The evening wore on without any sign from Nevill’s Court, and I began to fear that Mr. Bellingham’s scruples had proved insurmountable. Not, I am afraid, that I was so much concerned for the copy of the will as for the possibility of a visit, no matter howsoever brief, from my fair employer; and when, on the stroke of half-past seven, the surgery door flew open with startling abruptness, my fears were allayed and my hopes shattered simultaneously. For it was Miss Oman who stalked in, holding out a blue foolscap envelope with a warlike air as if it were an ultimatum.
“I’ve brought you this from Mr. Bellingham,” she said. “There’s a note inside.”
“May I read the note, Miss Oman?” I asked.
“Bless the man!” she exclaimed. “What else would you do with it? Isn’t that what I brought it for?”
I supposed it was; and, thanking her for her gracious permission, I glanced through the note—a few lines authorising me to show the copy of the will to Dr. Thorndyke. When I looked up from the paper I found her eyes fixed on me with an expression critical and rather disapproving.
“You seem to be making yourself mighty agreeable in a certain quarter,” she remarked.
“I make myself universally agreeable. It is my nature to.”
“Ha!” she snorted.
“Don’t you find me rather agreeable?” I asked.
“Oily,” said Miss Oman. And then, with a sour smile at the open note-books, she remarked:
“You’ve got some work to do now; quite a change for you.”
“A delightful change, Miss Oman. ’For Satan findeth’—but no doubt you are acquainted with the philosophical works of Doctor Watts?”
“If you are referring to ‘idle hands,’” she replied, “I’ll give you a bit of advice, Don’t you keep that hand idle any longer than is really necessary. I have my suspicions about that splint—oh, you know what I mean,” and before I had time to reply, she had taken advantage of the entrance of a couple of patients to whisk out of the surgery with the abruptness that had distinguished her arrival.
The evening consultations were considered to be over by half-past eight; at which time Adolphus was wont, with exemplary punctuality, to close the outer door of the surgery. To-night he was not less prompt than usual; and having performed this, his last daily office, and turned down the surgery gas, he reported the fact and took his departure.
As his retreating footsteps died away and the slamming of the outer door announced his final disappearance, I sat up and stretched myself. The envelope containing the copy of the will lay on the table, and I considered it thoughtfully. It ought to be conveyed to Thorndyke with as little delay as possible, and, as it certainly could not be trusted out of my hands, it ought to be conveyed by me.
I looked at the note-books. Nearly two hours’ work had made a considerable impression on the matter that I had to transcribe, but still, a great deal of the task yet remained to be done. However, I reflected, I could put in a couple of hours more before going to bed and there would be an hour or two to spare in the morning. Finally I locked the note-books, open as they were, in the writing-table drawer, and slipping the envelope into my pocket, set out for the Temple.