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of Geoffry Dreddlington's descendants depended entirely upon the fact whether or not Stephen Dreddlington had really died without issue; and as to that, certain anxious and extensive enquiries instituted by Messrs Runnington and Mr Parkinson, in pursuance of the suggestions of their able and experienced counsel, had led them to entertain serious doubts concerning the right of Geoffry's descendants to enter into possession. By what means his opponents had obtained their clue to the state of his title, neither he nor any of his advisers could frame a plau. sible conjecture. It was certainly possible that Stephen Dreddlington, who was known to have been a man, like his uncle Harry, of wild and eccentric habits, and to have been supposed to leave no issue, might have married privately some woman of inferior station, and left issue by her, who, living in obscurity, and at a distance from the seat of the family property, could have no opportunity of enquiring into or ascertaining their position with reference to the estates, till some acute and enterprising attorneys, like Messrs Quirk, Gammon, and Snap, happening to get hold of them, and family papers in their possession, had taken up their case. When, with impressions such as these, Mr Aubrey perused and re-perused the opinions of the conveyancer given on the occasion of his (Mr Aubrey's) marriage, he was confounded at the supineness and indifference which he had even twice exhibited, and felt disposed now greatly to overvalue the importance of every adverse circumstance. The boldness, again, and systematic energy with which the case of the claimant was prosecuted, and the eminent legal opinions which were alleged, and with every appearance of truth, to concur in his favour, afforded additional grounds for rational apprehension. He looked the danger, how ever, full in the face, and as far as lay in his power, prepared for the evil day which might so soon come upon him. Certain extensive and somewhat costly alterations which he had been on the point of commencing at Yatton, he abandoned. But for the earnest interference of friends, he would have at once given up his establishment in Grosvenor Street, and applied for the Chiltern Hundreds, in order to retire from political life. Considering the Considering the
possibility of his soon being declared the wrongful holder of the property, he contracted his expenditure as far as he could, without challenging unnecessary public attention; and paid into his banker's hands all his Christmas rents, sacredly resolving to abstain from drawing out one farthing of what might soon be proved to belong to another. At every point occurred the dreadful question if I am declared never to have been the rightful owner of the property, how am I to discharge my frightful liabilities to him who is? Mr Aubrey had nothing except the Yatton property. He had but an insignificant sum in the funds; Mrs Aubrey's settlement was out of lands at Yatton, as also was the little income bequeathed to Kate by her father. Could any thing, now, be conceived more dreadful, under these circumstances, than the mere danger-the slightest probabilityof their being deprived of Yatton?and with a debt of at the very least SIXTY THOUSAND POUNDS, due to him who had been wrongfully kept out of his property? That was the millstone which seemed to drag them all to the bottom. Against that, what could the kindness of the most generous friends, what could his own most desperate exertions, avail? All this had poor Aubrey constantly before his eyes, together with-his wife, his sister, his children. What was to become of them? It was long before the real nature and extent of his danger became known amongst his friends and neighbours. When, however, they were made aware of it, an extraordinary interest and sympathy were excited throughout almost the whole county. Whenever his attorney, Mr Parkinson, appeared in public, he was besieged by most anxious enquiries concerning his distinguished client, whose manly modesty and fortitude, under the pressure of his sudden and almost unprecedented difficulty and peril, endeared him more than ever to all who had an opportunity of appreciating his position. With what intense and absorbing interest were the ensuing assizes looked for! At length they arrived.
The ancient city of York exhibited, on the commission day of the Spring Assizes for the year 18-, the usual scene of animation and excitement. The High Sheriff, attended by an im◄
posing retinue, went out to meet the Judges, and escorted them, amidst the shrill clangour of trumpets, to the Castle, where the commission was opened with the usual formalities. The Judges were Lord Widdrington, the Lord Chief Justice of the King's Bench, and Mr Justice Grayley, a puisne judge of the same court-both admirable lawyers. The former was possessed of the more powerful intellect. He was, what may be called a great scientific lawyer, referring every thing to principle as extracted from precedent. Mr Justice Grayley was almost unrivalled in his knowledge of the details of the law; his governing maxim being ita lex scripta. Here his knowledge was equally minute and accurate, and most readily applied to every case brought before him. Never sate there upon the bench a more painstaking judge-one more anxious to do right equally in great things as in small. Both were men of rigid integrity: 'tis a glorious thing to be able to add-when, for centuries, have other than men of rigid integrity sate upon the English Bench? Lord Widdrington, however, in temper was stern, arbitrary, and overbearing, and his manners was tinctured with not a little coarseness; while his companion was a man of exemplary amiability, affability, and forbearance. Lord Widdrington presided at the Civil Court (where, of course, would come on the important cause in which we are interested), and Mr Justice Grayley in the Criminal Court.
