Sir Abraham Haphazard
Mr Harding was shown into a comfortable inner sitting-room, looking more like a
gentleman's book-room than a lawyer's chambers, and there waited for Sir Abraham. Nor
was he kept waiting long: in ten or fifteen minutes he heard a clatter of voices speaking
quickly in the passage, and then the attorney-general entered.
'Very sorry to keep you waiting, Mr Warden,' said Sir Abraham, shaking hands with him;
'and sorry, too, to name so disagreeable an hour; but your notice was short, and as you
said today, I named the very earliest hour that was not disposed of.'
Mr Harding assured him that he was aware that it was he that should apologise.
Sir Abraham was a tall thin man, with hair prematurely gray, but bearing no other sign of
age; he had a slight stoop, in his neck rather than his back, acquired by his constant habit
of leaning forward as he addressed his various audiences. He might be fifty years old, and
would have looked young for his age, had not constant work hardened his features, and
given him the appearance of a machine with a mind. His face was full of intellect, but
devoid of natural expression. You would say he was a man to use, and then have done
with; a man to be sought for on great emergencies, but ill-adapted for ordinary services; a
man whom you would ask to defend your property, but to whom you would be sorry to
confide your love. He was bright as a diamond, and as cutting, and also as
unimpressionable. He knew everyone whom to know was an honour, but he was without
a friend; he wanted none, however, and knew not the meaning of the word in other than
its parliamentary sense. A friend! Had he not always been sufficient to himself, and now,
at fifty, was it likely that he should trust another? He was married, indeed, and had
children, but what time had he for the soft idleness of conjugal felicity? His working days
or term times were occupied from his time of rising to the late hour at which he went to
rest, and even his vacations were more full of labour than the busiest days of other men.
He never quarrelled with his wife, but he never talked to her--he never had time to talk,
he was so taken up with speaking. She, poor lady, was not unhappy; she had all that
money could give her, she would probably live to be a peeress, and she really thought Sir
Abraham the best of husbands.
Sir Abraham was a man of wit, and sparkled among the brightest at the dinner-tables of
political grandees: indeed, he always sparkled; whether in society, in the House of
Commons, or the courts of law, coruscations flew from him; glittering sparkles, as from
hot steel, but no heat; no cold heart was ever cheered by warmth from him, no unhappy
soul ever dropped a portion of its burden at his door.
With him success alone was praiseworthy, and he knew none so successful as himself.
No one had thrust him forward; no powerful friends had pushed him along on his road to
power. No; he was attorney-general, and would, in all human probability, be lord
chancellor by sheer dint of his own industry and his own talent. Who else in all the world
rose so high with so little help? A premier, indeed! Who had ever been premier without