Billeder på siden

ex-parte statement of his brief,) with the ability which distinguishes the English bar: the gist of his argument, in which he depended upon his witnesses to bear him out, was that Mr Tomkins, at the time of executing the deed conveying the policy to Miss Stanley, was in a state of mind in which he would be a passive instrument in the hands of any designing person; that the defendant had, by a series of previous unremitting attentions, in which she allowed none to take a share, acquired an almost unlimited control over his mind, and that she had turned that influence into the channel of her own selfish purposes. His speech was delivered with great ability and power, and had evidently produced no inconsiderable effect on the minds of the jury. When he had called and examined his first witness, the counsel on the opposite side rose for the purpose of proceeding in the cross-examination. The latter was a young man, with a high forehead, a nose somewhat inclining to the aquiline, and a full and piercing grey eye; while the paleness of his complexion, partly natural, and partly the result of close application to study, gave to his features, when in repose, a somewhat cold and statuelike appearance.

The full deep melody of the tone in which he put his first question to the witness, startled Clara by its familiarity to her ear, and, on shifting her position, to obtain a sight of the countenance of her disinterested advocate, she was surprised at recognizing in him the individual who had been so welcome a guest at her father's table, and the sudden cessation of whose visits had been the subject of so much speculation, as well as regret. Mr Worthington, for such was his name, conducted his cross-examinations with a degree of shrewdness and tact, joined to a mildness of manner, which, in many instances, encouraged the garrulity of the witnesses, who were, for the most part, persons in an inferior station of life, and thus elicited much which did not altogether "dove-tail with the context of their evidence. This portion of his duty having been accomplished, he commenced his reply, under the conviction that his task was one of no ordinary difficulty. He saw plainly, that the opposite counsel had, by his eloquent and ingenious speech, succeeded in establishing a strong prejudice against the defendant in the minds of the jury. He felt, therefore, that much of his chance of success depended upon the effect with which he could combat his adversary with his own weapons.

[ocr errors]

He commenced by stating the case of his client, and, in doing so, collected all its favourable points, and presented them to jury in the simplest possible form. He then called their attention to the weaker points of his adversary,-animadverting upon the nature of the opposing evidence, and referring to the prevarication of one witness, and the extraordinary lapse of memory in another. Conscious of the

justice of his cause, which, he felt, consecrated any means of its promotion, not in themselves culpable, he concluded his address by a direct appeal to the feelings of the jury. With the graphic skill of a master, he gave a short but vivid sketch of his client's history, touching upon her youth, her misfortunes, her virtues, her accomplishments, as eminently calculated to enlist the sympathies, and engage the affections of her benefactor. He put it to the jury if they would lend themselves to negative the kind intentions of the deceased, and dwelt feelingly upon the situation in which a verdict for the plaintiff would place her. Then, by a sudden transition, which showed him an adept in his art, he flung back, with indignant scorn, upon his opponents, the imputation of selfishness. As he proceeded in his harangue, his features gathered animation at every sentence, his cheek became flushed, and his eye flashed like lightning, and he concluded his speech with a sweeping torrent of eloquence, which, if it did not convince, had the effect of electricity upon his hearers.

The judge, alone, of all present, was unmoved: he preserved, throughout the scene, the same calm dignity so much in keeping with his office, and so characteristic of a British judge. Once or twice he interposed between the counsel and a brow-beaten witness, or reminded the former that he had asked a similar question before, and was trespassing upon the time of the court by putting it into other words.

Clara's counsel then proceeded to call his witnesses, of whom I was one, and whose testimony, generally, went to establish the fact of Mr Tomkins having been of perfectly "sound and disposing mind " at the time of the execution of the disputed deed, as well as to prove that, so far from the defendant assuming an exclusive control over the deceased, she had afforded every facility to his relations in their intercourse with him, and had actually, and at the risk of his displeasure, interposed her good offices in reconciling him to some branches of his family, with whom he had been at variance, and who gave testimony, in court, to that effect.

The cross-examination of his witnesses elicited nothing which could shake their evidence, and the judge, after a short summary of the case, informed the jury that the question was more a matter of fact than one of law, and that, therefore, their verdict must be governed by the degree of credit which they attached to the witnesses on the respective sides, and left the issue entirely in their hands.

The jury retired to consider their verdict, and, from the duration of their absence, it was to be inferred that they had some difficulty in making up their minds. In the meantime, a breathless anxiety appeared to pervade the court; the very barristers, in spite of their professional coldness, exhibited signs of impatience, and, when the jury re

[ocr errors]

turned, the voice of the crier, in his then unnecessary duty of enjoining silence, was the only interruption to the stillness which prevailed. “We find for the DEFENDANT were the words of the foreman, and no sooner were they pronounced, than a suppressed murmur of satisfaction ran through the crowd, which was, of course, instantly checked by the judge, though he could not help exclaiming, "I entirely agree with you, gentlemen."

In consequence of Clara's anxiety for an opportunity of expressing, personally, her thanks to her generous advocate, Mr Elphinstone invited him to dinner, during which, the young barrister was frequently rallied on the unusual gravity of his manner. When the ladies had retired, the elder Mr Elphinstone pleaded an engagement at an evening consultation, and left his son and Mr Worthington together. By the way, Arthur," said the former, "my mother, the girls, and Miss Stanley, are off to the cottage at Dorking, next month: you must go down with me for a week in the long vacation. "Impossible, my good fellow!" was the answer: you forget that I must go the circuit, and I have been retained in more causes than, I fear, I shall make myself master of in the interim."


