Again and again, coming unexpectedly upon them, he noticed that their confab ceased with his appearance. Often, too, glances of warning intelligence passed between them in his presence, which, no doubt, they supposed were unnoticed by him.
They left the office together frequently, now; they often lunched uptown. Whether they were in each other’s company evenings, Selwyn did not know, for Gerald no longer volunteered information as to his whereabouts or doings. And all this hurt Selwyn, and alarmed him, too, for he was slowly coming to the conclusion that he did not like Neergard, that he would never sign articles of partnership with him, and that even his formal associateship with the company was too close a relation for his own peace of mind. But on Gerald’s account he stayed on; he did not like to leave the boy alone for his sister’s sake as well as for his own.
Matters drifted that way through early spring. He actually grew to dislike both Neergard and the business of Neergard & Co.—for no one particular reason, perhaps, but in general; though he did not yet care to ask himself to be more precise in his unuttered criticisms.
However, detail and routine, the simpler alphabet of the business, continued to occupy him. He consulted both Neergard and Gerald as usual; they often consulted him or pretended to do so. Land was bought and sold and resold, new projects discussed, new properties appraised, new mortgage loans negotiated; and solely because of his desire to remain near Gerald, this sort of thing might have continued indefinitely. But Neergard broke his word to him.
And one morning, before he left his rooms at Mrs. Greeve’s lodgings to go downtown, Percy Draymore called him up on the telephone; and as that overfed young man’s usual rising hour was notoriously nearer noon than eight o’clock, it surprised Selwyn to be asked to remain in his rooms for a little while until Draymore and one or two friends could call on him personally concerning a matter of importance.
He therefore breakfasted leisurely; and he was still scanning the real estate columns of a morning paper when Mrs. Greeve came panting to his door and ushered in a file of rather sleepy but important looking gentlemen, evidently unaccustomed to being abroad so early, and bored to death with their experience.
They were men he knew only formally, or, at best, merely as fellow club members; men whom he met when a dance or dinner took him out of the less pretentious sets he personally affected; men whom the newspapers and the public knew too well to speak of as “well known.”
First there was Percy Draymore, overgroomed for a gentleman, fat, good-humoured, and fashionable—one of the famous Draymore family noted solely for their money and their tight grip on it; then came Sanxon Orchil, the famous banker and promoter, small, urbane, dark, with that rich almost oriental coloring which he may have inherited from his Cordova ancestors who found it necessary to dehumanise their names when Rome offered them the choice with immediate eternity as alternative.