Imágenes de página
[ocr errors]


closures to Titmouse. Their prudence in the latter step, however, was very questionable to themselves, even; and they immediately afterwards deplored together the precipitation with which Mr Quirk had communicated to Titmouse the nature and extent of his possible good fortune. It was Mr Quirk's own doing, however, and after as much expostulation as the cautious Gammon could venture to use. He, He, however, had his motive, as well as Mr Gammon. I say they had not lightly taken up the affair; they had not" acted unadvisedly." They were fortified, first, by the opinions of Mr Mortmain, an able and experienced conveyancer; who thus wound up an abstrusely learned opinion on the voluminous" case" which had been submitted to him :

"Under all these circumstances, I am decidedly of opinion that the wellestablished rule of law above adverted to, viz., &c., &c. &c., is clearly applicable to the present case; from which it follows, that the title to the estates in question is at this moment not in their present possessor, but in 1789 passed through Dame Dorothy Dreddlington into the female line, and ultimately vested in Gabriel Tittlebat Titmouse-who, however, seems not to have been at all aware of the existence of his rights, or he could hardly have been concerned in the pecuniary arrangements sanctioned at fol. 33 of the case and his heirs. Probably something may be heard of them by making careful enquiry in the neighbourhood where he was last heard of, and issuing advertisements for his heir-at-law; care of course being taken not to be so specific in the terms of such advertisements as to attract the notice of A B, (the party, I presume, now in possession.) If such person should, by the means above suggested, be discovered, I advise proceedings to be commenced forthwith, under the advice of some gentleman of experience at the common law bar. "MOULDY MORTMAIN. "Linc. Inn, January 19, 182–."

This was sufficiently gratifying to the House; " but, to make assurance doubly sure, before embarking in so harassing and expensive an enterprise, the same case (of course without Mr Mortmain's opinion) was

[ocr errors]

laid before a younger conveyancer; who, having much less business than Mr Mortmain, would, it was thought, "look into the case fully," though receiving only one-third of the fee which had been paid to Mr Mortmain. And Mr Fussy Frankpledgethat was his name-did "look into the case fully," and in doing so, turned over two-thirds of his little library, and by note, and verbally, gleaned the opinions upon the subject of some dozen or so of his "learned friends;' to say nothing of the magnificent air with which he indoctrinated his eager and confiding pupils upon the subject. At length his imp of a clerk bore the precious result of his master's labours to Saffron Hill, in the shape of an "opinion," three times as long as, and indescribably more difficult to understand, than the opinion of Mr Mortmain, and which, if it demonstrated any thing beyond the prodigious cram which had been undergone by its writer for the purpose of producing it, demonstrated this—namely, that neither the party indicated by Mr Mortmain, nor the one then actually in possession, had any more right to the estate than the aforesaid Mr Frank pledge; but that the happy individual so entitled was some third person. Messrs Quirk and Gammon hummed and hawed a good deal on perusing these contradictory opinions of counsel learned in the law; and the proper result followed i. e. a 66 SULTATION,' " which was to solder up all the differences between Mr Mortmain and Mr Frankpledge, or at all events strike out some light which might guide their clients on their adventurous way.

[ocr errors]


Now, Mr Mortmain had been Mr Quirk's conveyancer for about three years; and Quirk was ready to suffer death in defence of any opinion of Mr Mortmain. Mr Gammon swore by Frankpledge, who was his brother-inlaw, and of course a rising man." Mortmain belonged to the old schoolFrank pledge steered by the new lights. The former could point to hundreds of cases in the Law Reports which had been ruled according to his opinion, and some fifty which had been overruled thereby; the latter, although he had been only five years in practice, had written an opinion which had led to a suit which had ended in a difference of opinion between the Court

of King's-Bench and the CommonPleas, the credit of having done which was really not a bit tarnished by the decision of a Court of Error, without hearing the other side against the opinion of Mr Frankpledge. But

[ocr errors]

Mr Frankpledge quoted so many cases, and went to the bottom of every thing-and was so civil.

Well, the consultation came off, at length, at Mr Mortmain's chambers, at eight o'clock in the evening. A few minutes before that hour, Messrs Quirk and Gammon were to be seen in the clerk's room, in civil conversation with that prim functionary, who explained to them that he did all Mr Mortmain's drafting; pupils were so idle that Mr Mortmain did not score out much of what he (the aforesaid clerk) had drawn; that he noted up Mr Mortmain's new cases for him in the reports, Mr M. having so little time; and that the other day the Vice Chancellor called on Mr Mortmain, with several other matters of that sort, calculated to enhance the importance of Mr Mortmain, who, as the clerk was asking Mr Gammon, in a good-natured way, how long Mr Frankpledge had been in practice, and where his chambers were, made his appearance, with a cheerful look and a bustling gait, having just walked down from his house in Queen's Square, (somewhere in the wilds of Bedford Square, as Mrs Gore delights to call them, in her West-End pleasantry,) with a comfortable bottle of old port on board. Shortly afterwards, Mr Frankpledge arrived, followed by his little clerk, bending beneath two bags of books, (unconscious bearer of as much law as had wellnigh split thousands of learned heads, broken tens of thousands of hearts, in the making of, being destined to have a similar but far greater effect in the applying of,) and the consultation began.

