There it was! Yes, it really existed, the incredible edifice of his caprice and of Mr. Alloyd’s constructive imagination! It had already reached a height of fifteen feet; and, dozen of yards above that, cranes dominated the sunlit air, swinging loads of bricks in the azure; and scores of workmen crawled about beneath these monsters. And he, Edward Henry, by a single act of volition, was the author of it! He slipped from the taxi, penetrated within the wall of hoardings, and gazed, just gazed! A wondrous thing—human enterprise! And also a terrifying thing!... That building might be the tomb of his reputation. On the other hand, it might be the seed of a new renown compared to which the first would be as naught! He turned his eyes away, in fear—yes, in fear!
“I say,” he said. “Will Sir John Pilgrim be out of bed yet, d’ye think?” He glanced at his watch. The hour was about eleven.
“He’ll be at breakfast.”
“I’m going to see him, then. What’s his address?”
“25 Queen Anne’s Gate. But do you knaow him? I do. Shall I cam with you?”
“No,” said Edward Henry, shortly. “You go on with my bags to the Grand Bab, and get me another taxi. I’ll see you in my room at the hotel at a quarter to one. Eh?”
“Rather!” agreed Mr. Marrier, submissive.
“Sole proprietor of the Regent Theatre.”
These were the words which Edward Henry wrote on a visiting-card and which procured him immediate admittance to the unique spectacle—reputed to be one of the most enthralling sights in London—of Sir John Pilgrim at breakfast.
In a very spacious front-room of his flat (so celebrated for its Gobelins tapestries and its truly wonderful parquet-flooring) sat Sir John Pilgrim at a large hexagonal mahogany table. At one side of the table a small square of white diaper was arranged, and on this square were an apparatus for boiling eggs, another for making toast, and a third for making coffee. Sir John, with the assistance of a young Chinaman and a fox-terrier, who flitted around him, was indeed eating and drinking. The vast remainder of the table was gleamingly bare, save for newspapers and letters opened and unopened which Sir John tossed about. Opposite to him sat a secretary whose fluffy hair, neat white chemisette, and tender years gave her an appearance of helpless fragility in front of the powerful and ruthless celebrity. Sir John’s crimson-socked left foot stuck out from the table, emerging from the left half of a lovely new pair of brown trousers, and resting on a piece of white paper. Before this white paper knelt a man in a frock-coat who was drawing an outline on the paper round Sir John’s foot.
“You are a bootmaker, aren’t you?” Sir John was saying airily.
“Yes, Sir John.”
“Excuse me!” said Sir John. “I only wanted to be sure. I fancied from the way you caressed my corn with that pencil that you might be an artist on one of the illustrated papers. My mistake!” He was bending down. Then suddenly straightening himself he called across the room: “I say, Givington, did you notice my pose then—my expression as I used the word ‘caressed’? How would that do?”