Selingman’s supper party was in some respects both distinctive and unusual. Norgate, looking around him, thought that he had never in his life been among such a motley assemblage of people. There were eight or nine musical comedy young ladies; a couple of young soldiers, one of whom he knew slightly, who had arrived as escorts to two of the young ladies; Prince Edward of Lenemaur; a youthful peer, who by various misdemeanours had placed himself outside the pale of any save the most Bohemian society, and several other men whose faces were unfamiliar. They occupied a round table just inside the door of the restaurant, and they sat there till long after the lights were lowered. The conversation all the time was of the most general and frivolous description, and Selingman, as the hour grew later, seemed to grow larger and redder and more joyous. The only hint at any serious conversation came from the musical comedy star who sat at Norgate’s left.
“Do you know our host very well?” she asked Norgate once.
“I am afraid I can’t say that I know him well at all,” Norgate replied. “I met him in the train coming from Berlin, a few nights ago.”
“He is the most original person,” she declared. “He entertains whenever he has a chance; he makes new friends every hour; he eats and drinks and seems always to be enjoying himself like an overgrown baby. And yet, all the time there is such a very serious side to him. One feels that he has a purpose in it all.”
“Perhaps he has,” Norgate ventured.
“Perhaps he has,” she agreed, lowering her voice a little. “At least, I believe one thing. I believe that he is a good German and yet a great friend of England.”
“You don’t find the two incompatible, then?”
“I do not,” the young lady replied firmly. “I do not understand everything, of course, but I am half German and half English, so I can appreciate both sides, and I do believe that Mr. Selingman, if he had not been so immersed in his business, might have been a great politician.”
The conversation drifted into other channels. Norgate was obliged to give some attention to the more frivolous young lady on his right. The general exodus to the bar smoking-room only took place long after midnight. Every one was speaking of going on to a supper club to dance, and Norgate quietly slipped away. He took a hurried leave of his host.
“You will excuse me, won’t you?” he begged. “Enjoyed my evening tremendously. I’d like you to come and dine with me one night.”
“We will meet at the club to-morrow afternoon,” Selingman declared. “But why not come on with us now? You are not weary? They are taking me to a supper club, these young people. I have engaged myself to dance with Miss Morgen—I, who weigh nineteen stone! It will be a thing to see. Come with us.”
Norgate excused himself and left the place a moment later. It was a fine night, and he walked slowly towards Pall Mall, deep in thought. Outside one of the big clubs on the right-hand side, a man descended from a taxicab just as Norgate was passing. They almost ran into one another.