“Thank heaven!” thought Edward Henry.
Rose Euclid, requested to order a supper after her own mind, stared vaguely at the menu for some moments, and then said that she did not know what to order.
“Artichokes?” Edward Henry blandly suggested.
Again the giggle, followed this time by a flush! And suddenly Edward Henry recognized in her the entrancing creature of fifteen years ago! Her head thrown back, she had put her left hand behind her and was groping with her long fingers for an object to touch. Having found at length the arm of another chair, she drew her fingers feverishly along its surface. He vividly remembered the gesture in “Flower of the Heart.” She had used it with terrific effect at every grand emotional crisis of the play. He now recognized even her face!
“Did Mr. Bryany tell you that my two boys are coming up?” said she. “I left them behind to do some telephoning for me.”
“Delighted!” said Edward Henry. “The more the merrier!”
And he hoped that he spoke true.
But her two boys!
“Mr. Marrier—he’s a young manager. I don’t know whether you know him; very, very talented. And Carlo Trent.”
“Same name as my dog,” Edward Henry indiscreetly murmured—and his fancy flew back to the home he had quitted; and Wilkins’s and everybody in it grew transiently unreal to him.
“Delighted!” he said again.
He was relieved that her two boys were not her offspring. That, at least, was something gained.
“You know—the dramatist,” said Rose Euclid, apparently disappointed by the effect on Edward Henry of the name of Carlo Trent.
“Really!” said Edward Henry. “I hope he won’t mind me being in a dressing-gown.”
The gentleman-in-waiting, obsequiously restive, managed to choose the supper himself. Leaving, he reached the door just in time to hold it open for the entrance of Mr. Marrier and Mr. Carlo Trent, who were talking with noticeable freedom and emphasis, in an accent which in the Five Towns is known as the “haw haw,” the “lah-di-dah” or the “Kensingtonian” accent.
Within ten minutes, within less than ten minutes, Alderman Edward Henry Machin’s supper-party at Wilkins’s was so wonderfully changed for the better that Edward Henry might have been excused for not recognizing it as his own.
The service at Wilkins’s, where they profoundly understood human nature, was very intelligent. Somewhere in a central bureau at Wilkins’s sat a psychologist, who knew, for example, that a supper commanded on the spur of the moment must be produced instantly if it is to be enjoyed. Delay in these capricious cases impairs the ecstasy and therefore lessens the chance of other similar meals being commanded at the same establishment. Hence, no sooner had the gentleman-in-waiting disappeared with the order than certain esquires appeared with the limbs and