“Oh, the chief’ll fix all that,” the man answered. “Don’t you worry.”
Mr. Sabin smiled.
In a magnificently furnished apartment somewhere in the neighbourhood of Fifth Avenue a small party of men were seated round a card table piled with chips and rolls of bills. On the sideboard there was a great collection of empty bottles, spirit decanters and Vichy syphons. Mr. Horser was helping himself to brandy and water with one hand and holding himself up with the other. There was a knock at the door.
A man who was still playing looked up. He was about fifty years of age, clean shaven, with vacuous eyes and a weak mouth. He was the host of the party.
“Come in!” he shouted.
A young man entered in a long black overcoat and soft hat. He looked about him without surprise, but he seemed to note Mr. Horser’s presence with some concern. The man at the table threw down his cards.
“What the devil do you want, Smith?”
“An important despatch from Washington has just arrived, sir. I have brought it up with the codebook.”
“From Washington at this time of the night,” he exclaimed thickly. “Come in here, Smith.”
He raised the curtains leading into a small anteroom, and turned up the electric light. His clerk laid the message down on the table before him.
“Here is the despatch, Mr. Mace,” he said, “and here is the translation.”
“English Ambassador demands immediate explanation of arrest of Duke Souspennier at Waldorf to-night. Reply immediately what charge and evidence. Souspennier naturalised Englishman.”
Mr. Mace sprang to his feet with an oath. He threw aside the curtain which shielded the room from the larger apartment.
“Horser, come here, you damned fool!”
Horser, with a stream of magnificent invectives, obeyed the summons. His host pointed to the message.
Mr. Horser read and his face grew even more repulsive. A dull purple flush suffused his cheeks, his eyes were bloodshot, and the veins on his forehead stood out like cords. He leaned for several moments against the table and steadily cursed Mr. Sabin, the government at Washington, and something under his breath which he did not dare to name openly.
“Oh, shut up!” his host said at last. “How the devil are we going to get out of this?”
Mr. Horser left the room and returned with a tumbler full of brandy and a very little water.
“Take a drink yourself,” he said. “It’ll steady you.”
“Oh, I’m steady enough,” Mr. Mace replied impatiently. “I want to know how you’re going to get us out of this. What was the charge, anyhow?”
“Passing forged bills,” Horser answered. “Parsons fixed it up.”
Mr. Mace turned a shade paler.
“Where the devil’s the sense in a charge like that?” he answered fiercely. “The man’s a millionaire. He’ll turn the tables on us nicely.”