On a fine morning, two days after Miss Lambert’s visit to Mr Hancock, Mr
Bevan entered his sitting-room in the “Albany” dressed for going out. He
wore a tea rose in his buttonhole, and Strutt, who followed his master,
bore in his hands a glossy silk hat far more carefully than if it had
been a baby.
A most comfortably furnished and tastefully upholstered room was this in
which Charles Bevan smoked his one cigar and drank his one whisky and
seltzer before retiring to bed each night; everything spoke of an
orderly and well-regulated mind; of books there were few in bindings
sedate as their subject matter, and they had the air of prisoners rarely
released from the narrow cases that contained them. On the walls hung a
series of Gillray’s engravings depicting “the flagitious absurdities of
the French during their occupation of Egypt.” On the table reposed the
_Field_, the _Times_, and the _Spectator_ (uncut).
“But what the deuce can he _want_?” said Charles, who was holding an
open letter in his hand. It was a letter from the family lawyer asking
his attendance in Southampton Row at his earliest convenience.
“Maybe,” said Strutt, blowing away a speck of dust that had dared to
settle on the hat, “Maybe, sir, it’s about the lawsuit.”
Bevan put the letter in his pocket, took his hat and stick from the
faithful Strutt and departed.
He made for “Brooks’.”
Mr Bevan patronised “Brooks'” and the “Reform.”
In the deserted smoking-room of “Brooks'” he sat down to write some
letters, and here followeth the correspondence of a modern Chesterfield.
“TO J. HOLDSWORTH,
HAY STREET, PIMLICO.
“Sir,–The thing you sent for my inspection yesterday is no use.
I’m not anxious to buy camels. Please do not trouble any more in
the matter. I wasted half an hour over this yesterday and my time
is valuable if the time of your groom is not.–Yours truly,
“C. M. BEVAN.”
“TO MRS NEURAPATH,
Secretary to Neurapath’s Home for
Lost and Starving Cats, BERMONDSEY.
“Madam,–In answer to your third demand for a contribution to your
funds, I write to tell you that it is my fixed rule never to
contribute to private charities.–Yours, etc.,
“C. M. BEVAN.”
“TO MESSRS TEITZ;
Breeches Makers, OXFORD STREET.
“Sir,–Please send your foreman to see me in the ‘Albany’ to-morrow
at ten A.M. The breeches don’t fit.–Yours, etc.,
“C. M. BEVAN.”
“TO MISS PAMELA PURSEHOUSE,
THE ROOST, ROOKHURST, KENT.
“My Dearest Pam,–Just a line scribbled in a hurry to say I will be
down in a few days. I am writing this at ‘Brooks”. It’s a
beautiful morning, but I expect it will be a scorching day, like
yesterday, it’s always the way with this beastly climate, one is
either scorched, or frozen, or drowned. Just as I am writing this,
old Sir John Blundell has come into the room, he’s the most
terrible bore, mad on roses and can’t talk of anything else, he’s
fidgetting about behind me trying to attract my attention, so I
have to keep on writing and pretending not to see him. I’m sorry
the buff Orpington cock is dead, was he the one who took the first
prize? I’ll get you another if you let me know where to send. I
_think_ there are some buff Orpingtons at Highshot but am not sure,
I don’t take any interest in hens–only of course in yours. They
say hen-farming pays on a big scale, but I don’t see where the
profit can come in. Thank goodness, that old fool Blundell has just
gone out–now I must stop,–With love, ever yours (etc., etc.),
The author of this modern Englishman’s love letter, having stamped and
deposited his correspondence in the club letter-box, entered the hansom
which had been called for him, and proceeded to his solicitor, James
Hancock, of the firm of Hancock & Hancock, Southampton Row.
When Bevan was shown in, Mr Hancock was seated at his desk table,
writing a letter with a quill pen. He tossed his spectacles up on his
forehead and held out his hand.