Soon after the sitting of the court, on the ensuing morning-" Will your Lordship allow me," rose and enquired the sleek, smiling, and portly Mr Subtle, dead silence prevailing as soon as he had mentioned the name of the cause about which he was enquiring, "to call your attention to a cause of Doe on the demise of Titmouse v. Jolter, a special jury cause, in which there are a great many witnesses to be examined on both sides-and to ask that a day may be fixed for it to come on ?"
"Whom do you appear for, Mr Subtle?" enquired his Lordship. "For the plaintiff, my Lord." "And who appears for the defendant ?"
"The Attorney-General leads for the defendant, my Lord," replied Mr
Sterling, who, with Mr Crystal, was also retained for the defendant.
"Well, perhaps you can agree between yourselves upon a day, and in the mean time similar arrangements may be made for any other special jury causes that may require it. After due consultation Monday week was agreed upon by the parties, and fixed by his lordship, for the trial of the cause. During the Sunday preceding it, York was crowded with persons of the highest distinction from all parts of the county, who felt interested in the result of the great cause of the assizes. About mid-day a dusty travelling carriage and four dashed into the streets from the London road, and drove up to the principal inn ; it contained the Attorney-General (who just finished reading his brief as he entered York) and his clerk. The AttorneyGeneral was a man of striking and highly intellectual countenance; but he looked, on alighting, somewhat fatigued with his long journey. He was a man of extraordinary natural talents, and also a first-rate lawyer-one whose right to take the woolsack, whenever it should become vacant, was recognised by all the profession. His professional celebrity, and his coming down special on the present occasion, added to the circumstance of his being wellknown to be a personal friend of his client, Mr Aubrey-whence it might be inferred that his great powers would be exerted to their utmost was well calculated to enhance the interest, if that were possible, of the occasion which had brought him down at so great an expense, and to sustain so heavy a responsibility as the conduct of a cause of such magnitude.
He came to lead against a formidable opponent. Mr SUBTLE was the leader of the Northern circuit, a man of matchless tact and practical sagacity, and most consummately skilful in the conduct of a cause. The only thing he ever looked at was the verdict, to the gaining of which he directed all his energies, and sacrificed every other consideration. As for display, he despised it. A speech, as such, was his aversion. He entered into a friendly, but exquisitely crafty conversation with the jury; for he was so quick at perceiving the effect of his address on the mind of each of the twelve, and dex. terous in accommodating himself to
what he detected to be the passing mood of each, that they felt as if they were all the while reasoning with, and being convinced by him. His placid, smiling, handsome countenance, his gentlemanly bearing and insinuating address, full of good-natured cheerful confidence in his cause, were irresistible. He flattered, he soothed, he fascinated the jury, producing an effect upon their minds which they often felt indignant at his opponent attempting to efface. In fact, as a nisi prius leader he was unrivalled, as well in stating as in arguing a case, as well in examining as cross-examining a witness. It required no little practical skill to form an adequate estimate of Mr Subtle's skill in the management of a cause; for he did every thing with such a smiling, careless, unconcerned air, in the great pinch and strain of a case, equally as in the pettiest details, that you would be apt to suspect that none but the easiest and most straightforward cases fell to his lot.
Titmouse, Titmouse, methinks the fates favoured you in assigning to you Mr Subtle!
