“I’m telling you now,” Sabre said. And he laughed ruefully. “It comes to much the same thing—as it turns out.”
“Yes, but still.... I wish we worked in a bit more together, Sabre. I’m always ready to, you know. Let’s, shall we?”
Sabre made no reply. Twyning repeated “Let’s” and nodded and left the room. Immediately he opened the door again and reappeared. “I say, you won’t say anything to Jonah, of course?”
Sabre smiled grimly. “I’m going to.”
Again the darkening. “Dash it, that’s not quite playing the game, is it?”
“Rot, Twyning. Fortune’s made me a promise, and I’m going to ask if he has any reason for withdrawing it, that’s all. It’s nothing to do with your show.”
“You’re bound to tell him I’ve told you.”
“Well, man alive, I’m bound to know, aren’t I?”
“Yes—in a way. Oh, well, all right. Remember about working in more together.” He withdrew and closed the door.
Outside the door he clenched his hands. He thought, “Smack in the eye for you, was it? You’ll get a damn sight worse smack in the eye one of these days. Dirty dog!”
Immediately the door was closed Sabre went what he would have called “plug in” to Mr. Fortune; that is to say, without hesitation and without reflection. He went in by the communicating door, first giving a single tap but without waiting for a reply to the tap. Mr. Fortune, presenting a whale-like flank, was at his table going through invoices and making notes in a small black book which he carried always in a tail pocket of his jacket.
“Can I speak to you a minute, Mr. Fortune?”
Mr. Fortune entered a note in the small black book: “Twenty-eight, sixteen, four.” He placed a broad elastic band round the book and with the dexterity of practice passed the book round his bulk and into the tail pocket. He flicked his hands away and extended them for an instant, palms upward, much as a conjurer might to show there was nothing in them. “Certainly you may speak to me, Sabre.” He performed his neat revolving trick. “As a matter of fact, I rather wanted to speak to you.” He pointed across the whale-like front to the massive leathern armchair beside his desk.
The seat of the armchair marked in a vast hollow the cumulative ponderosity of the pillars of Church and School who were wont to sit in it. Sabre seated himself on the arm. “Was it about this partnership business?”
Mr. Fortune had already frowned to see Sabre upon the arm of the chair, a position for which the arm was not intended. His frown deepened. “What partnership business?”
“Well, you recollect promising me—being good enough to promise me—twice—that I was going to come into partnership—”
Mr. Fortune folded his hands upon the whale-like front. “I certainly do not recollect that, Sabre.” He raised a hand responsive to a gesture. “Allow me. I recollect no promise. Either twice or any other number of times, greater or fewer. I do recollect mentioning to you the possibility of my making you such a proposal in my good time. Is that what you refer to as ’this partnership business’?”