Page images
PDF
EPUB

appeal to the privy council, involving a comparatively trifling sum of five or six thousand pounds, and I lost it on a point of law. He was too noble-minded to have resented this, as the failure was not mine. I attribute his desertion of me to a very different cause, and one which, I fear, vindicated it to his own mind. Having paid his creditors in full, he wished to supersede his bankruptcy. The commission was of nearly thirty years’ date; he was very old and infirm; and I collected from him that complicated and serious accounts were still outstanding between him and the estate of his deceased partner. I deprecated the supersedeas of his bankruptcy, lest it should rip open differences which costly and perennial litigation alone could settle: he could not comprehend the difficulty, and, I fear, ascribed it to motives that he disdained,—a wish to protect him by technical defense, from obligations that he knew were just. If this was not the cause of his alienation from me, I know it not to this hour; but so dire was the offense that I unconsciously gave him, that he limited his gratitude strictly to my demand, and cut me from that day, or nearly so, to the day of his death, twelve years after. I have met with many unaccountable disappointments in my professional career, but few of them have been more mysterious to me, than how I happened to offend this venerable client, by recovering for him half a million of money under desperate circumstances, at a cost of £41. 5s. 6d.

This disappointment mortified me much at the time, and even still I feel it; but somehow or other I gradually crept on in connexion, though still destined to lose my clients as rapidly as I acquired them. I have always had the credit of being a good-natured fellow : it is the worst reputation that an attorney can enjoy; he may be as acid as Sir Vicary Gibbs (my younger readers will scarcely understand the allusion), as roguish as Ikey Solomons (this comes nearer the present day), as ignorant of

law as my Lord B (nobody will misunderstand this), and yet, if he is not unluckily a good-natured fellow, he will make money and retain clients. A reverend clergyman, whom I had known intimately at Cambridge, had a pretty servant-girl. The pretty servant-girl had previously lived in a wealthy family of rank,

where she had given great satisfaction; so great, that she looked for higher wages, and these being refused, she took herself off. A pretty girl is not likely to be long out of place, if she conducts herself decently, and very soon she found one to her heart's content; but character was required, and her former mistress being piqued at her abrupt departure, declared her to be all that was excellent, but nodded her head, and added that she was “unsteady.” A nod of the head, whether from a prime minister or a prima donna, is no trifle; the pretty, but “unsteady” services of the girl were rejected; the fair one took refuge with the reverend gentleman; and he appealed, with Quixotic benevolence, to my confounded good-nature to see the girl “righted.” I brought an action for the libel, against my pleader's advice this time, for I had had experience enough of being too clear-sighted; I laid the damages high; assigned as many mischievous inuendoes to the word “unsteady,” as an Irishman reeling along in all his glory could have devised; and, against all reason, law, and common sense, recovered a hundred pounds, when as many pence would have been ample indemnity. A new trial was moved for, and of course obtained, on payment of costs by the defendant. The costs were paid; the record again brought down; the cause called on; the jury sworn; and then the defendant cried peccavil offered to submit to the damages assessed before, and pay all costs of the second trial. What man in his sober senses would reject such overtures' Of course I acceded to them, packed up my briefs, and bolted. The costs were very heavy, for witnesses had been subpoenaed to rebut the pleas of justification. I write from recollection, but if my memory does not deceive me, the taxed costs between party and party were more than £300. My extra costs would have swallowed up the damages, but my “good-nature” would only accept those out of pocket, about thirty pounds; leaving the pretty “unsteady?” lass seventy to comfort herself with, on the strength of which she married a very steady baker in less than a month. But again I lost my reverend client! “Was ever such a gross dereliction of duty! to submit to a dastardly compromise; to spare the well-deserved exposure! such scandalous oppression such unheard-of, such base, such unprecedented calumny on a poor, helpless, unfriended girl! and her own attorney, after taking up her cause ‘good, naturedly,' benevolently, and boldly, to cow before the front of cruelty, and the pride of rank and purse ' ' ' ' &c. &c. &c. So my reverend friend bade me good-by; transferred his patronage and his business elsewhere; and, though we have once or twice, during the last twenty years, met on cool and distant terms, I have never seen him or any of his connexion, within the walls of my office, from that hour to this. We were previously on terms of intimacy. My “good nature” has been eternally in my way; another early incident of my professional life will show this in another light. In the last instance, it led me into the folly of espousing a bad case on its merits, on the solicitation of an ass who could not understand its demerits; and though I won the case, I lost the blockhead's business, which was far better worth gaining; but the next folly into which my “good nature” plunged me entailed with it loss of time, trouble, money, and connexion too, simply because I laid people under obligations, who were too poor to discharge them, and too proud to acknowledge them and, perhaps I should say, too mean to offer that indirect, but satisfactory

« PreviousContinue »