Page:The Voyage Out.djvu/365

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363
THE VOYAGE OUT

tality of the soul was not in his power. He sat silent, more deeply wrinkled than usual, crumbling his bread.

Lest Evelyn should next ask him what he believed, Arthur, after making a pause equivalent to a full stop, started a completely different topic. "Supposing," he said, "a man were to write and tell you that he wanted five pounds because he had known your grandfather, what would you do? It was this way. My grandfather——"

"Invented a stove," said Evelyn. "I know all about that. We had one in the conservatory to keep the plants warm."

"Didn't know I was so famous," said Arthur. "Well," he continued, determined at all costs to spin his story out at length, "the old chap, being about the second best inventor of his day, and a capable lawyer too, died, as they always do, without making a will. Now Fielding, his clerk, with how much justice I don't know, always claimed that he meant to do something for him. The poor old boy's come down in the world through trying inventions on his own account, lives in Penge over a tobacconist's shop. I've been to see him there. The question is—must I stump up or not? What does the abstract spirit of justice required, Perrott? Remember, I didn't benefit under my grandfather's will, and I've no way of testing the truth of the story."

"I don't know much about the abstract spirit of justice," said Susan, smiling complacently at the others, "but I'm certain of one thing—he'll get his five pounds!"

As Mr. Perrott proceeded to deliver an opinion, and Evelyn insisted that he was much too stingy, like all lawyers, thinking of the letter and not of the spirit, while Mrs. Paley required to be kept informed between the courses as to what they were all saying, the luncheon passed with no interval of silence, and Arthur congratulated himself upon the tact with which the discussion had been smoothed over.

As they left the room it happened that Mrs. Paley's wheeled chair ran into the Elliots, who were coming through the door, as she was going out. Brought thus to a standstill for a moment, Arthur and Susan congratulated Hughling Elliot upon his convalesence,—he was down, cadaverous enough, for the