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“You seem much prospered since I did last visit,” I said to Heaton, him being a lawyer with whom I have had occasional business. He did once take his payment in verse, as he was then courting a lady of some considerable fortune and of such tender heart that she could be well moved by such blandishments, and my words did for him her heart and her hand secure, so that on some occasions since I have again made payment with poetry, as she does oft wonder why that man who did once her favors gain with such sweetness did somehow lose his honeyed tongue.
Those rooms in which he now kept his office were now more near those courts where he plied his trade, and were more richly appointed than were those spare rooms he once did keep not far from Bishopsgate.
He turned up his hands and smiled. “The benefits of a wealthy wife, who not only would have me ensconced as befitting our station, but also keeps such company as do my services regular demand, as wealth does attract law the way a dog attract fleas,” he said. “And such company as does pay in more than words.”
“As my words did win thy wealth, I should think you value them dear,” I said.
“Much dear, my friend. Much dear. But I assume it be wealth that brings you hence today, as you have in ready supply such words as I imagine you need.”
I gave to him both our lease and the notice of eviction, and recounted my conversation with Miller. Upon quick review, he made a sour face. “Methinks your Miller has some good friend in the courts to have such a decision that is so clear to your detriment and so little to his gain made so quick, this business of risk being too much the realm of opinion and too little that of fact. But, as it has been rendered and as you have so little time before its enforcement, you have little choice but to comply. You could challenge, but challenge would needs be made only after you have left your theater, and as it be likely, even if your challenge prove successful, it would gain for you only some few weeks grace, I think it not worth the cost, unless you would make suit to claim some damage, which would be an uncertain business.”
“Which was my thinking, too, until I chanced to learn from a butcher that this matter of the theater seems likely for Miller only fodder for some fatter calf.”
Heaton raised his eyebrows in question. “Then perhaps I should hear the meat of such matter as your butcher shared.” And I relayed what I had learned regarding the new-planned mall of shops in Shoreditch.
Heaton rose from his seat, pulling out a large drawer from which he produced a sizable map of London, his face in some thought. “I hear in this meat much mischief, and suspect appetite from more mouths than Miller’s alone.” He flattened the map on the table between us, marking with his fingers such spots as did pertain to our discussions. “Hear is your theater. Where is this butcher?”
I pointed to the place on Bishopsgate, south from the theater toward the river, and also the tavern at which I first heard news of the exchange.
“And the butcher spoke as if such offer as he received was common to all business near?”
“He did,” I said.
“And so the district of shops most near the city border would be emptied and their commerce moved into Shoreditch, which would be outside such control as held by the City Corporation and instead fall to such authority as does its rolls maintain, and thus some effect which coffers such taxes attendant to its lands would enrich.”
“And I hear such volume of taxes as may be collected in any given parish doth oft mysterious shrink before it reaches the Treasury,” I said.
“Oh there be much corruption in lands, Will. In their taxes and in their transfer, such laws as may be made providing an ever-growing thicket of words within which we lawyers find sufficient definitions of varied shade so as to make of them what our clients will, at least to such extent as their purse gives us cause.”
“Miller’s corruption is my only current concern. Such larger sins as you and your ilk may commit, I shall leave to your own conscience and penance, as I have sufficient of mine own to consider.”
Heaton slumped back in his chair for a moment. “I find Miller’s role odd, for I know that he has some few holding, but not so much more than you yourself have amassed near Stratford, though his being in London, probably some advantaged by the late inflation. Still, he has not the means to pursue such a scheme as your butcher has relayed.”
“The butcher does not know him, and has dealt only with such lawyers as have spoken for this Somerset Company.”
Heaton nodded. “I suppose it possible that Miller could hold share in such, but I think then, too, he would have relied on the company’s lawyers for his commerce, for if that company’s shareholders prefer conduct their business behind a veil of law, they have some reason to stay so masked, and also likely are wont to ensure each step of their adventure be executed such that it could not later be assailed by some lawyer who could find fault in their approach. No, if Miller be of their member, I think his fellow shareholders would be much aggrieved to find that he would endanger their enterprise through such folly as his truck with you suggests, for if I can find any such document or testimony that he is either of such company or in league with their efforts, then it has clear been his long intent that you be gone from your holdings so they be free for his other exercise. And then also clear that he did owe you notice, and that his claim of risk be a ruse, and his delay is simple fraud, and of a most vile kind as meant sole to do you harm.”
“If he not be of that company, then what?”
Heaton again leaned over the map. “Such lands as your theater enclose are direct on the main route about which this entire enterprise would center, and are most close to London proper, from whence most of its custom would come. That makes the property of your theater most attractive to this scheme. I suspect that Miller would have you gone so that no lease encumber that property and it may be sold free to this Somerset Company, likely at some dear price.”
“And he still did own us notice.”
“Indeed.” Heaton took the map from the table and returned it to its drawer, “Leave the lease and notice with me, Will, and I will think on this further and see what new of this scheme I can learn, for it is of such scope that, like some heard of beasts, it will have left droppings of documents rather thick on the ground. I think it likely we can compel Miller to grant you such time as you require to manage your removal, and probably convince him that you should have such time without the cost of those rents that you would have ready paid had he been other than an ass.”
“Make what haste you can, as we have only little days and I know also how the cost of your service doth swell with what time you find for it.”
Heaton stood and gave a short bow, as if to an audience. “As I have but my time to sell, and as such reflections that I do in such time make do oft add to the value of my advice, haste profits neither more art more my purse, but I think I should have word for you soon.”
“And will perhaps save us some on our rent.”
Heaton smiled again. “I think what you will save in rent I likely will charge in service, so that you are not, in whole, affected ill while I do still profit, and only dear Miller would find himself at loss.”
“I suppose it is too much to hope that your wife be in some melancholy and require new words to lift her heart.”
Miller drew from another draw in his desk a wood case, which he turned toward me and opened, inside which was a necklace adorned in gold and richly jeweled. “Of just this past month, I had such business with a merchant house in the Bourse at Threadneddle that did require my travel to their competitors in Antwerp and that I concluded to their good betterment, much of the fee from which I did invest in this, which will, I think, my wife’s favor secure for some long months.”
“Remember, my friend, all that glitters is not gold.”
“True,” said Heaton. “In this instance, much that glitters is emeralds and pearls and other such bangles that do make gold seem cheap by compare, but they do all glitter such that they will for some months blind my wife’s eyes to any need for poetry.”