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helplessly. The case was beyond him. But James was equal to the occasion. He had mastered that first great axiom which every young barrister should lay to heart—“Never appear to be ignorant.”
“This case,” he said, as though he were giving judgment, “is, doubtless, of a remarkable nature, and I cannot at the moment lay my hand upon any authority bearing on the point–if, indeed, any such are to be found. But I speak off-hand, and must not be held too closely to the obiter dictum of a vivâ voce opinion. It seems to me that, notwithstanding its peculiar idiosyncrasies, and the various cruces that it presents, it will, upon closer examination, be found to fall within those general laws that govern the legal course of testamentary disposition. If I remember aright—I speak off-hand — the act of 1 Vic., cap. 26, specifies that a will shall be in writing, and tattooing may fairly be defined as a rude variety of writing. It is, I admit, usual that writing should be done on paper or parchment, but I have no doubt that the young lady's skin, if carefully removed and dried, would make excellent parchment. At present, therefore, it is parchment in its green stage, and perfectly available for writing purposes.
“To continue." It appears—I am taking Mr. Meeson's statement as being perfectly accurate--that the will was properly and duly executed by the testator, or rather by the person who tattooed in his presence and at his command : a form of signature which is very well covered by the section of the act of 1 Vic.,
cap. 26. It seems, too, that the witnesses attested in the presence of each other and of the testator. It is true that there was no attestation clause; but the supposed necessity for an attestation clause is one of those fallacies of the lay mind which, perhaps, cluster more frequently and with a greater persistence round questions connected with testamentary disposition than those of any other branch of the law. Therefore, we must take the will to have been properly executed in accordance with the spirit of the statute.
“And now we come to what at present strikes me as the crux. The will is undated. Does that invalidate it? I answer with confidence, no. And mark: evidence—that of Lady Holmhurst-can be produced that this will did not exist upon the back of Miss Augusta Smithers previous to December 19, on which day the Kangaroo sank; and evidence can also be produced --that of Mrs. Thomas-that it did exist on Christmasday, when Miss Smithers was rescued. It is, therefore, clear that it must have got upon her back between December 19 and December 25."
“Quite so, old fellow,” said Eustace, much impressed at this coruscation of legal lore. “Evidently you are the man to tackle the case. But, I say, what is to be done next? You see, I'm afraid it is too late. Probate has issued, whatever that may mean."
“Probate has issued !” echoed the great James, struggling with his rising contempt; "and is the law so helpless that probate which has been allowed to issue under an erroneous impression of the facts can
not be recalled? Most certainly not! So soon as the preliminary formalities are concluded, a writ must be issued to revoke the probate, and claiming that the court should pronounce in favor of the later will; or, stay, there is no executor—there is no executor!-a very important point, claiming a grant of letters of administration with the will annexed. I think that will be the better course."
“But how can you annex Miss Smithers to a'grant of letters of administration,' whatever that may mean?" said Eustace, feebly.
“That reminds me,” said James, disregarding the question and addressing his brother, “you must at once file Miss Smithers in the registry, and see to the preparation of the usual affidavit of scripts."
Certainly, certainly,” said John, as though this were the most simple business in the world.
“What?” gasped Eustace, as a vision of Augusta impaled upon an enormous bill-guard rose before his eyes. “ You can't file a lady; it's impossible !"
“Impossible or not, it must be done before any further steps are taken. Let me see; I believe that Dr. Probate is the sitting registrar at Somerset House this sittings. It would be well if you made an appointment for to-morrow."
“ Yes,” said John.
“Well,” went on James, “I think that is all for the present. You will, of course, let me have the instructions and other papers with all possible speed. I
. sup pose that other counsel besides myself will be ultimately retained ?”
“Oh! that reminds me,” said Eustace : « about money, you know. I don't quite see how I am going to pay for all this game. I have got about fifty pounds spare cash in the world, and that's all; and I know enough to be aware that fifty pounds do not go far in a lawsuit."
Blankly James looked at John and John at James. This was very trying.
“Fifty pounds will go a good way in out-of-pocket fees,” suggested James, at length, rubbing his bald head with his handkerchief.
Possibly," answered John, pettishly; “but how about the remuneration of the plaintiff's legal advisers ? Can't you”—addressing Eustace—“manage to get the money from some one?”
“Well,” said Eustace, “there's Lady Holmhurst. Perhaps if I offered to share the spoil with her, if there was any
“Dear me, no," said John; "that would be .maintenance.'
“Certainly not,” chimed in James, holding up his hand in dismay. “Most clearly it would be ‘champerty;' and did it come to the knowledge of the court, nobody can say what might not happen.”
“Indeed," answered Eustace, with a sigh, “I don't quite know what you mean, but I seem to have said something very wrong. The odds on a handicap are child's play to understand beside this law,” he added, sadly.
“It is obvious, James,” said John, “that, putting
aside other matters, this would prove, independent of pecuniary reward, a most interesting case for you to conduct.”
“ That is so, John,” replied James; “but, as you must be well aware, the etiquette of my profession will not allow me to conduct a case for nothing. Upon that point, above all others, etiquette rules us with a rod of iron. The stomach of the bar, collective and individual, is revolted and scandalized at the idea of one of its members doing anything for nothing."
“Yes,” put in Eustace, "I have always understood that they were regular nailers."
Quite so, my dear James; quite so," said John, with a sweet smile. “A fee must be marked upon the brief of learned counsel, and that fee must be paid to him, together with many other smaller fees; for learned counsel is like the cigarette-boxes and newfashioned weighing-machines at the stations : he does not work unless you drop something down him. But there is nothing to prevent learned counsel from returning that fee, and all the little fees. Indeed, James, you will see that this practice is common among the most eminent of your profession, when, for instance, they require an advertisement or wish to pay a delicate compliment to a constituency. What do they do then? They wait till they find £500 marked upon a brief, and then resign their fee. Why should you not do the same in this
case, your own interest? Of course, if we win the cause, the other side or the estate will pay the costs; and if we lose, you will at least have had