The Solicitor by A. A. 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
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
"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
"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
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
"To whom would you give it," asked John, whipping out his
"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
"Macmacmacmacmac, London," wrote John. "Very knotty case. Date of
return uncertain. Please send more cash for incidental
. . . . . . .
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.