nolan and mortimer helped jasper up off the floor, where he had fallen during his coughing fit, and back on to his stool.
"are you all right, sir?" raoul asked, with perhaps a little less friendly courtesy than he might have when the night was younger.
"i am all right," jasper answered, " i just need to finish my drink."
"you have finished it , sir," raoul told him. "and now it is closing time."
"did not. there was plenty left. plenty. it was a double, after all."
"it looks like you spilled it when you fell over," nolan told him.
nolan let go of jasper's right arm. mortimer let go of his left arm and he managed to stay upright, slumping against the bar.
"then you should give me another," jasper answered. "another double rye please bartender."
"the bar is closed, sir." raoul turned around and announced to the bar and the room, "the bar is closed, ladies and gentlemen. the last round has been served. the prince hal room thanks you for your custom."
the place was almost empty. the only customers left at the bar were the young woman who had been quietly drinking alone, and the big salesman type guy who had ordered coffee. the young woman now put her change and cigarettes into her purse and got up.
"old overholt, remember," jasper announced. "make sure it's old overholt."
and nobody left on the floor except the actress miss wilde, now sitting alone at a corner table, looking smashed. no problem there, thought raoul, nolan or mortimer could help her up to her suite.
all in all, not a bad closing time. and there had only been one fight - the one involving young mr collinson - or had there been two? - all night.
and the green room - he had to remember to check the green room.
"where's my old overholt? what kind of service is this?"
"the bottle of old overholt will be waiting for you, sir, if you wish to oblige us with your custom tonight, or this afternoon when we reopen. we will keep it on hand especially for you."
"but i didn't finish," jasper protested. "it's not fair."
"look," said nolan. "suppose you went into a liquor store and bought a bottle. and when you came out you dropped it on the sidewalk and it smashed. would the store give you another bottle free?"
the dread jasper mccarthy was surrounded by three or four people helping him after his coughing fit. had he fallen to the floor? she couldn't tell.
here was the chance to get up and out the back door without jasper seeing her.
it looked like closing time anyway.
if she could stand up and move her legs.
her great plan of getting hyacinth drunk enough to let something slip about stanley slade - or maybe something, anything, newsworthy slip out - had not worked out very well.
hyacinth was drunk all right - at this point she looked ready to pass out - but flossie was even drunker.
and hyacinth, when she hadn't been pouring the drinks down her throat- and at least she had paid for all the rounds after the first one which had been on the federal-democrat - had not let anything out of her mouth except chit-chat at first and gibberish later.
flossie took a deep breath. she would give it the old college try and stand up.
but could she leave poor hyacinth all alone like this? hyacinth was her best friend!
flossie should at least make sure hyacinth was conscious before abandoning her.
"hey," flossie said.
"hey, hyacinth!" she repeated.
"huh?" hyacinth finally answered.
"are you awake?"
"off course. what shelf would i be but a flake."
"i have to go now . it's closing time."
"yeah. closing time."
"but i love you. you're my best friend."
"i love you, too."
"friends forever. because we know the score."
hyacinth nodded. "the score. on a far distant shore."
"sisters. because we know the score. not like those stupid men."
"stupid men can't count to ten," hyacinth agreed.
"it's closing time, " flossie repeated. "i have to go file my story."
"story. time. at the new york times, " hyacinth agreed.
"no, no, not the new york times. the federal-democrat."
"these are the times - the times - these are the slimes that slice the limes- "
raoul, with a glance at the clock, came over to the seated jasper.
"excellent timing, sir. it is two minutes to closing time. what will you have?"
"two minutes, eh? i should have time for at least three doubles." jasper looked over at mortimer so see if he showed any appreciation for this amusing comment, but mortimer's attention seemed elsewhere.
"a double what, sir? scotch? i would be happy to serve you a double something but with my careful attention to detail i might not have time before closing to prepare a second one. also, here at the prince hal room, we don't like to have to perform first aid on choking patrons, though of course we make every effort to do so if it becomes absolutely necessary."
jasper hesitated. "that's quite a speech. i bet you were class valedictorian in your high school in harrisburg pennsylvania before you came to the big city to pursue your career in the dawwwnce."
"what would you like , sir? the clock is ticking. a double scotch?"
"no, rye. i guess you haven't been a bartender very long if you can't tell a rye man from a scotch man."
"certainly, sir. on the rocks?"
"good god, do i look like a man who would drink rye on the rocks? of course not. and make it old overholt, if you have it."
"i believe we do, sir, though it might take a few moments to find it."
"do what you must, do what do you must." jasper sighed, and slouched against the bar.
jasper was twenty-three years old, but had - and cultivated - the mannerisms of a drunkard two or three times his age.
raoul went down the bar in search of the old overholt and jasper looked over at mortimer.
"you know, in theodore dreiser's day, and ring lardner's day, bartenders were bartenders. they were workmen worthy of their hire, and took pride in their profession."
mortimer looked up from his glass of ginger ale. "that sounds about right."
"and it was a profession. a profession as honorable as being a surgeon or a lawyer. or even the publisher of a newspaper. if i may say so."
"now they are all act-ors, or dawwncers in the balll-ay. or else one of these artists who sell paintings that look like a cow kicked a can of paint over on its way to the slaughterhouse."
"um - i don't know that raoul is any of those things," mortimer answered. "you'd have to ask him."
"raoul! what kind of name is that for a bartender? did h l mencken ever have a pint drawn by a bartender named raoul?"