“Then keep it, my dear fellow. You’ll want it when you go into practice. There will be no difficulty about the solicitor; I shall ask one of my friends to act nominally as a personal favour to me—Marchmont would take the case for us, Jervis, I am sure.”
“Yes,” said Jervis. “Or old Brodribb, if we put it to him amicus curiae.”
“It is excessively kind of both of you to take this benevolent interest in the case of my friends,” I said; “and it is to be hoped that they won’t be foolishly proud and stiff-necked about it. It’s rather the way with poor gentlefolk.”
“I’ll tell you what!” exclaimed Jervis. “I have a most brilliant idea. You shall give us a little supper at your rooms and invite the Bellinghams to meet us. Then you and I will attack the old gentleman, and Thorndyke shall exercise his persuasive powers on the lady. These chronic and incurable old bachelors, you know, are quite irresistible.”
“You observe that my respected junior condemns me to lifelong celibacy,” Thorndyke remarked. “But,” he added, “his suggestion is quite a good one. Of course, we mustn’t put any sort of pressure on Bellingham to employ us—for that is what it amounts to, even if we accept no payment—but a friendly talk over the supper-table would enable us to put the matter delicately and yet convincingly.”
“Yes,” said I, “I see that, and I like the idea immensely. But it won’t be possible for several days, because I’ve got a job that takes up all my spare time—and that I ought to be at work on now,” I added, with a sudden qualm at the way in which I had forgotten the passage of time in the interest of Thorndyke’s analysis.
My two friends looked at me inquiringly, and I felt it necessary to explain about the injured hand and the Tell el Amarna tablets; which I accordingly did, rather shyly and with a nervous eye upon Jervis. The slow grin, however, for which I was watching, never came; on the contrary, he not only heard me through quite gravely, but when I had finished said with some warmth, and using my old hospital pet name:
“I’ll say one thing for you, Polly; you’re a good chum, and you always were. I hope your Nevill’s Court friends appreciate the fact.”
“They are far more appreciative than the occasion warrants,” I answered. “But to return to this supper question: how will this day week suit you?”
“It will suit me,” Thorndyke answered, with a glance at his junior.
“And me too,” said the latter; “so, if it will do for the Bellinghams, we will consider it settled; but if they can’t come you must fix another night.”
“Very well,” I said, rising and knocking out my pipe, “I will issue the invitation to-morrow. And now I must be off to have another slog at those notes.”