Next came Mr QUICKSILVER, a man of great but wild energy, who received what may be called a muffling retainer. What a contrast was he to Mr Subtle! The first and the last thing he thought of in a cause, washimself. His delight was to make the jury feel as if a whirlwind was raging about them, and he the spirit who had raised it. His object was either to dazzle or terrify them. He wrapped himself round in the gleaming garment of display; the gaudy patchwork of multifarious superficial acquirements: this was the strange, noisy object, flinging about wildly, in all directions, the firebrands and arrows of sarcasm and invective, that occupied their eye and ear till he had ceased; neither he nor they were thinking all the while of his dismayed and injured client, till reminded of him by the adverse charge of the judge, accompanied by a slight sneer and shrug of the shoulders from Mr Subtle. As for law, probably there was no man in court, wearing wig and gown, who was not his superior, or at least his equal. Why, then, was such a man retained in the cause? 'Twas a fancy of Quirk's, a vast political admirer of Quicksilver's, who had made one or two most splendid speech
es for him in libel cases brought against the Sunday Flash. Gammon most earnestly expostulated, but Quirk was inexorable; and himself carried his retainer to Mr Quicksilver. Gammon, however, was somewhat consoled by the reflection, that this wild elephant would be, in a manner, held in check by Mr Subtle and Mr Lynx, who, he hoped, would prevent any serious mischief from happening. Lynx posses sed the qualities which his name would suggest to you. I have partly described him already. He was a man of minute accuracy; and "got up" every case in which he was engaged as if his life had depended on the result. Nothing escaped him. He kept his mind constantly even with the current of the cause. He was a man to steer a leader, if ever that leader should get, for an instant, on the wrong tack, or be uncertain as to his course. suggestion and interference-rare, indeed, with with such a man as Mr Subtle, incessant with Mr Quicksilver, -were always worth attending to, and consequently received with deference.
For Mr Aubrey also was retained a formidable bar. Mr Attorney-General was a man much superior, in point of intellect and legal knowledge, to Mr Subtle. His mind was distinguished by its tranquil power. had a rare and invaluable faculty of arraying before his mind's eye all the facts and bearings of the most intricate case, and contemplating them, as it were, not successively, but simultaneously. His perception was quick as light; and, at the same time-rare,most rare accomplishment!-his judgment sound, his memory signally retentive. Inferior, possibly, to Mr Subtle in rapid and delicate appreciation of momentary advantages, he was sagacious where Mr Subtle was only ingenious. Mr Attorney-General had as much weight with the judge as Mr Subtle with the jury. With the former, there was a candour and straightforwardness - a dignified simplicitywhich insensibly won the confidence of the judge; who, on the other hand, felt himself obliged to be ever on his guard against the slippery sophistries of Mr Subtle, whom he thus got to regard with constant suspicion.
Mr STERLING, the second counsel for the defendant, was a king's coun
better allude boldly to the conveyance executed by Harry Dreddlington, and which becomes useless as soon as we prove his death in his father's lifetime.'
sel, and a rival of Mr Subtle upon the circuit. He was a man of great power; and, on important occasions, no man at the bar could acquit himself with more distinction. As a speaker, he was eloquent and impressive, perhaps deficient in vivacity; but he was a man of clear and powerful intellect; prompt in seizing the bearings of a case; a capital lawyer; and possessing, even on the most trying occasions, imperturbable self-possession.
Mr CRYSTAL, with all his faults of manner and bearing, was an honourable high-minded man; clear-sighted and strong-headed; an accurate and ready lawyer; vigilant and acute-but of him I have spoken before.
See, then, the combatants: for Titmouse-Mr SUBTLE, Mr QUICKSILVER, Mr Lynx; for Mr Aubrey-Mr AtTORNEY-GENERAL, Mr STERling, Mr CRYSTAL.
The consultation of each party was long and anxious.
About eight o'clock on the Sunday evening, at Mr Subtle's lodgings, Messrs Quirk, Gammon, and Snap, accompanied by Mr Mortmain, whom they had brought down to watch the case, made their appearance shortly after Mr Quicksilver and Mr Lynx.
"Our case seems complete, now," said Mr Subtle, casting a penetrating and most significant glance at Messrs Quirk and Gammon, and then at his juniors, to whom, before the arrival of their clients and Mr Mortmain, he had been mentioning the essential link which, a month before, he had pointed out as missing, and the marvellous good-fortune by which they had been able to supply it at the eleventh hour.
"That tombstone's a godsend, Subtle, isn't it?" said Quicksilver, with a. grim smile. Lynx neither smiled nor spoke. He was a very matter-of-fact person. So as the case came out clear and nice in court, he cared about nothing more. But whatever might be the insinuation or suspicion implied in the observation of Mr Subtle, the reader must, by this time, be well aware how little it was warranted by the facts.
"I shall open it very quietly," said Mr Subtle, putting into his pocket his penknife, with which he had been paring his nails, while Mr Quicksilver had been talking very fast. "What do you think, Mr Lynx? Had I
"Oh! that you know," replied Quirk quickly, we first got scent of in Mr Here he paused suddenly, and turned quite red.
"It was suggested," said Gammon calmly, "by one of the gentlemen whose opinions we have taken in the case-I forget by whom-that, from some recital, it was probable that there existed such an instrument; and that put us on making inquiry."
