« PreviousContinue »
28 AdvKNTUREs of AN ATTorno nificence of his proffered martyrdom to the general interests of the church; or at the naivete with which he thought to disguise, under such a flimsy veil, a splenetic and vindictive feeling against the poor miller of Dumbleton cum Quagland: on my assuring him that he must reckon on costs upon a ten-fold scale, he applied his snow-white cambric to his olfactory organ, replaced his shovel-hat upon his brows, and with most dignified courtesy bade me good-morning. I never heard what became of Peter Tyler and his mill, nor whether my estimate of costs, or my joke, had settled the point, but I did hear, that shortly afterwards the venerable archdeacon was a trustee defendant in an important cause in which I was retained by—nobody!
CHA PTER III.
“Lucent genialibus altis
I was still musing on my misfortunes, for lack of other more interesting topics of professional meditation, when about ten days after this mortifying discovery, a ticket-porter came bustling up to my office door, bearing an antiquated box well protected by iron clamps, corded and locked, and duly directed to Gregory Sharpe, Esq., Attorney at Law, &c., “to be kept dry, this side uppermost,” and all the rest of it. The man demanded fifteen shillings for the carriage, and two more for the porterage; but where it came from, except from that Maelstorm of parcels and passengers, the Golden Cross, or what it contained, he knew no more than the dead. I again suspected a hoax of stones and brickbats, by way of apology for demanding seventeen shillings, but there was a sweet promise about the venerable chest, which determined me on venturing, and I paid for, and received the charge. Day after day, and week after week passed over, but no explanatory letter arrived; and though the box was distinctly addressed to me, yet as it was securely locked and no key had been forwarded, I was deterred by scruples of delicacy, from opening it. I eyed it and examined it daily and curi. ously, and various and profound were my speculations. It was to be “kept dry;” this argued papers or deeds within; but then the top was “to be kept uppermost,” and I well knew that all the writings and deeds of the richest land-holders in the kingdom were hourly turned over in an attorney’s office, without upsetting a title. My scruples might have restricted my curiosity for a twelvemonth, but for the seasonable visit of a fair damsel, who carried on the mystery of bonnet-making. She called on me one morning in considerable agitation; under such excitement indeed, that my professional dreams always haunting my sanguine imagination, took a new form, and “breach of promise,” with all its interesting details flitted before my eyes! I had almost instinctively rung my bell to dispatch a retainer to Serjeant Wilde, when, having recovered her breath, exhausted by the steepness of my stairs, the damsel exclaimed in a tone which showed that she had not by any means recovered her composure, “Pray Mr. Sharpe, if that be your name, why haven’t you sent me Mrs. Rudall's bonnet” “Simply because I have not received it, and have not the honor of knowing such a lady.” “Well, now, that is strange! and isn't your name Sharpe? and ain’t you an attorney of law? and don’t you live at No. 10, in this here Street?” “Precisely so, my good lady; but you seem to know ten times more about me than I do of you, or Mrs. Rudall either.” She then drew a letter out of her pocket, and showing me the address, inquired if I knew the writing. I disclaimed all acquaintance with it. She returned it to her pocket, without reading a line of it, and saying there must be some strange mistake, and begging pardon for the intrusion, withdrew. Here was new matter for curiosity, but my thoughts still fondly clinging at intervals, to the box, I began to penetrate the mystery, and without more hesitation, sent for a smith to open it. The first object that met my eye, was the unlucky bonnet, most carefully hedged round with papers and parchments to sustain it in its vertical position. I removed it with all possible care, and found deposited immediately beneath it, a letter addressed to myself, in an elegant female hand, on beautiful embossed paper, and slightly sealed with wax of celestial blue, impressed with Cupid retaining a dove by a silken cord.
“Mrs. Rudall presents her compliments to Mr. Gregory Sharpe, and begs permission to forward to him all her deeds and papers, being involved in a most cruel dispute with her landlord, and having heard from their mutual friend, the Rev. Mr. Fairfax, an old college acquaintance of Mr. Sharpe's, the highest testimony to his character and abilities. Mrs. Rudall will trouble Mr. Sharpe to allow some of his people to take the bonnet, which she has enclosed for safety in the box, to Madame Livorne. Mr. Sharpe will please to direct all possible care to be taken of the bonnet, and to