The proprietor extended his hands.
“We have people of every class, monsieur,” he assured me. “One comes and tells his friends, and they come, and so on. I believe that there was a Chinese gentleman here to-night. One does not notice. We were busy.”
I paid my bill and departed. The commissionnaire pushed open the door, whistle in hand. He looked at me a little curiously. Without doubt he had watched my attempt to speak to Delora. I drew a half-sovereign from my pocket.
“Tell me,” I said, “do you want to earn that?”
He was a German, with a large pasty face and a yellow moustache. His eyes were small, and they seemed to contract with greed as they looked upon the coin.
“Sir!” he answered, with a bow.
“Who was the Chinese gentleman with the splendid motor-car?” I asked.
The man spread out his hands.
“Who can tell?” he said. “He dined here to-night in a private room.”
A private room! Well, that was something, at any rate!
“You do not know his name or where he comes from?” I asked.
The man shook his head, glancing nervously towards the interior of the restaurant.
“The other gentleman?” I asked.
“I do not know his name, sir,” the man declared with emphasis. “He has been here once or twice, but always alone.”
I put the half-sovereign in my pocket and drew out a sovereign. The man stretched out an eager hand which he suddenly dropped. He pointed down the street. The swing door of the restaurant remained closed, but over the soiled white curtain I also could see the face of the proprietor peering out.
“It is the second turn to the left,” the man said to me.
“And if you want that sovereign made into five,” I said carelessly, “my name is Captain Rotherby, and I am going from here to Claridge’s Hotel.”
I walked down the street and left him looking after me. At the corner I glanced around. The proprietor and the commissionnaire were talking together on the pavement.
PRIVATE AND DIPLOMATIC
The following evening I dined alone with my brother, who was, for him, in an unusually cheerful frame of mind. He talked with more interest of life and his share in it than he had done—to me, at any rate—since the tragedy which had deprived him of a home. Toward the end of dinner I asked him a question.
“Ralph,” I said, “how could I meet the Chinese ambassador here?”
He stared at me for a moment.
“Why, at any of the diplomatic receptions, I suppose,” he said, seeing that I was in earnest. “He is rather a pal of Freddy’s. Why don’t you ring up and ask him?”
“I will, the moment after dinner,” I answered.
“Why this sudden interest in Orientalism?” Ralph asked curiously.
“Curiously enough, it is apropos of these Deloras,” I answered. “I called to-day, but only found the girl in. The man I saw later with a Chinaman whom I believe to be the ambassador.”