The man, without answering, began to twirl the ends of his moustache. He made light of his accident. It was nothing, he said: only a little accident. He spoke very thickly.

`Where do you live?' repeated the constable.

The man said they were to get a cab for him. While the point was being debated a tall agile gentleman of fair complexion, wearing a long yellow ulster, came from the far end of the bar. Seeing the spectacle, he called out:

`Hallo, Tom, old man! What's the trouble?'

`Sha, 's nothing,' said the man.

The newcomer surveyed the deplorable figure before him and then turned to the constable, saying:

`It's all right, constable. I'll see him home.'

The constable touched his helmet and answered:

`All right, Mr Power!'

`Come now, Tom,' said Mr Power, taking his friend by the arm. `No bones broken: What? Can you walk?'

The young man in the cycling-suit took the man by the other arm and the crowd divided.

`How did you get yourself into this mess?' asked Mr Power.

`The gentleman fell down the stairs,' said the young man.

`I' 'ery 'uch o'liged to you, sir,' said the injured man.

`Not at all.'

`'an't we have a little... ?'

`Not now. Not now.'

The three men left the bar and the crowd sifted through the doors into the laneway. The manager brought the constable to the stairs to inspect the scene of the accident. They agreed that the gentleman must have missed his footing. The customers returned to the counter, and a curate set about removing the traces of blood from the floor.

When they came out into Grafton Street, Mr Power whistled for an outsider. The injured man said again as well as he could:

`I' 'ery 'uch o'liged to you, sir. I hope we'll 'eet again. 'y na'e is Kernan.'

The shock and the incipient pain had partly sobered him.

`Don't mention it,' said the young man.

They shook hands. Mr Kernan was hoisted on to the car and, while Mr Power was giving directions to the carman, he expressed his gratitude to the young man and regretted that they could not have a little drink together.

`Another time,' said the young man.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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