“But why not settle it now?”
“Because I prefer not,” said the Admiral shortly.
“Very well. But remember that my offer is only for to-day. It is off unless you take it at once.”
“Let it be off, then.
“There’s my fee,” cried the doctor.
The Admiral threw a pound and a shilling upon the table. “Come, Westmacott,” said he, and they walked together from the room.
“I don’t like it,” said Charles, when they found themselves in the street once more; “I don’t profess to be a very sharp chap, but this is a trifle too thin. What did he want to go out and speak to the doctor for? And how very convenient this tale of a weak heart was! I believe they are a couple of rogues, and in league with each other.”
“A shark and a pilot fish,” said the Admiral.
“I’ll tell you what I propose, sir. There’s a lawyer named McAdam who does my aunt’s business. He is a very honest fellow, and lives at the other side of Poultry. We’ll go over to him together and have his opinion about the whole matter.”
“How far is it to his place?”
“Oh, a mile at least. We can have a cab.”
“A mile? Then we shall see if there is any truth in what that swab of a doctor said. Come, my boy, and clap on all sail, and see who can stay the longest.”
Then the sober denizens of the heart of business London saw a singular sight as they returned from their luncheons. Down the roadway, dodging among cabs and carts, ran a weather-stained elderly man, with wide flapping black hat, and homely suit of tweeds. With elbows braced back, hands clenched near his armpits, and chest protruded, he scudded along, while close at his heels lumbered a large-limbed, heavy, yellow mustached young man, who seemed to feel the exercise a good deal more than his senior. On they dashed, helter-skelter, until they pulled up panting at the office where the lawyer of the Westmacotts was to be found.
“There now!” cried the Admiral in triumph. “What d’ye think of that? Nothing wrong in the engine-room, eh?”
“You seem fit enough, sir.
“Blessed if I believe the swab was a certificated doctor at all. He was flying false colors, or I am mistaken.”
“They keep the directories and registers in this eating-house,” said Westmacott. “We’ll go and look him out.”
They did so, but the medical rolls contained no such name as that of Dr. Proudie, of Bread Street.
“Pretty villainy this!” cried the Admiral, thumping his chest. “A dummy doctor and a vamped up disease. Well, we’ve tried the rogues, Westmacott! Let us see what we can do with your honest man.”
Mr. McAdam, of the firm of McAdam and Squire, was a highly polished man who dwelt behind a highly polished table in the neatest and snuggest of offices. He was white-haired and amiable, with a deep-lined aquiline face, was addicted to low bows, and indeed, always seemed to carry himself at half-cock, as though just descending into one, or just recovering himself. He wore a high-buckled stock, took snuff, and adorned his conversation with little scraps from the classics.