“It is very fortunate for us that you feel like that,” the other replied. “Thank you once more, sir.”
The two men separated. Sir Alfred turned to the hall-porter.
“I am expecting my nephew in to dine,” he said,—“Captain Granet. Bring him into the smoking-room, will you, directly he arrives.”
Sir Alfred passed on across the marble hall. Thomson, whose hand had been upon his hat, replaced it upon the peg. He looked after the great banker and stood for a moment deep in thought. Then he addressed the hall-porter.
“By-the-bye, Charles,” he inquired, “if you ask a non-member to dinner, you have to dine in the strangers’ room, I suppose?”
“Certainly, sir,” the man replied. “It is just at the back of the general dining-room.”
“I suppose an ordinary member couldn’t dine in there alone?”
“It is not customary, sir.”
Surgeon-Major Thomson made his way to the telephone booth. When he emerged, he interviewed the head-waiter.
“Keep a small table for me in the strangers’ room,” he ordered. “I shall require dinner for two.”
“At what time, sir?”
Major Thomson seemed for a moment deaf. He was looking through the open door of the smoking-room to where Sir Alfred was deep in the pages of a review.
“Are there many people dining there to-night?” he asked.
“Sir Alfred has a guest at eight o’clock, sir,” the man replied. “There are several others, I think, but they have not ordered tables specially.”
“At a quarter past eight, if you please. I shall be in the billiard-room, Charles,” he added, turning to the hall-porter.
Sir Alfred wearied soon of the pages of his review and leaned back in his chair, his hands folded in front of him, gazing through the window at the opposite side of the way. A good many people, passing backwards and forwards, glanced at him curiously. For thirty years his had been something like a household name in the city. He had been responsible, he and the great firm of which he was the head, for international finance conducted on the soundest principles, finance which scorned speculation, finance which rolled before it the great snowball of automatically accumulated wealth. His father had been given the baronetcy which he now enjoyed, and which, as he knew very well, might at any moment be transferred into a peerage. He was a short, rather thick-set man, with firm jaws and keen blue eyes, carefully dressed in somewhat old-fashioned style, with horn-rimmed eyeglass hung about his neck with a black ribbon. His hair was a little close-cropped and stubbly. No one could have called him handsome, no one could have found him undistinguished. Even without the knowledge of his millions, people who glanced at him recognised the atmosphere of power.
“Wonder what old Anselman’s thinking about,” one man asked another in an opposite corner.