“Would you like to earn a hundred pounds?” he demanded abruptly, gazing into the beady eyes of the man bending over him.
Soames almost dropped the razor. His state of alarm was truly pitiable; he glanced to the right, he glanced to the left, he glanced over his shoulder, up at the ceiling and down at the floor.
“Excuse me, sir,” he said, nervously; “I don’t think I quite understand you, sir?”
“It is quite simple,” replied M. Max. “I asked you if you had some use for a hundred pounds. Because if you have, I will meet you at any place you like to mention and bring with me cash to that amount!”
“Hush, sir!—for God’s sake, hush, sir!” whispered Soames.
A dew of perspiration was glistening upon his forehead, and it was fortunate that he had finished shaving M. Max, for his hand was trembling furiously. He made a pretense of hurrying with towels, bay rum, and powder spray, but the beady eyes were ever glancing to right and left and all about.
M. Max, who throughout this time had been reflecting, made a second move.
“Another fifty, or possibly another hundred, could be earned as easily,” he said, with assumed carelessness. “I may add that this will not be offered again, and... that you will shortly be out of employment, with worse to follow.”
Soames began to exhibit signs of collapse.
“Oh, my God!” he muttered, “what shall I do? I can’t promise—I can’t promise; but I might—I might look in at the ‘Three Nuns’ on Friday evening about nine o’clock."...
He hastily scooped up M. Max’s belongings, thrust them into the handbag and closed it. M. Max was now fully dressed and ready to depart. He placed a sovereign in the valet’s ready palm.
“That’s an appointment,” he said softly.
Said entered and stood bowing in the doorway.
“Good morning, sir, good morning,” muttered Soames, and covertly he wiped the perspiration from his brow with the corner of a towel—“good morning, and thank you very much.”
M. Max, buttoning his light overcoat in order to conceal the fact that he wore evening dress, entered the corridor, and followed the Egyptian into the cave of the golden dragon. Ho-Pin, sleek and smiling, received him there. Ho-Pin was smoking the inevitable cigarette in the long tube, and, opening the door, he silently led the way up the steps into the covered courtyard, Said following with the hand bag. The limousine stood there, dimly visible in the darkness. Said placed the handbag upon the seat inside, and Ho-Pin assisted M. Max to enter, closing the door upon him, but leaning through the open window to shake his hand. The Chinaman’s hand was icily cold and limp.
“Au wrevoir, my dear fwriend,” he said in his metallic voice. “I hope to have the pleasure of gwreeting you again vewry shortly.”