“And my line of business demands luxurious fittings,” remarked the American, as he installed Allerdyke in a sybaritic armchair and handed him a box of big cigars of a famous brand. “You’re not the first millionaire that’s come to anchor in that chair, you know!”
“If they’re millionaires in penny-pieces, maybe not,” answered Allerdyke. He lighted a cigar and glanced appraisingly at his surroundings—at the thick velvet pile of the carpets, the fine furniture, the bookcases filled with beautiful bindings, the choice bits of statuary, the two or three unmistakably good pictures. “Doing good business, I reckon?” he said, with true Yorkshire curiosity. “What’s it run to, now?”
Fullaway showed his fine white teeth in a genial laugh.
“Oh, I’ve turned over two and three millions in a year in this little den!” he answered cheerily. “Varies, you know, according to what people have got to sell, and what good buyers there are knocking around.”
“You keep a bit of sealing wax, of course?” suggested Allerdyke. “Take care that some of the brass sticks when you handle it, no doubt?”
“Commission and percentage, of course,” responded Fullaway.
“Ah, well, you’ve an advantage over chaps like me,” said Allerdyke. “Now, you shall take my case. We’ve made a pile of money in our firm, grandfather, father, and myself; but, Lord, man, you wouldn’t believe what our expenses have been! Building mills, fitting machinery—and then, wages! Why, I pay wages to six hundred workpeople every Friday afternoon! Our wages bill runs to well over fourteen hundred pound a week. You’ve naught of that sort, of course—no great staff to keep up?”
“No,” answered Fullaway. He nodded his head towards the door of a room through which they had just passed on their way into the agent’s private apartments. “All the staff I have is the young lady you just saw—Mrs. Marlow. Invaluable!”
“Married woman?” inquired Allerdyke laconically.
“Young widow,” answered Fullaway just as tersely. “Excellent business woman—been with me ever since I came here—three years. Speaks and writes several languages—well educated, good knowledge of my particular line of business. American—I knew her people very well. Of course, I don’t require much assistance—merely clerical help, but it’s got to be of a highly intelligent and specialized sort.”
“Leave your business in her hands if need be, I reckon?” suggested Allerdyke, with a sidelong nod at the closed door.
“In ordinary matters, yes—comfortably,” answered Fullaway. “She’s a bit a specialist in two things that I’m mainly concerned in—pictures and diamonds. She can tell a genuine Old Master at a glance, and she knows a lot about diamonds—her father was in that trade at one time, out in South Africa.”
“Clever woman to have,” observed Allerdyke; “knows all your business, of course?”
“All the surface business,” said Fullaway, “naturally! Anything but a confidential secretary would be useless to me, you know.”