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.