The Patrician eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 267 pages of information about The Patrician.

CHAPTER VII

It was past four o’clock the following day when Barbara issued from Valleys House on foot; clad in a pale buff frock, chosen for quietness, she attracted every eye.  Very soon entering a taxi-cab, she drove to the Temple, stopped at the Strand entrance, and walked down the little narrow lane into the heart of the Law.  Its votaries were hurrying back from the Courts, streaming up from their Chambers for tea, or escaping desperately to Lord’s or the Park—­young votaries, unbound as yet by the fascination of fame or fees.  And each, as he passed, looked at Barbara, with his fingers itching to remove his hat, and a feeling that this was She.  After a day spent amongst precedents and practice, after six hours at least of trying to discover what chance A had of standing on his rights, or B had of preventing him, it was difficult to feel otherwise about that calm apparition—­like a golden slim tree walking.  One of them, asked by her the way to Miltoun’s staircase, preceded her with shy ceremony, and when she had vanished up those dusty stairs, lingered on, hoping that she might find her visitee out, and be obliged to return and ask him the way back.  But she did not come, and he went sadly away, disturbed to the very bottom of all that he owned in fee simple.

In fact, no one answered Barbara’s knock, and discovering that the door yielded, she walked through the lobby past the clerk’s den, converted to a kitchen, into the sitting-room.  It was empty.  She had never been to Miltoun’s rooms before, and she stared about her curiously.  Since he did not practise, much of the proper gear was absent.  The room indeed had a worn carpet, a few old chairs, and was lined from floor to ceiling with books.  But the wall space between the windows was occupied by an enormous map of England, scored all over with figures and crosses; and before this map stood an immense desk, on which were piles of double foolscap covered with Miltoun’s neat and rather pointed writing.  Barbara examined them, puckering up her forehead; she knew that he was working at a book on the land question; but she had never realized that the making of a book requited so much writing.  Papers, too, and Blue Books littered a large bureau on which stood bronze busts of AEschylus and Dante.

“What an uncomfortable place!” she thought.  The room, indeed, had an atmosphere, a spirit, which depressed her horribly.  Seeing a few flowers down in the court below, she had a longing to get out to them.  Then behind her she heard the sound of someone talking.  But there was no one in the room; and the effect of this disrupted soliloquy, which came from nowhere, was so uncanny, that she retreated to the door.  The sound, as of two spirits speaking in one voice, grew louder, and involuntarily she glanced at the busts.  They seemed quite blameless.  Though the sound had been behind her when she was at the window, it was again behind

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The Patrician from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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