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|The Taste Of The Meat||Jack London|
|Page 3 of 5||
He ordered a cocktail, but the uncle contented himself with the thin native claret he invariably drank. He glanced with irritated disapproval at the cocktail, and on to his nephew's face. Kit saw a lecture gathering.
"I've only a minute," he announced hastily. "I've got to run and take in that Keith exhibition at Ellery's and do half a column on it."
"What's the matter with you?" the other demanded. "You're pale. You're a wreck."
Kit's only answer was a groan.
"I'll have the pleasure of burying you, I can see that."
Kit shook his head sadly.
"No destroying worm, thank you. Cremation for mine."
John Bellew came of the old hard and hardy stock that had crossed the plains by ox-team in the fifties, and in him was this same hardness and the hardness of a childhood spent in the conquering of a new land.
"You're not living right, Christopher. I'm ashamed of you."
"Primrose path, eh?" Kit chuckled.
The older man shrugged his shoulders.
"Shake not your gory locks at me, avuncular. I wish it were the primrose path. But that's all cut out. I have no time."
"Then what in-?"
John Bellew laughed harshly and incredulously.
Again came the laughter.
"Men are the products of their environment," Kit proclaimed, pointing at the other's glass. "Your mirth is thin and bitter as your drink."
"Overwork!" was the sneer. "You never earned a cent in your life."
"You bet I have--only I never got it. I'm earning five hundred a week right now, and doing four men's work."
"Pictures that won't sell? Or--er--fancy work of some sort? Can you swim?"
"I used to."
"Sit a horse?"
"I have essayed that adventure."
John Bellew snorted his disgust.
"I'm glad your father didn't live to see you in all the glory of your gracelessness," he said. "Your father was a man, every inch of him. Do you get it? A Man. I think he'd have whaled all this musical and artistic tomfoolery out of you."
"Alas! these degenerate days," Kit sighed.
"I could understand it, and tolerate it," the other went on savagely, "if you succeeded at it. You've never earned a cent in your life, nor done a tap of man's work."
"Etchings, and pictures, and fans," Kit contributed unsoothingly.
"You're a dabbler and a failure. What pictures have you painted? Dinky water-colours and nightmare posters. You've never had one exhibited, even here in San Francisco-"
"Ah, you forget. There is one in the jinks room of this very club."
"A gross cartoon. Music? Your dear fool of a mother spent hundreds on lessons. You've dabbled and failed. You've never even earned a five-dollar piece by accompanying some one at a concert. Your songs?--rag-time rot that's never printed and that's sung only by a pack of fake Bohemians."
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