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'Hush, my dear! I cannot bear such want of charity. And what is even worse-you expose me to an action-at-law, with heavy damages.'
The lawyer had sundry little qualms of conscience, which were deepened by his wife's sagacious words; and suddenly it struck him that the new-fangled vehicle, which had brought him home so quietly from Scargate, had shown a strange inability to stand still, for more than two minutes, at his side-door. So much had he been hurried, by the apparent straits of his charioteer, that he ran out with box C, without ever stopping to make an inventory of its contents—as he intended to do—or even looking whether the all-important deed was there. In fact, he had scarcely time to seal up the key in a separate package, hand it to Jordas, and take the order (now become a receipt) from the horny fist of the dog-man, before Marmaduke, rendered more dashing by snow-drift, was away like a thunderbolt, if such a thing there be, and if it has four legs.
How could I have helped doing as I have done?' he whispered to himself uncomfortably. Here are two ladies, of high position, and they send a joint order for their property. By-the-by, I will just have a look at that order, now that there is no horse to jump over me.' Upon going to the day-file, he found the order right, transcribed from his own amended copy, and bearing two signatures, as it should do. But it struck him that the words Eliza Carnaby' were written too boldly for that lady's hand; and the more he looked at them, the more he was convinced of it. That was no concern of his; for it was not his duty, under the circumstances of the case, to verify her signature. But this conviction drove him to an uncomfortable conclusion-Miss Yordas intends to destroy that deed, without her sister's knowledge. She knows that her sister's nerve is weaker; and she does not like to involve her in the job. A very brave, sisterly feeling, no doubt; and much the wiser course, if she means to do it. It is a bold stroke, and well worthy of a Yordas. But I hope, with all my heart, that she never can have thought of it. And she kept that order in my handwriting, to make it look as if the suggestion came from me! And I am as innocent as any lamb is of the frauds that shall come to be written on his skin. The duty of attorney towards client prevents me from opening my lips upon the matter. But she is a deep woman, and a bold one too. May the Lord direct things aright! I shall retire, and let Robert have the practice, as soon as Brown's bankruptcy has worn out captious creditors. It is the Lord alone that doeth all things well.'
Mr. Jellicorse knew that he had done his best; and though doubtful of the turn which things had taken, with some exclusion of his agency, he felt (though his conscience told him not to feel it) that here was one true source of joy. That impudent, dashing, unprofessional man, who was always poking his vile, unarticled nose into legal business, that fellow of the name of Mordacks, now would have no locus standi left. At least a hundred and fifty firms, of good
standing in the county, detested that man; and even a Judge would import a scintillula juris into any measure which relieved the country of him. Meditating thus, he heard a knock.
STAND AND DELIVER.
THE day was not far worn as yet; and May month having come at last, the day could stand a good deal of wear. With Jordas burning to exhibit the wonders of the new machine (which had been bought upon his advice), and with Marmaduke conscious of the new gloss on his coat, all previous times had been beaten-as the sporting writers put it that is to say, all previous times of the journey from Scargate to Middleton, for any man who sat on wheels. A rider would take a shorter cut, and have many other advantages; but for a driver, the time had been the quickest upon record.
Mr. Jellicorse, exulting in his safety, had imprinted the chaste salute upon his good wife's cheek at ten minutes after one o'clock; when the clerks in the office with laudable promptitude (not expecting him as yet) had unanimously cast down pen, and betaken hand and foot towards knife and fork. Instead of blaming them, this good lawyer went upon that same road himself; with the great advantage, that the road to his dinner lay through his own kitchen. At dinnertime he had much to tell, and many large helps to receive, of interest and of admiration, especially from his pet child Emily (who forgot herself so largely as to lick her spoon while gazing), and after dinner he was not without reasons for letting perhaps a little of the time slip by. Therefore, by the time he had described all dangers, discharged his duty to all comforts, and held the little confidential talk with his wife, and himself, above recorded, the clock had made its way to halfpast three.
