THE UNEXPLAINED

It was just as well she refused the tea, for there was no one to make
it. She had hypnotised Belinda, and Belinda coming out of the hypnotic
state was having hysterical convulsions in the kitchen, assisted by the
charwoman.

“Belinda,” cried Leavesley down the kitchen stairs, he had rung his bell
vainly, “are you there?”

“She’s hill, sir,” replied a hoarse voice, “I’m a-lookin’ arter her.”

“Oh, well, if a Mr Verneede calls, will you ask him to wait for me? I’ll
be back soon.”

“Yessir.”

He left the house and proceeded as fast as omnibuses could take him to
Southampton Row.

Bridgewater was out, but Mr Wolf, the second in command, ushered him
into Hancock’s room.

“Well,” said Hancock, who was writing a letter–“Oh, it’s you. Sit down,
sit down for a minute.”

He went on with his letter, and Leavesley took his seat and sat in a
simmering state listening to the squeaking of the quill pen, and framing
in his mind indictments against Bridgewater.

If he had been in a state of mind to absorb details he might have
noticed that his uncle was looking younger and brighter. But the
youthfulness or brightness of Mr Hancock were indifferent to him
absorbed as he was with his own thoughts.

“Well,” said Hancock, finishing his letter with a flourish and leaning
back in his chair.

“Aunt came to see me to-day,” said Leavesley, “and I came on here at
once. It’s most disgraceful.”

“What?”

“Bridgewater. You’ve got a man in your office who is not to be trusted,
a mischief-making old—-”

“Dear me, what’s all this? A man in the office not to be trusted? To
whom do you refer?”

“Bridgewater.”

“Bridgewater?”

“Yes.”

“What has he been doing?”

“Doing! He has been sneaking round to my aunt telling tales about a
lady; that’s what he has been doing.”

“What lady?”

“A Miss Lambert. He told her she had been to the Zoological Gardens
with—-”

Hancock raised his hand. “Don’t go on,” he said, “I know it all.”

“You know it all?”

“Yes, and I have given Bridgewater a right good dressing down–meddling
old stupid!”

Leavesley was greatly taken back at this.

“It’s not his fault,” continued Hancock. “It’s your aunt’s fault; she
put him on to spy. However, it’s rather a delicate subject, and we won’t
pursue it, but”–suddenly and in a friendly tone–“I take it very kindly
of you to come round and tell me this.”

“I thought I’d better come,” said the young man; “besides, the thing
put me in such a wax. Of course, if he was egged on by aunt, it’s not so
much his fault.”

“I take it very kindly of you, and we’ll say no more about it.” He
lapsed into meditation, and Leavesley sat filled with a vague feeling of
surprise.

Every one seemed a little out of the ordinary to-day. Why on earth did
his uncle take this news so very kindly?

“I’ve been thinking,” said Hancock suddenly–then abruptly: “How are you
financially, now?”

“Oh, pretty bad. I had to sell a picture of John the Baptist for five
pounds the other day; it was worth twenty.”

“When your mother married your father,” said Hancock, leaning back in
his chair, “she flew in the face of her family. He was penniless and a
painter.”

“I don’t want to hear anything against my father,” said Leavesley
tartly. “Yes, he was penniless and a painter, and she married him, and
I’m glad she did. She loved him, that was quite enough.”

“If you will excuse me,” said Hancock, “I was going to say nothing
against your father. I think a love-match–er–um–well, no matter. I am
only stating the facts. She flew in the face of her family, and as a
result the money that might have been hers, went to your aunt.”

“And a nice use she makes of it.”

“The hundred a year left you by your parents,” resumed the lawyer,
ignoring this reply, “is, I admit, a pittance. I offered you, however,
as the head of the family, and feeling that your mother had not received
exactly justice, I offered you the choice of a profession. I offered to
take you into this office. You refused, preferring to be a painter. Now,
I am not stingy, but I have seen much of the world, and in my
experience, the less money a young man has in starting in life, the more
likely is he to arrive at the top of the tree. You have, however, now
started; I have been making enquiries, and you seem to be working, and I
am pleased with you for two things. Firstly, when you came to me the
other day for money for a–foolish purpose you didn’t lie over the
matter and say you wanted the money for your landlady, as nine out of
ten young men would have done. Secondly, for coming to me to-day and
apprising me of the unpleasant intelligence, to which we will not again
refer. I appreciate loyalty.”

He put his hand in his pocket and pulled out his note-case.

“What’s your present liabilities?”

“Oh, I owe about ten pounds.”

“Sure that’s all?”

“Of course, I’d tell you if it was more; it’s somewhere about that.”

Hancock took a five-pound note and a ten-pound note out of the
note-case, looked at them both, and then put the ten-pound note back.

“I’m going to lend you five pounds,” he said. “It will serve for present
expenses, and I expect you to pay me it back before the end of the
week.” He held out the note.

“You had better keep it,” said his nephew, “for there’s not the remotest
chance of my paying you before the end of the week.”

“Take the note,” said Hancock testily, “and don’t keep me holding it out
all day; you don’t know what may happen in the course of a week. Take
the note.”

“Well, I’ll take it if you _will_ have it so; and I’ll pay you back some
time if I don’t this week.”

“Now good day,” said Hancock. “I’m busy.”