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The Humourous Story of Farmer Bumpkin's Lawsuit
by Richard Harris
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Transcribed from the 1883 Stevens and Sons edition by David Price, email ccx074@pglaf.org



THE HUMOUROUS STORY OF FARMER BUMPKIN'S LAWSUIT:

BY RICHARD HARRIS,

BARRISTER-AT-LAW, AUTHOR OF "HINTS ON ADVOCACY," ETC., ETC.

SECOND EDITION.

* * * * *

LONDON: STEVENS AND SONS, 119, CHANCERY LANE, Law Publishers and Booksellers. 1883.

LONDON: BRADBURY, AGNEW, & CO., PRINTERS, WHITEFRIARS.



PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION.

Considering the enormous interest which the Public have in "a more efficient and speedy administration of justice," I am not surprised that a Second Edition of "Mr. Bumpkin's Lawsuit" should be called for so soon after the publication of the first. If any proof were wanting that I had not overstated the evils attendant on the present system, it would be found in the case of Smitherman v. The South Eastern Railway Company, which came before the House of Lords recently; and judgment in which was delivered on the 16th of July, 1883. The facts of the case were extremely simple, and were as follow:—A man of the name of Smitherman was killed on a level crossing of the South Eastern Railway Company at East Farleigh, in December, 1878. His widow, on behalf of herself and four children, brought an action against the Company on the ground of negligence on the part of the defendants. The case in due course was tried at the Maidstone Assizes, and the plaintiff obtained a verdict for 400 pounds for herself and 125 pounds for each of the children. A rule for a new trial was granted by the Divisional Court: the rule for the new trial was discharged by the Court of Appeal. The Lords reversed the decision of the Court of Appeal, and ordered a new trial. New trial took place at Guildhall, City of London, before Mr. Baron Pollock; jury again found for the plaintiff, with 700 pounds agreed damages: Company thereby saving 200 pounds. Once more rule for new trial granted by Divisional Court: once more rule discharged by Court of Appeal: once more House of Lords reverse decision of Court of Appeal, and order second new trial. So that after more than four years of harassing litigation, this poor widow and her children are left in the same position that they were in immediately after the accident—except that they are so much the worse as being liable for an amount of costs which need not be calculated. The case was tried by competent judges and special juries; and yet, by the subtleties of the doctrine of contributory negligence, questions of such extreme nicety are raised that a third jury are required to give an opinion upon the same state of facts upon which two juries have already decided in favour of the plaintiff and her children.

Such is the power placed by our complicated, bewildering, and inartistic mode of procedure, in the hands of a rich Company.

No one can call in question the wisdom or the learning of the House of Lords: it is above criticism, and beyond censure; but the House of Lords itself works upon the basis of our system of Procedure, and as that is neither beyond criticism nor censure, I unhesitatingly ask, Can Old Fogeyism and Pettifoggism further go?

RICHARD HARRIS.

LAMB BUILDING, TEMPLE, October, 1883.



PREFACE TO THE FIRST EDITION.

When Old Fogeyism is being lowered to his last resting place, Pettifoggism, being his chief mourner, will be so overwhelmed with grief that he will tumble into the same grave. How then to hasten the demise of this venerable Humbug is the question. Some are for letting him die a natural death, others for reducing him gradually by a system of slow starvation: for myself, I confess, I am for knocking him on the head at once. Until this event, so long wished for by all the friends of Enlightenment and Progress, shall have happened, there will be no possibility of a Reform which will lessen the needless expense and shorten the unjustifiable delay which our present system of legal procedure occasions; a system which gives to the rich immeasurable advantages over poor litigants; and amounts in many cases not only to a perversion of justice but to a denial of it altogether.

Old Fogeyism only tinkers at reform, and is so nervous and incompetent that in attempting to mend one hole he almost invariably makes two. The Public, doubtless, will, before long, undertake the much needed reform and abolish some of the unnecessary business of "judges' chambers," where the ingenuity of the Pettifogging Pleader is so marvellously displayed. How many righteous claims are smothered in their infancy at this stage of their existence!

