The Hampstead Mystery eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 321 pages of information about The Hampstead Mystery.
and cajolery, were alike powerless to win his consent to his wife’s perpetual proposal that she should be allowed to draw her dress allowance for some months, or even some weeks ahead.  Mr. Mattingford had a horror of bad debts.  He endeavoured to show his wife that the transaction she proposed was unsound from a business point of view and reckless from a legal point of view.  She had no security to offer for the repayment of the advance—­even if he were in a financial position to make the advance—­and he stoutly declared that he was not.  She might die at any moment, and then he would be left with no means of redress against her estate because she had no estate.  Of course, if she first insured her life out of her dress allowance and handed the policy to him it would constitute protection for the repayment of the advance, in the event of her death, but it was not any real protection in the event of her continuing to live, for a newly-executed policy had no surrender value.  As his own legal adviser, Mr. Mattingford strongly urged himself not to consider his wife’s proposal, and such was his respect for the law and for those who had been brought up in a legal atmosphere that he had no hesitation in accepting the advice.

He was a little man of nearly fifty years, with a very bald head and an extremely long moustache, which when waxed at the ends made him look as fierce as a clipped poodle.  He knew Mrs. Holymead from his having called frequently at his chief’s house in Princes Gate on business matters, and he admired her for her good looks, but still more for her good taste in staying away from her husband’s chambers.  There were some ladies, the wives of barristers, who almost haunted their husbands’ chambers—­a practice of which Mr. Mattingford strongly disapproved.  It seemed to him an insidious attempt on the part of an insidious sex to force the legal profession to throw open its doors to women.  As a man who lived in the mouldy atmosphere of precedent, Mr. Mattingford hated the idea of change, and to him the thought of a lady in wig and gown pleading in the law courts indicated not merely change but a revolution which might well usher in the end of the world.  So strict was he in keeping the precincts of the law sacred from the violating tread of women that he never allowed his wife to set foot in the Middle Temple.  Their meetings on those urgent occasions when Mrs. Mattingford came to town for her dress allowance in order to go bargain-hunting took place at one of the cheap tearooms in Fleet Street.

Although Mr. Mattingford was somewhat flustered by the unexpected appearance of Mrs. Holymead, he did not depart from precedent to the extent of regarding her as entitled to any other treatment than that accorded to clients who called on business.  He asked her if she wanted to see Mr. Holymead, placed a chair for her, then knocked deferentially at his chief’s door, went inside to announce Mrs. Holymead to her husband, and came out with the information that Mr. Holymead would see her.  He held open the door leading into his chief’s private room, and after Mrs. Holymead had entered closed it softly and firmly.

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The Hampstead Mystery from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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