“Dear me,” Sarah murmured, “you aren’t at all the sort of man I thought you were!”
“You don’t seem energetic. I should have thought, even if you weren’t supposed to buy or sell, that you would have been all round the markets, enquiring about B. & I.’s this morning.”
“I read the papers instead,” he replied. “One can learn a good deal from the papers.”
“You will find rather a partial Press where B. & I.’s are concerned,” Kendrick observed.
“I have already noticed it,” was the brief reply. “Still, even the Press must live, I suppose.”
“Cynic!” Sarah murmured.
“Might one ask, without being impertinent,” Maurice White enquired, addressing Wingate for the first time, “what is your real opinion concerning the directors of the B. & I.?”
Wingate answered him deliberately.
“I am scarcely a fair person to ask,” he said, “because Peter Phipps is a personal enemy of mine. However, since you have asked the question, I should say that Phipps is utterly unscrupulous and possesses every qualification of a blackguard. Rees, his nephew, is completely under his thumb, occupying just the position he might be supposed to hold. Skinflint Martin ought to have died in penal servitude years ago, and as for Dredlinton—”
Wingate was quick to scent disaster. He broke off abruptly in his sentence just as a tall, pale, beautifully gowned woman who had detached herself from a group close at hand turned towards them.
“It is Lady Dredlinton,” Kendrick whispered in his ear.
“Then I will only say,” Wingate concluded, “that Lord Dredlinton’s commercial record scarcely entitles him to a seat on the Board of any progressive company.”
Josephine Dredlinton, with a smile which gave to her face a singularly sweet expression, deprecated the disturbance which her coming had caused amongst the little company. The four men had risen to their feet. Kendrick was holding a chair for her. She apparently knew every one intimately except Wingate, and Sarah hastened to present him.
“Mr. Wingate—the Countess of Dredlinton,” she said. “Mr. Wingate has just arrived from New York, Josephine, and he wants to know which are the newest plays worth seeing and the latest mode in men’s ties.”
A somewhat curious few seconds followed upon Sarah’s few words of introduction. Wingate stood drawn to his fullest height, having the air of a man who, on the point of making his little conventional movement and speech, has felt the influence of some emotion in itself almost paralysing. His eyes searched the face of the woman before whom he stood, almost eagerly, as though he were conjuring up to himself pictures of her in some former state and trying to reconcile them with her present appearance. She, on her side, seemed to be realising some secret and