I have endeavoured to bring the evils of our system before the Public in the story of Mr. Bumpkin. The solicitors, equally with their clients, as a body, would welcome a change which would enable actions to be carried to a legitimate conclusion instead of being stifled by the "Priggs" and "Locusts" who will crawl into an honorable profession. It is impossible to keep them out, but it is not impossible to prevent their using the profession to the injury of their clients. All respectable solicitors would be glad to see the powers of these unscrupulous gentlemen curtailed.

The verses at the end of the story have been so often favourably received at the Circuit Mess, that I thought an amplified version of them in prose would not be unacceptable to the general reader, and might ultimately awaken in the public mind a desire for the long-needed reform of our legal procedure.

RICHARD HARRIS.

LAMB BUILDING, TEMPLE, July, 1883.



ADVERTISEMENT.

On the 4th of December, 1882, Our Gracious Queen, on the occasion of the opening of the Royal Courts of Justice, said:—

"I trust that the uniting together in one place of the various branches of Judicature in this my Supreme Court, will conduce to the more efficient and speedy administration of justice to my subjects."

On April 20th, 1883, in the House of Commons, Mr. H. H. Fowler asked the Attorney-General whether he was aware of the large number of causes waiting for trial in the Chancery Division of the High Court, and in the Court of Appeal; and whether the Government proposed to take any steps to remedy the delay and increased cost occasioned to the suitors by the present administration of the Judicature Acts.

The Attorney-General said the number of cases of all descriptions then waiting for trial in the Chancery Division was 848, and in the Court of Appeal 270. The House would be aware that a committee of Judges had been engaged for some time in framing rules in the hope of getting rid of some of the delay that now existed in the hearing of cases; and until those rules were prepared, which would be shortly, the Government were not desirous of interfering with a matter over which the Judges had jurisdiction. The Government were now considering the introduction of a short Judicature Act for the purpose of lessening the delay.—Morning Post.

[No rules or short Judicature Act at present!] {0a}

On the 13th April, 1883, Mr. Glasse, Q.C., thus referred to a statement made by Mr. Justice Pearson of the Chancery Division: "The citizens of this great country, of which your Lordship is one of the representatives, will look at the statement you have made with respectful amazement." The statement appears to have been, that his Lordship had intended to continue the business of the Court in exactly the same way in which it had been conducted by Mr. Justice Fry; but he had been informed that he would have to take the interlocutory business of Mr. Justice Kay's Court whilst his Lordship was on Circuit; and, as it was requisite that he should take his own interlocutory business before the causes set down for hearing, "ALL THE CAUSES IN THE TWO COURTS MUST GO TO THE WALL"!!! His Lordship added, that it would be necessary for him to rise at 3 o'clock every day (not at 3 o'clock in the morning, gentle reader), because he understood he should have to conduct the business of Mr. Justice Kay's Chambers as well as his own.—Morning Post.

On the 16th April, 1883, Mr. Justice Day, in charging the Grand Jury at the Manchester Spring Assizes, expressed his disagreement with the opinion of the other Judges in favour of the Commission being so altered that the Judge would have to "deliver all the prisoners detained in gaol," and regarded it as "a waste of the Judge's time that he should have to try a case in which a woman was indicted for stealing a shawl worth 3s. 9d.; or a prisoner charged with stealing two mutton pies and two ounces of bacon."—Evening Standard.

CONTENTS.

