THE cars came scudding in towards Dublin, running evenly like pellets in
the groove of the Naas Road. At the crest of the hill at Inchicore
sightseers had gathered in clumps to watch the cars careering homeward and
through this channel of poverty and inaction the Continent sped its wealth
and industry. Now and again the clumps of people raised the cheer of the
gratefully oppressed. Their sympathy, however, was for the blue cars—the
cars of their friends, the French.
The French, moreover, were virtual victors. Their team had finished
solidly; they had been placed second and third and the driver of the
winning German car was reported a Belgian. Each blue car, therefore,
received a double measure of welcome as it topped the crest of the hill
and each cheer of welcome was acknowledged with smiles and nods by those
in the car. In one of these trimly built cars was a party of four young
men whose spirits seemed to be at present well above the level of
successful Gallicism: in fact, these four young men were almost hilarious.
They were Charles Segouin, the owner of the car; Andre Riviere, a young
electrician of Canadian birth; a huge Hungarian named Villona and a neatly
groomed young man named Doyle. Segouin was in good humour because he had
unexpectedly received some orders in advance (he was about to start a
motor establishment in Paris) and Riviere was in good humour because he
was to be appointed manager of the establishment; these two young men (who
were cousins) were also in good humour because of the success of the
French cars. Villona was in good humour because he had had a very
satisfactory luncheon; and besides he was an optimist by nature. The
fourth member of the party, however, was too excited to be genuinely
He was about twenty-six years of age, with a soft, light brown moustache
and rather innocent-looking grey eyes. His father, who had begun life as
an advanced Nationalist, had modified his views early. He had made his
money as a butcher in Kingstown and by opening shops in Dublin and in the
suburbs he had made his money many times over. He had also been fortunate
enough to secure some of the police contracts and in the end he had become
rich enough to be alluded to in the Dublin newspapers as a merchant
prince. He had sent his son to England to be educated in a big Catholic
college and had afterwards sent him to Dublin University to study law.
Jimmy did not study very earnestly and took to bad courses for a while. He
had money and he was popular; and he divided his time curiously between
musical and motoring circles. Then he had been sent for a term to
Cambridge to see a little life. His father, remonstrative, but covertly
proud of the excess, had paid his bills and brought him home. It was at
Cambridge that he had met Segouin. They were not much more than
acquaintances as yet but Jimmy found great pleasure in the society of one
who had seen so much of the world and was reputed to own some of the
biggest hotels in France. Such a person (as his father agreed) was well
worth knowing, even if he had not been the charming companion he was.
Villona was entertaining also—a brilliant pianist—but,
unfortunately, very poor.
The car ran on merrily with its cargo of hilarious youth. The two cousins
sat on the front seat; Jimmy and his Hungarian friend sat behind.
Decidedly Villona was in excellent spirits; he kept up a deep bass hum of
melody for miles of the road. The Frenchmen flung their laughter and light
words over their shoulders and often Jimmy had to strain forward to catch
the quick phrase. This was not altogether pleasant for him, as he had
nearly always to make a deft guess at the meaning and shout back a
suitable answer in the face of a high wind. Besides Villona's humming
would confuse anybody; the noise of the car, too.
Rapid motion through space elates one; so does notoriety; so does the
possession of money. These were three good reasons for Jimmy's excitement.
He had been seen by many of his friends that day in the company of these
Continentals. At the control Segouin had presented him to one of the
French competitors and, in answer to his confused murmur of compliment,
the swarthy face of the driver had disclosed a line of shining white
teeth. It was pleasant after that honour to return to the profane world of
spectators amid nudges and significant looks. Then as to money—he
really had a great sum under his control. Segouin, perhaps, would not
think it a great sum but Jimmy who, in spite of temporary errors, was at
heart the inheritor of solid instincts knew well with what difficulty it
had been got together. This knowledge had previously kept his bills within
the limits of reasonable recklessness, and, if he had been so conscious of
the labour latent in money when there had been question merely of some
freak of the higher intelligence, how much more so now when he was about
to stake the greater part of his substance! It was a serious thing for
Of course, the investment was a good one and Segouin had managed to give
the impression that it was by a favour of friendship the mite of Irish
money was to be included in the capital of the concern. Jimmy had a
respect for his father's shrewdness in business matters and in this case
it had been his father who had first suggested the investment; money to be
made in the motor business, pots of money. Moreover Segouin had the
unmistakable air of wealth. Jimmy set out to translate into days' work
that lordly car in which he sat. How smoothly it ran. In what style they
had come careering along the country roads! The journey laid a magical
finger on the genuine pulse of life and gallantly the machinery of human
nerves strove to answer the bounding courses of the swift blue animal.
They drove down Dame Street. The street was busy with unusual traffic,
loud with the horns of motorists and the gongs of impatient tram-drivers.
