“Are you Baring?” Norgate asked, deepening his voice a little.
“Yes! Who are you?”
“I am a friend,” Norgate answered slowly.
“What the devil do you mean by ’a friend’?” was the irritated reply. “I am engaged here most particularly.”
“There can be nothing so important,” Norgate declared, “as the warning I am charged to give to you. Remember that it is a friend who speaks. There is a train about five o’clock to Portsmouth. Your work is finished. Take that train and stay away from London.”
Norgate set down the receiver without listening to the tangle of exclamations from the other end, and walked quickly out of the shop. He re-entered his taxi.
“The St. James’s Club,” he ordered.
Norgate found Selingman in the little drawing-room of the club, reclining in an easy-chair, a small cup of black coffee by his side. He appeared to be exceedingly irate at the performance of his partner in a recent rubber, and he seized upon Norgate as a possibly sympathetic confidant.
“Listen to me for one moment,” he begged, “and tell me whether I have not the right to be aggrieved. I go in on my own hand, no trump. I am a careful declarer. I play here every day when I am in London, and they know me well to be a careful declarer. My partner—I do not know his name; I hope I shall never know his name; I hope I shall never see him again—he takes me out. ‘Into what?’ you ask. Into diamonds! I am regretful, but I recognise, as I believe, a necessity. I ask you, of what do you suppose his hand consists? Down goes my no trump on the table—a good, a very good no trump. He has in his hand the ace, king, queen and five diamonds, the king of clubs guarded, the ace and two little hearts, and he takes me out into diamonds from no trumps with a score at love all. Two pences they had persuaded me to play, too, and it was the rubber game. Afterwards he said to me: ‘You seem annoyed’; and I replied ’I am annoyed,’ and I am. I come in here to drink coffee and cool myself. Presently I will cut into another rubber, where that young man is not. Perhaps our friend Mrs. Benedek will be here. You and I and Mrs. Benedek, but not, if we can help it, the lady who smokes the small black cigars. She is very amiable, but I cannot attend to the game while she sits there opposite to me. She fascinates me. In Germany sometimes our women smoke cigarettes, but cigars, and in public, never!”
“We’ll get a rubber presently, I dare say,” Norgate remarked, settling himself in an easy-chair. “How’s business?”
“Business is very good,” Selingman declared. “It is so good that I must be in London for another week or so before I set off to the provinces. It grows and grows all the time. Soon I must find a manager to take over some of my work here. At my time of life one likes to enjoy. I love to be in London; I do not like these journeys to Newcastle and Liverpool and places a long way off. In London I am happy. You should go into business, young man. It is not well for you to do nothing.”