‘Who is that gentleman with the coffee?’ he asked Barty.
‘Those stout and lean kine,’ said Barty, airily, ’puts one in mind of Pharaoh’s dream, doesn’t it?’
‘Yes, yes!’ retorted Gaston, impatiently; ‘but who are they?’
‘The long one is Fell, the railway contractor,’ said Barty, glancing with some surprise at Vandeloup, ’and the other is old Meddlechip, the millionaire.’
‘Meddlechip,’ echoed Vandeloup, as if to himself; ‘my faith!’
‘Yes,’ broke in Bellthorp, quickly; ’the one we were speaking of at the club—do you know him?’
‘I fancy I do,’ said Vandeloup, with a strange smile. ’You must excuse me to your supper to-night.’
‘No, we won’t,’ said Barty, firmly; ‘you must come.’
‘Then I’ll look in later,’ said Vandeloup, who had not the slightest intention of going. ‘Will that do?’
‘I suppose it will have to,’ said Bellthorp, in an injured tone; ‘but why can’t you come now?’
‘I’ve got to see about some business,’ said Vandeloup.
‘What, at this hour of the night?’ cried Jarper, in a voice of disgust.
Vandeloup nodded, and lit a cigarette.
‘Well, mind you come in later,’ said Barty, and then he and his friends left the bar, after making Vandeloup promise faithfully he would come.
Gaston sauntered slowly up to the coffee bar, and asked for a cup in his usual musical voice, but when the stout gentleman heard him speak he turned pale and looked up. The thin one had gone off to talk to someone else, so when Vandeloup got his coffee he turned slowly round and looked straight at Meddlechip seated in the chair.
‘Good evening, M. Kestrike,’ he said, quietly.
Meddlechip, whose face was usually red and florid-looking, turned ghastly pale, and sprang to his feet.
‘Octave Braulard!’ he gasped, placing his coffee cup on the counter.
‘At your service,’ said Vandeloup, looking rapidly round to see that no one overheard the name, ‘but here I am Gaston Vandeloup.’
Meddlechip passed his handkerchief over his face and moistened his dry lips with his tongue.
‘How did you get here?’ he asked, in a strangled voice.
‘It’s a long story,’ said M. Vandeloup, putting his coffee cup down and wiping his lips with his handkerchief; ’suppose we go and have supper somewhere, and I’ll tell you all about it.’
‘I don’t want any supper,’ said Meddlechip, sullenly, his face having regained its normal colour. ‘Possibly not, but I do,’ replied Vandeloup, sweetly, taking his arm; ‘come, let us go.’
Meddlechip did not resist, but walked passively out of the bar with Vandeloup, much to the astonishment of the thin gentleman, who called out to him but without getting any answer.
Meddlechip went to the cloak room and put on his coat and hat. Then he followed Vandeloup down the stairs and paused at the door while the Frenchman hailed a hansom. When it drove up, however, he stopped short at the edge of the pavement.