CHAPTER I. Shows the Beauty of a Farm Yard on a Sabbath-Day, and what a 1 difference a single letter will sometimes make in the legal signification of a Sentence CHAPTER II. The Simplicity and Enjoyments of a Country life depicted 11 CHAPTER III. Showing how true it is that it takes at least Two to make a 17 Bargain or a Quarrel CHAPTER IV. On the extreme Simplicity of Going to Law 27 CHAPTER V. In which it appears that the Sting of Slander is not always 35 in the Head CHAPTER VI. Showing how the greatest Wisdom of Parliament may be thrown 45 away on Ungrateful People CHAPTER VII. Showing that Appropriateness of Time and Place should be 55 studied in our Pastimes CHAPTER VIII. The Pleasure of a Country Drive on a Summer Evening described 63 as enhanced by a Pious Mind CHAPTER IX. A Farm-house Winter Fire-side—A morning Drive and a mutual 71 interchange of Ideas between Town and Country, showing how we may all learn something from one another CHAPTER X. The last Night before the first London Expedition, which 87 gives occasion to recall pleasant reminiscences CHAPTER XI. Commencement of London Life and Adventures 97 CHAPTER XII. How the great Don O'Rapley became an Usher of the Court of 105 Queen's Bench, and explained the Ingenious Invention of the Round Square—How Mr. Bumpkin took the water and studied Character from a Penny Steamboat CHAPTER XIII. An interesting Gentleman—showing how true it is that one 111 half the World does not know how the other half lives CHAPTER XIV. The Old Bailey—Advantages of the New System illustrated 119 CHAPTER XV. Mr. Bumpkin's Experience of London Life enlarged 133 CHAPTER XVI. The coarse mode of Procedure in Ahab versus Naboth 143 ruthlessly exposed and carefully contrasted with the humane and enlightened form of the Present Day CHAPTER XVII. Showing that Lay Tribunals are not exactly Punch and Judy 151 Shows where the Puppet is moved by the Man underneath CHAPTER XVIII. A comfortable Evening at the "Goose" 165 CHAPTER XIX. The Subject continued 175 CHAPTER XX. Mr. Bumpkin sings a good old Song—The Sergeant becomes quite 179 a convivial Companion and plays Dominoes CHAPTER XXI. Joe electrifies the Company and surprises the Reader 191 CHAPTER XXII. The Sergeant makes a loyal Speech and sings a Song, both of 203 which are well received by the Company CHAPTER XXIII. The famous Don O'Rapley and Mr. Bumpkin spend a social 213 Evening at the "Goose" CHAPTER XXIV. Don O'Rapley expresses his views of the Policy of the 221 Legislature in not permitting Dominoes to be played in Public-houses CHAPTER XXV. In spite of all warnings, Joe takes his own part, not to be 227 persuaded on one side or the other—Affecting Scene between Mr. Bumpkin and his old Servant CHAPTER XXVI. Morning Reflections—Mrs. Oldtimes proves herself to be a 239 great Philosopher—The Departure of the Recruits to be sworn in CHAPTER XXVII. A Letter from Home 245 CHAPTER XXVIII. Mr. Bumpkin determines to maintain a discreet silence about 255 his Case at the Old Bailey—Mr. Prigg confers with him thereon CHAPTER XXIX. The Trial at the Old Bailey of Mr. Simple Simonman for 261 Highway Robbery with violence—Mr. Alibi introduces himself to Mr. Bumpkin CHAPTER XXX. Mr. Alibi is stricken with a Thunderbolt—Interview with 283 Horatio and Mr. Prigg CHAPTER XXXI. Mr. Bumpkin at Home again 295 CHAPTER XXXII. Joe's Return to Southwood—An Invitation from the Vicar—What 303 the Old Oak saw CHAPTER XXXIII. A Consultation as to new Lodgings—Also a Consultation with 317 Counsel CHAPTER XXXIV. Mr. Bumpkin receives Compliments from distinguished Persons 325 CHAPTER XXXV. The Trial 335 CHAPTER XXXVI. Motion for Rule Nisi, in which is displayed much Learning, 351 Ancient and Modern CHAPTER XXXVII. Mr. Bumpkin is congratulated by his Neighbours and Friends in 359 the Market Place and sells his Corn CHAPTER XXXVIII. Farewell 375 THE LAWSUIT 381

"He never suffered his private partiality to intrude into the conduct of publick business. Nor in appointing to employments did he permit solicitation to supply the place of merit; wisely sensible, that a proper choice of officers is almost the whole of Government."—BURKE.

Extract from Notice of the Work in THE SATURDAY REVIEW, September 15th, 1883:—

"He was obviously quite as eager for a good battle in Court as ever was Dandy Dinmont."



CHAPTER I.

The beauty of a farm yard on a Sabbath day, and what a difference a single letter will sometimes make in the legal signification of a sentence.

