Strangers and Brothers

Strangers and Brothers

Strangers and Brothers

Strangers and Brothers


The fire in our habitual public-house spurted and fell. It was a comfortable fire of early autumn, and I basked beside it, not caring how long I waited. At last Jack came in, bustled by the other tables, sat down at mine, and said:

"I'm in trouble, Lewis."

For an instant I thought he was acting; as he went on, I believed him.

"I'm finished as far as Calvert goes," he said. "And I can't see my way out."

"What have you done?"

"I've done nothing," said Jack. "But this morning I received a gift ----"

"Who from? Who from?"

"From young Roy."

I had heard Roy's name often in the past two months. He was a boy of fifteen, the son of the Calvert whom Jack had just mentioned and who owned the local evening paper; Jack worked as a clerk in the newspaper office, and during the school holidays, which had not yet ended, the boy had contrived to get to know him. Jack, in his easy-natured fashion, had lent him books, been ready to talk; and had not discovered until the last few days that the boy was letting himself be carried in a dream, a romantic dream.

With a quick gesture Jack felt in his coat pocket and held a cigarette case in front of the fire. "Here we are," he said.

The firelight shone on the new, polished silver. I held out my hand, took the case, looked at the initials J.C. (Jack Cotery) in elaborate Gothic letters, felt the solid weight. Though Jack and I were each five years older than the boy . . .

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