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BLUES AND BUFFS.
A SKETCH OF A CONTESTED ELECTION.
[ONTHS passed, and the Shamboro' election was forgotten by the world, but not by Messrs. Cheetham and Co. Charles Greville had been trying to banish it from his mind by a trip to America, but winter found him again at the Grange, where his fate for a second time overtook him.
It was a dark and gloomy evening of a wet November day, depressing even to the fox-hunters who, with their scarlet coat-tails empurpled and bemudded, wended their weary way home to the Grange stables, after what Augustus called a sharp thing with Lord Puddingtown.' Charles was poring over some favourite folios of Flaxman's illustrations of Dante' in the library, when he was told that a gentleman was waiting to see him in the hall.' A vision of Cheetham at once rose to Greville's prophetic eye, but marching at once to confront the enemy, he was accosted by a mysterious muffledup individual standing at the front door, who, thrusting a slip of paper into his hands, retreated immediately through the pouring rain down the drive, leaving our hero to study at his leisure the 'esteemed favour' bestowed upon him by his unknown friend. The document turned out to be a writ, served on the defendant in the suit of 'Cheetham and Another v. Greville,' in the Court of Queen's Bench; the damages in the action being laid at 10,000l.
In order to explain the apparent abruptness of this proceeding, it must be understood by Mr. Greville's numerous admirers, who will be naturally indignant at the insult thus offered to him, that for some months past every letter addressed to him bearing only the Shamboro' post-mark, and therefore manifestly hailing from that objectionable quarter, had, by Greville's orders, been pitched unread into the waste-paper basket or the fire. Among the precious MSS. thus lost to the world were divers pressing letters from Cheetham's partner, Mr. Swallow, urging the claims of his firm for further payment over and above the 1,000l. already remitted, and which, as he alleged, only half covered their costs out of pocket.' In these appeals hints No. 607 (No. CXXVII. N. s.)
were conveyed that, if not speedily responded to, a resort must be had to stronger measures.
Mr. Dibbs, it was alleged, was quite ready to bear his share, and to meet his former colleague in the candidature half way,' though it was well known, not only to Messrs. Cheetham and Co., but to the whole legion of electioneering gamblers in Shamboro', that Mr. Dibbs had resolutely refused to pay a single farthing, and that having determined, as he said, never to touch politics again, was utterly indifferent to Blues and Buffs.'
But to Greville, who had kept clear of all knowledge which his Shamboro' correspondents had attempted to impart to him, the slip of paper, which was still in his hands when the dripping and miry sportsmen sauntered into the hall from the stables, was nothing more or less than a demand at sight for some three or four years' income. And it can hardly be matter of surprise that he should have betrayed in his countenance some indications of bewilderment, if not of anger.
Why, old boy, you look as if Gerty had refused you; and I'll be bound to say she has.'
Why, what's that precious billet doux you are crumpling up in your hands?' shouted Augustus, following the retreating Greville into the library.
'You're quite at liberty to read it, and answer it also if you like,' replied Greville, throwing the paper poignard of Mr. Cheetham's to his friend, who at the first glimpse of its purport dropped all chaff, and with profound sympathy offered to sell all his hunters at once, and give up half his allowance, if he could but help to tide Charles over his impending difficulties.
'And what does this mean about "entering an appearance" next Wednesday, and "judgment by default?" How I hate all these confounded lawyers and their bosh! Why can't the rascals speak plain English, at any rate while they're fleecing you?'
Why, the meaning of it is, my dear Gussy, that whether they get the 10,000l. out of me or not, I shall have an attorney's bill as long as your hunting crop to pay to somebody for fighting my battles. Thank heaven, I never had an attorney myself yet, and the only fellow I know now connected with the cloth is a clerk in some office in the Temple, who acted as boy-Cerberus to the Equity draftsman I once pretended to read with in Lincoln's Inn. He wrote to me some months ago, warning me of some tricks the Shamboro' lawyers were playing, and fortunately for me it's the only letter about this business I have not torn up. Here it is in my pocket, and as it's only twenty minutes to post time, I'll write to the fellow and send him the writ, and tell him to look after it, and if the affair takes money out of my pocket, it will put it into his, and I'm sure he must want it more than I do.'
'But how about this 10,000l.? Where is that to come from? inquired Augustus.
