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

“What is it about?” she asked eagerly.  “But don’t stand out there where everybody can hear but me.  Come in and sit down.”

Now, I didn’t want to discuss the matter here, and, besides, there was not time.  I therefore assumed an air of mystery.

“I can’t, Miss Oman.  I’m due at the surgery now.  But if you should be passing and should have a few minutes to spare, I should be greatly obliged if you would look in.  I really don’t quite know how to act.”

“No, I expect not.  Men very seldom do.  But you’re better than most, for you know when you are in difficulties and have the sense to consult a woman.  But what is it about?  Perhaps I might be thinking it over.”

“Well, you know,” I began evasively, “it’s a simple matter, but I can’t very well—­no, by Jove!” I added, looking at my watch, “I must run, or I shall keep the multitude waiting.”  And with this I bustled away, leaving her literally dancing with curiosity.

CHAPTER IX

THE SPHINX OF LINCOLN’S INN

At the age of twenty-six one cannot claim to have attained to the position of a person of experience.  Nevertheless, the knowledge of human nature accumulated in that brief period sufficed to make me feel pretty confident that, at some time during the evening, I should receive a visit from Miss Oman.  And circumstances justified my confidence; for the clock yet stood at two minutes to seven when a premonitory tap at the surgery door heralded her arrival.

“I happened to be passing,” she explained, and I forbore to smile at the coincidence, “so I thought I might as well drop in and hear what you wanted to ask me about.”

She seated herself in the patients’ chair and, laying a bundle of newspapers on the table, glared at me expectantly.

“Thank you, Miss Oman,” I said.  “It is very good of you to look in on me.  I am ashamed to give you all this trouble about such a trifling matter.”

She rapped her knuckles impatiently on the table.

“Never mind about the trouble,” she exclaimed tartly. 
“What—­is—­it—­that—­you—­want—­to—­ask—­me about?”

I stated my difficulties in respect of the supper-party, and, as I proceeded, an expression of disgust and disappointment spread over her countenance.  “I don’t see why you need have been so mysterious about it,” she said glumly.

“I didn’t mean to be mysterious; I was only anxious not to make a mess of the affair.  It’s all very fine to assume a lofty scorn of the pleasures of the table, but there is great virtue in a really good feed, especially when low-living and high-thinking have been the order of the day.”

“Coarsely put,” said Miss Oman, “but perfectly true.”

“Very well.  Now, if I leave the management to Mrs. Gummer, she will probably provide a tepid Irish stew with flakes of congealed fat on it, and a plastic suet-pudding or something of that kind, and turn the house upside-down in getting it ready.  So I thought of having a cold spread and getting the things in from outside.  But I don’t want it to look as if I had been making enormous preparations.”

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