Mrs. Jellicorse, and Emily, were gone forth to pay visits; the clerks, shut away in their own room, were busy, scratching up a lovely case for nisi prius; the cook had thrown the sifted cinders on the kitchen-fire, and was gone with the maids to exchange just a few constitutional words with the gardener; and the whole house was drowsy with that by-time, when light and shadow seem to mix together, and far-away sounds take a faint to-and-fro, as if they were the pendulum of silence.
"That is Emily's knock. Impatient child! Come back for her mother's gloves, or something. All the people are out; I must go and let her in.'
With these words, and a little placid frown-because a soft nap was impending on his eyelids, and yet they were always glad to open on his favourite-the worthy lawyer rose, and took a pinch of snuff, to rouse himself; but before he could get to the door, a louder and more impatient rap almost made him jump.
'What a hurry you are in, my dear! You really should try to learn some little patience.'
While he was speaking, he opened the door; and behold, there was no little girl, but a tall and stately gentleman, in horseman's dress, and of strong commanding aspect!
'What is your pleasure, sir?' the lawyer asked, while his heart began to flutter; for exactly such a visitor had caused him scare of his life, when stronger by a quarter of a century than now.
My pleasure, or rather my business, is with Mr. Jellicorse, the lawyer.
Then, sir, you have come to the right man for it. My name is Jellicorse, and greatly at your service. Allow me the honour of inviting you within.'
'My name is Yordas, Sir Duncan Yordas,' said the stranger, when seated in the lawyer's private room. My father, Philip Yordas, was a client of yours, and of other legal gentlemen, before he came to you. Upon the day of his death, in the year 1777, you prepared his will; which you have since found to be of no effect, except as regards his personal estate, and about one-eighth part of the realty. Of the bulk of the land, including Scargate Hall, he could not dispose; for the simple reason that they had been strictly entailed by a deed, executed by my grandfather, and his wife, in 1751. Under that entail, I take in fee; for it could not have been barred without me, and I never concurred in any disentailing deed, and my father never knew that such was needful.'
'Excuse me, Sir Duncan, but you seem to be wonderfully apt with the terms of our profession.'
'I could scarcely be otherwise, after all that I have had to do with law, in India. Our first object is to apply our own laws, and our second to spread our religion. But no more of that-do you admit the truth of a matter, so stated that you cannot fail to grasp it?'
Sir Duncan Yordas, as he put this question, fixed large, unwavering, and piercing eyes (against which no spectacles were any shelter) upon the mild, amiable, and (generally speaking) very honest orbs of sight which had lighted the path of the elder gentleman to good repute and competence. But who may turn a lawyer's hand from the heaven-sped legal plough?
'Am I to understand, Sir Duncan Yordas, that your visit to me is of an amicable nature, and intended (without prejudice to other interests) to ascertain, so far as may be compatible with professional rules, how far my clients are acquainted with documents, alleged, or imagined, to be in existence; and how far their conduct might be guided by desire to afford every reasonable facility—
'You are to understand simply this-that as the proper owner of Scargate Hall, and the main part of the estates held with it, I require you to sign a memorandum, that you hold all the title-deeds on my behalf; and to deliver at once to me that entailing instrument of 1751, under which I make my claim.'
You speak, sir, as if you had already brought your action, and entered verdict. Legal process may be dispensed with in barbarous countries, but not here. The title-deeds, and other papers, of Scargate Hall were placed in my custody, neither by you, nor on your behalf, sir. I hold them on behalf of those at present in possession; and until I receive due instructions from them, or a final order from a court of law, I shall be guilty of a breach of trust if I part with a dog's ear of them.'
'You distinctly refuse my requirements; and defy me to enforce them.'
• Not so, Sir Duncan. Sir Duncan. I do nothing more than declare what my view of my duty is, and decline in any way to depart from it.'
Upon that score I have nothing more to say. I did not expect you to give up the deeds, though in "barbarous countries," as you call them, we have peremptory ways. I will say more than that, Mr. Jellicorse; I will say that I respect you, for clinging to what you must know, better than any body else, to be the weaker side.'
