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   Chapter 15 No.15

The Regent By Arnold Bennett Characters: 9335

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:04


"Well, sir," said Mr. Seven Sachs, "I have to thank you for getting me out of a very unsatisfactory situation."

[129] "Did you really want to get out of it?" asked Edward Henry.

Mr. Sachs replied simply:

"I did, sir. There were too many partners for my taste."

They were seated more familiarly now in the drawing-room, being indeed separated only by a small table, upon which were glasses. And whereas on a night in the previous week Edward Henry had been entertained by Mr. Bryany in a private parlour at the Turk's Head, Hanbridge, on this night he was in a sort repaying the welcome to Mr. Bryany's master in a private parlour at Wilkins's, London. The sole difference in favour of Mr. Bryany was that while Mr. Bryany provided cigarettes and whisky, Edward Henry was providing only cigarettes and Vichy water. Mr. Seven Sachs had said that he never took whisky; and though Edward Henry's passion for Vichy water was not quite ungovernable, he thought well to give rein to it on the present occasion, having read somewhere that Vichy water placated the stomach.

Joseph had been instructed to retire.

"And not only that," resumed Mr. Seven Sachs, "but you've got a very good thing entirely into your own hands! Masterly, sir! Masterly! Why, at the end you positively had the air of doing them a favour! You made them believe you were doing them a favour."

"And don't you think I was?"

Mr. Sachs reflected, and then laughed.

"You were," he said. "That's the beauty of it. But at the same time you were getting away with the goods!"

It was by sheer instinct, and not by learning, that Edward Henry fully grasped, as he did, the deep significance of the American [130] employed by Mr. Seven Sachs. He too laughed, as Mr. Sachs had laughed. He was immeasurably flattered. He had not been so flattered since the Countess of Chell had permitted him to offer her China tea, meringues, and Berlin pancakes at the Sub Rosa tea-rooms in Hanbridge-and that was a very long time ago.

"You really do think it's a good thing?" Edward Henry ventured, for he had not yet been convinced of the entire goodness of theatrical enterprise near Piccadilly Circus.

Mr. Seven Sachs convinced him-not by argument but by the sincerity of his gestures and tones. For it was impossible to question that Mr. Seven Sachs knew what he was talking about. The shape of Mr. Seven Sachs's chin was alone enough to prove that Mr. Sachs was incapable of a mere ignorant effervescence. Everything about Mr. Sachs was persuasive and confidence-inspiring. His long silences had the easy vigour of oratory, and they served also to make his speech peculiarly impressive. Moreover, he was a handsome and a dark man, and probably half a dozen years younger than Edward Henry. And the discipline of lime-light had taught him the skill to be forever graceful. And his smile, rare enough, was that of a boy.

"Of course," said he, "if Miss Euclid and the others had had any sense they might have done very well for themselves. If you ask me, the option alone is worth ten thousand dollars. But then they haven't any sense! And that's all there is to it."

"So you'd advise me to go ahead with the affair on my own?"

Mr. Seven Sachs, his black eyes twinkling, leaned forward and became rather intimately humorous:

"You look as if you wanted advice, don't you?" said he.

[131] "I suppose I do-now I come to think of it!" agreed Edward Henry, with a most admirable quizzicalness; in spite of the fact that he had not really meant to "go ahead with the affair," being in truth a little doubtful of his capacity to handle it.

But Mr. Seven Sachs was, all unconsciously, forcing Edward Henry to believe in his own capacities; and the two as it were suddenly developed a more cordial friendliness. Each felt the quick lifting of the plane of their relations, and was aware of a pleasurable emotion.

"I'm moving onwards-gently onwards," crooned Edward Henry to himself. "What price Brindley and his half-crown now?" Londoners might call him a provincial, and undoubtedly would call him a provincial; he admitted, even, that he felt like a provincial in the streets of London. And yet here he was, "doing Londoners in the eye all over the place," and receiving the open homage of Mr. Seven Sachs, whose name was the basis of a cosmopolitan legend.

