see the World Series,” Nick said.
“Well, they’re always in New York or Philadelphia now,” Bill said. “That doesn’t do us any good.”
“I wonder if the Cards will ever win a pennant?”
“Not in our lifetime,” Bill said.
“Gee, they’d go crazy,” Nick said.
“Do you remember when they got going that once before they had the train wreck?”