When Mr Woodcourt arrived in London, he went, that very same day, to Mr Vholes’s in Symond’s Inn. For he never once, from the moment when I entreated him to be a friend to Richard, neglected or forgot his promise. He had told me that he accepted the charge as a sacred trust, and he was ever true to it in that spirit.

He found Mr Vholes in his office, and informed Mr Vholes of his agreement with Richard, that he should call there to learn his address.

“Just so, sir,” said Mr Vholes. “Mr C’s address is not a hundred miles from here, sir, Mr C’s address is not a hundred miles from here. Would you take a seat, sir?”

Mr Woodcourt thanked Mr Vholes, but he had no business with him beyond what he had mentioned.

“Just so, sir. I believe, sir,” said Mr Vholes, still quietly insisting on the seat by not giving the address, “that you have influence with Mr C. Indeed I am aware that you have.”

“I was not aware of it myself,” returned Mr Woodcourt; “but I suppose you know best.”

“Sir,” rejoined Mr Vholes, self-contained as usual, voice and all, “it is a part of my professional duty to know best. It is a part of my professional duty, to study and to understand a gentleman who confides his interests to me. In my professional duty I shall not be wanting, sir, if I know it. I may, with the best intentions, be wanting in it without knowing it; but not if I know it, sir.”

Mr Woodcourt again mentioned the address.

“Give me leave, sir,” said Mr Vholes. “Bear with me for a moment. Sir, Mr C is playing for a considerable stake, and cannot play without — need I say what?”

“Money, I presume?”

“Sir,” said Mr Vholes, “to be honest with you (honesty being my golden rule, whether I gain by it or lose, and I find that I generally lose), money is the word. Now, sir, upon the chances of Mr C’s game I express to you no opinion, no opinion. It might be highly impolitic in Mr C, after playing so long and so high, to leave off; it might be the reverse; I say nothing. No, sir,” said Mr Vholes, bringing his hand flat down upon his desk, in a positive manner, “nothing.”

“You seem to forget,” returned Mr, Woodcourt, “that I ask you to say nothing, and have no interest in anything you say.”

“Pardon me, sir!” retorted Mr Vholes. “You do yourself an injustice. No, sir! Pardon me! You shall not — shall not in my office, if I know it — do yourself an injustice. You are interested in anything, and in everything, that relates to your friend. I know human nature much better, sir, than to admit for an instant that a gentleman of your appearance is not interested in whatever concerns his friend.”

“Well,” replied Mr Woodcourt, “that may be. I am particularly interested in his address.”

“(The number, sir,)” said Mr Vholes, parenthetically, “(I believe I have already mentioned.) If Mr C is to continue to play for this considerable stake, sir, he must have funds. Understand me! There are funds in hand at present. I ask for nothing; there are funds in hand. But for the onward play, more funds must be provided; unless Mr C is to throw away what he has already ventured — which is wholly and solely a point for his consideration. This, sir, I take the opportunity of stating openly to you, as the friend of Mr C. Without funds, I shall always be happy to appear and act for Mr C, to the extent of all such costs as are safe to be allowed out of the estate: not beyond that. I could not go beyond that, sir, without wronging some one. I must either wrong my three dear girls; or my venerable father, who is entirely dependent on me, in the Vale of Taunton; or some one. Whereas, sir, my resolution is (call it weakness or folly if you please) to wrong no one.”

  By PanEris using Melati.

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