He had, during the day and evening, a good many visitors, for the old gentleman’s mind was as alert as it ever had been, and important men thought him worth consulting. The names which the admirable valet Peters announced from time to time were names which meant a great deal in the official and diplomatic world of the day. But if old David felt flattered over the unusual fashion in which the great of the earth continued to come to him, he never betrayed it. Indeed, it is quite probable that this view of the situation never once occurred to him. He had been thrown with the great of the earth for more than half a century, and he had learned to take it as a matter of course.
On her return from the Marquise de Saulnes’ dinner-party, Miss Benham went at once to her grandfather’s wing of the house, which had its own street entrance, and knocked lightly at his door. She asked the admirable Peters, who opened to her, “Is he awake?” and being assured that he was, went into the vast chamber, dropping her cloak on a chair as she entered.
David Stewart was sitting up in his monumental bed behind a sort of invalid’s table which stretched across his knees without touching them. He wore over his night-clothes a Chinese mandarin’s jacket of old red satin, wadded with down, and very gorgeously embroidered with the cloud and bat designs, and with large round panels of the imperial five-clawed dragon in gold. He had a number of these jackets—they seemed to be his one vanity in things external—and they were so made that they could be slipped about him without disturbing him in his bed, since they hung down only to the waist or thereabouts. They kept the upper part of his body, which was not covered by the bedclothes, warm, and they certainly made him a very impressive figure.
He said: “Ah, Helen! Come in! Come in! Sit down on the bed there and tell me what you have been doing!” He pushed aside the pack of cards which was spread out on the invalid’s table before him, and with great care counted a sum of money in francs and half-francs and nickel twenty-five centime pieces. “I’ve won seven francs fifty from Peters to-night,” he said, chuckling gently. “That is a very good evening, indeed. Very good! Where have you been, and who were there?”
“A dinner-party at the De Saulnes’,” said Miss Benham, making herself comfortable on the side of the great bed. “It’s a very pleasant place. Marian is, of course, a dear, and they’re quite English and unceremonious. You can talk to your neighbor at dinner instead of addressing the house from a platform, as it were. French dinner-parties make me nervous.”