Douglas looked up quickly. A newcomer had taken the vacant place at his table.
The author of “No man’s land”
Douglas returned his greeting cordially. His vis-a-vis drew the menu towards him and studied it with interest. Setting it down he screwed a single eyeglass into his eye and beamed over at Douglas.
“Is the daily grind O. K.?” he inquired suavely.
Douglas was disconcerted at being unable to answer a question so pleasantly asked.
“I—beg your pardon,” he said, doubtfully. “I’m afraid I don’t quite understand.”
The newcomer waved his hand to some acquaintances and smiled cheerfully.
“I see you’re a stranger here,” he remarked. “There’s a table-d’hote luncheon for the modest sum of eighteenpence, which is the cheapest way to feed, if it’s decent. Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn’t. I thought perhaps you might have sampled it.”
“I believe I have,” Douglas answered. “I told the waiter to bring me the ordinary lunch, and I thought it was very good indeed.”
“Then I will risk it. Henri. Come here, you scamp.”
He gave a few orders to the waiter, who treated him with much respect. Then he turned again to Douglas.
“You have nearly finished,” he said. “Please don’t hurry. I hate to eat alone. It is a whim of mine. If I eat alone I read, and if I read I get dyspepsia. Try the oat biscuits and the Camembert.”
Douglas did as the newcomer had suggested.
“I am in no hurry,” he said. “I have nothing to do, nor anywhere to go.”