“I am really very sorry,” he said. “I did not mean to put you to this trouble. I never drink cocktails.”
Granet paused in shaking the silver receptacle, and laid it down.
“Have a whisky and soda instead?”
Thomson shook his head.
“If you will excuse me,” he said, “I will drink your health at dinner-time. I have no doubt that your cocktails are excellent but I never seem to have acquired the habit. What do you put in them?”
“Oh! just both sorts of vermouth and gin, and a dash of something to give it a flavour,” Granet explained carelessly.
Thomson touched a small black bottle, smelt it and put it down.
“What’s that?” he asked.
“A mixture of absinth and some West Indian bitters,” Granet replied. “A chap who often goes to the States brought it back for me. Gives a cocktail the real Yankee twang, he says.”
Thomson nodded slowly.
“Rather a curious odour,” he remarked. “We shall meet again, then, Captain Granet.”
They walked towards the door. Granet held it open, leaning upon his stick.
“Many times, I trust,” he observed politely.
There was a second’s pause. His right hand was half extended but his departing guest seemed not to notice the fact. He merely nodded and put on his hat.
“It is a small world,” he said, “especially, although it sounds paradoxical, in the big places.”
He passed out. Granet listened to the sound of his retreating footsteps with a frown upon his forehead. Then he came back and stood for a moment upon the rug in front of the fire, deep in thought. The fox terrier played unnoticed about his feet. His face seemed suddenly to have become older and more thoughtful. He glanced at the card which Thomson had left upon the sideboard.
“Surgeon-Major Thomson,” he repeated quietly to himself. “I wonder!”
Thomson walked slowly to the end of Sackville Street, crossed the road and made his way to the Ritz Hotel. He addressed himself to the head clerk of the reception counter.
“I am Surgeon-Major Thomson,” he announced.
“I was lunching here to-day and attended one of the waiters who was taken ill afterwards. I should be very glad to know if I can see him for a few moments.”
The man bowed politely.
“I remember you quite well, sir,” he said. “A Belgian waiter, was it not? He has been taken away by a lady this afternoon.”
“Taken away?” Thomson repeated, puzzled.
“The lady who was giving the luncheon—Lady Anselman—called and saw the manager about an hour ago,” the man explained. “She has interested herself very much in the matter of Belgian refugees and is entertaining a great many of them at a house of hers near the seaside. The man is really not fit to work, so we were very glad indeed to pass him on to her.”
“He recovered consciousness before he was removed, I suppose?” Thomson inquired.