It was a December morning, clear and frosty. The timepiece in the office of Matthew Kelvin, attorney-at-law, Pembridge, Hertfordshire, racing noisily after the grave old Abbey clock which had just done chiming, pointed to the hour of ten. With his back to the welcome fire, and turning over yesterday's Times with an air of contemptuous indifference, stood Mr. Podley Piper--whose baptismal name was universally shortened into "Pod"--a short, thickset young gentleman of the mature age of sixteen. His nose was a pure specimen of a pug, and his short scrubby hair was of a colour sufficiently pronounced to earn him the nickname of "Carotty Pod" from sundry irreverent small boys of his acquaintance. His nose and his hair notwithstanding, Pod was a keen, bright-looking lad, with an air of shrewdness and decision about him by no means common in one of his age. "Awfully dry reading--the Times," muttered Pod, tossing the paper on Mr. Kelvin's desk. "Only one suicide, and not a single murder in it. It's not worth buying. And yet there must be something in it, or so many people wouldn't read it. I suppose that by the time I'm fifty, and wear creaky shoes and carry a big gold watch in my fob, and have to count my hairs every morning to see that I haven't lost one overnight,--I suppose, when that time comes, I shall think as much of the Times as Sir Thomas Dudgeon does. But just at present I'd rather read the 'Bounding Wolf of the Prairies.'" Hardly were the last words out of Pod's mouth, when the inner door was opened, and Matthew Kelvin walked silently into the room. In silence he sat down at his desk, after one sharp glance at Pod and another at the fire, and set to work at once at the task immediately before him. This task was the opening of the pile of post letters which had been placed ready to his hand by Pod. A brief glance at the contents of each was generally sufficient. In very few cases did he trouble himself to read a letter entirely through. Three or four of the more important documents were put aside to be attended to specially by himself; the rest of them had a corner turned up on which Pod pencilled down in shorthand Mr. Kelvin's instructions for the guidance of Mr. Bray, his chief clerk. It was his cleverness at shorthand that had gained Pod his present situation.