'Well, I must find it somewhere, I suppose, by sinking about a third of my capital and living more carefully on the interest of the rest; but they have not quite beat me yet, and I may pull through, after all. At any rate there's no good in talking about it now. And here comes your father across the garden, and I wouldn't have him bothered with my troubles for the world. It's bad enough for him to have a miserable defendant in a lawsuit billeted on the Grange, so let us say nothing about it to him, and I must go and write my letter, and you had better take off those soaking leathers and boots that have been clinging to your legs like sticking plaister ever since you got off your horse.' And just as Sir Henry's hand was on the door both the young men bolted into the ante-room, by which Greville escaped by the back staircase to his bed-room, where he rapidly penned the following note:
Mr. Greville will be obliged to Mr. Brown if he will learn whatever may be the proper step to be taken in reference to the enclosed writ, which was served on Mr. Greville to-day at the suit of Messrs. Cheetham and Swallow, solicitors, of Shamboro'.
The Grange, Shamboro'.
Having despatched this note and its enclosure, Greville felt particularly light-hearted. It was his practice, whenever his conscience was clear of all complicity in the craft of his fellow-creatures, to shake off any extraneous burdens which their devices might seek to impose on him. No one would have supposed, from the tone of Greville's talk that evening, that any trouble had arisen to ruffle the serenity of his life, or to imperil his future fortunes.
Mr. John Brown, on the receipt of Greville's letter, which was duly delivered to him at the office of Messrs. Thumbscrew, Smart and Thumbscrew, did the needful respecting the writ. But for valid reasons he did not think it safe that the business of his patron should be entrusted to his own masters; and after obtaining authority from Greville, he instructed a steady-going firm in Chancery Lane to enter an appearance for his client. Counsel were retained. Payment of the 1,000l. was pleaded, and all liability traversed as to the remainder. Issue was joined, and the case set down for trial at the sittings in Hilary Term.
It will be remembered that John Brown, having overheard the conversation which took place immediately after the Fig Tree Court conference, had derived the impression of some intended false play as against his old patron, and it had been decided by the solicitors, who had received a private intimation from Brown as to the nature of the evidence he was prepared to give, to subpœna him for the defendant. Unfortunately, however, John Brown's employers, though not actually Cheetham's agents or attorneys in the cause, were fully cognisant of the strong sympathies of their clerk for Greville, which, indeed, Brown had been at no pains to conceal. They were not, perhaps, aware that it had been through Brown that Gre
ville had become the client of another firm, who were now conducting the case. If this had transpired, poor John Brown would doubtless have been sacked at once, but warnings from Shamboro' had determined Messrs. Thumbscrews to get John Brown out of the way before the trial came on. It so happened that a convenient pretext for transporting John Brown beyond the seas was at this juncture afforded by the appointment of a commission for the examination of witnesses at Rio Janeiro in a Chancery suit, in which a client of Messrs. Thumbscrew' was concerned, and Brown was sent off at three days' notice to South America. To have refused this appointment, which had been assented to by both parties to the suit, and which, besides being lucrative, involved a high compliment to Brown's character and energy, would have been equivalent to throwing up his post at Messrs. Thumbscrews. Greville, to whom he telegraphed the fact, and his anxiety lest his absence at the trial of the pending cause might prejudice his patron's interests, urged him in reply to go, and take no thought for the consequences.
CHRISTMAS had come round again at the Grange, and though everybody was a year older and some were a year wiser, things looked externally much the same as they did a twelvemonth before. Charles was beginning to wonder whether Gertrude's turn might come round for a visit to the Berkeleys, but he dared ask no questions on the subject nearest to his heart, lest some arrière pensée should be suspected. Marion had talked casually of a letter she had received from Gerty, but whence it came or what it told did not transpire, and Charles, though he would have given worlds to know, did not venture on any interrogatories. And so, resigning himself to the inevitable, our hero took life as it came to him, and fitted himself into the niche hospitably provided for him in the Grange family circle. But while Charles was endeavouring, with the aid of his hospitable friends, to drive dull care away at the Grange, Messrs. Cheetham and Co. were carrying on their plots against his fortunes in the Court of Queen's Bench. Little more than a month had passed since the service of the writ in the case of Cheetham v. Greville, when at an early hour of the morning a brown envelope containing a pink paper was handed to our hero in his bedroom at the Grange.
"Verdict for plaintiff, damages 10,000l. and costs: will write by post.' These were the words pencilled on a telegram addressed to Mr. Charles Greville, at the Grange, from his solicitors in Chancery Lane. No letter by post, though it might add six-and-eightpence to his costs, could, as Greville well knew, remove this verdict, which, with his characteristic coolness, he accepted as final, and began immediately to calculate the ways and means of meeting this formidable claim on his moderate resources Throughout that day