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The Man

19. A Letter
On Monday evening after dinner Mr. Everard and his son sat for a while in silence. They
had not met since morning; and in the presence of the servants conversation had been
scrupulously polite. Now, though they were both waiting to talk, neither liked to begin.
The older man was outwardly placid, when Leonard, a little flushed and a little nervous
of voice, began:
'Have you had any more bills?' He had expected none, and thus hoped to begin by scoring
against his father. It was something of a set- down when the latter, taking some papers
from his breast-pocket, handed them to him, saying:
'Only these!' Leonard took them in silence and looked at them. All were requests for
payment of debts due by his son.
In each case the full bill was enclosed. He was silent a while; but his father spoke:
'It would almost seem as if all these people had made up their minds that you were of no
further use to them.' Then without pausing he said, but in a sharper voice:
'Have you paid the jewellers? This is Monday!' Without speaking Leonard took leisurely
from his pocket folded paper. This he opened, and, after deliberately smoothing out the
folds, handed it to his father. Doubtless something in his manner had already convinced
the latter that the debt was paid. He took the paper in as leisurely a way as it had been
given, adjusted his spectacles, and read it. Seeing that his son had scored this time, he
covered his chagrin with an appearance of paternal satisfaction.
'Good!' For many reasons he was glad the debt was paid He was himself too poor a man
to allow the constant drain his son's debts, and too careful of his position to be willing
have such exposure as would come with a County Court action against his son. All the
same, his exasperation continued. Neither was his quiver yet empty. He shot his next
arrow:
'I am glad you paid off those usurers!' Leonard did not like the definite way he spoke.
Still in silence, he took from his pocket a second paper, which he handed over unfolded.
Mr. Everard read it, and returned it politely, with again one word:
'Good!' For a few minutes there was silence. The father spoke again:
'Those other debts, have you paid them?' With a calm deliberation so full of tacit
rudeness that it made his father flush Leonard answered:
'Not yet, sir! But I shall think of them presently. I don't care to be bustled by them; and I
don't mean to!' It was apparent that though he spoke verbally of his creditors, his meaning
was with regard to others also.
 
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