Through the suave, warm radiance of that afternoon of Spring in England a gentleman of modest and commonly amiable deportment bore a rueful countenance down Piccadilly and into Halfmoon street, where presently he introduced it to one whom he found awaiting him in his lodgings, much at ease in his easiest chair, making free with his whiskey and tobacco, and reading a slender brown volume selected from his shelves.
This degage person was patently an Englishman, though there were traces of Oriental ancestry in his cast. The other, he of the doleful habit, was as unmistakably of Gallic pattern, though he dressed and carried himself in a thoroughly Anglo-Saxon fashion, and even seemed a trace intrigued when greeted by a name distinctively French.
For the Englishman, rousing from his appropriated ease, dropped his book to the floor beside the chair, uprose and extended a cordial hand, exclaiming: “H’are ye, Monsieur Duchemin?”
To this the other responded, after a slight pause, obscurely enough: “Oh! ancient history, eh? Well, for the matter of that: How are you, Mister Wertheimer?”
Their hands fell apart, and Monsieur Duchemin proceeded to do away his hat and stick and chamois gloves; while his friend, straddling in front of a cold grate and extending his hands to an imaginary blaze, covered with a mild complaint the curiosity excited by a brief study of that face of melancholy.
“Pretty way you’ve got of making your friends wait on your pleasure. Here I’ve wasted upwards of two hours of His Majesty’s time...”
“How was I to know you’d have the cheek to force your way in here in my absence and help yourself to my few poor consolations?” Duchemin retorted, helping himself to them in turn. “But then one never does know what fresh indignity Fate has in store...”
“After you with that whiskey, by your leave. I say: I’d give something to know where you ignorant furriners come by this precious pre-War stuff.” But without waiting to be denied this information, Mr. Wertheimer continued: “Going on the evidence of your looks and temper, you’ve been down to Tilbury Docks this afternoon to see Karslake and Sonia off.”
“A few such flashes of intelligence applied professionally, my friend, should carry you far.”
“And the experience has left you feeling a bit down, what?”
“I imagine even you do not esteem parting with those whom one loves an exhilarating pastime.”
“But when it’s so obviously for their own good...”
“Oh, I know!” Duchemin agreed without enthusiasm. “If anything should happen to Karslake now, it would break Sonia’s heart, but...”
“And after the part he played in that Vassilyevski show his lease of life wouldn’t be apt to be prolonged by staying on in England.”
“I agree; but still—!” sighed Duchemin, throwing himself heavily into a chair.