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HOME > Short Stories > The Queen of Farrandale > CHAPTER I THE NE’ER-DO-WELL
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 “I’ve never had any luck,” said Hugh Sinclair, lifting a stein of beer and emptying it in one steady draught. The fashionably dressed man, with graying hair on his temples who sat opposite him at the table, left his own foaming mug untouched as he watched the handsome, rough-looking boy of twenty-four with a half smile.
“Nor my father before me,” added Hugh, as he set down the empty stein. “No silver spoons in the mouths of our family when they are born.”
“Your father was a pretty fine man,” remarked the other.
“Oh, yes, I suppose so,” said the boy carelessly. “I remember, Mr. Ogden, that you and he were a sort of pals. I suppose it was on his account that you looked me up to-day. I’m sorry I haven’t any better hospitality to show[4] you than a near-beer joint. These hot dogs aren’t so bad, though. Try ’em.”
The young fellow drove his fork into the food on his plate and his companion followed his example, while a brazen automatic piano in the corner crashed out “The Virginia Blues.”
John Ogden began to eat. “I love that clever human who cursed the man that put the din into dinner, and took the rest out of restaurant,” he said.
“M’h’m,” agreed Hugh with his mouth full.
“Who are left in your family?” asked Ogden. “The last time I saw you was twelve years ago, and do you know why I remember the date?”
Hugh looked up. “Can’t imagine. Something about father, I suppose.”
“No, about your sister Carol.”
“Good old Carol?” said the boy with surprise.
“Yes. How much more time have you before you must go back to the store?”
Hugh looked at his wrist watch. Its dilapidated leather bracelet matched the carelessness of its owner’s general appearance. “Half an hour.”
“Then let us eat quickly and get to some quiet spot.”
They found it in a hotel lobby on the way to[5] Hugh’s place of business, and in transit John Ogden took further mental note of his companion’s shabbiness. Not only were his clothes in need of brushing, but he had not shaved to-day; his shoes were dusty and by industry the boy finished several cigarettes before, in the hotel lobby, they found a couple of neighboring chairs, and he lighted another.
“Hard luck to tote you around this way, Mr. Ogden, but all I’ve got is a hall bedroom in a hash house.”
“You talk a lot about luck, don’t you?” remarked the older man. “You don’t look as if you had ever gone after it very hard.”
“Oh, yes,” responded Hugh; “I’ve batted around considerable after jobs.”
“You don’t keep them very long, eh?”
“No, and the devil can take them for all me. I’ve never had anything worth keeping since I got back from France. I care for nobody and nobody cares for me. That’s about the size of it, and most of the other fellows are the same way. My friends are all Bolshevists.”
“Oh, come now,” said the older man, regarding the frank young ne’er-do-well with some disgust, “that isn’t worthy of your father’s son.”
“Perhaps not; but what do you care?” turning[6] upon his well-dressed, well-groomed companion; nettled by the shade of contempt in his tone. “My father’s dead and that’s the end of him.”
“I was going to tell you why I care,” said Ogden, meeting the inimical look in the exceedingly handsome blue eyes bent upon him. He paused a minute, then added, “I am glad I stopped over and hunted you up. You remind me of her.”
“Oh, yes,” said Hugh listlessly, “Carol. You said something about Carol.”
“I did,” returned the other quietly. “Twelve years ago to-day I asked her to be my wife.”
“You—Carol?” The boy’s voice was so incredulous that Ogden smiled.
“Yes; I wasn’t always forty-two, you know. I was thirty then, and she was eighteen.”
“That was the reason you hung around father, then?”
“One of the reasons, yes,” said Ogden slowly. “She was a sober little head for eighteen, and it was largely because for years she had had to be a mother to her little brother.”
The tone and manner in which this was said caused Hugh to remove his cigarette for a thoughtful moment. “Good old Carol,” he said; then, restoring the cigarette, he added,[7] “I wish to thunder she had married you. That guy Morrison carried her off to Colorado. She hated to leave me like the devil. She wrote me every day while I was over there.”
“Don’t light another cigarette, Hugh,” exclaimed the other in irrepressible impatience. “Don’t you know you never will hold a position if you’re one of these coffin-tack slaves?”
Hugh flared up. The flare showed in his beautiful eyes and darkened them to violet. Who was this glass of fashion to dictate to a decent Bolshevist like himself!
“And don’t I tell you I don’t give a damn how many dinky positions I lose?” he retorted.
Ogden put a soothing hand on the boy’s big arm and was nervously shaken off. “I’m sorry, old man. Don’t take it that way. Of course you’re free, white, and twenty-one; but I can’t help taking an interest in you.”
“Better cut it. I thank you, of course, for looking me up”—Hugh rose—“but I’ve got to trot along now. Good luck to you.”
John Ogden rose, too. “It won’t be good luck for me unless I see you again. I’m staying at this hotel. Come to dinner with me to-night.”
“Oh, no. Thank you just the same, but I’ve no togs decent to dine in a place like this.”[8] The boy was somewhat touched by the older man’s invitation and manner, and he smiled grudgingly, revealing perfect teeth and more than ever causing Ogden a twinge of memory. “I can dress for a dinner of Reds in some cellar. That’s my size.”
“Wait a minute, Hugh. Listen. This is my anniversary. I never could love another girl after Carol. I’ve gone lonely for twelve years for her sake. If she could have felt differently I should have been your big brother all this time. Won’t you dine with me to-night? This is always a hard day for me.”
Hugh looked down on his immaculate companion curiously. How could a man, with hair graying around the temples and growing thin on the crown, nurse memories of love? It seemed absurd. But the face regarding him so steadily was a strong one. An idea suddenly occurred to the boy.
“Were you in the big shindy?”
“What were you?”
“Major of infantry.”
“Get any bumps?”
“Yes, I achieved a little limp. Didn’t you notice it?”
“I hated the officers,” remarked Hugh.
“Will you come to-night?”
There was only a trifle more of hesitation before the boy answered: “Well—I’ll come.”
Ogden slapped him on the back and he moved off with long, deliberate strides. The older man looked after him. The boy’s splendid build and the grace with which his head was set on those firm shoulders attracted many a glance wherever he appeared.
The man sighed. He was familiar with the type of disillusioned returned members of the A.E.F., who went out surrounded by the incense of hero-worship, and came back to the shock of finding themselves negligible.

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