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Prince?" added the other, trying to be witty, with the usual success.
"You'd better go home early yourself, Barrow, or that tongue of
yours will get you into trouble," retorted Charlie, conscious that he
ought to take his own advice, yet lingering, nervously putting on
his gloves while the glasses were being filled.
"Now, brother-in-law, fire away! Here you are, Prince." And Steve
handed a glass across the table to his cousin, feeling too much
elated with various pleasurable emotions to think what he was
doing, for the boys all knew Charlie's weakness and usually tried
to defend him from it.
Before the glass could be taken, however, Mac entered in a great
hurry, delivering his message in an abbreviated and rather
peremptory form: "Rose is waiting for you. Hurry up!"
"All right. Good night, old fellows!" And Charlie was off, as if the
name had power to stop him in the very act of breaking the
promise made to himself.
"Come, Solon, take a social drop, and give us an epithalamium in
your best Greek. Here's to you!" And Steve was lifting the wine to
his own lips when Mac knocked the glass out of his hand with a
flash of the eye that caused his brother to stare at him with his
mouth open in an imbecile sort of way, which seemed to excite
Mac still more, for, turning to his young host, he said, in a low
voice, and with a look that made the gentlemen on the chairs sit up
suddenly: "I beg pardon, Van, for making a mess, but I can't stand
by and see my own brother tempt another man beyond his strength
or make a brute of himself. That's plain English, but I can't help
speaking out, for I know not one of you would willingly hurt
Charlie, and you will if you don't let him alone."
"What do you pitch into me for? I've done nothing. A fellow must
be civil in his own house, mustn't he?" asked Van good-humoredly
as he faced about, corkscrew in hand.
"Yes, but it is not civil to urge or joke a guest into doing what you
know and he knows is bad for him. That's only a glass of wine to
you, but it is perdition to Charlie, and if Steve knew what he was
about, he'd cut his right hand off before he'd offer it."
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