It was during the Long Vacation—that period which is Paradise to the Rich and Purgatory to the Poor Lawyer—to say nothing of the client, who simply exists as a necessary evil in the economy of our enlightened system of Legal Procedure: it was during this delightful or dismal period that I returned one day to my old Farm-house in Devonshire, from a long and interesting ramble. My excellent thirst and appetite having been temperately appeased, I seated myself cosily by the huge chimney, where the log was always burning; and, having lighted my pipe, surrendered my whole being to the luxurious enjoyment of so charming a situation. I had scarcely finished smoking, when I fell into a sound and delicious sleep. And behold! I dreamed a dream; and methought:

It was a beautiful Sabbath morning, in the early part of May, 18—, when two men might have been seen leaning over a pigstye. The pigstye was situated in a farm-yard in the lovely village of Yokelton, in the county of Somerset. Both men had evidently passed what is called the "prime of life," as was manifest from their white hair, wrinkled brows, and stooping shoulders. It was obvious that they were contemplating some object with great interest and thoughtful attention.

And I perceived that in quiet and respectful conversation with them was a fine, well-formed, well-educated sow of the Chichester breed. It was plain from the number of her rings that she was a sow of great distinction, and, indeed, as I afterwards learned, was the most famous for miles around: her progeny (all of whom I suppose were honourables) were esteemed and sought by squire and farmer. How that sow was bred up to become so polite a creature, was a mystery to all; because there were gentlemen's homesteads all around, where no such thoroughbred could be found. But I suppose it's the same with pigs as it is with men: a well-bred gentleman may work in the fields for his living, and a cad may occupy the manor-house or the nobleman's hall.

The Chichester sow looked up with an air of easy nonchalance into the faces of the two men who smoked their short pipes, and uttered ever and anon some short ejaculation, such as, "Hem!" "Ah!" "Zounds!" and so forth, while the sow exhibited a familiarity with her superiors only to be acquired by mixing in the best society. There was a respectful deference which, while it betrayed no sign of servility, was in pleasing contrast with the boisterous and somewhat unbecoming levity of the other inhabitants of the stye. These people were the last progeny of this illustrious Chichester, and numbered in all eleven—seven sons and four daughters—honourables all. It was impossible not to admire the high spirit of this well-descended family. That they had as yet received no education was due to the fact that their existence dated only from the 21st of January last. Hence their somewhat erratic conduct, such as jumping, running, diving into the straw, boring their heads into one another's sides, and other unceremonious proceedings in the presence of the two gentlemen whom it is necessary now more particularly to describe.

Mr. Thomas Bumpkin, the elder of the two, was a man of about seventy summers, as tall and stalwart a specimen of Anglo-Saxon peasantry as you could wish to behold. And while I use the word "peasantry" let it be clearly understood that I do so in no sense as expressing Mr. Bumpkin's present condition. He had risen from the English peasantry, and was what is usually termed a "self-made man." He was born in a little hut consisting of "wattle and dab," and as soon as he could make himself heard was sent into the fields to "mind the birds." Early in the November mornings, immediately after the winter sowings, he would be seen with his little bag of brown bread round his neck, trudging along with a merry whistle, as happy as if he had been going home to a bright fire and a plentiful breakfast of ham, eggs, and coffee. By degrees he had raised himself to the position of ploughman, and never ploughman drove a straighter or leveller furrow. He had won prizes at the annual ploughing and harrowing matches: and upon the strength of ten and sixpence a week had married Nancy Tugby, to whom he had been engaged off and on for eleven years. Nancy was a frugal housewife, and worked hard, morning, noon and night. She was quite a treasure to Bumpkin; and, what with taking in a little washing, and what with going out to do a little charing, and what with Tom's skill in mending cart-harness (nearly all the cart-harness in the neighbourhood was in a perpetual state of "mendin'"), they had managed to put together in a year or two enough money to buy a sow. This, Tom always said, was "his first start." And mighty proud they both were as they stood together of a Sunday morning looking at this wonderful treasure. The sow soon had pigs, and the pigs got on and were sold, and then the money was expended in other things, which in their turn proved equally remunerative. Then Tom got a piece of land, and next a pet ewe-lamb, and so on, until little by little wealth accumulated, and he rented at last, after a long course of laborious years, from the Squire, a small homestead called "Southwood Farm," consisting of some fifty acres. Let it not be supposed that the accession of an extra head of live stock was a small matter. Everything is great or little by relation. I believe the statesman himself knows no greater pleasure when he first obtains admission to the Cabinet, than Tom did when he took possession of his little farm. And he certainly experienced as great a joy when he got a fresh pig as any young barrister does when he secures a new client.

