What’s a rich man without a solicitor?
Previously Johnny Eager, big game hunter extraordinaire, had a tete-a-tete with a rhinoceros.
The sign above the office door on the London street said “Flip, Fop & Flimby, Solicitors at Law.” “Kind of like lawyers, these solicitors, only English,” thought John Smith, Lady P. P.’s Daddykins. He checked the address to see if it was the one given him by his friend, the prominent New York City lawyer, Norman Amelioretius Nestorsteen. It was.
John Smith had come to London to “give the old girl a poke,” the old girl being his Pocahontas Shipping Line. It was his way of making sure the business got the hands-on treatment she needed. A poke here and a poke there and pretty soon things were hokey-pokey-ing along nicely. All that poking had turned the Shipping Line from a line of tramps into the proper ladies the ships were meant to be.
When he heard the news that there were those about to commit malfeasance against his only child and cheat her out of her titles, he did what he always did. He took matters into his own hands. He was not about to allow anyone to steal what was rightfully hers. But to get to the right course of action, he first had to gather all the facts. Then he would give things the poke they needed to resolve them in his little Mary-Mary’s favor.
He opened the door and stepped into the solicitors’ office. Behind two small desks sat two small men, one on the right, the other on the left. Immediately John Smith knew which was Fop and which was Flimby. Like Chessie, Quill’s older brother, Fop was dressed to the nines with a spot of rouge on each cheek. Any woman would have been pleased to be seen at his side in society. The American could tell he was a dandy dude or rather a doodley dandy as his rich buds back in the Big Apple would say. A regular fop-about.
However, to say that his partner, Flimby, was dog-faced insulted the breed. Hyena yes, dog no.
“Mr. Flimby?” John Smith bowed his head toward Flimby. “Mr. Fop?” He bowed in the direction of Flimby’s partner.
“Yes,“ Flimby said. He was always the one who said the said first.
“Isn’t there a Mr. Flip as well? At least, that’s what I was told.”
Flimby harrumphed his best harrumph, then spoke in a solictoristic monotone, “Not to be flippant about it, Mr. Flip is no longer with the firm. He became rather flippant with a case not too long ago. Drove the client flappers if you know what we mean. Ended in a duel and had himself dueled to death.”
“I see,” John Smith said, looking around the office. There were books and papers and papers and books scattered everywhere. “Let me introduce myself. My name is John Smith and I need your help.”
Fop took a sniff of snuff from his diamond snuff box. “You are not English.” Fop sniffed. “Aristocratic English gentlemen are our only clients.”
“You were recommended. Your reputation is highly regarded by your peers in America.”
Flimby was duly impressed that the firm’s reputation had made it all the way across the pond to the Colonies. He stood up to offer John Smith a chair. “Perhaps we could …”
“We cannot,” Fop interrupted. “It isn’t done, sir.”
Little did Fop know that what John Smith wanted he got. John Smith was a gambler, and he knew how to convince others to show their cards. He had bluffed most of his life. Bluffing was what he did and bluffing was what he would do now.
“I see,” John Smith said, accepting Mr. Flimby’s offer of a chair. “Then you don’t need money. Because I have money. A lot of money. And I am here to make any inconvenience worth your time.”
“You have money?” Flimby asked.
Fop challenged his partner, “It isn’t done, Mr. Flimby. How could we ever live with ourselves?”
“Money can soothe,” John Smith winked, “the worried mind.”
“That’s true, Mr. Fop. Money does soothe. And we do like money, do we not?”
“You’d sell your soul to the devil, Mr. Flimby, if you thought it would bring in a pound.”
“How else are you going to bribe Saint Peter to get him to let you through those Pearly Gates?” John Smith said. “Money does that.”
Fop was having none of this. “It will get you a first-class ticket to hell.”
This was always their strategy. Flimby would be hospitable, offer to take the case. Fop would have an excuse to refuse it. The client would offer more money. Eventually the walls of Jericho came tumbling down. Mr. Fop would yield. Regretfully so. Still, he would yield.
“I would hate,” John Smith said, “to have you go against your conscience. I suppose I must find another solicitor to take the case. But I had heard you gentlemen were very receptive.”
Fop realized he was losing the case. Like the good solicitor he was, he yielded to a point of order. “It is possible that my conscience could be soothed if it was an interesting case. Of course, it would have to be interesting.”
“I see,” John Smith said. “It does involve a titled person.”
“Ah,” Flimby said, sitting back down behind his desk. “A titled person you say.”
“You don’t say.” Mr. Fop popped a lozenge into his mouth. His interest was piqued in a piquéd sort of way.
“I do say,” John Smith said.
“Tell us more.” Flimby was all ears and that was an easy thing to say since his ears looked like wings that could lift his head right off his tiny little body.
“It involves a certain Lady Marye Caterina Wimpleseed-Prissypott of Haggismarshe.”
“How do you know this lady?” Mr. Fop winked. “Your mistress?” A mischievous grin crossed his face. This was getting interesting indeed.
John Smith’s face turned red. But he held his anger in check. A smile crossed his lips. When he wanted to check his anger, he smiled. “I resent the implication, sir. Said lady is my daughter.”
“I do apologize, Mr. Smith,” Flimby said, “for my impetuous partner. At times, he gets carried away a bit. I am sure he meant no harm. Did you, Mr. Fop?”
“I do apologize,” Mr. Fop said apologizingly. “I only meant to say … oh, never mind. I apologize. Sincerely I do. Am I forgiven, Mr. Smith?”
“Well,” John Smith said hesitatingly. He now had these gentlemen in his hands. They owed him for the rudeness of Fop, and he wasn’t about to let the rooster out of the hen house, no sirree. “Here is the situation. There is talk coming from your House of Lords concerning my daughter. I want you to investigate the matter. If there is any proof, I would like a list of men who might be receptive to changing their minds. If you know what I mean.”
“We could do that,” Flimby said.
“It might be costly,” Mr. Fop said.
“You let me take care of the persuasion. You worry about the sense and sensibility. I want you to relate to me who has the sense and who has the sensibility. That way I can be persuasive with their pride and prejudice.”
“Ah,” Mr. Fop said, revealing his true self, a man who cared more for cash than for privilege. “This could be very interesting indeed. Might even involve members of the Queen’s own household. They might be persuaded. The old biddy does keep them on a short lease, economically speaking.”
John Smith rose out of his chair. “So, we have a deal?”
“I do believe so,” Flimby said. “It may take some time. But I do believe so.”
“How may we reach you, Sir?” Mr. Fop asked.
“I shall be at the Northanger Abbey Hotel. I can be reached there.” John Smith reached over and shook their hands. Then he went to the door, opened it and walked out onto the London street.
Next Week a Texan saves the day.