The World, the Flesh, and the Devil. 21
Jermj'u, helping himself. " Try that Madeira, it may give you an
HiUersdon seated himself opposite his host and took a glass of
wine. His curiosity was stimulated by the Fate-reader's surround¬
ings; and, after all, the thing which he had to do might remain
undone for a few hours. He could not help being interested in
this young man, who, either by instinct or by a subtle guess, had
fathomed his purpose. The luxury of these rooms piqued him, so
striking a contrast with the shabbiness of his own West End lodging,
albeit that lodging was far from cheap. He was supposed to pay
for " situation." Of luxury he had nothing, of comfort very little.
How did Jermyn contrive to be so well off, he wondered ? Did he
live by fate-reading, or had he means of his own ?
Jermyn was eating his supper all this time with a fine appetite
and an epicurean gusto. After a couple of glasses of Madeira, his
guest helped himself to lobster salad, and when Jermyn opened the
champagne the two men were hobnobbing comfortably, and, that
wine being choice of its kind and admirably iced, Hillersdon drank
the best part of a bottle, and found himself enjoying his supper more
than he had enjoyed anything in the way of meat and drink for a
The conversation during supper was of the lightest, Jermyn
letting oft' his criticisms, mostly unfavourable, upon people known
to them both, and laughing tremendously at his own wit. He was
careful not to mention Mrs, Champion, however, and Hillersdon had
no objection to spatter mud upon the ruck of his acquaintance.
Supper over, and a box of cigars open between them, with a silver
spirit-lamp, shaped like a serpent offering its flaming jaws for their
use, the men grew more serious. It was past one o'clock. They
had been a long time over their supper, and they seemed no longer
strangers—intimates, rather, not united by any particular esteem for
each other, but one in their contempt for other people.
" The champagne has wiped out that ugly wrinkle already," said
Jermyn, with his friendly air; " and now tell me what could induce
you to contemplate such a thing."
" What thing? " asked Hillersdon, waxing moody.
Jermyn's reply was pantomimic. He passed his hand across his
throat, significant of a razor; he turned his hand towards his open
mouth, suggestive of a pistol; he tossed off an imaginary poison
" You insist upon suggesting------" began Plillersdon, angrily.