“Bring one of the big beech chunks,” Bill said. He was also being consciously practical.
Nick came in with the log through the kitchen and in passing knocked a pan off the kitchen table. He laid the log down and picked up the pan. It had contained dried apricots, soaking in water. He carefully picked up all the apricots off the floor, some of them had gone under the stove, and put them back in the pan. He dipped some more water onto them from the pail by the table. He felt quite proud of himself. He had been thoroughly practical.
He came in carrying the log and Bill got up from the chair and helped him put it on the fire.
“That’s a swell log,” Nick said.
“I’d been saving it for the bad weather,” Bill said. “A log like that will burn all night.”
“There’ll be coals left to start the fire in the morning,” Nick said.
“That’s right,” Bill agreed. They were conducting the conversation on a high plane.
“Let’s have another drink,” Nick said.
“I think there’s another bottle open in the locker,” Bill said.
He kneeled down in the corner in front of the locker and brought out a square-faced bottle.
“It’s Scotch,” he said.
“I’ll get some more water,” Nick said. He went out into the kitchen again. He filled the pitcher with the dipper, dipping cold spring water from the pail. On his way back to the living room he passed a mirror in the dining room and looked in it. His face looked strange. He smiled at the face in the mirror and it grinned back at him. He winked at it and went on. It was not his face but it didn’t make any difference.
Bill poured out the drinks.
“That’s an awfully big shot,” Nick said.
“Not for us, Wemedge,” Bill said.
“What’ll we drink to?” Nick asked, holding up the glass.
“Let’s drink to fishing,” Bill said.
“All right,” Nick said. “Gentlemen, I give you fishing.”
“All fishing,” Bill said. “Everywhere.”
“Fishing,” Nick said. “That’s what we drink to.”
“It’s better than baseball,” Bill said.
“There isn’t any comparison,” said Nick. “How did we ever get talking about baseball?”
“It was a mistake,” Bill said. “Baseball is a game for louts.”
They drank all that was in their glasses. “Now let’s drink to Chesterton.”
“And Walpole,” Nick interposed.
Nick poured out the liquor. Bill poured in the water. They looked at each other. They felt very fine.
“Gentlemen,” Bill said, “I give you Chesterton and Walpole.”
“Exactly, gentlemen,” Nick said.
They drank. Bill filled up the glasses. They sat down in the big chairs in front of the fire.
“You were very wise, Wemedge,” Bill said.
“What do you mean?” asked Nick.
“To bust off that Marge business,” Bill said.
“I guess so,” said Nick.
“It was the only thing to do. If you hadn’t, by now you’d be back home working trying to get enough money to get married.”
Nick said nothing.
“Once a man’s married he’s absolutely bitched,” Bill went on. “He hasn’t got anything more. Nothing. Not a damn thing. He’s done for. You’ve seen the guys that get married.”
Nick said nothing.
“You can tell them,” Bill said. “They get this sort of fat married look. They’re done for.”
“Sure,” said Nick.
“It was probably bad busting it off,” Bill said. “But you always fall for somebody else and then it’s all right. Fall for them but don’t let them ruin you.”
“Yes,” said Nick.
“If you’d have married her you would have had to marry the whole family. Remember her mother and that guy she married.”
“Imagine having them around the house all the time and going to Sunday dinners at their house and having them over to dinner and her telling Marge all the time what to do and how to act.”
Nick sat quiet.
“You came out of it damned well,” Bill said. “Now she can marry somebody of her own sort and settle down and be happy. You can’t mix oil and water and you can’t mix that sort of thing any more than if I’d marry Ida that works for Strattons. She’d probably like it, too.”