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Two Gallants
THE grey warm evening of August had descended upon the city and a mild warm air, a
memory of summer, circulated in the streets. The streets, shuttered for the repose of
Sunday, swarmed with a gaily coloured crowd. Like illumined pearls the lamps shone
from the summits of their tall poles upon the living texture below which, changing shape
and hue unceasingly, sent up into the warm grey evening air an unchanging unceasing
Two young men came down the hill of Rutland Square. On of them was just bringing a
long monologue to a close. The other, who walked on the verge of the path and was at
times obliged to step on to the road, owing to his companion's rudeness, wore an
amused listening face. He was squat and ruddy. A yachting cap was shoved far back
from his forehead and the narrative to which he listened made constant waves of
expression break forth over his face from the corners of his nose and eyes and mouth.
Little jets of wheezing laughter followed one another out of his convulsed body. His
eyes, twinkling with cunning enjoyment, glanced at every moment towards his
companion's face. Once or twice he rearranged the light waterproof which he had slung
over one shoulder in toreador fashion. His breeches, his white rubber shoes and his
jauntily slung waterproof expressed youth. But his figure fell into rotundity at the waist,
his hair was scant and grey and his face, when the waves of expression had passed
over it, had a ravaged look.
When he was quite sure that the narrative had ended he laughed noiselessly for fully
half a minute. Then he said:
"Well!... That takes the biscuit!"
His voice seemed winnowed of vigour; and to enforce his words he added with humour:
"That takes the solitary, unique, and, if I may so call it, recherche biscuit! "
He became serious and silent when he had said this. His tongue was tired for he had
been talking all the afternoon in a public-house in Dorset Street. Most people
considered Lenehan a leech but, in spite of this reputation, his adroitness and
eloquence had always prevented his friends from forming any general policy against
him. He had a brave manner of coming up to a party of them in a bar and of holding
himself nimbly at the borders of the company until he was included in a round. He was a
sporting vagrant armed with a vast stock of stories, limericks and riddles. He was
insensitive to all kinds of discourtesy. No one knew how he achieved the stern task of
living, but his name was vaguely associated with racing tissues.
"And where did you pick her up, Corley?" he asked.