“The devil you don’t! Now, I tell you what—–”
Mr. Ventnor leaned forward—“you’d better hold your tongue, and not exasperate me. I’m a good-tempered man, but I won’t stand your impudence.”
Clenching his bowler hat, and only kept in his seat by that sense of something behind, Bob Pillin ejaculated:
“Impudence! That’s good—after what you did! Look here, why did you? It’s so extraordinary!”
Mr. Ventnor answered:
“Oh! is it? You wait a bit, my friend!”
Still more moved by the mystery of this affair, Bob Pillin could only mutter:
“I never gave you their address; we were only talking about old Heythorp.”
And at the smile which spread between Mr. Ventnor’s whiskers, he jumped up, crying:
“It’s not the thing, and you’re not going to put me off. I insist on an explanation.”
Mr. Ventnor leaned back, crossing his stout legs, joining the tips of his thick fingers. In this attitude he was always self-possessed.
“You do—do you?”
“Yes. You must have had some reason.”
Mr. Ventnor gazed up at him.
“I’ll give you a piece of advice, young cock, and charge you nothing for it, too: Ask no questions, and you’ll be told no lies. And here’s another: Go away before you forget yourself again.”
The natural stolidity of Bob Pilings face was only just proof against this speech. He said thickly:
“If you go there again and use my name, I’ll Well, it’s lucky for you you’re not my age. Anyway I’ll relieve you of my acquaintanceship in future. Good-evening!” and he went to the door. Mr. Ventnor had risen.
“Very well,” he said loudly. “Good riddance! You wait and see which boot the leg is on!”
But Bob Pillin was gone, leaving the lawyer with a very red face, a very angry heart, and a vague sense of disorder in his speech. Not only Bob Pillin, but his tender aspirations had all left him; he no longer dallied with the memory of Mrs. Larne, but like a man and a Briton thought only of how to get his own back, and punish evildoers. The atrocious words of his young friend, “It’s not the conduct of a gentleman,” festered in the heart of one who was made gentle not merely by nature but by Act of Parliament, and he registered a solemn vow to wipe the insult out, if not with blood, with verjuice. It was his duty, and they should d—–d well see him do it!
Sylvanus Heythorp seldom went to bed before one or rose before eleven. The latter habit alone kept his valet from handing in the resignation which the former habit prompted almost every night.
Propped on his pillows in a crimson dressing-gown, and freshly shaved, he looked more Roman than he ever did, except in his bath. Having disposed of coffee, he was wont to read his letters, and The Morning Post, for he had always been a Tory, and could not stomach paying a halfpenny for his news. Not that there were many letters—when a man has reached the age of eighty, who should write to him, except to ask for money?