As Frankpledge entered, he could not help casting a sheep's eye towards a table that glistened with such an array of "papers," (a tasteful arrangement of Mr Mortmain's clerk before every consultation;) and down sate the two conveyancers and the two attorneys. I devoutly wish I had time to describe the scene at length; but greater events are pressing upon me. The two conveyancers fenced with one another for some time very guardedly and good-humouredly; pleasant was

[ocr errors]

it to observe the conscious condescension of Mortmain, the anxious energy and volubility of Frankpledge. When Mr Mortmain said any thing that seemed weighty or pointed, Quirk looked with an elated air, a quick triumphant glance, at Gammon; who, in his turn, whenever Mr Frankpledge quoted an "old case' " from Bendloe, Godsbolt, or the Year Books, (which, having always piqued himself in his almost exclusive acquaintance with the modern cases, he made a point of doing,) gazed at Quirk with a smile of placid superiority. Mr Frankpledge talked almost the whole time; Mr Mortmain, immovable in the view of the case which he had taken in his opinion," listened with an attentive, good-natured air, ruminating pleasantly the while upon the quality of the port he had been drinking, (the first of the Bin which he had tasted,) and the decision which the Chancel lor might come to on a case brought into court, on his advice, and which had been argued that afternoon. At last Frankpledge unwittingly fell foul of a favourite crotchet of Mortmain's. and at it they went, hammer and tongs, for nearly twenty minutes, (it had nothing whatever to do with the case they were commenting upon.) In the end, Mortmain of course adhered to his points, and Frank pledge entrenched himself in his books; each slightly yielded to the views of the other on immaterial points, (or what could have appeared the use of the consultation ?) but did that which both had resolved upon doing from the first, i. e. sticking to his original opinion. Both had talked an amazing deal of deep law, which had at least one effect, viz., it fairly drowned both Quirk and Gammon, who as they went home, with not (it must be owned) the clearest perceptions in the world of what had been going on, (though, before going to the consultation, each had really known a good deal about the case,) stood each stoutly by his conveyancer's opinion, each protesting that he had never been once misled-Quirk by Mortmain, or Gammon by Frankpledge -and each resolved to give his man more of the business of the House than he had before. I grieve to add that they parted that night with a trifle less of cordiality than had been their wont. In the morning, however, this little irritation and competition

had passed away; and they agreed, before giving up the case, to take the final opinion of MR TRESAYLE-the great Mr Tresayle. He was, in deed, a wonderful conveyancer-a perfect miracle of real-property lawlearning. He had had such an enor mous practice for forty-five years, that for the last ten he had never put his nose out of chambers for pure want of time, and at last of inclination; and had been so conversant with Norman French and law Latin, in the old English letter, that he had almost entirely forgotten how to write the modern English character. His opinions made their appearance in three different kinds of handwriting. First, one that none but he and his old clerk could make out; se condly, one that none but he himself could read; and thirdly, one that neither he, nor his clerk, nor any one on earth could decipher. The use of any one of these styles depended on the difficulty of the case to be answered. If it were an easy one, the answer was very judiciously put into No. I.; if rather difficult, it, of course, went into No. II.; and if exceedingly difficult, (and also important,) it was very properly thrown into No. III; being a question that really ought not to have been asked, and did not deserve an answer. The fruit within these uncouth shells, however, was precious. Mr Tresayle's law was supreme over every body's else. It was currently reported that Lord Eldon even (who was himself slightly acquainted with such subjects) reverently deferred to the authority of Mr Tresayle; and would lie winking and knitting his shaggy eyebrows half the night, if he thought that Mr Tresayle's opinion on a case and his own differed. This was the great authority to whom, as in the last resort, Messrs Quirk, Gammon, and Snap, resolved to appeal. To his chambers they, within a day or two after their consultation at Mr Mortmain's, dispatched their case, with a highly respectable fee, and a special compliment to his clerk, hoping to hear from that awful quarter within two months-which was the earliest average period within which Mr Tresayle's opinions found their way to his patient but anxious clients. It came, at length, with a note from Mr Faith ful, his clerk, intimating that they would find him at chambers the next

morning, prepared to explain the opinion to them; having just had it read over to him by Mr Tresayle, for it proved to be in No. II. The opinion occupied about two pages; and the handwriting bore a strong resem. blance to Chinese, or Arabic, with a quaint intermixture of the Uncial Greek character-it was impossible to contemplate it without a certain feeling of awe! In vain did old Quirk squint at it, from all corners, for nearly a couple of hours, (having first called in the assistance of a friend of his, an old attorney of upwards of fifty years' standing;) nay-even Mr Gammon, foiled at length, could not for the life of him refrain from a soft curse or two. Neither of them could make any thing of it-(as for Snap, they never showed it to him; it was not within his province-i. e. the Insolvent Debtors' Court, the Old Bailey, the Clerkenwell Sessions, the inferior business of the Common Law Courts, and the worrying of the clerks of the office-a department in which he was perfection itself.)

To their great delight, Mr Tresayle's opinion completely corroborated that of Mr Mortmain, (neither whose nor Mr Frankpledge's had been laid before him.) Nothing could be more terse, perspicuous, and conclusive than the great man's opinion. Mr Quirk was in raptures, and immediately sent out for an engraving of Mr Tresayle, which had lately come out, for which he paid 5s., and ordered it to be framed and hung up in his own room, where already grinned a quaint resemblance, in black profile, of Mr Mortmain. In special goodhumour he assured Mr Gammon, (who was plainly somewhat crestfallen about Mr Frankpledge,) that every body must have a beginning; and he (Quirk) had been once only a beginner.

Once fairly on the scent, Messrs Quirk and Gammon soon began, secretly but energetically, to push their enquiries in all directions. They discovered that Gabriel Tittlebat Titmouse, having spent the chief portion of his blissful days as a cobbler at Whitehaven, had died in London, somewhere about the year 1792 or 1793. At this point they stood for a long while, in spite of two adver. tisements, to which they had been driven with the greatest reluctance,

« AnteriorContinuar »