And now he made the cardinal discovery, which marks an epoch in the life of every man who arrives at it, that world-celebrated persons are very like other persons. And he was happy and rather proud in this discovery, and began to feel a certain vague desire to tell Mr. Seven Sachs the history of his career-or at an

y rate the picturesque portions of it. For he too was famous in his own sphere; and in the drawing-room of Wilkins's one celebrity was hob-nobbing with another! ("Put that in your pipe and smoke it, Mr. Brindley!") Yes, he was happy, both in what he had already accomplished, and in the contemplation of romantic adventures to come.

And yet his happiness was marred-not fatally but quite appreciably-by a remorse that no amount of private argument with [132] himself would conjure away. Which was the more singular in that a morbid tendency to remorse had never been among Edward Henry's defects! He was worrying, foolish fellow, about the false telephone-call in which, for the purpose of testing Rose Euclid's loyalty to the new enterprise, he had pretended to be the new private secretary of Sir John Pilgrim. Yet what harm had it done? And had it not done a lot of good? Rose Euclid and her youthful worshipper were no worse off than they had been before being victimized by the deceit of the telephone-call. Prior to the call they had assumed themselves to be deprived for ever of the benefits which association with Sir John Pilgrim could offer, and as a fact they were deprived for ever of such benefits. Nothing changed there! Before the call they had had no hope of lunching with the enormous Sir John on the morrow, and as a fact they would not lunch with the enormous Sir John on the morrow. Nothing changed there, either! Again, in no event would Edward Henry have joined the trio in order to make a quartet in partnership. Even had he been as convinced of Rose's loyalty as he was convinced of her disloyalty, he would never have been rash enough to co-operate with such a crew. Again, nothing changed!

On the other hand, he had acquired an assurance of the artiste's duplicity, which assurance had made it easier for him to disappoint her, while the prospect of a business repast with Sir John had helped her to bear the disappointment as a brave woman should. It was true that on the morrow, about lunch-time, Rose Euclid and Carlo Trent might have to live through a few rather trying moments, and they would certainly be very angry; but these drawbacks would have been more than [133] compensated for in advance by the pleasures of hope. And had they not between them pocketed seventy-five pounds which they had stood to lose?

Such reasoning was unanswerable, and his remorse did not attempt to answer it. His remorse was not open to reason; it was one of those stupid, primitive sentiments which obstinately persist in the refined and rational fabric of modern humanity.

He was just sorry for Rose Euclid.

"Do you know what I did?" he burst out confidentially, and confessed the whole telephone-trick to Mr. Seven Sachs.

Mr. Seven Sachs, somewhat to Edward Henry's surprise, expressed high admiration of the device.

"A bit mean, though, don't you think?" Edward Henry protested weakly.

"Not at all!" cried Mr. Sachs. "You got the goods on her. And she deserved it."

(Again this enigmatic and mystical word "goods"! But he understood it.)

Thus encouraged, he was now quite determined to give Mr. Seven Sachs a brief episodic account of his career. A fair conversational opening was all he wanted in order to begin.

"I wonder what will happen to her-ultimately?" he said, meaning to work back from the ends of careers to their beginnings, and so to himself.

"Rose Euclid?"

"Yes."

Mr. Sachs shook his head compassionately.

"How did Mr. Bryany get in with her?" asked Edward Henry.

"Bryany is a highly peculiar person," said Mr. Seven Sachs, [134] familiarly. "He's all right so long as you don't unstrap him. He was born to convince newspaper reporters of his own greatness."

"I had a bit of a talk with him myself," said Edward Henry.

"Oh, yes! He told me all about you."

"But I never told him anything about myself," said Edward Henry, quickly.

"No, but he has eyes, you know, and ears too. Seems to me the people of the Five Towns do little else of a night but discuss you, Mr. Machin. I heard a good bit when I was down there, though I don't go about much when I'm on the road. I reckon I could write a whole biography of you."

Edward Henry smiled self-consciously. He was, of course, enraptured, but at the same time it was disappointing to find Mr. Sachs already so fully informed as to the details of his career. However, he did not intend to let that prevent him from telling the story afresh, in his own manner.

"I suppose you've had your adventures, too," he remarked with nonchalance, partly from politeness but mainly in order to avoid the appearance of hurry in his egotism.

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