a third time to the village with Joe. He forgot, and lived again, and, living, he saw, in clear illumination, the beast he was making of himself not by the drink, but by the work. The drink was an effect, not a cause. It followed inevitably upon the work, as the night follows upon the day. Not by becoming a toil-beast could he win to the heights, was the message the whiskey whispered to him, and he nodded approbation. The whiskey was wise. It told secrets on itself.
He called for paper and pencil, and for drinks all around, and while they drank his very good health, he clung to the bar and scribbled.
A telegram, Joe, he said. Read it.
Joe read it with a drunken, quizzical leer. But what he read seemed to sober him. He looked at the other reproachfully, tears oozing into his eyes and down his cheeks.
You aint goin back on me, Mart? he queried hopelessly.
Martin nodded, and called one of the loungers to him to take the message to the telegraph office.
Hold on, Joe muttered thickly. Lemme think.
He held on to the bar, his legs wobbling under him, Martins arm around him and supporting him, while he thought.
Make that two laundrymen, he said abruptly. Here, lemme fix it.
What are you quitting for? Martin demanded.
Same reason as you.
But Im going to sea. You cant do that.
Nope, was the answer, but I can hobo all right, all right.
Martin looked at him searchingly for a moment, then cried:-
By God, I think youre right! Better a hobo than a beast of toil. Why, man, youll live. And thats more than you ever did before.
I was in hospital, once, Joe corrected. It was beautiful. Typhoid did I tell you?
While Martin changed the telegram to two laundrymen, Joe went on:-
I never wanted to drink when I was in hospital. Funny, aint it? But when Ive ben workin like a slave all week, I just got to bowl up. Ever noticed that cooks drink like hell? an bakers, too? Its the work. Theyve sure got to. Here, lemme pay half of that telegram.
Ill shake you for it, Martin offered.
Come on, everybody drink, Joe called, as they rattled the dice and rolled them out on the damp bar.
Monday morning Joe was wild with anticipation. He did not mind his aching head, nor did he take interest in his work. Whole herds of moments stole away and were lost while their careless shepherd gazed out of the window at the sunshine and the trees.
Just look at it! he cried. An its all mine! Its free. I can lie down under them trees an sleep for a thousan years if I want to. Aw, come on, Mart, lets chuck it. Whats the good of waitin another moment. Thats the land of nothin to do out there, an I got a ticket for it an it aint no return ticket, bgosh!
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