I rose out of my chair at that. He spoke so readily and ingenuously that I had no more doubt of the truth of what he was saying than I had of my own existence.
“Then it’s all for me, too, Sir Gilbert,” said I. “I shan’t say a word more of the matter to anybody. It’s—as if it never existed. I was thinking all the time there’d be an explanation of it. So I’ll be bidding you good-night.”
“Sit you down again a minute,” said he, pointing to the easy-chair. “No need for hurry. You’re a clerk to Mr. Lindsey, the solicitor?”
“I am that,” I answered.
“Are you articled to him?” he asked.
“No,” said I. “I’m an ordinary clerk—of seven years’ standing.”
“Plenty of experience of office work and routine?” he inquired.
“Aye!” I replied. “No end of that, Sir Gilbert!”
“Are you good at figures and accounts?” he asked.
“I’ve kept all Mr. Lindsey’s—and a good many trust accounts—for the last five years,” I answered, wondering what all this was about.
“In fact, you’re thoroughly well up in all clerical matters?” he suggested. “Keeping books, writing letters, all that sort of thing?”
“I can honestly say I’m a past master in everything of that sort,” I affirmed.
He gave me a quick glance, as if he were sizing me up altogether.
“Well, I’ll tell you what, Mr. Moneylaws,” he said. “The fact is, I’m wanting a sort of steward, and it strikes me that you’re just the man I’m looking for!”
DEAD MAN’S MONEY
I was so much amazed by this extraordinary suggestion, that for the moment I could only stand staring at him, and before I could find my tongue he threw a quick question at me.
“Lindsey wouldn’t stand in your way, would he?” he asked. “Such jobs don’t go begging, you know.”
“Mr. Lindsey wouldn’t stand in my way, Sir Gilbert,” I answered. “But—”
“But what?” said he, seeing me hesitate. “Is it a post you wouldn’t care about, then? There’s five hundred a year with it—and a permanency.”
Strange as it may seem, considering all the circumstances, it never occurred to me for one moment that the man was buying my silence, buying me. There wasn’t the ghost of such a thought in my head—I let out what was there in my next words.
“I’d like such a post fine, Sir Gilbert,” I said. “What I’m thinking of—could I give satisfaction?”
He laughed at that, as if my answer amused him.