5. A Conference Op The Powers
It was the sultriest of weather in London--days when the city lay in a fog of heat, when
the paving cracked, and the brow was damp from the slightest movement and the mind
of the stranger was tortured by the thought of airy downs and running rivers. The leaves
in the Green Park were withered and dusty, the window-boxes in Mayfair had a
tarnished look, and horse and man moved with unwilling languor. A tall young man in a
grey frockcoat searched the street for shadow, and finding none entered the doorway of
a club which promised coolness.
Mr. George Winterham removed his top-hat, had a good wash, and then sought the
smoking room. Seen to better advantage, he was sufficiently good-looking, with an
elegant if somewhat lanky frame, a cheerful countenance, and a great brown
moustache which gave him the air military. But he was no soldier, being indeed that
anomalous creature, the titular barrister, who shows his profession by rarely entering
the chambers and by an ignorance of law more profound than Necessity's.
He found the shadiest corner of the smoking room and ordered the coolest drink he
could think of. Then he smiled, for he saw advancing to him across the room another
victim of the weather. This was a small, thin man, with a finely-shaped dark head and
the most perfectly-fitting clothes. He had been deep in a review, but at the sight of the
wearied giant in the corner he had forgotten his interest in the "Entomology of the
Riviera." He looked something of the artist or the man of letters, but in truth he had no
taint of Bohemianism about him, being a very respectable person and a rising politician.
His name was Arthur Mordaunt, but because it was the fashion at the time for a certain
class of people to address each other in monosyllables, his friends invariably knew him
He dropped into a chair and regarded his companion with half-closed eyes.
"Well, John. Dished, eh? Most infernal heat I ever endured! I can't stand it, you know. I'll
have to go away."
"Think," said the other, "think that at this moment somewhere in the country there are
great, cool, deep woods and lakes and waterfalls, and we might be sitting in flannels
instead of being clothed in these garments of sin."
"Think," said George, "of nothing of the kind. Think of high upland glens and full brown
rivers, and hillsides where there is always wind. Why do I tantalize myself and talk to a
vexatious idiot like you?"