"Nothing more likely, added Mortmain," than that it, or an abstract, or minute of it, should get into Stephen Dreddlington's hands.
"Ah! well! well!-I must say there's rather an air of mystery about the case. But-about that tombstone -what sort of witnesses will speak-"
"Will that evidence be requisite,' enquired Lynx, "in the plaintiff's case? All we shall have to do, will be to prove the fact that Harry died without issue, of which there's satisfactory evidence; and as to the time of his death, that will become material only if they put in the conveyance of Harry.'
"True-true; ah! I'll turn that over in my mind. Rely upon it, I'll give Mr Attorney-General as little to lay hold of as possible. Thank you, Mr Lynx, for the hint. Now, gentlemen, one other question,- What kind of looking people are the witnesses who prove the later steps of the pedigree of Mr Titmouse? Respectable? Eh?-You know a good deal will depend on the credit they may obtain with the jury."
"They're very decent creditable persons, you will find, Sir," said Gammon
"Well, I must say that was a very prudent step for you to take! considering the rank in life and circumstances of the respective parties! However, to be sure, if you didn't, they would-so-well; good night, gentlemen, good night." So the consultation broke up; and Messrs Quirk, Gammon, and Snap returned home to their inn, in a very serious and anxious mood.
"You're a marvellous prudent person, Mr Quirk," said Gammon, in a somewhat fierce whisper, as they walked along, "I suppose you would have gone on to explain the little matter of Steggars, and so have had our briefs thrown at our heads--"
"Well, well, that was a slip." Here they reached their inn. Titmouse was staying there; and in Messrs Quirk, Gammon, and Snap's absence, he had got very drunk, and was quarrelling under the archway with Boots; so they ordered him to bed, they themselves sitting up till a very late hour in the morning.
The consultation at the AttorneyGeneral's had taken place about three o'clock in the afternoon, within an hour after his arrival; and had been attended by Messrs Sterling, Crystal, and Mansfield, by Mr Runnington, and Mr Parkinson, and by Mr Aux brey, whom the Attorney-General reIceived with the most earnest expressions of sympathy and friendship; listening to every question and every observation of his with the utmost deference.
"It would be both idle and unkind to disguise from you, Aubrey," said he, that our position is somewhat precarious. It depends entirely on the chance we may have of breaking down the plaintiff's case; for we have but a slender case of our own. suppose they can bring proof of the death of Harry Dreddlington in his father's lifetime?"
"Oh yes, sir," answered Mr Parkinson, there is an old tombstone behind Yatton church which establishes that fact beyond all doubt; and a week or two ago no fewer than five six persons have been carefully inspecting it; doubtless they will be called as witnesses to-morrow."
"I feared as much. Then are ours
more than watching briefs. Depend upon it, they would not have carried on the affair with so high a hand, if they had not pretty firm ground under foot! Messrs Quirk, Gammon, and Snap are tolerably well known in town-not over-scrupulous, eh, Mr Runnington?"
"Indeed, Mr Attorney, you are right. I don't doubt they are prepared to go all lengths."
"Well, we'll sift their evidence pretty closely at any rate. So you really have reason to fear, as you intimated when you entered the room, that they have valid evidence of Stephen Dreddlington having left issue?"
"Mr Soap told me," said Mr Parkinson, "this morning, that they would prove issue of Stephen Dreddlington, and issue of that issue, as clean as a whistle-that was his phrase."
"We mustn't take all for gospel that he would say."
"They've got two houses filled with witnesses, I understand," said Mr Runnington.
"Do they seem Yorkshire people, or strangers?"
"Why, most of them that I have seen," replied Parkinson, seem strangers.
"Ah, they will prove, I suppose, the later steps of the pedigree, when Stephen Dreddlington married at a distance from his native country."
They then entered into a very full and minute examination of the case; after which,-"Well,” said the Attorney-General, evidently fatigued with his long journey, and rising from his chair, "we must trust to what will turn up in the chapter of accidents to-morrow. I shall be expected to dine with the bar to-day," he added, "but immediately after dinner-say at seven o'clock, I shall be here, and at your service, if anything should be required.' Then the consultation broke up. Mr Aubrey had, at their earnest entreaty, brought Mrs Aubrey and Kate from Yatton, on Saturday; for they declared themselves unable to bear the dreadful suspense in which they should be left at Yatton. Yielding,therefore, to these their very reasonable wishes, he had engaged private lodgings at the outskirts of the town. On quitting the consultation, which, without at the same time affecting over-strictness, he had regretted being