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A short story by A. A. Milne

The Solicitor

Title:     The Solicitor
Author: A. A. Milne [More Titles by Milne]

The office was at its busiest, for it was Friday afternoon. John Blunt leant back in his comfortable chair and toyed with the key of the safe, while he tried to realize his new position. He, John Blunt, was junior partner in the great London firm of Macnaughton, Macnaughton, Macnaughton, Macnaughton & Macnaughton!

He closed his eyes, and his thoughts wandered back to the day when he had first entered the doors of the firm as one of two hundred and seventy-eight applicants for the post of office-boy. They had been interviewed in batches, and old Mr Sanderson, the senior partner, had taken the first batch.

"I like your face, my boy," he had said heartily to John.

"And I like yours," replied John, not to be outdone in politeness.

"Now I wonder if you can spell 'mortgage'?"

"One 'm'?" said John tentatively.

Mr Sanderson was delighted with the lad's knowledge, and engaged him at once.

For three years John had done his duty faithfully. During this time he had saved the firm more than once by his readiness--particularly on one occasion, when he had called old Mr Sanderson's attention to the fact that he had signed a letter to a firm of stockbrokers, "Your loving husband Macnaughton, Macnaughton, Macnaughton, Macnaughton & Macnaughton." Mr Sanderson, always a little absentminded, corrected the error, and promised the boy his articles. Five years later John Blunt was a solicitor.

And now he was actually junior partner in the firm--the firm of which it was said in the City, "If a man has Macnaughton, Macnaughton, Macnaughton, Macnaughton & Macnaughton behind him, he is all right." The City is always coining pithy little epigrams like this.

There was a knock at the door of the inquiry office and a prosperous-looking gentleman came in.

"Can I see Mr Macnaughton," he said politely to the office-boy.

"There isn't no Mr Macnaughton," replied the latter. "They all died years ago."

"Well, well, can I see one of the partners?"

"You can't see Mr Sanderson, because he's having his lunch," said the boy. "Mr Thorpe hasn't come back from lunch yet, Mr Peters has just gone out to lunch, Mr Williams is expected back from lunch every minute, Mr Gourlay went out to lunch an hour ago, Mr Beamish--"

"Tut, tut, isn't anybody in?"

"Mr Blunt is in," said the boy, and took up the telephone. "If you wait a moment I'll see if he's awake."

Half an hour later Mr Masters was shown into John Blunt's room.

"I'm sorry I was engaged," said John. "A most important client. Now, what can I do for you, Mr--er--Masters?"

"I wish to make my will."

"By all means," said John cordially.

"I have only one child, to whom I intend to leave all my money."

"Ha!" said John, with a frown. "This will be a lengthy and difficult business."

"But you can do it?" asked Mr Masters anxiously. "They told me at the hairdresser's that Macnaughton, Macnaughton, Macnaughton, Macnaughton & Macnaughton was the cleverest firm in London."

"We can do it," said John simply, "but it will require all our care; and I think it would be best if I were to come and stay with you for the week-end. We could go into it properly then."

"Thank you," said Mr Masters, clasping the other's hand. "I was just going to suggest it. My motor-car is outside. Let us go at once."

"I will follow you in a moment," said John, and pausing only to snatch a handful of money from the safe for incidental expenses, and to tell the boy that he would be back on Monday, he picked up the well-filled week-end bag which he always kept ready, and hurried after the other.

Inside the car Mr Masters was confidential.

"My daughter," he said, "comes of age to-morrow."

"Oh, it's a daughter?" said John, in surprise. "Is she pretty?"

"She is considered to be the prettiest girl in the county."

"Really?" said John. He thought a moment, and added, "Can we stop at a post-office? I must send an important business telegram." He took out a form and wrote:

"Macmacmacmacmac, London. Shall not be back till Wednesday.--BLUNT."

The car stopped and then sped on again.

"Amy has never been any trouble to me," said Mr Masters, "but I am getting old now, and I would give a thousand pounds to see her happily married."

"To whom would you give it," asked John, whipping out his pocket-book.

"Tut, tut, a mere figure of speech. But I would settle a hundred thousand pounds on her on the wedding-day."

"Indeed?" said John thoughtfully. "Can we stop at another post-office?" he added, bringing out his fountain-pen again. He took out a second telegraph form and wrote:

"Macmacmacmacmac, London. Shall not be back till Friday.--BLUNT."

The car dashed on again, and an hour later arrived it a commodious mansion standing in its own well-timbered grounds of upwards of several acres. At the front-door a graceful figure was standing.

"My solicitor, dear, Mr Blunt," said Mr Masters.

"It is very good of you to come all this way on my father's business," she said shyly.

"Not at all," said John. "A week or--or a fortnight--or--" he looked at her again--"or--three weeks, and the thing is done."

"Is making a will so very difficult?"

"It's a very tricky and complicated affair indeed. However, I think we shall pull it off. Er--might I send an important business telegram?"

"Macmacmacmacmac, London," wrote John. "Very knotty case. Date of return uncertain. Please send more cash for incidental expenses.--BLUNT."

. . . . . . .

Yes, you have guessed what happened. It is an everyday experience in a solicitor's life. John Blunt and Amy Masters were married at St George's, Hanover Square, last May. The wedding was a quiet one, owing to mourning in the bride's family--the result of a too sudden perusal of Macnaughton, Macnaughton, Macnaughton, Macnaughton & Macnaughton's bill of costs. As Mr Masters said with his expiring breath--he didn't mind paying for our Mr Blunt's skill; nor yet for our Mr Blunt's valuable time--even if most of it was spent in courting Amy; nor, again, for our Mr Blunt's tips to the servants; but he did object to being charged the first-class railway fare both ways when our Mr Blunt had come down and gone up again in the car. And perhaps I ought to add that that is the drawback to this fine profession. One is so often misunderstood.

[The end]
A. A. Milne's short story: Solicitor