“Mr. Wingate,” Phipps exclaimed incredulously, “you astonish me!”
“Very likely,” was the unconcerned reply. “I won’t say that I may not change my mind a little later on, if you are still a buyer. Before I did anything, however, I should have a few enquiries to make. If this concludes our business, Mr. Phipps—”
Dredlinton waved a nervous hand towards him.
“One moment, please,” he begged, “I have just a few words to say to Mr. Wingate.”
The latter glanced at the clock.
“I hope you will say them as quickly as possible,” he enjoined. “I have a busy morning.”
Dredlinton leaned over Phipps’ chair. There was a sinister meaning in his hoarse whisper.
“Leave me alone with him for a moment,” he suggested. “Perhaps I may be able to earn that two thousand pounds.”
Phipps rose at once from his chair and made his way towards the door.
“Lord Dredlinton wishes to have a word with you, Mr. Wingate,” he said. “I shall be on the premises, in case by any fortunate chance you should decide to change your mind.”
Dredlinton sank into Phipps’ vacated chair and leaned back with his hands in his trousers pockets. He had the air of a man fortified by a certain amount of bravado,—stimulated by some evil purpose.
“So you don’t want to sell those shares, Mr. Wingate?”
“I have decided not to,” was the calm reply.
“Any particular reason?”
“None,” Wingate acknowledged, “except that I am not very anxious to have any business relations with Mr. Phipps.”
“And for the sake of that prejudice,” Dredlinton observed, “you can afford to refuse such a profit as he offered you?”
“I have other reasons for not wishing to sell,” Wingate declared. “I have a very high opinion of Mr. Phipps’ judgment as a business man. If the shares are worth so much as that to him, they are probably worth the same amount for me to keep.”
Lord Dredlinton shook his head.
“Quite a fallacy, Wingate,” he pronounced. “Phipps, as a matter of fact, is offering you considerably more than the shares are worth, because with their help he means to bring off a big thing.”
“If he relies upon my shares,” was the indifferent reply, “I am afraid the big thing won’t come off.”
“You won’t sell, then?”
Lord Dredlinton glanced for a moment at his finger nails. He seemed wrapped in abstract thought.
“I wonder if I could induce you to change your mind,” he said.
“I am quite sure that you could not.”
“Still, I am going to try. You are a great admirer of my wife, I believe, Mr. Wingate?”
Wingate frowned slightly.
“I prefer not to discuss Lady Dredlinton with you,” he said curtly.
“Still, you won’t mind going so far as to say that you are an admirer of hers?” the latter persisted.