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HOME > Biographical > The Man Who Found Himself > CHAPTER II MUDD
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Mudd was Simon's factotum, butler, and minister of inferior affairs. Mudd was sixty-five and a bit; he had been in the services of the Pettigrew family forty-five years, and had grown up, so to say, side by side with Simon. For the last twenty years every morning Mudd had brought up his master's tea, drawn up his blinds and set out his clothes—seven thousand times or thereabouts, allowing for holidays and illnesses. He was a clean-shaven old man, with rounded shoulders and a way that had become blunt with long use; he only "sirred" Simon in the presence of guests and servants, and had an open way of speaking on matters of everyday affairs verging on the conjugal in its occasional frankness.

This morning, the third of June, Mudd, having drawn up his master's blinds and set out his boots and shaving things, vanished and returned with his clothes, brushed and folded, and a jug[Pg 13] of shaving water which he placed on the wash-handstand.

"The arms will be out of this old coat if you go on wearing it much longer," grumbled Mudd, as he placed the things on a chair. "It's been in wear nearly a year and a half; you're heavy on the left elbow—it's the desk does it."

"I'll see," said Simon.

He knew quite well the suggestion that lay in the tone and the words of Mudd, but a visit to his tailors was almost on a par with a visit to his dentists, and new clothes were an abhorrence. It took him a fortnight to get used to a new coat, and as to being shabby, why, a decent shabbiness was part of his personality and, vaguely perhaps, of his pride in life. He could afford to be shabby.

Mudd having vanished, Simon rose and began his toilet, tubbing in a tin bath—a flat Victorian tin bath—and shaving with a razor taken from a case of seven, each marked with a day of the week.

This razor was marked "Tuesday."

Having carefully dried "Tuesday" and put it back between "Monday" and "Wednesday," Simon closed the case with the care and precision that marked all his actions, finished[Pg 14] dressing, and looked out of the window to see what sort of day it was.

A peep of glorious blue sky caught across the roofs of the opposite houses informed him, leaving him unenthusiastic, and then, having wound up his watch, he came downstairs to the Jacobean dining-room, where tea, toast, frizzled bacon, and a well-aired Times were awaiting him.

At a quarter to ten precisely Mudd opened the hall door, verified the fact that the brougham was in waiting and informed his master, helped him into his overcoat—a light summer overcoat—and closed the carriage door on him.

A little after ten Simon reached Old Serjeants' Inn and entered his office.

Brownlow, the chief clerk, had just arrived, and Simon, nodding to him, passed into his private room, where his letters were laid out, hung up his hat and coat, and set to business.

It was a sight to watch his face as he read letter after letter, laying each in order under a marble paper-weight. One might have fancied oneself watching Law at work, in seclusion and unadorned with robes. He did not need glasses—his eyes were still the eyes of a young man.

Having finished his letters, he rang for his stenographer and began dictating replies, [Pg 15]sending out now and again for Brownlow to consult upon details; then, this business finished and alone again, he sat resting for a moment, leaning back in his chair and trimming his nails with the little penknife that lay on the table. It was his custom at twelve o'clock precisely to have a glass of old brown sherry. It was a custom of the firm; Andrew Pettigrew had done the same in his day and had handed on the habit to his son. If a favoured client were present the client would be asked to have a glass, and the bottle and two glasses were kept in the John Tann safe in the corner of the room. Ye gods! Fancy in your modern solicitor's office a wine-bottle in the principal safe and the solicitor asking a client to "have a drink"! Yet the green-seal sherry, famous amidst the cognoscenti, and the safe and the atmosphere of the room and the other-day figure of Simon, all were in keeping, part of a unique and Georgian whole, like the component parts of a Toby jug.

The old silver-faced clock on the mantel, having placed its finger on midday, set up its silvery lisp, and Simon, rousing himself from his reverie, rose, drew a bunch of keys from his pocket and opened the safe.

Then he stood looking at what was to be seen inside.

The safe contained two deed-boxes, one on top of the other, on the iron fire-and-burglar-proof floor, and by the deed-boxes stood the sherry bottle and the cut-glass satellite wine-glasses, whilst upon the topmost deed-box reposed a black leather wallet.

Simon's eyes were fixed on the wallet, the thing seemed to hold him spellbound; one might have fancied him gazing into the devilish-diamond eyes of a coiled snake. The wallet had not been there when he closed the safe last; there had been nothing in the safe but the boxes, the bottle and the glasses, and of the safe there were but two keys, one at the bank, one in his pocket. The manager of Cumber's Bank, a bald-headed magnate with side-whiskers, even if he had means of access to the safe, could not have been the author of this little trick, simply because the key at the bank was out of his reach, being safely locked away in the Pettigrew private deed-chest, and the key of the Pettigrew private deed-chest was on the same bunch as that now hanging from the safe door.

The lock was unpickable.

Yet the look on Simon's face was less that of surprise at the thing found than terror of the thing seen. Brownlow's head on a charger could not have affected him much more.

Then, stretching out his hand, he took the wallet, brought it to the table and opened it.

It contained bank-notes, beautiful, new, crisp Bank of England notes; but the joy of the ordinary man in discovering a great unexpected wad of bank-notes was not apparent in the face of Simon, unless beads of perspiration are indications of joy. He turned to the sherry-bottle, filled two glasses with a shaky hand and drained them; then he turned again to the notes.

He sat down and, pushing the wallet aside, began to count them. Began to count them feverishly, as though the result of the tally were a matter of vast importance. There were four notes of a thousand, the rest were hundreds and a few tens. Ten thousand pounds, that was the total.

He put the notes back in the case, buckled it, jumped up like a released spring, flung the wallet on top of the deed-box and closed the safe with a snap.

Then he stood, hands in pockets, examining the pattern of the Turkey carpet.

At this moment a knock came to the door and a junior clerk appeared.

"What the devil do you want?" asked Simon.

The clerk stated his case. A Mr. Smith had called, craving an interview.

"Ask Mr. Brownlow to see him," replied Simon; "but ask Mr. Brownlow to step in here first."

In a moment Brownlow appeared.

"Brownlow," said Simon, "look up Dr. Oppenshaw's telephone number and ask him can he give me ten minutes' interview before luncheon. Say it is most urgently important. 110A, Harley Street, is his address—and, see here, have a taxicab called—that's all."

Whilst Brownlow was away on his mission Simon put on his overcoat, put on his hat, blew his nose lustily in the red bandanna handkerchief that was part of his personality, opened the safe and took another peep at the wallet, as if to make sure that the fairy hand that had placed it there had not spirited it away again, and was in the act of locking the safe when the senior clerk entered to say that Dr. Oppenshaw would be visible at a quarter to one, and that Morgan, the office-boy, had procured the cab.

Brownlow, though he managed to conceal his feelings, was disturbed by the manner of his chief and by the telephone message to the doctor; by the whole affair, in fact, for Simon never left the office till the stroke of one, when[Pg 19] the brougham called to take him to Simpson's in the Strand for luncheon.

Was Simon ill? He ventured to put the question and nearly had his head snapped off.

Ill! No, of course he wasn't ill, never better in his life; what on earth put that idea into Brownlow's head?

Then the testy one departed in search of the taxi, and Brownlow returned to his room and his duties.

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