THE GEORGE AND VULTURE
He regarded me curiously.
"Got it that bad, have you! Well, maybe that's better than not believing in anything at all. Dickens has put about forty inns in 'Pickwick' and about forty more in his other books; this one goes back to … Here, John"—this to a waiter, making a combined Mercury and caryatid of himself, his tray held high—"when you dump that get me one of those little books. It'll cost a shilling," he added, turning to me, "but you'd better have it; it'll save you a lot of trouble."
He drew a brier-wood pipe from his pocket, knocked the ashes of his last smoke from its bowl, relieved a china pyramid of one of its matches, struck a light down the seam of his trousers, blew a cloud of smoke toward the ceiling, and continued:
"I've been coming here for ten years or more, and there's hardly a day that some Americans don't drift in. I can tell right away what they're after by the way they look around, taking it all in. Then comes the setback I can see that, too. They've been fed up on this old George and Vulture business when they were boys, and what they expected to see was an old bungalow with sand on the floor and cobwebs on the ceiling and pewter mugs with dates and initials cut in 'em."
"Like the coffee-room at George Inn?" I ventured.
"No, like the coffee-room down along the river below Blackfriars. The George is too respectable. Besides, every ten years or so it gets cleaned up. Instead of a scrap-heap your countrymen find a place like what you see, with two doors always swinging, a mob of people, half of 'em standing up, beer signs, pickle signs, cracker-box signs, cigarette signs,