‘Drink?’ Brenda’s friend exclaimed. ‘I’ll bet you can’t drink like young Arthur Seaton there’ – nodding to Arthur’s end of the table. ‘He’s on’y twenty-one and ‘e can tek it in like a fish. I don’t know where ‘e puts it all. It just goes in and in and you wonder when ‘is guts are goin’ ter go bust all over the room, but ‘e duzn’t even get fatter!’
Loudmouth grunted and tried to ignore her eulogy, but at the end of a fiery and vivid description of a brothel in Alexandria he called over to Arthur. ‘I hear you drink a lot, matey?’
Arthur didn’t like being called ‘matey’. It put his back up straight away. ‘Middlin’,’ he answered modestly. ‘Why?’
‘What’s the most you’ve ever drunk, then?’ Loudmouth wanted to know. ‘We used to have boozing matches on shore-leave,’ he added with a wide, knowing smile to the aroused group of spectators. He reminded Arthur of a sergeant-major who once put him on a charge.
‘I don’t know,’ Arthur told him. ‘I can’t count, you see.’
‘Well,’ Loudmouth rejoined, ‘let’s see how much you can drink now. Loser pays the bill.’
Arthur did not hesitate. Free booze was free booze.