[ocr errors]


"Nonsense, man!" rejoined the other, "you may con your briefs at the cottage, if you like; there is the library at your service; you know I do not trouble it much, and the girls are always out of doors from morning to night. Come, you may as well spend a few of my remaining days of freedom with me, for I suppose you have heard that I am about to commit matrimony?" "I have," said Worthington, "and hope you may live long to enjoy the happiness which the virtues, beauty, and accomplishments of your destined bride cannot fail to confer. "I thank you, Arthur; but pray, what makes you so well acquainted with the young lady's beauty and accomplishments? Have you ever seen her?" inquired young Elphinstone. "Have I not dined with her?" said Worthington. "Where and when?" asked his companion. "Why, to-day at this table," responded the other. "You talk in riddles; pray speak out, and tell me whom you mean." "Miss Stanley, to be sure." "Clara Stanley!" exclaimed Harry, in surprise, "what caused you to think I was going to marry her?” "The simple fact of your having been constantly, almost, in her company, and showing her every possible attention, both at home and abroad. I am not singular in drawing the conclusion; all the world have set it down as a match." "Then, my dear fellow," replied Harry "I pray you take this as an example that what all the world says, is not, necessarily, true. I was a doomed man long before I had the pleasure of knowing Miss Stanley, and, being perfectly aware of it, she has treated me with a degree of frankness which, possibly, has favoured the misconception into which

you and all the world' have fallen. I thought you knew I was engaged to Charlotte Percy." "No, I did not; but now that I do know it," responded Worthington, seizing the claret-jug, "I beg to drink to your happiness and speedy union." "I am much obliged to you, Arthur," said the other, with a smile of peculiar significance, "for I am convinced of your sincerity; and, now that I have let you into a secret, which I thought every body knew, perhaps you will withdraw your plea, and go down to Dorking with us." "But what will my clients say?" was the inquiry. "Say," replied Harry, "why, that you are labouring in your vocation, and have only moved your cause from one court into another, resembling it, in one point at least, since the presiding divinity of each is represented as being blind."

Worthington appeared not to understand the innuendo, but proposed their joining the ladies in the drawing-room, where his vivacity and glee formed a striking contrast to the gravity of his demeanor at the dinner table; a change which, though contributing, in no trifling degree, to the amusement of the evening, was perfectly inexplicable to every one but Harry, who kept his own counsel upon the subject. About three weeks afterwards, as young Elphinstone, with his two sisters and Clara, was walking in the grounds at Dorking, they observed a horseman approaching in the direction of the cottage. "The man of briefs," exclaimed Harry, "and mounted on a real horse, as I live!" "Is there any thing very wonderful in that?" inquired one of his sisters: "I suppose you think no one can mount a horse but yourself, Mr Harry." "No, my love," he replied, "I am quite aware that it is possible for any man, with the assistance of a groom and a joint stool, to get upon the back of a horse, but it is not every person who can keep there. Have a care, sir," he continued, as he perceived Worthington, who had diverged from the road, riding up to a fence, by way of a short cut, "have a care, Ar thur; remember you are retained in Dobbs versus Jenkins,' and have no right to break your neck without the plaintiff's permission." "Never fear," said his friend, as he cleared the fence; "I could ride almost before I could walk, and, though a little out of practice, am not to be brought up by a gooseberry bush."

While he was speaking, he rode up to the wicket, which opened from the meadow into the lawn, and, giving his horse to a servant, joined the party, from every individual of which he was welcomed, and not the least cordially by her whose form, from the first day in which he had seen her at her father's table, had never been absent from his mind.

It would be somewhat antiquated, in these days of refinement, to speak of love, with reference to rural life, and, therefore, I will not

shock the taste of my reader by quoting Shenstone on this occasion; the old poets, however, had a pretty notion of things in general, and, when celebrating the influence of romantic scenery in disposing the heart to the tender passion, they drew as largely, I doubt not, upon their experience as on their imagination. For my own part, had I forsworn matrimony, I would confine myself to the metropolis, and plunge fearlessly into society, under the conviction that a man may carry his heart, like his purse, in safety through a crowd, and yet be robbed of it in a retired lane, a shady copse, or a lonely common.

Arthur Worthington, however, had not taken the vow of celibacy, and was well content to lose his own heart, provided he could obtain another in exchange. I know not the particular spot, or the precise terms, in which he made a declaration of the sentiments with which Clara Stanley had inspired him; I only know, that he sustained his reputation as an eloquent pleader, and gained a verdict from one whose gratitude and admiration he had previously excited by the generous and disinterested manner in which he had undertaken her cause, at a time when he believed her to be the betrothed of another.


SHE was a Phantom of delight

When first she gleamed upon my sight;

A lovely Apparition, sent

To be a moment's ornament;

Her eyes as stars of Twilight fair;
Like Twilight's, too, her dusky hair;
But all things else about her drawn
From May-time and the cheerful Dawn;
A dancing Shape, an Image gay,
To haunt, to startle, and way-lay.

I saw her upon nearer view,
A Spirit, yet a Woman too!

Her household motions light and free,
And steps of virgin liberty;

A countenance in which did meet
Sweet records, promises as sweet;
A Creature not too bright or good

For human nature's daily food;
For transient sorrows, simple wiles,
Praise, blame, love, kisses, tears, and smiles.

And now I see with eyes serene

The very pulse of the machine;

« ForrigeFortsæt »