Near the Bank Segouin drew up and Jimmy and his friend alighted. A little
knot of people collected on the footpath to pay homage to the snorting
motor. The party was to dine together that evening in Segouin's hotel and,
meanwhile, Jimmy and his friend, who was staying with him, were to go home
to dress. The car steered out slowly for Grafton Street while the two
young men pushed their way through the knot of gazers. They walked
northward with a curious feeling of disappointment in the exercise, while
the city hung its pale globes of light above them in a haze of summer
In Jimmy's house this dinner had been pronounced an occasion. A certain
pride mingled with his parents' trepidation, a certain eagerness, also, to
play fast and loose for the names of great foreign cities have at least
this virtue. Jimmy, too, looked very well when he was dressed and, as he
stood in the hall giving a last equation to the bows of his dress tie, his
father may have felt even commercially satisfied at having secured for his
son qualities often unpurchaseable. His father, therefore, was unusually
friendly with Villona and his manner expressed a real respect for foreign
accomplishments; but this subtlety of his host was probably lost upon the
Hungarian, who was beginning to have a sharp desire for his dinner.
The dinner was excellent, exquisite. Segouin, Jimmy decided, had a very
refined taste. The party was increased by a young Englishman named Routh
whom Jimmy had seen with Segouin at Cambridge. The young men supped in a
snug room lit by electric candle-lamps. They talked volubly and with
little reserve. Jimmy, whose imagination was kindling, conceived the
lively youth of the Frenchmen twined elegantly upon the firm framework of
the Englishman's manner. A graceful image of his, he thought, and a just
one. He admired the dexterity with which their host directed the
conversation. The five young men had various tastes and their tongues had
been loosened. Villona, with immense respect, began to discover to the
mildly surprised Englishman the beauties of the English madrigal,
deploring the loss of old instruments. Riviere, not wholly ingenuously,
undertook to explain to Jimmy the triumph of the French mechanicians. The
resonant voice of the Hungarian was about to prevail in ridicule of the
spurious lutes of the romantic painters when Segouin shepherded his party
into politics. Here was congenial ground for all. Jimmy, under generous
influences, felt the buried zeal of his father wake to life within him: he
aroused the torpid Routh at last. The room grew doubly hot and Segouin's
task grew harder each moment: there was even danger of personal spite. The
alert host at an opportunity lifted his glass to Humanity and, when the
toast had been drunk, he threw open a window significantly.
That night the city wore the mask of a capital. The five young men
strolled along Stephen's Green in a faint cloud of aromatic smoke. They
talked loudly and gaily and their cloaks dangled from their shoulders. The
people made way for them. At the corner of Grafton Street a short fat man
was putting two handsome ladies on a car in charge of another fat man. The
car drove off and the short fat man caught sight of the party.
A torrent of talk followed. Farley was an American. No one knew very well
what the talk was about. Villona and Riviere were the noisiest, but all
the men were excited. They got up on a car, squeezing themselves together
amid much laughter. They drove by the crowd, blended now into soft
colours, to a music of merry bells. They took the train at Westland Row
and in a few seconds, as it seemed to Jimmy, they were walking out of
Kingstown Station. The ticket-collector saluted Jimmy; he was an old man:
"Fine night, sir!"
It was a serene summer night; the harbour lay like a darkened mirror at
their feet. They proceeded towards it with linked arms, singing Cadet
Roussel in chorus, stamping their feet at every:
"Ho! Ho! Hohe, vraiment!"
They got into a rowboat at the slip and made out for the American's yacht.
There was to be supper, music, cards. Villona said with conviction:
"It is delightful!"
There was a yacht piano in the cabin. Villona played a waltz for Farley
and Riviere, Farley acting as cavalier and Riviere as lady. Then an
impromptu square dance, the men devising original figures. What merriment!
Jimmy took his part with a will; this was seeing life, at least. Then
Farley got out of breath and cried "Stop!" A man brought in a light
supper, and the young men sat down to it for form's sake. They drank,
however: it was Bohemian. They drank Ireland, England, France, Hungary,
the United States of America. Jimmy made a speech, a long speech, Villona
saying: "Hear! hear!" whenever there was a pause. There was a great
clapping of hands when he sat down. It must have been a good speech.
Farley clapped him on the back and laughed loudly. What jovial fellows!
What good company they were!
Cards! cards! The table was cleared. Villona returned quietly to his piano
and played voluntaries for them. The other men played game after game,
flinging themselves boldly into the adventure. They drank the health of
the Queen of Hearts and of the Queen of Diamonds. Jimmy felt obscurely the
lack of an audience: the wit was flashing. Play ran very high and paper
began to pass. Jimmy did not know exactly who was winning but he knew that
he was losing. But it was his own fault for he frequently mistook his
cards and the other men had to calculate his I.O.U.'s for him. They were
devils of fellows but he wished they would stop: it was getting late.
Someone gave the toast of the yacht The Belle of Newport and then someone
proposed one great game for a finish.
The piano had stopped; Villona must have gone up on deck. It was a
terrible game. They stopped just before the end of it to drink for luck.
Jimmy understood that the game lay between Routh and Segouin. What
excitement! Jimmy was excited too; he would lose, of course. How much had
he written away? The men rose to their feet to play the last tricks.
talking and gesticulating. Routh won. The cabin shook with the young men's
cheering and the cards were bundled together. They began then to gather in
what they had won. Farley and Jimmy were the heaviest losers.
He knew that he would regret in the morning but at present he was glad of
the rest, glad of the dark stupor that would cover up his folly. He leaned
his elbows on the table and rested his head between his hands, counting
the beats of his temples. The cabin door opened and he saw the Hungarian
standing in a shaft of grey light: