“How’s your room lighted?”
“Oh, we have the electric. It is switched off at ten, so that the light will not give any trouble, Acton.”
“Well, bolt your door, too. It seems as though the fates were fighting for us, eh, young ’un?”
LONDON AND BACK
At nine that night the two, as agreed upon, met at Dring in the hotel stables. There had been no mishaps.
The groom was busy putting the horse into the trap, and, when Jack saw what a really smart turn-out Acton had engaged, his fears began to occupy less of his thoughts and the pleasures of a rattling hour’s spin a jolly lot more. Punctually to the minute Jack climbed up beside the driver, the place of honour, and Acton swung himself up behind; the yard doors were flung open, and the gig rattled smartly out. The hotel proprietor had not chanted the praises of his horse in vain. On the level road it laid itself out to go for all it was worth.
The pleasant music of the jingling harness and the scurrying of the wheels made as jolly a tune as Jack could wish to hear. There was a touch of frost in the air, which made the quick motion of the gig bite shrewdly on his cheeks, and made him button up his overcoat to the chin and settle his cap well over his ears. Acton threw out jokes, too, from behind, which made Jack feel no end clever to listen to them, and the driver now and then restrained his horse’s “freshness” with the soothing mellow whistle which only drivers possess. The farmhouses, hayricks, and an occasional village, drifted past now to the right, now to the left, and occasionally they overhauled a leisurely belated cyclist, who at once began to take an unimportant position in the rear, his lamp growing less and less down the stretch of long white road.
Soon the houses began to come more frequently, then came the streets with their long avenues of yellow lights, and within the hour they were rolling smoothly over the wooden pavements.
“Piccadilly,” said Acton. “Drop us at the top of Whitehall, will you? Then you can take the horse to the mews. Be ready for us outside Frascati’s by twelve. Understand?”
“Yes, sir, at Frascati’s by twelve! I know the place.” A minute or two later the two swung off in Trafalgar Square, and the driver rattled away into the crowd.
Jack was delighted. “Spiffing run, Acton, eh?”
“Glad you liked it, young ’un. Now let us localize the Universal Sporting Club. I know it’s about Covent Garden somewhere.” Together they went up the crowded Strand, Jack enjoying every minute of the bustling walk to the Garden and imagining that he was a very much daring young desperado to be so far from his little white bunk at St. Amory’s. He would have been usually fast asleep by this time.
The Universal Sporting Club was not a difficult place to find, and though all its windows were lighted up, upon its fast shut doors were two little notices: “This door will be open at 11 p.m. None but members and friends admitted.”