The Wrong Box

Page 43

'For a case of this sort, here is the best man in London.' And he handed the paper to Michael.

'God bless me!' ejaculated Michael, as he read his own address.

'O, I daresay you have seen his name connected with some rather painful cases,' said Gideon. 'But he is himself a perfectly honest man, and his capacity is recognized. And now, gentlemen, it only remains for me to ask where I shall communicate with you.'

'The Langham, of course,' returned Michael. 'Till tonight.'

'Till tonight,' replied Gideon, smiling. 'I suppose I may knock you up at a late hour?'

'Any hour, any hour,' cried the vanishing solicitor.

'Now there's a young fellow with a head upon his shoulders,' he said to Pitman, as soon as they were in the street.

Pitman was indistinctly heard to murmur, 'Perfect fool.'

'Not a bit of him,' returned Michael. 'He knows who's the best solicitor in London, and it's not every man can say the same. But, I say, didn't I pitch it in hot?'

Pitman returned no answer.

'Hullo!' said the lawyer, pausing, 'what's wrong with the long-suffering Pitman?'

'You had no right to speak of me as you did,' the artist broke out; 'your language was perfectly unjustifiable; you have wounded me deeply.'

'I never said a word about you,' replied Michael. 'I spoke of Ezra Thomas; and do please remember that there's no such party.'

'It's just as hard to bear,' said the artist.

But by this time they had reached the corner of the by-street; and there was the faithful shoeblack, standing by the horses' heads with a splendid assumption of dignity; and there was the piano, figuring forlorn upon the cart, while the rain beat upon its unprotected sides and trickled down its elegantly varnished legs.

The shoeblack was again put in requisition to bring five or six strong fellows from the neighbouring public-house; and the last battle of the campaign opened. It is probable that Mr Gideon Forsyth had not yet taken his seat in the train for Hampton Court, before Michael opened the door of the chambers, and the grunting porters deposited the Broadwood grand in the middle of the floor.

'And now,' said the lawyer, after he had sent the men about their business, 'one more precaution. We must leave him the key of the piano, and we must contrive that he shall find it. Let me see.' And he built a square tower of cigars upon the top of the instrument, and dropped the key into the middle.

'Poor young man,' said the artist, as they descended the stairs.

'He is in a devil of a position,' assented Michael drily. 'It'll brace him up.'

'And that reminds me,' observed the excellent Pitman, 'that I fear I displayed a most ungrateful temper. I had no right, I see, to resent expressions, wounding as they were, which were in no sense directed.'

'That's all right,' cried Michael, getting on the cart. 'Not a word more, Pitman. Very proper feeling on your part; no man of self-respect can stand by and hear his alias insulted.'

The rain had now ceased, Michael was fairly sober, the body had been disposed of, and the friends were reconciled. The return to the mews was therefore (in comparison with previous stages of the day's adventures) quite a holiday outing; and when they had returned the cart and walked forth again from the stable-yard, unchallenged, and even unsuspected, Pitman drew a deep breath of joy. 'And now,' he said, 'we can go home.'

'Pitman,' said the lawyer, stopping short, 'your recklessness fills me with concern. What! we have been wet through the greater part of the day, and you propose, in cold blood, to go home! No, sir--hot Scotch.'

And taking his friend's arm he led him sternly towards the nearest public-house. Nor was Pitman (I regret to say) wholly unwilling. Now that peace was restored and the body gone, a certain innocent skittishness began to appear in the manners of the artist; and when he touched his steaming glass to Michael's, he giggled aloud like a venturesome schoolgirl at a picnic.

CHAPTER IX. Glorious Conclusion of Michael Finsbury's Holiday

I know Michael Finsbury personally; my business--I know the awkwardness of having such a man for a lawyer--still it's an old story now, and there is such a thing as gratitude, and, in short, my legal business, although now (I am thankful to say) of quite a placid character, remains entirely in Michael's hands.

Robert Louis Stevenson
Classic Literature Library

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