« ZurückWeiter »
What will that unfortunate James do against so
“I don't know, I'm sure,” said Augusta, with a sigh. “It doesn't seem quite fair, does it? But then, you see, there was no money.”
Just then John Short came up. He had been to speak to his brother. Augusta being a novelist, and therefore a professional student of human physiognomy, was engaged in studying the legal types before her, which she found resolved themselves into two classes—the sharp, keen-faced class, and the solid, heavy-jawed class.
“Who on earth are they all ?” she asked. “Oh,” he said, “that's the attorney-general. He “
. appears with Fiddlestick, Q.C., Pearl, and Bean for the defendant Addison. Next to him is the solicitorgeneral, who, with Playford, Q.C., Middlestone, Blowhard, and Ross, is for the other defendant, Roscoe. Next to him is Turphy, Q.C., with the spectacles on; he is supposed to have a great effect on a jury. I don't know the name of his junior, but he looks as though he were going to eat one-doesn't he? He is for one of the legatees. That man behind is Stickon; he is for one of the legatees also. I suppose that he finds probate and divorce an interesting subject, because he is always writing books about them. Next to him is Howles, who, my brother says, is the best comic actor in the court. The short gentleman in the middle is Telly; he reports for the Times. You see, as this is an important case, he has got somebody to
help him to take it—that long man with a big wig. He, by the way, writes novels, like you do, only not half such good ones. The next” but at this moment Mr. John Short was interrupted by the approach of a rather good-looking man, who wore an eyeglass continually fixed in his right eye. He was Mr. News, of the great firm News & News, who were conducting the case on behalf of the defendants.
“Mr. Short, I believe ?” said Mr. News, contemplating his opponent's youthful form with pity, not unmixed with compassion.
“Um, Mr. Short, I have been consulting with my clients and-um, the attorney and solicitor general and Mr. Fiddlestick, and we are quite willing to admit that there are circumstances of doubt in this case which would justify us in making an offer of settlement."
“Before I can enter into that, Mr. News," said John, with great' dignity, “I must request the presence of my counsel.”
“Oh, certainly,” said Mr. News, and accordingly James was summoned from his elevated perch, where he was once more going through his notes and the heads of bis opening speech, although he already knew his brief—which, to do it justice, had been prepared with extraordinary care and elaboration-almost by heart, and next moment, for the first time in his life, found himself in consultation with an attorney and a solicitor general.
“Look here, Short,” said the first of these great men, addressing James as though he had known him intimately for years, though, as a matter of fact, he had only that moment ascertained his name from Mr. Fiddlestick, who was himself obliged to refer to Bean before he could be sure of it—“look here, Short: don't you think that we can settle this business? You've got a strongish case; but there are some ugly things against you, as no doubt you know.”
“I don't quite admit that,” said James.
“Of course—of course,” said Mr. Attorney; "but still, in my judgment, if you will not be offended at my expressing it, you are not quite on firm ground. Supposing, for instance, your young lady is not allowed to give evidence ?"
“I think,” said a stout gentleman behind, who wore upon his countenance the very sweetest and most infantile smile that Eustace had ever seen, breaking in rather hastily, as though he were afraid that his learned leader was showing too much of his hand—“I think that the case is one that, looked at from either point of view, will bear settlement better than fightingeh, Fiddlestick! But, then, I'm a man of peace," and again he smiled most seductively at James.
6 What are your terms?” asked James.
The eminent counsel on the front bench turned round and stuck their wigs together like a lot of white-headed crows over a bone, and the slightly less eminent but still highly distinguished juniors on the second bench craned forward to listen.
“They are going to settle it,” Eustace heard the barrister who was reporting for the Times say to his long assistant.
They always do settle every case of public interest,” grunted the long man in answer; "we sha'n't see Miss Smithers's shoulders now. Well, I shall get an introduction to her, and ask her to show them to
I take a great interest in tattooing." Meanwhile, Fiddlestick, Q.C., had been writing something on a strip of paper, which he handed to his leader, the attorney-general (who, Mr. James Short saw with respectful admiration, had five hundred guineas marked upon his brief). He nodded carelessly, and passed it on to his junior, who gave it in turn to the. solicitor-general and Playford, Q.C. When it had gone the rounds, Mr. News took it and showed it to his two privileged clients, Messrs. Addison and Roscoe. Addison was a choleric-looking, fat-faced man. Roscoe was sallow, and had a thin, straggly black beard. When they looked at it, Addison groaned fiercely as a wounded bull and Roscoe sighed, and that sigh and groan told Augusta—who, womanlike, had all her wits about her, and was watching every act of the dramamore than it was meant to do. It told her that these gentlemen were doing something that they did not like, and doing it because they evidently believed that they had no other course open to them. Then Mr. News gave
the paper to Mr. John Short, who glanced at it and handed it on to his brother, and Eustace read it over his shoulder. It was very short, and ran
thus :—“Terms offered: Half the property, and defendants pay all costs."
. Well, Short,” said Eustace, “what do you say?shall we take it?”
James removed his wig, and thoughtfully rubbed his bald head. “It is a very difficult position to be put in,” he said. “Of course a million is a large sum of money; but there are two at stake. My own view is that we had better fight the case out; though, of course, this is a certainty, and the result of the case is not.”
"I am inclined to settle," said Eustace; “not because of the case, for I believe in it, but because of Augusta—of Miss Smithers: you see she will have to show that tattooing again, and that sort of thing is very unpleasant for a lady.”
“Oh, as to that,” said James, loftily, “at present she must remember that she is not a lady, but a legal document. However, let us ask her.”
“Now, Augusta, what shall we do?” said Eustace when he had explained the offer; “you see, if we take the offer you will be spared a very disagreeable time. You must make up your mind quick, for the judge will be here in a minute."
Oh, never mind me,” said Augusta, quickly; “I am used to disagreeables. No, I shall fight. I tell you they are afraid of you. I can see it in the face of that horrid Mr. Addison. Just now he positively glared at me and ground his teeth, and he would not do that if he thought he was going to win. No, dear; I shall fight it out now.”