But it is with The Court that we have to do at present, not with Yarleys. Mr. Champers-Haswell had a week-end party. There were ten guests, all men, and with the exception of Alan, who it will be remembered was one of them, all rich and in business. They included two French bankers and three Jews, everyone a prop of the original Sahara Syndicate and deeply interested in the forthcoming flotation. To describe them is unnecessary, for they have no part in our story, being only financiers of a certain class, remarkable for the riches they had acquired by means that for the most part would not bear examination. The riches were evident enough. Ever since the morning the owners of this wealth had arrived by ones or twos in their costly motorcars, attended by smart chauffeurs and valets. Their fur coats, their jewelled studs and rings, something in their very faces suggested money, which indeed was the bond that brought and held them together.
Alan did not come until it was time to dress for dinner, for he knew that Barbara would not appear before that meal, and it was her society he sought, not that of his host or fellow guests. Accompanied by his negro servant, Jeekie, for in a house like this it was necessary to have someone to wait upon him, he drove over from Yarleys, a distance of ten miles, arriving about eight o’clock.
“Mr. Haswell as gone up to dress, Major, and so have the other gentlemen,” said the head butler, Mr. Smith, “but Miss Champers told me to give you this note and to say that dinner is at half-past eight.”
Alan took the note and asked to be shown to his room. Once there, although he had only five and twenty minutes, he opened it eagerly, while Jeekie unpacked his bag.
“Dear Alan,” it ran: “Don’t be late for dinner, or I may not be able to keep a place next to me. Of course Sir Robert takes me in. They are a worse lot than usual this time, odious—odious!—and I can’t stand one on the left hand as well as on the right. Yours,
“P.S. What have you been doing? Our distinguished guests, to say nothing of my uncle, seem to be in a great fuss about you. I overheard them talking when I was pretending to arrange some flowers. One of them called you a sanctimonious prig and an obstinate donkey, and another answered—I think it was Sir Robert —’No doubt, but obstinate donkeys can kick and have been known to upset other people’s applecarts ere now.’ Is the Sahara Syndicate the applecart? If so, I’ll forgive you.
“P.P.S. Remember that we will walk to church together to-morrow, but come down to breakfast in knickerbockers or something to put them off, and I’ll do the same—I mean I’ll dress as if I were going to golf. We can turn into Christians later. If we don’t—dress like that, I mean—they’ll guess and all want to come to church, except the Jews, which would bring the judgment of Heaven on us.
“P.P.P.S. Don’t be careless and leave this note lying about, for the under-footman who waits upon you reads all the letters. He steams them over a kettle. Smith the butler is the only respectable man in this house.”