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SHORT ON LEGAL ETIQUETTE.
"WELL, Meeson, what is it? Have you come to ask me to lunch?" asked Mr. John Short. "Do you know I actually thought that you might have been a client."
"Well, by Jove, old fellow, and so I am," answered Eustace. "I have been to your brother, and he has sent me on to you, because he says that it is not the etiquette of the profession to see a client unless a solicitor is present, so he has referred me to you."
"Perfectly right; perfectly right of my brother James, Meeson. Considering how small are his opportunities of becoming cognisant with the practice of his profession, it is extraordinary how well he is acquainted with its theory. And now, what is the point?"
"Well, do you know, Short, as the point is rather a long one, and as your brother said that he should expect us at two precisely, I think that we had better take the 'bus back to the Temple, when I can tell the yarn to both of you at once."
"Very well. I do not, as a general rule, like leav
Mr. Meeson's Will.
ing my office at this time of day, as it is apt to put clients to inconvenience, especially such of them as come from a distance. But I will make an exception for you, Meeson. William," he went on, to the counterpart of the Pump Court infant, "if any one calls to see me, will you be so good as to tell him that I am engaged in an important conference at the chambers of Mr. Short, in Pump Court, but that I hope to be back by half-past three?"
"Yes, sir," said William, as he shut the door behind them; "certainly, sir." And then, having replaced the musty documents upon the shelf, whence they could be fetched down without difficulty on the slightest sign of a client, that ingenuous youth, with singular confidence that nobody would be inconvenienced thereby, put a notice on the door to the effect that he would be back immediately, and adjourned to indulge in the passionately exhilarating game of "chuck farthing" with various other small clerks of his acquaint
In due course, Eustace and his legal adviser arrived at Pump Court, and, oh! how the heart of James, the barrister, swelled with pride when, for the first time in his career, he saw a real solicitor enter his chambers accompanied by a real client. He would, indeed, have preferred it if the solicitor had not happened to be his twin-brother, and the client had been some other than his intimate friend; but still it was a blessed sight-a very blessed sight!
"Will you be seated, gentlemen?" he said with much dignity.
"And now, Meeson, I suppose that you have explained to my brother the matter on which you require my advice?"
"No, I haven't," said Eustace; "I thought that I might as well explain it to you both together; eh?"
"Hum," said James; "it is not quite regular. According to the etiquette of the profession to which I have the honour to belong, it is not customary that matters should be so dealt with. It is usual that papers should be presented; but that I will overlook, as the point appears to be pressing."
"That's right," said Eustace. "Well, I have come about a will."
"So I understood," said James; "but what will, and where is it?"
"Well, it's a will in my favour, and it is tattooed upon a lady's neck.”
The twins simultaneously rose from their chairs, and looked at Eustace with such a ridiculous identity of movement and expression that he fairly burst out laughing.
"I presume, Meeson, that this is not a hoax," said James severely. "I presume that you know too well what is due to learned counsel to attempt to make one of their body the victim of a practical joke?"
"Surely, Meeson," added John, "you have suf
ficient respect for the dignity of the law not to tamper with it in any such way as my brother has indicated?" "Oh, certainly not. I assure you it is all square. It is a true bill, or rather a true will."
"Proceed," said James, resuming his seat. "This is evidently a case of an unusual nature.”
"You are right there, old boy," said Eustace. "And now, just listen," and he went on to unfold his moving tale with much point and emphasis.
When he had finished John looked at James rather 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 parch
ment, 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 unprepared 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 statue.
"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 Miss Augusta Smithers previous to Dec. 19, on which day the Kangaroo sank; and evidence can also be produced-that of Mrs. Thomas-that it did exist on Christmas Day, when