The lawyer bowed his very best bow; but was bound to enter protest, against the calm assumption of the claimant.
'Let us leave that question,' Sir Duncan said; the time would fail us, to discuss that now. But one thing I surely may insist upon, as the proper heir of my grandfather. I may desire you to produce, for my inspection, that deed, in pursuance of his marriage-settlement, which has for so many years lain concealed.'
'With pleasure I will do so, Sir Duncan Yordas (presuming that any such deed exists), upon the production of an order from the Court, either of King's Bench or of Common Pleas.'
In that case, you would be obliged to produce it, and would earn no thanks of mine. But I ask you to lay aside the legal aspect; for no action is pending, and perhaps never will be. I ask you, as a valued adviser of the family, and a trustworthy friend to its interests -as a gentleman, in fact, rather than a mere lawyer, to do a wise and amicable thing. You cannot in any way injure your case, if a law case is to come of it; because we know all about the deed already. We even have an abstract of it, as clear as you yourself could make; and we have discovered that one of the witnesses is still alive. I have come to you myself, in preference to employing a lawyer; because I hope, if you meet me frankly, to put things in train for a friendly and fair settlement. I am not a young man; I have been disappointed of anyone to succeed me, and I wish to settle my affairs in this country, and return to India; which suits me better, and where I am more useful. My sisters have not behaved kindly to me; but that I must try to forgive, and forget. I have thought matters over, and am quite prepared to offer very liberal terms-in short, to leave them in possession of Scargate; upon certain conditions, and in a certain manner.'
Really, Sir Duncan,' Mr. Jellicorse exclaimed; allow me to offer
you a pinch of snuff. You are pleased with it? superior quality. It saved the life of a most henchman of your family-in fact, poor Jordas. snuff alone supported him from freezing
Yes, it is of quite admirable fellow, a The power of this
'At another time I may be highly interested in that matter,' the visitor replied, without meaning to be rude, but knowing that the man of law was making passes to gain time; 'just at present, I must ask you to say yes, or no. If you wish me to set my offer plainly before you, and so relieve the property of the cost of a hopeless struggle for I have taken the opinion of the first real-property Counsel of the age-you will, as a token of good faith, and of common sense, produce for my inspection that deed-poll, of November 15th, 1751.
Poor Mr. Jellicorse was desperately driven. He looked round the room, to seek for any interruption. He went to the window, and pretended to see another visitor knocking at the door. But no help came; he must face it out himself; and Sir Duncan, with his quiet resolution, looked more stern than his violent father.
'I think that before we proceed any further,' said the lawyer, at last sitting down, and taking up a pen, and trying what the nib was like, we really should understand a little, where we are already. My own desire to avoid litigation is very strong; almost unprofessionally so; though the first thing consulted by all of us naturally is the pocket of our client'
'Whether it will hold out, I suppose.' Sir Duncan Yordas departed from his dignity in saying this; and was sorry as soon as he had said it.
"That is the vulgar impression about us, which it is our duty to disdain. But without losing time upon that question, let me ask, what shall I put down as your proposition, sir?
'There is nothing to put down. That is just the point. I do not come here with any formal proposition. If that had been my object, I would have brought a lawyer. What I say is, that I have the right to see that deed. It forms no part of my sisters' title-deeds, but even destroys their title. It belongs to me, it is my property; and only through fraud is it now in your hands. Of course we can easily wrest it from you, and must do so, if you defy me. It rests with you, to take that risk. But I prefer to cut things short. I pledge myself to two things-first, to leave the document in your possession; and next, to offer fair, and even handsome terms, when you have met me thus fairly. Why should you object? For we know all about it. Never mind how.'
Those last three words decided the issue. Even worse than the fear of breach of trust was the fear of treason in the office; and the lawyer's only chance of getting clue to that was to keep on terms with this Sir Dunean Yordas. There had been no treason whatever in the office; neither had anything come out through the proctorial firm in York, or Sir Walter Carnaby's solicitors; but a note among long