old baines, who was no longer as young as he once was, had somewhat neglected the fire, but sir gerald hardly noticed, engrossed as he was in an article in the gazette about an uprising in the chilean back country.
sir gerald was reading the account with keen interest, as he had a fair amount invested in some copper mines in the threatened area.
in the corner of his eye sir gerald noticed sanderson, the club bore, approaching.
sanderson, in his usual fashion, took the seat nearest sir gerald, without speaking, but fixing his prey with his enormous sad brown eyes.
sir gerald knew that it was no use ignoring sanderson, as he would speak, eventually, after what he regarded as a proper interval.
“look here!” sanderson finally exclaimed.
“yes?” sir gerald did not look up.
“it’s the damnedest thing!”
“what is the damnedest thing?” sir gerald enquired politely.
“i have the damnedest time shaving in the morning!”
“you do not say so.”
“i have indeed.” sanderson touched a spot on the left side of his pale face, just above the jawline. “i have a patch here - right here - where the charge must be returned to again and again before i can get my whiskers clear.”
“perhaps you need a better trained valet.”
“valet! ah - i wish i could afford a valet. but in times like these - with the markets as they are, i have had to economize - a sad thing to admit, but it is so. i can no longer afford a decently trained valet.“
sir gerald turned his page in the gazette with a forceful snap. “the markets are indeed volatile. especially in south america.” he finally turned his gaze on sanderson. “do you have investments in south america?”
“i only invest where the union jack flies.”
“ah. a prudent course.”
“i have always followed the advice of the late lord morseby - to only hunt where the rain falls, and only invest where the british flag flies.” sanderson shook his sad head. “but as i was saying - as i was saying - “
“yes? as you were saying?”
“it’s this damned face of mine. and shaving in the morning. sometimes i feel as if a curse has been placed upon me.”
“perhaps you need a sharper razor.”
“that may be. that may be! but where to find one?”
“the czechs are reputed to make fine razors.”
“you do not say so?”
“it is what i have heard. they are said to be the most expert in europe for all things pertaining to iron.”
“indeed! superior even to the germans?”
“so i have been told.”
“eh?’ sanderson pondered. “perhaps the czech gentleman have particularly stout whiskers - stout whiskers - and this has caused them to develop a sharper razor. what do you think?”
“that may well be,” sir gerald answered with a shrug.
“well. it is worth thinking about at any rate.” suddenly changing the subject, sanderson asked, “what is this you are saying about south america, eh?”
tapping his gazette, sir gerald gave sanders a brief précis of the situation in chile, and its effect on the copper market.
“the devil you say!” cried sanderson. “the devil! someone should take these rascals in hand - round them up - round them up and hang them all. no nonsense!”
“perhaps easier said than done, “ sir gerald replied.
“not at all. not at all. just needs a bit of push. a bit of anglo-saxon push, none of your damned gauchos lying about in the shade.”
sir gerald did not reply, but neatly folded the gazette and placed it on the table beside him.
sanderson, as if exhausted by his outbursts, leaned back in his chair. “damned rotten weather, eh? looks like we are in for some rain.”
sir gerald glanced toward the window. “i believe it is already raining.”
sanderson followed his gaze. “why, yes, so it is. so it is indeed.”
ralph came down to breakfast wearing a white shirt with an orange tie.
ramona immediately sent him back upstairs to change into something more suitable.
he did as he was told, coming back down with a blue shirt and a red and blue striped tie, but later, after finishing his pink grapefruit, began to complain.
“what difference does it make how i dress in here? nobody can see me.”
“we have been over this before,” ramona replied without looking up from the “arts and leisure” section of the sunday new york times. “we have to learn to make correct presentation second nature. and when we have made it second nature, then - “
“i know, then we make it third nature.”
ralph began eating his buttered toast - he had mastered the art of eating it with correct sized bites - and felt the urge to ask ramona when the day would come.
but he knew that she would not give him a straight or satisfactory answer.
just then the doorbell rang.
who could it be at this time of the morning?
ramona put the new york times down and got up.
“remember,” she told ralph, “whoever it is, do not say anything, anything at all, unless i give you the signal. ”
ramona headed to the door. how fortunate, she thought, that she had had ralph change his shirt and tie!