AN INVITATION TO DINNER
Mr. Samuel Weatherley, sole proprietor of the firm of Samuel Weatherley & Co., wholesale provision merchants, of Tooley Street, London, paused suddenly on his way from his private office to the street. There was something which until that second had entirely slipped his memory. It was not his umbrella, for that, neatly tucked up, was already under his arm. Nor was it the Times, for that, together with the supplement, was sticking out of his overcoat pocket, the shape of which it completely ruined. As a matter of fact, it was more important than either of these—it was a commission from his wife.
Very slowly he retraced his steps until he stood outside the glass-enclosed cage where twelve of the hardest-worked clerks in London bent over their ledgers and invoicing. With his forefinger—a fat, pudgy forefinger—he tapped upon a pane of glass, and an anxious errand boy bolted through the doorway.
“Tell Mr. Jarvis to step this way,” his employer ordered.
Mr. Jarvis heard the message and came hurrying out. He was an undersized man, with somewhat prominent eyes concealed by gold-rimmed spectacles. He was possessed of extraordinary talents with regard to the details of the business, and was withal an expert and careful financier. Hence his hold upon the confidence of his employer.
The latter addressed him with a curious and altogether unusual hesitation in his manner.
“Mr. Jarvis,” he began, “there is a matter—a little matter—upon which I—er—wish to consult you.”
“Those American invoices—”
“Nothing to do with business at all,” Mr. Weatherley interrupted, ruthlessly. “A little private matter.”
“Indeed, sir?” Mr. Jarvis interjected.
“The fact is,” Mr. Weatherley blundered on, with considerable awkwardness, for he hated the whole affair, “my wife—Mrs. Weatherley, you know—is giving a party this evening—having some friends to dinner first, and then some other people coming to bridge. We are a man short for dinner. Mrs. Weatherley told me to get some one at the club—telephoned down here just an hour ago.”
Mr. Weatherley paused. Mr. Jarvis did his best to grasp the situation, but failed. All that he could do was to maintain his attitude of intelligent interest.
“I don’t know any one at the club,” continued his employer, irritably. “I feel like a fish out of water there, and that’s the truth, Mr. Jarvis. It’s a good club. I got elected there—well, never mind how—but it’s one thing to be a member of a club, and quite another to get to know the men there. You understand that, Mr. Jarvis.”