‘Get him some brandy, Jim,’ said the little bookseller. ‘The gentleman is ill, whoever he is.’
But Mr Markham turned without another word, and lurched past the assistant, who flattened himself against a bookshelf to give him room. Jim followed him through the shop; saw him cross the doorstep and turn away down the pavement to the left; stared in his wake until the darkness and the traffic swallowed him; and returned, softly whistling, to the little parlour.
‘Drunk’s the simplest explanation,’ he announced.
‘But how did he know my name?’ demanded Chrissy. ’And the suit-case!’
‘Eh?’ He’s left it—well, if this doesn’t beat the band!—Here, Wenham nip after the man and tell him he left his luggage behind!’ Jim stooped to lift the case by the handle.
‘But it’s Dick’s!’
’It’s the suit-case I gave him—my birthday present last April. See, there are his initials!’
Dick Rendal, alighting at Waterloo, collected his luggage—or rather, Mr Markham’s—methodically; saw it hoisted on a four-wheeler; and, handing the cabby two shillings, told him to deliver it at an address in Park Lane, where the butler would pay him his exact fare. This done, he sought the telegraph office and sent three more cablegrams, the concise wording of which he had carefully evolved on the way up from Southampton. These do not come into the story,—which may digress, however, so far as to tell that on receipt of one of them, the Vice-President of the Hands Across Central New York Office remarked to his secretary ’that the old warrior was losing no time. Leisure and ozone would appear to have bucked him up.’ To which the secretary answered that it was lucky for civilisation if Mr Markham missed suspecting, or he’d infallibly make a corner in both.
Having despatched his orders, Dick Rendal felt in his pockets for a cigar-case; was annoyed and amused (in a sub-conscious sort of way) to find only a briar pipe and a pocketful of coarse-cut tobacco; filled and lit his pipe, and started to walk.
His way led him across Westminster Bridge, up through Whitehall, and brought him to the steps of that building which, among all the great London clubs, most exorbitantly resembles a palace. He mounted its perron with the springy confident step of youth; and that same spring and confidence of gait carried him past the usually vigilant porter. A marble staircase led him to the lordliest smoking-room in London. He frowned, perceiving that his favourite arm-chair was occupied by a somnolent Judge of the High Court, and catching up the Revue des Deux Mondes, settled himself in a window-bay commanding the great twilit square of the Horse Guards and the lamp-lit Mall.
He had entered the smoking-room lightly, almost jauntily; but—not a doubt of it—he was tired—so tired that he shuffled his body twice and thrice in the arm-chair before discovering the precise angle that gave superlative comfort. . . .