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a most serious effect upon the rights of Mr Aubrey."
could get regularly introduced into the profession,) or even compel his master's clients to receive him into their confidence, adversely to Mr Parkinson, making it worth his while to keep the secrets of which he had become possessed. So careful ought to be, and indeed generally are, attorneys and solicitors, as to the characters of those whom they thus receive into their employ. On the occasion of Mr Aubrey's intended marriage with Miss St Clair, with a view to the very liberal settlements which he contemplated, a full abstract of his title was laid by Mr Parkinson before his conveyancer, in order to advise and prepare the necessary instruments. Owing to enquiries suggested by the conveyancer, additional statements were laid before him; and produced an opinion of a somewhat unsatisfactory description, from which I shall lay before the reader the following paragraph:
"There seems no reason for supposing that any descendant of Stephen Dreddlington is now in existence : still, as it is by no means physically impossible that such a person may be in esse, it would no doubt be important to the security of Mr Aubrey's title, to establish clearly the validity of the conveyance by way of mortgage, executed by Harry Dreddlington, and which was afterwards assigned to Geoffry Dreddlington on his paying off the money borrowed by his deceased uncle: since the descent of Mr Aubrey from Geoffry Dreddlington would, in that event, clothe him with an indefeasible title at law, by virtue of that deed; and any equitable rights which were originally outstanding, would be barred by lapse of time. But the difficulty occuring to my mind on this part of the case is, that unless Harry Dreddlington, who executed that deed of mortgage, survived his father, (a point on which I have no information,) the deed itself would have been mere waste parchment, as the conveyance of a person who never had any interest in the Yatton property-and, of course, neither Geoffry Dreddlington, nor his descendant Mr Aubrey, could derive any right whatever under such an instrument. that case, such a contingency as I have above hinted at-I mean the existence of any legitimate descendant of Stephen Dreddlington-might have
Every line of this opinion, and also even of the Abstract of Title upon which it was written, did this quicks sighted young scoundrel copy out, and deposit, as a great prize, in his desk, among other similar notes and memoranda, little wotting his master the while of what he was doing. Some year or two afterwards, the relationship subsisting between Mr Parkinson and his clerk Steggars, was suddenly determined by a somewhat untoward event; viz. by the latter's decamping with the sum of £700 sterling, being the amount of money due in a mortgage which he had been sent to receive from a client of Mr Parkinson's. Steggars fled for it--but first having bethought himself of the documents to which I have been alluding, and which he carried with him to London. Hot pursuit was made after the unfortunate delinquent, who was taken into custody two or three days after his arrival in town, while he was walking about the streets, with the whole of the sum which he had embezzled, minus a few pounds, upon his person, in bank-notes. He quickly found his way into Newgate. His natural sagacity assured him that his case was rather an ugly one; but hope did not desert him.
"Well, my kiddy," said the grimvisaged, greyheaded turnkey, as soon as he had ushered Steggars into his snug little quarters; "here you are, you see- -isn't you?"
"I think I am," replied Steggars, with a sigh.
"Well-and if you want to have a chance of not going across the water till you're a many years older, you'll get yourself defended, and the sooner the better, d'ye see. There's Quirk, Gammon, and Snap-my eyes! how they do thin our place, to be sure! The only thing's to get 'em soon; 'cause, ye see, they're so run after. Shall I send them to you? ?"
Steggars answered eagerly in the affirmative. In order to account for this spontaneous good-nature on the part of Grasp, (the turnkey in question,) I must explain that old Mr Quirk had for years secured a large criminal practice, by having in his interest most of the officers attached to the policeoffices and Newgate, to whom he gave, in fact, systematic gratuities, in
order to get their recommendations to the persecuted individuals who came into their power. Very shortly after Grasp's messenger had reached Saffron Hill, with the intelligence that "there was something new in the trap," old Quirk bustled down to Newgate, and was introduced to Steggars, with whom he was closeted for some time. He took a lively interest in his new companion, whose narrative of his flight and capture he listened to in a very kind and sympathizing way, and promised to do for him whatever his little skill and experience could do. He hinted, however, that, as Mr Steggars must be aware, a little ready money would be required, in order to fee counsel whereat Steggars looked very dismal indeed, and, knowing the state of his exchequer, imagined himself already on shipboard, on his way to Botany Bay. Old Mr Quirk asked him if he had no friends who would raise a trifle for a "chum in trouble," -and on answering in the negative, he observed the enthusiasm of the respectable old gentleman visibly and rapidly cooling down.
"But I'll tell you what, sir," said poor Steggars, suddenly, "if I haven't money, I may have money's worth at my command;-I've a little box, that's at my lodging, which those that got me knew nothing of-and in which there is a trifle or two about the families and fortunes of some of the first folk in Yatton, that would be precious well worth looking after, to those that know how to follow up such matters."
Old Quirk hereat pricked up his ears, and asked his young friend how he got possessed of such secrets.
"Oh fie! fie!" said he, gently, as soon as Steggars had told him the practices of which I have already put the reader in possession.
