“At present,” Norgate replied, “the Baroness is in Italy, arranging for the mobilisation of the Italian armies, but if she’s back for Thursday, we shall be delighted. She’ll be quite interested to meet you. A keen, bright, alert politician of your type will simply fascinate her.”
“We’ll make it Thursday night, then, at the Carlton,” Hebblethwaite called out from his taxi. “Take care of Boko. So long!”
At the top of St. James’s Street, Norgate received the bow of a very elegantly-dressed young woman who was accompanied by a well-known soldier. A few steps further on he came face to face with Selingman.
“A small city, London,” the latter declared. “I am on my way to the Berkeley to lunch. Will you come with me? I am alone to-day, and I hate to eat alone. Miss Morgen has deserted me shamefully.”
“I met her a moment or two ago,” Norgate remarked. “She was with Colonel Bowden.”
Selingman nodded. “Rosa has been taking a great interest in flying lately. Colonel Bowden is head of the Flying Section. Well, well, one must expect to be deserted sometimes, we older men.”
“Especially in so great a cause,” Norgate observed drily.
Selingman smiled enigmatically.
“And you, my young friend,” he enquired, “what have you been doing this morning?”
“I have just left Hebblethwaite,” Norgate answered.
“There was a Cabinet Council this morning, wasn’t there?”
“An unimportant one, I should imagine. Hebblethwaite seemed thoroughly satisfied with himself and with life generally. He has gone down to Walton Heath to play golf.”
Selingman led the way into the restaurant.
“Very good exercise for an English Cabinet Minister,” he remarked, “capital for the muscles!”
“I had no objection,” Norgate remarked, a few hours later, “to lunching with you at the Berkeley—very good lunch it was, too—but to dine with you in Soho certainly seems to require some explanation. Why do we do it? Is it my punishment for a day’s inactivity, because if so, I beg to protest. I did my best with Hebblethwaite this morning, and it was only because there was nothing for him to tell me that I heard nothing.”
Selingman spread himself out at the little table and talked in voluble German to the portly head-waiter in greasy clothes. Then he turned to his guest.
“My young friend,” he enjoined, “you should cultivate a spirit of optimism. I grant you that the place is small and close, that the odour of other people’s dinners is repellent, that this cloth, perhaps, is not so clean as it once was, or the linen so fine as we are accustomed to. But what would you have? All sides of life come into the great scheme. It is here that we shall meet a person whom I need to meet, a person whom I do not choose to have visit me at my home, whom I do not choose to be seen with in any public place of great repute.”