It was in a somewhat sobered frame of mind that we presently turned away and started homeward by way of Great Ormond Street. My companion was deeply thoughtful, relapsing for a while into that sombreness of manner that had so impressed me when I first met her. Nor was I without a certain sympathetic pensiveness; as if, from the great, silent house, the spirit of the vanished man had issued forth to bear us company.
But still it was a delightful walk, and I was sorry when at last we arrived at the entrance to Nevill’s Court, and Miss Bellingham halted and held out her hand.
“Good-bye,” she said; “and many, many thanks for your invaluable help. Shall I take the bag?”
“If you want it. But I must take out the note-books.”
“Why must you take them?” she asked.
“Why, haven’t I got to copy the notes out into longhand?”
An expression of utter consternation spread over her face; in fact, she was so completely taken aback that she forgot to release my hand.
“Heavens!” she exclaimed. “How idiotic of me! But it is impossible, Doctor Berkeley! It will take you hours!”
“It is perfectly possible, and it is going to be done; otherwise the notes would be useless. Do you want the bag?”
“No, of course not. But I am positively appalled. Hadn’t you better give up the idea?”
“And is this the end of our collaboration?” I exclaimed tragically, giving her hand a final squeeze (whereby she became suddenly aware of its position, and withdrew it rather hastily). “Would you throw away a whole afternoon’s work? I won’t, certainly; so, good-bye until to-morrow. I shall turn up in the reading-room as early as I can. You had better take the tickets. Oh, and you won’t forget about the copy of the will for Doctor Thorndyke, will you?”
“No; if my father agrees, you shall have it this evening.”
She took the tickets from me, and, thanking me yet again, retired into the court.
JOHN BELLINGHAM’S WILL
The task upon which I had embarked so lightheartedly, when considered in cold blood, did certainly appear, as Miss Bellingham had said, rather appalling. The result of two and a half hours’ pretty steady work at an average speed of nearly a hundred words a minute, would take some time to transcribe into longhand; and if the notes were to be delivered punctually on the morrow, the sooner I got to work the better.
Recognising this truth, I lost no time, but, within five minutes of my arrival at the surgery, was seated at the writing-table with my copy before me busily converting the sprawling, inexpressive characters into good, legible round-hand.
The occupation was by no means unpleasant, apart from the fact that it was a labour of love; for the sentences, as I picked them up, were fragrant with reminiscences of the gracious whisper in which they had first come to me. And then the matter itself was full of interest. I was gaining a fresh outlook on life, was crossing the threshold of a new world (which was her world); and so the occasional interruptions from patients, while they gave me intervals of enforced rest, were far from welcome.