Southwood Farm was a lovely homestead, situated near a very pretty river, and in the midst of the most picturesque scenery. The little rivulet (for it was scarcely more) twisted about in the quaintest conceivable manner, almost encircling the cosy farm; while on the further side rose abruptly from the water's edge high embankments studded thickly with oak, ash, and an undergrowth of saplings of almost every variety. The old house was spacious for the size of the farm, and consisted of a large living-room, ceiled with massive oak beams and oak boards, which were duly whitewashed, and looked as white as the sugar on a wedding cake. The fireplace was a huge space with seats on either side cut in the wall; while from one corner rose a rude ladder leading to a bacon loft. Dog-irons of at least a century old graced the brick hearth, while the chimney-back was adorned with a huge slab of iron wrought with divers quaint designs, and supposed to have been in some way or other connected with the Roman invasion, as it had been dug up somewhere in the neighbourhood, by whom or when no one ever knew. There was an inner chamber besides the one we are now in, which was used as a kitchen; while on the opposite side was a little parlour with red-tiled floor and a comparatively modern grate. This was the reception room, used chiefly when any of the ladies from "t'Squoire's" did Mrs. Bumpkin the honour to call and taste her tea-cakes or her gooseberry wine. The thatched roof was gabled, and the four low-ceiled bedrooms had each of them a window in a gable. The house stood in a well-stocked garden, beyond which was a lovely green meadow sloping to the river side. In front was the little farm-yard, with its double-bayed barn, its lean-to cow-houses, its stables for five horses, and its cosy loft. Then there were the pigstyes and the henhouses: all forming together a very convenient and compact homestead. Adjoining the home meadow was a pretty orchard, full of apple, pear, cherry and plum trees; and if any one could imagine that Mr. and Mrs. Bumpkin had no eye or taste for the beautiful, I would have advised that ill-conditioned person to visit those good people of a Sunday morning after "brakfast" when the orchard was in full blossom. This beautiful picture it was not only Mr. and Mrs. Bumpkin's special joy to behold, but their great and proud delight to show; and if they had painted the blossoms themselves they could not have felt more intense enjoyment and satisfaction.

There was one other feature about the little farm which I must mention, because it is one of the grandest and most beautiful things in nature, and that is the magnificent "Old Oak" that stood in the corner of one of the home fields, and marked the boundary of the farm in that direction. If the measure of its girth would be interesting to the reader to know, it was just twenty-seven feet: not the largest in England certainly, notwithstanding which the tree was one of the grandest and most beautiful. It towered high into the air and spread its stalwart branches like giant trees in all directions. It was said to be a thousand years old, and to be inhabited by owls and ghosts. Whether the ghosts lived there or not I am unable to say, but from generation to generation the tradition was handed down and believed to be true. Such was Mr. Bumpkin's home, in my dream: the home of Peace and Plenty, Happiness and Love.

The man who was contemplating Mr. Bumpkin's pigs on this same Sunday morning was also a "self-made man," whose name was Josiah SNOOKS. He was not made so well as Bumpkin, I should say, by a great deal, but nevertheless was a man who, as things go, was tolerably well put together. He was the village coal-merchant, not a Cockerell by any means, but a merchant who would have a couple of trucks of "Derby Brights" down at a time, and sell them round the village by the hundredweight. No doubt he was a very thrifty man, and to the extent, so some people said, of nipping the poor in their weight. And once he nearly lost the contract for supplying the coal-gifts at Christmas on that account. But he made it a rule to attend church very regularly as the season came round, and so did Mrs. Josiah Snooks; and it will require a great deal of "nipping" to get over that in a country village, I promise you. I did not think Snooks a nice looking man, by any means; for he had a low forehead, a scowling brow, a nobbly fat nose, small eyes, one of which had a cast, a large mouth always awry and distorted with a sneer, straight hair that hung over his forehead, and a large scar on his right cheek. His teeth were large and yellow, and the top ones protruded more, I thought, than was at all necessary. Nor was he generally beliked. In fact, so unpopular was this man with the poor, that it was a common thing for mothers to say to their children when they could not get them in of a summer's evening, "You, Betsy," or "You, Jane, come in directly, or old Snooks will have you!" A warning which always produced the desired effect.

