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Miss Smithers was rescued. It is, therefore, clear that it must have got upon her between Dec. 19. and Dec. 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 apprehension of the facts cannot 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 favour 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 suppose 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 prettishly; "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 hands 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 scandalised 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, in 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 the advantage, the priceless advantage, of a unique advertisement."
“Very well, John; let it be so," said James, with magnanimity. "Your cheques for fees will be duly returned; but it must be understood that they are to be presented.” “Not at the bank,” said John hastily. "I have
I recently had to oblige a client,” he added by way of explanation to Eustace, "and my balance is rather low.”
“No,” said James; “I quite understand. I was going to say “are to be presented to my clerk.'”
And with this solemn farce, the conference came to an end.
CHAPTER X VII.
HOW AUGUSTA WAS FILED.
That very afterooon Eustace returned to Lady Holmhurst's house in Hanover Square, to tell his dear Augusta that she must attend on the following morning to be filed in the Registry at Somerset House. As may be imagined, though willing to go any reasonable length to oblige her new-found lover, Augusta not unnaturally resisted this course violently, and was supported in her resistance by her friend Lady Holmhurst, who, however, presently left the room, leaving them to settle it as they liked.
“I do think it is a little hard,” said Augusta, with a stamp of her foot, “that, after all I have gone through, I should be taken off to have my unfortunate neck stared at by a Doctor some one or other, and then be shut up with a lot of musty old wills in a Registry."
“Well, my dearest girl," said Eustace, “either it must be done or else the whole thing must be given up. Mr. John Short declares that it is absolutely necessary that the document should be placed in the custody of the officer of the Court."