"Ah-you may say fie! fie! if you like," quoth Steggars, earnestly; "but the thing is, not how they were come by, but what can be done with them, now they're got. For example, there's a certain member of parliament in Yorkshire, that, high as he may hold his head, hath no more right to the estates that yield him a good ten thousand a-year than I have, but keeps some folk out of their own, that could pay some other folk a round sum to be put in the way of getting their own: and that was only one of the good things he knew of. Here old
Quirk rubbed his chin, hemmed, fidgeted about in his seat, took off his glasses, wiped them, replaced them; and presently went through that ceremony again. He then said that he had had the honour of being concerned for a great number of gentlemen in Mr Steggars' "present embarrassed circumstances," but who had always been able to command at least a fivepound note, at starting, to run a heat for liberty.
"Come, come, old gentleman," quoth Steggars, earnestly, “I don't want to go over the water before my time, if I can help it; and I see you know the value of what I've got! Such a gentleman as you can turn every bit of paper I have in my box into a fifty-pound note"
"All this is moonshine, my young friend," said old Quirk, in an irresolute tone and manner.
"Ah! is it, though? To be able to tell the owner of a fat ten thousand a-year, that you can spring a mine under his feet at any moment-eh ?— and no one ever know how you came by your knowledge. And if they wouldn't do what was handsome, couldn't you get the right heir—and wouldn't that— Lord! it would make the fortunes of half-a-dozen of the first houses in the profession!" Old Quirk got a little excited.
"But mind, sir-you see"— said Steggars, "if I get off, I'm not to be cut out of the thing altogether-eh? I shall look to be taken into your employ, and dealt handsomely by".
"Oh lord!" exclaimed Quirk, involuntarily-adding quickly-" Yes, yes! to be sure! only fair ; but let us first get you out of your present difficulty, you know!" Steggars, having first exacted from him a written promise to use his utmost exertions on his (Steggars') behalf, and secure him the services of two of the most eminent Old Bailey council-viz. Mr Bluster and Mr Slang-gave Mr Quirk the number of the house where his precious box was, and a written order to the landlord to deliver it up to the bearer: after which Mr Quirk shook him cordially by the hand, and, having quitted the prison, made his way straight to the house in question, and succeeded in obtaining what he asked for. He faithfully performed his agreement with Steggars; for he retained both Bluster and Slang for
him, and got up their briefs with care: but, alas! although these eminent men exerted all their great powers, they succeeded not in either bothering the judge, bamboozling the jury, or browbeating the witnesses, (the principal one of whom was MrParkinson ;) Steggars was found guilty, and sentenced to be transported for life. Enraged at this issue, he sent a message the next day to Mr Quirk, requesting a visit from him. When he arrived, Steggars, in a very violent tone, demanded that his papers should be returned to him. 'Twas in vain that Mr Quirk explained to him again and again his interesting position with reference to his goods, chattels, and effects-i. e. that, as a convicted felon, he had no further concern with them, and might dismiss all anxiety on that score from his mind. Steggars hereat got more furious than before, and intimated plainly the course he should feel it his duty to pursue-that, if the papers in question were not given up to him as he desired, he should at once write off to his late employer, Mr Parkinson, and acknowledge how much farther he (Steggars) had wronged him and his clients than he supposed of. Old Quirk very feelingly represented to him that he was at liberty to do any thing that he thought calculated to relieve his excited feelings: and then Mr Quirk took a final farewell of his client, wishing him health and happi
"I say, Grasp!" said he, in a whisper, to that grim functionary, as soon as he had secured poor Steggars in his cell," that bird is a little ruffled just now?"
Mr Quirk read
gars had intimated. it with much satisfaction, for it disclosed a truly penitent feeling, and a desire to undo as much mischief as the writer had done. He (Mr Quirk) was not in the least exasperated by certain very plain terms in which his own name was mentioned; but, making all due allowances, quietly put the letter in the fire as soon as he had read it. In due time Mr Steggars, whose health had suffered from close confinement, caught frequent whiffs of the fresh sea-breeze, having set out, under most favourable auspices, for Botany Bay; to which distant but happy place, he had been thus fortunate in securing, so early, an appointment for life.
Such, then, were the cruel means by which Mr Quirk became acquainted with the exact state of Mr Aubrey's title
on first becoming apprised of which Mr Gammon either felt, or affected, great repugnance to taking any part in the affair. He was at length, however, over-persuaded by Quirk into acquiescence; and, that point gained, worked his materials with a caution, skill, energy, and perseverance, which soon led to important results. Guided by the suggestions of acute and experienced counsel, after much pains and considerable expense, they succeeded in discovering that delectable specimen of humanity, Tittlebat Titmouse, who hath already figured so prominently in this history. When they came to set down on paper the result of all their researches and enquiries, in order to submit it in the shape of a case for the opinion of Mr Mortmain and Mr Frankpledge, in the manner which has been already
"Lud, sir, the natʼralist thing in the described, it looked perfect on paper, world, considering
"Well-if he should want a letter taken to any one, whatever he may say to the contrary, you'll send it on to Saffron Hill-eh? Understand?He may be injuring himself, you know; and old Quirk with one hand clasped the huge arm of Grasp in a familiar way, and with the forefinger of the other touched his own nose, and then winked his eye.
