“I don’t see why they shouldn’t have him,” said Edward Henry, as he lifted a challenging nose in the air.
“Perhaps you don’t, Alderman!” said Brindley.
“I wouldn’t mind going to Wilkins’s,” Edward Henry persisted.
“I’d like to see you,” said Brindley, with curt scorn.
“Well,” said Edward Henry, “I’ll bet you a fiver I do.” Had he not won eighteenpence halfpenny, and was he not securely at peace with his wife?
“I don’t bet fivers,” said the cautious Brindley. “But I’ll bet you half-a-crown.”
“Done!” said Edward Henry.
“When will you go?”
“Either to-day or to-morrow. I must go to the Majestic first, because I’ve ordered a room and so on.”
“Ha!” hurtled Brindley, as if to insinuate that Edward Henry was seeking to escape from the consequences of his boast.
And yet he ought to have known Edward Henry. He did know Edward Henry. And he hoped to lose his half-crown. On his face and on the faces of the other two was the cheerful admission that tales of the doings of Alderman Machin, the great local card, at Wilkins’s—if he succeeded in getting in—would be cheap at half-a-crown.
Porters cried out “Euston!”
It was rather late in the afternoon when Edward Henry arrived in front of the facade of Wilkins’s. He came in a taxi-cab, and though the distance from the Majestic to Wilkins’s is not more than a couple of miles, and he had had nothing else to preoccupy him after lunch, he had spent some three hours in the business of transferring himself from the portals of the one hotel to the portals of the other. Two hours and three-quarters of this period of time had been passed in finding courage merely to start. Even so, he had left his luggage behind him. He said to himself that, first of all, he would go and spy out Wilkins’s; in the perilous work of scouting he rightly wished to be unhampered by impedimenta; moreover, in case of repulse or accident, he must have a base of operations upon which he could retreat in good order.