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The Vanishing Man eBook

R Austin Freeman
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 280 pages of information about The Vanishing Man.

That the character of an individual tends to be reflected in his dress is a fact familiar to the least observant.  That the observation is equally applicable to aggregates of men is less familiar, but equally true.  Do not the members of the fighting professions, even to this day, deck themselves in feathers, in gaudy colours and gilded ornaments, after the manner of the African war-chief or the “Redskin brave,” and thereby indicate the place of war in modern civilisation?  Does not the Church of Rome send her priests to the altar in habiliments that were fashionable before the fall of the Roman Empire, in token of her immovable conservatism?  And, lastly, does not the Law, lumbering on in the wake of progress, symbolise its subjection to precedent by head-gear reminiscent of the days of good Queen Anne?

I should apologise for obtruding upon the reader these somewhat trite reflections; which were set going by the quaint stock-in-trade of the wig-maker’s shop in the cloisters of the Inner Temple, whither I had strayed on a sultry afternoon in quest of shade and quiet.  I had halted opposite the little shop window, and, with my eyes bent dreamily on the row of wigs, was pursuing the above train of thought when I was startled by a deep voice saying softly in my ear:  “I’d have the full-bottomed one if I were you.”

I turned swiftly and rather fiercely, and looked into the face of my old friend and fellow-student, Jervis, behind whom, regarding us with a sedate smile, stood my former teacher, Dr. John Thorndyke.  Both men greeted me with a warmth that I felt to be very flattering, for Thorndyke was quite a great personage, and even Jervis was several years my academic senior.

“You are coming in to have a cup of tea with us, I hope,” said Thorndyke; and as I assented gladly, he took my arm and led me across the court in the direction of the Treasury.

“But why that hungry gaze at those forensic vanities, Berkeley?” he asked.  “Are you thinking of following my example and Jervis’s—­deserting the bedside for the Bar?”

“What!  Has Jervis gone into the law?” I exclaimed.

“Bless you, yes!” replied Jervis.  “I have become parasitical on Thorndyke!  ‘The big fleas have little fleas,’ you know.  I am the additional fraction trailing after the whole number in the rear of a decimal point.”

“Don’t you believe him, Berkeley,” interposed Thorndyke.  “He is the brains of the firm.  I supply the respectability and moral worth.  But you haven’t answered my question.  What are you doing here on a summer afternoon staring into a wigmaker’s window?”

“I am Barnard’s locum; he is in practice in Fetter Lane.”

“I know,” said Thorndyke; “we meet him occasionally, and very pale and peaky he has been looking of late.  Is he taking a holiday?”

“Yes.  He has gone for a trip to the Isles of Greece in a currant ship.”

“Then,” said Jervis, “you are actually a local G.P.  I thought you were looking beastly respectable.”

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