He drew a check book from one pocket and a fountain pen from another.
“I’ll advance you two hundred pounds for the sole right to deal with the thing on your behalf. My solicitors will send you a document full of verbiage which you had better send off to your solicitor to look through before you sign it. It will be all right. I’m going to take the proofs. Of course this stops publishing,” he remarked, looking round from the dressing-table where he was writing the check.
Septimus assented and took the check wonderingly, remarking that he didn’t in the least know what it was for.
“For the privilege of making your fortune. Good-by,” said he. “Don’t get up.”
“Good night,” said Septimus, and the door having closed behind Clem Sypher, he thrust the check beneath the bedclothes, curled himself up and went to sleep like a dormouse.
Clem Sypher stood at the front door of Penton Court a day or two afterwards, awaiting his guests and taking the air. The leaves of the oaks that lined the drive fell slowly under the breath of a southwest wind, and joined their sodden brethren on the path. The morning mist still hung around the branches. The sky threatened rain.
A servant came from within the house, bringing a telegram on a tray. Sypher opened it, and his strong, pink face became as overcast as the sky. It was from the London office of the Cure, and contained the information that one of his largest buyers had reduced his usual order by half. The news was depressing. So was the prospect before him, of dripping trees and of evergreens on the lawn trying to make the best of it in forlorn bravery. Heaven had ordained that the earth should be fair and Sypher’s Cure invincible. Something was curiously wrong in the execution of Heaven’s decrees. He looked again at the preposterous statement, knitting his brow. Surely this was some base contrivance of the enemy. They had been underselling and outadvertising him for months, and had ousted him from the custom of several large firms already. Something had to be done. As has been remarked before, Sypher was a man of Napoleonic methods. He called for a telegraph form, and wrote as he stood, with the tray as a desk:
“If you can’t buy advertising rights on St. Paul’s Cathedral or Westminster Abbey, secure outside pages of usual dailies for Thursday. Will draw up ‘ad’ myself.”
He gave it to the servant, smiled in anticipation of the battle, and felt better. When Zora, Emmy, and Septimus appeared at the turn of the drive, he rushed to meet them, beaming with welcome and exuberant in phrase. This was the best housewarming that could be imagined. Just three friends to luncheon—three live people. A gathering of pale-souled folk would have converted the house into a chilly barn. They would warm it with the glow of friendship. Mrs. Middlemist, looking like a rose in June, had already irradiated the wan November garden. Miss Oldrieve he likened to a spring crocus, and Septimus (with a slap on the back) could choose the vegetable he would like to resemble. They must look over the house before lunch. Afterwards, outside, the great surprise awaited them. What was it? Ah! He turned laughing eyes on them, like a boy.