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A Dinner At ——-
by [?]

[The story referred to in this skit appears in “The Trimmed Lamp” under the same title–“The Badge of Policeman O’Roon.”]

The Adventures of an Author With His Own Hero

All that day–in fact from the moment of his creation–Van Sweller had conducted himself fairly well in my eyes. Of course I had had to make many concessions; but in return he had been no less considerate. Once or twice we had had sharp, brief contentions over certain points of behavior; but, prevailingly, give and take had been our rule.

His morning toilet provoked our first tilt. Van Sweller went about it confidently.

“The usual thing, I suppose, old chap,” he said, with a smile and a yawn. “I ring for a b. and s., and then I have my tub. I splash a good deal in the water, of course. You are aware that there are two ways in which I can receive Tommy Carmichael when he looks in to have a chat about polo. I can talk to him through the bathroom door, or I can be picking at a grilled bone which my man has brought in. Which would you prefer?”

I smiled with diabolic satisfaction at his coming discomfiture.

“Neither,” I said. “You will make your appearance on the scene when a gentleman should–after you are fully dressed, which indubitably private function shall take place behind closed doors. And I will feel indebted to you if, after you do appear, your deportment and manners are such that it will not be necessary to inform the public, in order to appease its apprehension, that you have taken a bath.”

Van Sweller slightly elevated his brows. “Oh, very well,” he said, a trifle piqued. “I rather imagine it concerns you more than it does me. Cut the ‘tub’ by all means, if you think best. But it has been the usual thing, you know.”

This was my victory; but after Van Sweller emerged from his apartments in the “Beaujolie” I was vanquished in a dozen small but well-contested skirmishes. I allowed him a cigar; but routed him on the question of naming its brand. But he worsted me when I objected to giving him a “coat unmistakably English in its cut.” I allowed him to “stroll down Broadway,” and even permitted “passers by” (God knows there’s nowhere to pass but by) to “turn their heads and gaze with evident admiration at his erect figure.” I demeaned myself, and, as a barber, gave him a “smooth, dark face with its keen, frank eye, and firm jaw.”

Later on he looked in at the club and saw Freddy Vavasour, polo team captain, dawdling over grilled bone No. 1.

“Dear old boy,” began Van Sweller; but in an instant I had seized him by the collar and dragged him aside with the scantiest courtesy.

“For heaven’s sake talk like a man,” I said, sternly. “Do you think it is manly to use those mushy and inane forms of address? That man is neither dear nor old nor a boy.”

To my surprise Van Sweller turned upon me a look of frank pleasure.

“I am glad to hear you say that,” he said, heartily. “I used those words because I have been forced to say them so often. They really are contemptible. Thanks for correcting me, dear old boy.”

Still I must admit that Van Sweller’s conduct in the park that morning was almost without flaw. The courage, the dash, the modesty, the skill, and fidelity that he displayed atoned for everything.

This is the way the story runs. Van Sweller has been a gentleman member of the “Rugged Riders,” the company that made a war with a foreign country famous. Among his comrades was Lawrence O’Roon, a man whom Van Sweller liked. A strange thing–and a hazardous one in fiction–was that Van Sweller and O’Roon resembled each other mightily in face, form, and general appearance. After the war Van Sweller pulled wires, and O’Roon was made a mounted policeman.