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CHAPTER XVI.

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 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."

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"Perfectly right; perfectly right of my brother James, Meeson. Considering how small are his opportunities of becoming cog'nisant with the practice of his profession, it is extraordinary how well he is acquainted with its theory. And now, what is the point 1?"

"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, I can tell the yarn 2 to both of you at once."

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"Very well. I do not, as a general rule, like leaving my office at this time of day, as it is apt to put clients to inconvenience 3, 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

1) The point is the thing about which he came to speak. Comp.: to come to the point, to come to the essential, the principal part of the discourse; the point of an anecdote, the most important part of it.

2) Yarn is a sailor's term for tale or story, especially such a one as is told by him for the amusement of his companions. The word is colloquially used by others too, as in the phrase to spin or tell a yarn. 3) He means to say that it would be inconvenient or awkward to those who might come to consult him, if they did not find him in.

4) A thing is said to be the counterpart of another if it exactly corresponds to it; a copy, a duplicate. Here it refers to the office-boy, whose twin-brother waited upon the other Mr. Short.

conference at the chambers of Mr. Short, in Pump Court, but that I hope to be back by half-past three 1?"

"Yes, sir," said William, as he shut the door behind them; "certainly, sir." And then, having replaced the musty documents 2 upon the shelf, whence they could be fetched down without difficulty on the slightest sign of a client 3, 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"5 with various other small clerks of his acquaintance. 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 bless'ed sight-a very blessed sight!

"Will you be seated, gentlemen ?" he said with much dignity. They obeyed.

"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 6?"

"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

1) By half past three means any time before half past three, but in no case later.

2) The documents had got musty or mouldy (Dutch: muffig), because they were so very old.

3) If there was any, even the slightest indication of the coming of a client.

4) See p. 9, note 3.

5) Chuck farthing is a game in which a small coin is chucked (lightly thrown or pitched) into a hole made for the purpose.

6) Eh (pron. a) expresses surprise or inquiry. He meant to say, isn't that possible, can't it be done in that way?

7) To deal with means to treat, as the thing cannot be dealt with in this manner.

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 inmy 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 īden'tity of movement and expression 1 that he fairly burst out laughing.

"I presume', Meeson, that this is not a hoax 2," 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 3 ?"

"Surely, Meeson," added John, "you have sufficient 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 4. It is a true bill 5, or rather a true will."

"Proceed'," said James, resuming his seat.

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"This is evidently a

"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 7.

1) It was funny to see how they expressed their surprise in exactly the same way.

2) A hoax is a trick played upon or a story told to one with the intention of deceiving or mocking him (Dutch: fopperij).

3) A practical joke is a joke the fun of which consists in something done. It is called thus to distinguish it from a verbal joke, a joke consisting of words only.

4) Square is colloquially used as a synonym of right, true.

5) Bill in a legal sense denotes a written declaration in which a complaint or a breach of the law is stated. It is a true bill means that the matter he was going to put into their hands was real, and that no judge would refuse to hear the case.

6) He did not see what could be done; it seemed a rather hopeless, at all events an extremely difficult case.

7) He rose to the emergency (see p. 144, note 3).

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He had mastered that first great ǎxiom which every young barrister should lay to heart 1- "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 2-if, indeed, any 、such are to be found. But-I speak off-hand3, and must not be held too closely to the obiter dictum 4 of a vivá voce opinion —it seems to me that, notwithstanding its peculiar idiosyncrasies, and the various 'cruces's 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 unprepared stage, and perfectly avail'able 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

1) To lay a thing to heart is to keep it in mind, never to lose sight of it, always to remember it.

2) To lay one's hand upon a thing is to seize, to find it. He means that he does not remember any book in which a similar case is dealt with.

3) To speak off-hand is to speak extemporaneously, from memory, without having purposely examined the thing before making the speech. 4) A thing said by the way, in passing.

5) By word of mouth, ôral.

6) He does not wish that what he is going to say, shall be taken as conclusive; it may be open to doubt, and may require correction after proper examination.

7) Special characteristics which distinguish it from other cases.

8) A crux, plural crücēs, is a puzzle, a thing which it is very difficult to explain.

9) He means to say that after all it will be possible to explain the provisions of the Wills Act in such a way that they may embrace also this apparently puzzling case.

Mr. Meeson's Will.

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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 2 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 3 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 5. "Therefore, we must take the will to have been properly executed in accordance with the spirit of the stătute.

"And now we come to what at present strikes me as the crux. The will is undated. Does that invălidate 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 Miss Smithers was res'cued. 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 corusca'tion of legal lore ". "Evidently you are the man to

1) The Wills Act ordains that the will must be signed by the testator at the foot of the will, or by some other person in his presence and by his direction. See also p. 101.

2) To attest is to subscribe one's name to a document as a witness. 3) The usual form of the attestation clause is: Signed by the said A. B., the testator, as and for his last Will and Testament, in the presence of us (the witnesses), present at the same time, who in his presence, at his request, and in the presence of each other, have hereunto subscribed our names as witnesses.

4) It is a fallacy, an erroneous idea, of the lay mind, the person not educated to the profession (Dutch: leek), that an attestation clause is necessary to make a will vălid.

5) He means to say that there is no legal branch about which there are more wrong ideas current than that connected with wills.

6) A coruscation is a sudden flash of brilliant light, and fig. a flash of intellectual brilliancy. Lore means knowledge, what can be learned either generally or with respect to a particular branch. Comp.: folklore, priestly lore, legal lore. The lawyer's brilliant display of legal knowledge made a deep impression upon Eustace.

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