« PreviousContinue »
“ My children, Mr. Sharpe! my children!”
The exclamation was uttered with a shriek; the poor lady immediately became hysterical; Miss St. Clair sobbed audibly; and Sir William strided across the room, evidently embarrassed. The very lap-dog on the rug displayed his fangs, and growled out his indignation. Here was another pretty mess that I had made of it! I began to think the whole family crazy; and commissions of lunacy crossed my vision; how could I apologise, unconscious as I was of offense?
“Mr. Sharpe!” said Sir William sternly, and suddenly paused.
“Really, Mr. Sharpe,” sobbed out Miss St. Clair, and was again silent.
“Oh! Mr. Sharpe, if” — and poor Lady Carysfort was mute from utter exhaustion.
“ May I ring for assistance, Sir William ?”
“No, Sir; I want no witnesses of this unhappy scene.”
“Allow me to open the window, Sir, and then to retire; I will wait on her Ladyship at any other time when she feels more composed.” Sir William approached the bell himself, and I was about to withdraw.
“] think, Sir William,” said Miss St. Clair, “Mr. Sharpe's suggestion, however painful, is unavoidable;” but I had had enough of it, and expressing hastily my regret at having been the unintentional cause of so much distress, I left the room, intending to call again the following day. I received the following laconic letter, however, in less than an hour:
“Sir William Carysfort's compliments to Mr. Sharpe, he is requested to send his account to Mr. Longhead, the family solicitor, who has Sir William's order to discharge it. Mr. Longhead's familiar acquaintance with the domestic circumstances of Sir William, points him out as the proper party to bring this affair to a conclusion.”
I soon had the mystery explained by my friend Miss Gordon. Mr. and Mrs. Walsingham had been separated by deed, for fifteen years, and the union of Sir William and Lady Carysfort was generally understood to be one, though they were received in society, that would have subjected more plebeian folks to certain pains and penalties. One so ignorant of fashionable scandal as myself, and so little versed in heraldry as never to have heard of the extinct
title of Lord Carisbrook, could scarcely be expected to be skilled in family settlements. Mr. Longhead managed matters better, and wound up the distribution of the father's estate by an amicable suit which lasted fifteen years. CHAPTER IV.
"'Arip yap protds aidscolai gelei.” — 101, EN AYA.
I COULD multiply these anecdotes of earlier days, ad infinitum. Sometimes I failed to please from excess of zeal; sometimes by supposed lack of it, though if my clients could have penetrated my bosom, and witnessed my anxious feelings about professional success, this would have been the last fault laid to my charge. On other occasions temper led me astray. I plead guilty to this accusation; and yet it has not unfrequently been the case that I have been reproached with coolness and want of sympathy in my client's outraged feelings! I have selected the preceding failures, not only as curious in themselves, but as illustrating the first maxim which I would impress on a young solicitor; he must inform himself, of course, of the merits of his employer's cause of complaint, and judge a little for himself of his employer's merits as well. It will be observed that in all the instances I have mentioned, I had but one trial; and to the best of my judgment, I failed in every instance to retain my client, not by professional unskilfulness or negligence, but by offense to my client's self-complacency. I made many friends in the very first years of business; and allowing for the partial loss of them by death, or bankruptcy, (a sort of commercial syncope rarely followed by resuscitation) I retain them still. These are men with whom I have grown up in the affairs of life; men who know and understand me, and who are equally understood by me. We are familiar with each other's peculiarities, and not less so with each other's value. It is no trifle that will sever a connexion between solicitor and client, based upon this mutuality of knowledge; but a man who begins business at four-and-twenty has but few connexions of this character; he must make them for himself; if I may judge from my own experience, there is no greater fallacy than to conclude that the friends gained at school or college, are sufficient to launch you