Mr. Sabin helped himself to fish, and made a careful examination of the sauce.
“After all,” he said meditatively, “I am not sure that I was wise in insisting upon a sauce piquante. I beg your pardon, Mr. Horser. Please do not think me inattentive, but I am very hungry. So, I believe, is my friend, Mr. Skinner. Will you not join us—or perhaps you have already dined?”
There was an ugly flush in Mr. Horser’s cheeks, but he struggled to keep his composure.
“Will you give me back that report?”
“When I have read it, with pleasure,” Mr. Sabin answered. “Before, no.”
Mr. Horser swallowed an exceedingly vicious oath. He struck the table lightly with his forefinger.
“Look here,” he said. “If you’d lived in New York a couple of years, even a couple of months, you wouldn’t talk like that. I tell you that I hold the government of this city in my right hand. I don’t want to be unpleasant, but if that paper is not in my hands by the time you leave this table I shall have you arrested as you leave this room, and the papers taken from you.”
“Dear me,” Mr. Sabin said, “this is serious. On what charge may I ask should I be exposed to this inconvenience?”
“Charge be damned!” Mr. Horser answered. “The police don’t want particulars from me. When I say do a thing they do it. They know that if they declined it would be their last day on the force.”
Mr. Sabin filled his glass and leaned back in his chair.
“This,” he remarked, “is interesting. I am always glad to have the opportunity of gaining an insight into the customs of different countries. I had an idea that America was a country remarkable for the amount of liberty enjoyed by its inhabitants. Your proposed course of action seems scarcely in keeping with this.”
“What are you going to do? Come, I’ve got to have an answer.”
“I don’t quite understand,” Mr. Sabin remarked, with a puzzled look, “what your official position is in connection with the police.”
Mr. Horser’s face was a very ugly sight. “Oh, curse my official position,” he exclaimed thickly. “If you want proof of what I say you shall have it in less than five minutes. Skinner, be off and fetch a couple of constables.”
“I really must protest,” Mr. Sabin said. “Mr. Skinner is my guest, and I will not have him treated in this fashion, just as the terrapin is coming in, too. Sit down, Mr. Skinner, sit down. I will settle this matter with you in my room, Mr. Horser, after I have dined. I will not even discuss it before.”
Mr. Horser opened his mouth twice, and closed it again. He knew that his opponent was simply playing to gain time, but, after all, he held the trump card. He could afford to wait. He turned to a waiter and ordered a cigar. Mr. Sabin and Mr. Skinner continued their dinner.
Conversation was a little difficult, though Mr. Sabin showed no signs of an impaired appetite. Skinner was white with fear, and glanced every now and then nervously at his chief. Mr. Horser smoked without ceasing, and maintained an ominous silence. Mr. Sabin at last, with a sigh, rose, and lighting a cigarette, took his stick from the waiter and prepared to leave.