"All right!" quoth Grasp, and they parted. Within a very few hours' time Mr Quirk received, by the hand of a trusty messenger. from Grasp, a letter written by Steggars to Mr Parkinson; a long and eloquent letter, to the purport and effect which Steg
as many a faulty pedigree and abstract of title had looked before, and will yet look. It was quite possible for even Mr Tresayle himself to overlook the defect which had been pointed out by Mr Subtle. That which is stated to a conveyancer as a fact-any particular event, for instance, as of a death, a birth, or a marriage, at a particular time, which the very nature of the case renders highly probable-he may easily assume to be so. But when the same statement comes under the acute and experienced eye of a nisi prius lawyer, who knows that he will have to prove his case, step by step, the aspect of things is soon changed. The` first practitioner at the common law
tient and minute examination, With an eye fitted
"To inspect a mite, not comprehend the heaven,"
before whom the case came, in its roughest and earliest form, in order that he might "lick it into shape," and "advise generally" preparatory to its "being laid before counsel," was Mr Traverse, a young pleader, whom Messrs Quirk and Gammon were disposed to take by the hand. He wrote a very showy, but superficial and delusive opinion; and put the intended protegé of his clients, as it were by a kind of hop, step, and jump, into possession of the Yatton estates. Quirk was quite delighted on reading it; but Gammon shook his head with a somewhat sarcastic smile, and said he would at once prepare a case for the opinion of Mr Lynx, whom he had pitched upon as the junior counsel in any proceedings which might be instituted in a court of law. Lynx (of whom I shall speak hereafter) was an experienced, hard-headed, vigilant, and accurate lawyer; the very man for such a case, requiring, as it did, most pa
he crawled, as it were, over a case; and thus, like as one can imagine that a beetle creeping over the floor of St Paul's would detect minute flaws and fissures that would be invisible to the eye of Sir Christopher Wren him. self, spied out defects that much nobler optics would have overlooked. To come to plain matter-of-fact, however, I have beside me the original opinion written by Mr Lynx ; and shall treat the reader to a taste of it-giving him sufficient to enable him to appreciate the ticklish position of affairs with Mr Titmouse. To make it not altogether unintelligible, let us suppose the state of the pedigree to be something like this (as far as concerns our present purpose) :—
A female descendant marries Gabriel Tittlebat Titmouse, through whom TITTLEBAT TITMOUSE
Be pleased, now, unlearned reader, to bear in mind that " Dreddlington,' at the top of the above table, is the common ancestor; having two sons, the elder "Harry D.," the younger "Charles D.;" which latter has, in like manner, two sons, "Stephen D." the elder son, and "Geoffry D." the younger son; that Mr Aubrey, at present in possession, claims under "Geoffry D.” Now it will be in
cumbent on Titmouse, in the first instance, to establish in himself a clear independent title to the estates; it being sufficient for Mr Aubrey, (possession being nine-tenths of the law,) to falsify Titmouse's proofs, or show
and Charles, the former of whom, after
possession of some better evidence on this point than is possessed by the lessor of the plaintiff. The natural presumption certainly seems to be, that the son, being the younger and stronger man, was the survivor."
The above-mentioned opinion of Mr Lynx, together with that of Mr Subtle entirely corroborating it, (and which was alluded to in the last part of this history,) and a pedigree, was lying on the table, one day, at the office at Saffron Hill, before the anxious and perplexed parties, Messrs Quirk and Gammon.
Gammon was looking attentively, and with a very chagrined air, at the pedigree; and Quirk was looking at Gammon.
“Now, Gammon," said the former, "just let me see again where the exact hitch is—eh? Curse me if I can see it."
"See it, my dear sir? Here, here!" replied Gammon with sudden impatience, putting his finger two or three times on the words "Harry D."
"Don't be so sharp with one, Gammon! I know as well as you that that's about where the crack is; but what is the precise thing we're in want of, eh?"
"Proof, my dear sir, of the death of Harry Dreddlington some time-no matter when-previous to the 7th August 1742; and in default thereof, Mr Quirk, we are all flat on our backs, and had better never have stirred in the business."
"You know, Gammon, you're a decided deal better up in these matters than I-(only because I've not been able to turn my attention to 'em lately)-so just tell me, in a word, what good's to be got by showing that fellow to have died in his father's lifetime?"
"You don't show your usual acuteness, Mr Quirk," replied Gammon, blandly. "It is to make waste paper of that conveyance which he executed, and which Mr Aubrey has, and with which he may, at a stroke, cut the ground from under our feet."
"The very thought makes one feel quite funny-don't it, Gammon?" quoth Quirk, with a flustered air.
"It may well do so, Mr Quirk. Now we are fairly embarked in a cause where success will be attended with so many splendid results, Mr Quirk-though I'm sure you'll always bear me out in saying how very un