The Life of the Party
Cobb Irvin Shrewsbury. The Life of the Party
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It was fine to have been the life of the party. It was not quite so fine to discover that the taxicab to which he must entrust himself for the long ride up to West Eighty-fifth Street was a most shabby-appearing vehicle, the driver of which, moreover, as Mr. Leary could divine even as he crossed the sidewalk, had wiled away the tedium of waiting by indulgence in draughts of something more potent than the chill air of latish November. Mr. Leary peered doubtfully into the illuminated countenance but dulled eyes of the driver and caught a whiff of a breath alcoholically fragrant, and he understood that the warning relayed to him by Blanche had carried a subtle double meaning. Still, there was no other taxicab to be had. The street might have been a byway in old Pompeii for all the life that moved within it. Washington Square, facing him, was as empty as a graveyard generally is at this hour, and the semblance of a conventional graveyard in wintertime was helped out by a light snow – the first of the season – sifting down in large damp flakes.
Twice and thrice he repeated the address, speaking each time sharply and distinctly, before the meaning seemed to filter into the befogged intellect of the inebriate. On the third rendition the latter roused from where he was slumped down.
"I garcia, Steve," he said thickly. "I garcia firs' time only y' hollowed s'loud I couldn und'stancher."
So saying he lurched into a semiupright posture and fumbled for the wheel. Silently condemning the curse of intemperance among the working classes of a great city Mr. Leary boarded the cab and drew the skirts of his overcoat down in an effort to cover his knees. With a harsh grating of clutches and an abrupt jerk the taxi started north.