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My humble opinion was that he would have run a better chance of getting credit for common sense than he ever did before; but that was no affair of mine; men never consult their attorneys to be complimented on their good sense. I remained dumb, while the orator proceeded.
“These are fine days, indeed, Mr. Sharpe, when a man like myself—and I pretend to be nobody, I assure you, though they are pleased to compliment the little talent of public speaking, which nature has blessed me with, but let that pass: I am but a humble individual, exerting myself in my sphere for the public good; I have no higher ambition, I assure you, Sir; and if a seat were offered me tomorrow, (I was invited to stand for the borough where I was born, at the last election; though on public principle, I was obliged to decline, for the deputation could not guarantee me against expense: but this in confidence, Mr. Sharpe-only by the bye-you understand ?) I say, Sir, that if I were seated to-morrow, and offered place the next day, I would decline it: I would indeed, Sir, unless conscientiously assured that I could serve my country with credit (as indeed some folks say that I could be very useful): but I am only a humble individual, however kindly my friends may be pleased to think of me; and I repeat, that matters are come to a fine pass indeed, if such a humble and unpretending man as myself cannot take his proper share in the public duty without being scurrilously libelled, and mercilessly and falsely abused!”
“Really, it is too bad, Mr. Bedworth; I am not surprised at your temper being a little ruffled by it.”
“Pardon me, Sir, there you are wrongquite wrong: I have lived too much before the world to allow my temper to be ruffled by any provocation: no man is fit for public life, who allows his temper to be ruffled. I never was ruffled in my life, Sir; never!”
I saw I was in danger, and speedily retreated.
“I beg your pardon, Mr. Bedworth. I judged of you by myself; my patience never could have brooked so much contumely and insult; but I was not born for public life.”
“True, Mr. Sharpe; very few men are; it was long before I discovered my own peculiar
fitness for it; but you are losing sight of the immediate question.”
The orator himself had lost sight of it, like many other modern orators; but we must humour our clients a little.
“I have indeed, Mr. Bedworth: you quite carried away my feelings, and that I confess, is a great fault in one of my profession; but what course do you intend to take ?”.
He was flattered by this deferential appeal to his superior sagacity.
“ Certainly, Mr. Sharpe; I well thought over the subject before I called on you; in fact I gave to it all the powers of my mind: under your correction, Sir, I think that a criminal information is the course.”
“ That is scarcely usual in cases of private libel, unless the libel is intended to provoke a challenge.”
“Private libel, Mr. Sharpe ! private libel, do you call it, where a base and cowardly attack is made on a public man?”
I was again in imminent peril.
“Doubtless, Sir, it is your public character that has induced the libel; but it is nevertheless a libel peculiarly of a private character, to
reflect upon the honesty of a tradesman's past career.”
“But all my friends will expect me to take the more dignified course on such a serious occasion; so I have determined upon it, if you please.”
“ Very well, Mr. Bedworth; the first thing then is the affidavit. I see you are called a “ gaol- bird,” a “rogue of enterprise,” and a “gazetted thief;" your name is not specified certainly, but you have no doubt, I presume, that you are the party intended ?”
“None at all, none whatever : “the principal speaker' at this celebrated meeting, could be nobody but me, Sir. I was undoubtedly the principal speaker there. I moved the first resolution; I seconded the third; I spoke on the fourth ; I opposed the amendment; and finally, I returned thanks to the chair. Indeed, I may say that nobody of any consequence took any part in the affair, but myself.”
“ Then it is unquestionable, Mr. Bedworth, that you are the 'gaol- bird ?'"
"I am, Sir."
“ And a 'gazetted thief?'"
“Iam, Sir. I am the goal- bird,' the .rogue uf enterprise,' and the gazetted thief:' all in one- Tria juncta in uno, Sir.”
“Well then, we must deny it all on oath.” “ That is easily done.”
“I will prepare the affidavit to- night, if you will favor me with a short narrative of the last few years of your trading life.”
“ What has that to do with it?" (in obvious alarm).
“We must go into court with clean hands, you know; and not only deny the charge, but all color and foundation for it."
A dead pause followed, for which I was at a loss to account, and therefore deemed it prudent not to interrupt it.
“I am thinking, Mr. Sharpe, that a wise man must look a little to himself, even in publio affairs. A criminal information is a costly article, I fear.”
“Yes: it costs some money: fees to counsel on two motions-office copies of long affidavits — fees again on the trial, mount up to something."
“What do you suppose ?”