“The others must have found it, then,” she observed. “My husband is almost without means.”
“Phipps has supporters,” Wingate said thoughtfully. “They’ll carry on this combine until the last moment, until a Government commission, or something of the sort, looks like intervening. Then they’ll probably let a dozen of their subsidiary companies go smash, and Peter Phipps, Skinflint Martin and Rees will be multimillionaires. Incidentally, the whole of their enormous profits will have come from the working classes.”
“However visionary it is, I want to know about your scheme,” she persisted.
“I cannot make up my mind to bring you into it,” he declared doubtfully. “It is practically a one-man show, and it is—well, a little primitive.”
“Do you think I mind that?” she asked eagerly. “The only point worth considering is, could I help? You know in your heart that you could not make me afraid.”
“I shall take you into my confidence, at any rate,” he promised, “and you shall decide afterwards. I warn you, you will think that I have drunk deep of the Bowery melodrama.”
“I shall mind nothing,” she laughed as she assured him. “When do we begin?”
Wingate was thoughtful for a moment or two. They both heard the opening of a heavy door down below, the hailing of a taxi by the butler, and Dredlinton’s voice in the street.
“Is that your husband going?” he enquired.
“Then I am going to make a most singular request,” he said. “I am going to ask you whether you would show me over the portion of the house which you used as a hospital.”
Wingate returned to his rooms at the Milan about eleven o’clock that evening, to find Roger Kendrick, Maurice White and the Honourable Jimmy Wilshaw stretched out in his most comfortable chairs, drinking whiskies and sodas and smoking cigarettes.
“Welcome!” he exclaimed, smiling upon them from the threshold. “Are you all here? Is there any one I forgot to invite?”
“The man’s tone is inhospitable,” the Honourable Jimmy murmured, showing no inclination to rise.
“I decline to apologise,” Kendrick said. “The fact of it is, we’re here for your good, Wingate. We are here to see that you do not die of ennui and loneliness in this stony-hearted city.”
“In other words,” Maurice White chimed in, “we are here to take you to the great supper-party.”
“Well, I’m glad to hear about it,” Wingate declared, giving his coat and hat to the valet who had followed him in. “Why don’t you fellows sit down and have a drink?”
“My dear fellow,” Kendrick sighed, “sarcasm does not become you. We are all drinking—your whisky. Also, I believe, smoking your cigarettes. Your servant—admirable fellow, that—absolutely forced them upon us—wouldn’t take ‘no.’ And indeed, why should we refuse? We have come to offer you rivers of champagne, cigars of abnormal length, and the lips of the fairest houris in London. In other words, Sir Frederick Houstley, steel magnate of Sheffield, is giving a supper party to the world, and our instructions are to convey you there by force or persuasion, drunk or sober, sleepy or wide awake.”