Twyning’s face had gone very dark. His jaw had set. “Oh, all right.” He turned away, but immediately returned again, his face relaxed. “That’s all right. Only my chipping, you know. I say though,” and he laughed nervously. “That ‘not we.’ You’ve said it! I’d come in to tell you. It’s going to be ‘we.’” He advanced the paper he had been holding in his hand, his thumb indicating the top left-hand corner. “What do you think of me above the line, my boy?”
The paper was a sheet of the firm’s notepaper. In the upper left-hand corner was printed in small type, “The Rev. Sebastian Fortune.” Beneath the name was a short line and beneath the line, “Mr. Shearman Twyning. Mr. Mark Sabre”:
The Rev. Sebastian Fortune. ---------- Mr. Shearman Twyning. Mr. Mark Sabre.
Sabre said slowly, “What do you mean—you ’above the line’?”
Twyning indicated the short line with a forefinger. “That line, my boy. Jonah’s going to take me into partnership. Just told me.”
He had released the paper into Sabre’s hand. Sabre handed it back with a single word, “Good.”
Twyning’s face darkened again and darkened worse. He crumpled the paper violently in his hand and spoke also but a single word, “Thanks!” He turned sharply on his heel and went to the door.
“I say, Twyning!” Sabre jumped to his feet and went to Twyning with outstretched hand. “I didn’t mean to take it like that. Don’t think I’m not—I congratulate you. Jolly good. Splendid. I tell you what—I don’t mind telling you—it was a bit of a smack in the eye for me for a moment. You know, I’ve rather sweated over this business,”—his glance indicated the stacked bookshelves, the firm’s publications, his publications.... “See what I mean?”
A certain movement in his throat and about his mouth indicated, more than his words, what he meant. A slight.
Twyning took the hand and gripped it with a firmness characteristic of his handshake.
“Thanks, old man. Thanks awfully. Of course I know what you mean. But after all, look at the thing, eh? I mean to say, you’ve been here—what—ten or twelve years. Well, I’ve been over twenty-five. Natural, eh? And you’re doing splendidly. Every one knows that. It’s only a question of time. Thanks awfully.” He reached for Sabre’s hand again and again gripped it hard.
Sabre went back and sat against his desk. “What rather got me, you know, coming all of a sudden like that, was that Fortune promised me partnership, twice, quite a bit ago.”
Twyning, who had been speaking with an emotion in consonance with the grip of his hand, said a little blankly, “Did he? That so?”
“Yes, twice. And this looked like, when you told me—well, like dissatisfaction since, see? Eh?”
Twyning did not take up the point. “I say, you never told me.”