“Didn’t you see it in the Signal?”
“Neither did I,” said Brindley.
At the same moment the moving pictures came to an end, the theatre was filled with light, and the band began to play “God Save the King.” Brindley and Stirling were laughing. And, indeed, Brindley had scored, this time, over the unparalleled card of the Five Towns.
“I make you a present of that,” said Edward Henry. “But my wife’s most precious infant has to be cauterized, doctor,” he added firmly.
“Got your car here?” Stirling questioned.
“No. Have you?”
“Well, there’s the tram. I’ll follow you later. I’ve some business round this way. Persuade my wife not to worry, will you?”
And when a discontented Dr. Stirling had made his excuses and adieux to Mr. Bryany, and Robert Brindley had decided that he could not leave his crony to travel by tram-car alone, and the two men had gone, then Edward Henry turned to Mr. Bryany.
“That’s how I get rid of the doctor, you see!”
“But has your child been bitten by a dog?” asked Mr. Bryany, acutely perplexed.
“You’d almost think so, wouldn’t you?” Edward Henry replied, carefully non-committal. “What price going to the Turk’s Head now?”
He remembered with satisfaction, and yet with misgiving, a remark made to him, a judgment passed on him, by a very old woman very many years before. This discerning hag, the Widow Hullins by name, had said to him briefly, “Well, you’re a queer ’un!”
Within five minutes he was following Mr. Bryany into a small parlour on the first floor of the Turk’s Head—a room with which he had no previous acquaintance, though, like most industrious men of affairs in metropolitan Hanbridge, he reckoned to know something about the Turk’s Head. Mr. Bryany turned up the gas—the Turk’s Head took pride in being a “hostelry,” and, while it had accustomed itself to incandescent mantles (on the ground floor), it had not yet conquered a natural distaste for electricity—and Edward Henry saw a smart dispatch-box, a dress-suit, a trouser-stretcher and other necessaries of theatrical business life at large in the apartment.
“I’ve never seen this room before,” said Edward Henry.
“Take your overcoat off and sit down, will you?” said Mr. Bryany, as he turned to replenish the fire from a bucket. “It’s my private sitting-room. Whenever I am on my travels I always take a private sitting-room. It pays, you know.... Of course I mean if I’m alone. When I’m looking after Mr. Sachs, of course we share a sitting-room.”
Edward Henry agreed lightly:
“I suppose so.”
But the fact was that he was much impressed. He himself had never taken a private sitting-room in any hotel. He had sometimes felt the desire, but he had not had the “face”—as they say down there—to do it. To take a private sitting-room in a hotel was generally regarded in the Five Towns as the very summit of dashing expensiveness and futile luxury.