"before we go further, i want to make sure that you accept my credentials."
grandmother fotherinton stared at the solicitor. "i don't care two cents for your credentials. the fact that i am speaking to you would seem to warrant the supposition that i accept that you are speaking for the personage you claim to speak for."
the solicitor cleared his throat and took his briefcase from his knees and placed it on the floor beside him. he started to rise. "i would like to be able to assure my client that you had examined my credentials."
"oh for god's sake, give them to me then."
the rain began to rattle the panes of the ancient windows in grandmother's private sitting room.
9. no misunderstanding
"perhaps it's all a lot of rot," cousin margrove opined querulously.
aunt samantha pounced on him immediately.
"yes, margrove," she sneered, "someone has gone to the expense of hiring an actor to play the part of a solicitor, and to travel all the way down here from london - just - just to, what, actually? to play some sort of prank on us?"
cousin margrove could always be counted to rise to any bait, and to attempt to defend himself, however feebly. "why - it doesn't have to be a prank. it could be - it could just be a misunderstanding of some sort. yes, a misunderstanding."
cousin thomas spoke up from his corner.
"there are no misunderstandings. do you hear me, you damned fools - there are no misunderstandings in this forsaken world!"
"it is quite all right, thomas," cousin betsy told him soothingly, "there is nothing to get excited about."
10. at the tea table
"i understand," grandmother addressed the tea table, "that there has been a deal of idle speculation about the visit of mr ternwhistle, solicitor, to me today."
she looked around the table. only the very poorest wretches of the family usually attended the tea.
"now, now, there is no need to be distraught," cousin betsy continued to try to calm cousin thomas - cousin thomas "the redeemer" as he was familiarly known, to distinguish him from cousin thomas "the peeper" - as they made their way back to their garrets on the seventh floor.
but cousin thomas was not to be reassured. "what will become of us?" he cried, and his cry echoed up and down the winding staircase from the sixth floor.
"we will be provided for, thomas," cousin betsy told him as they reached the landing. "fate will provide."
"fate! yes, the fate of the fotherintons!"
12. down the corridor
grimacing ever so slightly from his gout, cousin jasper made his way down the corridor to grandmother's study.
surely, he told himself, grandmother will confide in me as to the real meaning of these mysterious doings.
the corridor was very well lit compared to the rest of the house.
jasper knocked, ever so hesitantly, on the study door.
quietly making his way to the back of the last car on the train back to the city, mr ternwhistle, solicitor, congratulated himself on a mission satisfactorily accomplished.
yes, most satisfactorily accomplished.
he had delivered his message, and had been treated with more courtesy than he had been led to expect from the lurid accounts of the "mad fotherintons".
he had escaped with his life!
mr ternwhistle chuckled inwardly.
and he had rather enjoyed the tea and biscuits that had been proferred him.
old mrs fotherinton, though apparently not one to have the wool pulled over her eyes, had seemed no more formidable or frightening than the dowagers he had been dealing with his whole career.
he hoped his client , mr barbourforth, would be satisfied.
but why should he not be?
"forgive me, jasper, but i am afraid it had never crossed my feeble old mind that you were in any way my confidant, or that i had any need to tell you any more about anything than i tell any of the other pitiful fools and parasites who inhabit this mouldering ruin."
"ha ha. you are pleased to be droll, as usual, grandmother. but you know, now that i am here - "
"no, jasper, i do not know. why do you not tell me what i do not know?"
" i meant to say, perhaps i could offer some advice."
"i do not think so."
"two heads are better than one."
"not when one of them is yours."
"very well then, i will not trouble you more."
"please do not." grandmother put her glasses back on her nose and looked down at the document she had been perusing when jasper had interrupted her.