“I am sorry to have put you to the inconvenience of calling,” said he,
crossing his legs, and playing with a paper knife, “but the fact is, I
have received a communication from the other side, who seem anxious to
bring this affair to a conclusion.”
“Oh, do they?” said Charles Bevan.
“The fact is,” continued the elder gentleman slapping his knee with the
flat of the paper knife as he spoke, “the fact is, Mr George Lambert is
in very great financial straits, and if the truth were known, I verily
believe the truth would be that he is quite insolvent.”
Charles made no reply.
“But he will go on fighting the case, unless we can come to terms, even
though he has to borrow money for the purpose, for he is a very
litigious man this Mr George Lambert, a very litigious man!”
“Well, let him fight,” cried Charles; “_I_ ask nothing better.”
“Still,” said the old lawyer, “I thought it better to lay before you the
suggestion that has come from the other side, and which is simply
this—-” He paused, drew a tortoiseshell snuff-box from his pocket, and
took a furious pinch of snuff. “Which is simply this, that each party
pay their own costs, and that the fishing rights be shared equally. We
beat them in the Queen’s Bench, but when the matter comes before the
Court of Appeal, who knows but—-”
“Pay _what_?” cried Charles Bevan. “Pay my own costs after having fought
so long, and nearly beaten this pirate, this poacher! Show me the
letter containing this proposal, this infamous suggestion.”
“Dear me, dear me, my dear sir, pray do not take the matter so
crookedly,” cried the man of law lowering his spectacles and beginning
to mend a quill pen in an irritable manner. “There is nothing infamous
in this proposal, and indeed it reached me not through the mediumship of
a letter, but of a young lady. Mr George Lambert’s daughter called upon
me in person, a most–er–charming young lady. She gave me to understand
from her conversation–her most artless conversation–that her
unfortunate father is on the brink, the verge, I may say the verge of
ruin. But he himself does not see it, pig-headed man that he is. In fact
she, the young lady herself, does not seem to see it. Dear me, dear me,
their condition makes me shudder.”
“When did she call?” asked Bevan.
“Two days ago,” blurted out the old lawyer splitting the quill and
nearly cutting his finger with the penknife.
“Why was I not informed sooner of this disgraceful proposition,”
“I declare I have been so busy—-” said the other.
“Well, tell George Lambert, I will fight as long as I have teeth to
fight with, and if I lose the action I’ll break him anyhow,” foamed
Charles who was now in the old-fashioned port-wine temper, which was an
heirloom in the Bevan family. “I’ll buy up his mortgages and foreclose,
tell his wretched daughter—-”
“Mr Bevan,” suddenly interposed the lawyer, “Miss Fanny Lambert is a
most charming lady for whom I have a deep respect–I may say a very deep
respect–the suggestion came from her informally. I doubt indeed if Mr
George Lambert would listen to any proposals for an amicable settlement,
he declares you have treated him, to use his expression–er–not as one
gentleman should treat another.”
Charles turned livid.
“Where does this Lambert live now?”
“At present he resides I believe, at his town house ‘The Laurels,’
Highgate—-. Why! Mr Bevan—-”
Charles had risen.
“He said I was not a gentleman, did he? and you listened to him, I
suppose, and agreed with him, and you–no matter, I’ll be my own
solicitor, I’ll go and see him, and tell him he ought to be ashamed of
tampering with my business people through the medium of his daughter.
Yes, we’ll see–‘The Laurels’ Highgate.”
“Mr Bevan, Mr Bevan!” cried old James Hancock in despair.
But Mr Bevan was gone, strutting out like an enraged turkey-cock through
the outer office.
“I am afraid I have but made matters worse, I am afraid I have but made
matters worse,” moaned the peace-loving Mr Hancock, rubbing his
shrivelled hands together in an agony of discomfiture, whilst Charles
Bevan hailed a cab outside, determined to have it out man to man with
this cousin who had dared to say that a Bevan had behaved in a