No one could actually tell whether Snooks had made money or merely pretended to possess it. Some said they knew he had, for he lived so niggardly; others said the coal trade was not what it was; and there were not wanting people who hinted that old Betty Bodger's house and garden—which had been given to her years ago by the old squire, what for, nobody knew—had been first mortgaged to Josiah and then sold to him and "taken out in coals." A very cunning man was Snooks; kept his own counsel—I don't mean a barrister in wig and gown on his premises—but in the sense of never divulging what was in his sagacious mind. He was known as a universal buyer of everything that he could turn a penny out of; and he sold everybody whenever he got the chance. Such was the character of old Snooks.

How then came our good guileless friend Bumpkin to be associated with such a man on this beautiful Sunday morning? I can only answer: there are things in this world which admit of no explanation. This, so far as I am concerned, was one.

"They be pooty pork," said Mr. Bumpkin.

"Middlin'," rejoined the artful Snooks.

"They be a mighty dale more an middlin', if you come to thic," said the farmer.

"I've seen a good deal better," remarked Snooks. This was always his line of bargaining.

"Well, I aint," returned Bumpkin, emphatically. "Look at that un—why, he be fit for anything—a regler pictur."

"What's he worth?" said Snooks. "Three arf crowns?" That was Snooks' way of dealing.

"Whisht!" exclaimed Bumpkin; "and four arf-crowns wouldn't buy un." That was Bumpkin's way.

Snooks expectorated and gave a roar, which he intended for a laugh, but which made every pig jump off its feet and dive into the straw.

"I tell 'ee what, maister Bumpkin, I doant want un"—that was his way again; "but I doant mind giving o' thee nine shillings for that un."

"Thee wunt 'ave un—not a farden less nor ten if I knows it; ye doant 'ave we loike that, nuther—ye beant sellin' coals, maister Snooks—no, nor buyin' pigs if I knows un."

How far this conversation would have proceeded, and whether any serious altercation would have arisen, I know not; but at this moment a combination of circumstances occurred to interrupt the would-be contracting parties. First, Mrs. Bumpkin, who had been preparing the Sunday dinner, came across the yard with her apron full of cabbage-leaves and potato-peelings, followed by an immense number of chickens, while the ducks in the pond clapped their wings, and flew and ran with as much eagerness as though they were so many lawyers seeking some judicial appointment, and Mrs. Bumpkin were Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain; and they made as much row as a flock of Chancery Barristers arguing about costs. Then came along, with many a grunt and squeak, a pig or two, who seemed to be enjoying a Sunday holiday in their best clothes, for they had just come out of a puddle of mud; then came slouching along, a young man whose name was Joe (or, more correctly speaking, Joseph Wurzel), a young man of about seventeen, well built, tall and straight, with a pleasant country farm-house face, a roguish black eye, even teeth, and a head of brown straight hair, that looked as if the only attention it ever received was an occasional trimming with a reap-hook, and a brush with a bush-harrow.

It was just feeding time; that was why Joe came up at this moment; and in addition to all these circumstances, there came faintly booming through the trees the ding of the old church bell, reminding Mr. Bumpkin that he must "goo and smarten oop a bit" for church. He already had on his purple cord trousers, and, as Joe termed it, his hell-fire waistcoat with the flames coming out of it in all directions; but he had to put on his drab "cooat" and white smock-frock, and then walk half a mile before service commenced. He always liked to be there before the Squire, and see him and his daughters, Miss Judith and Miss Mary, come in.

So he had to leave the question of the "walley" of the pig and attend to the more important interests of his immortal soul. But now as he was going comes the point to which the reader's special attention is directed. He had got about six yards from the stye, or it may have been a little more, when Snooks cried out:

"I've bought un for nine and six."

To which Mr. Bumpkin replied, without so much as turning his head—

"'Ave ur."

Now this expression, according to Chitty on Contracts, would mean, "Have you, indeed? Mr. Snooks." But the extreme cunning of Josiah converted it into "'Ave un," which, by the same learned authority would signify, "Very well, Mr. Snooks, you can have him."



CHAPTER II.

The simplicity and enjoyments of a country life depicted.

A quiet day was Sunday on Southwood Farm. Joe used to slumber in the meadows among the buttercups, or in the loft, or near the kitchen-fire, as the season and weather invited. That is to say, until such time as, coming out of Sunday School (for to Sunday School he sometimes went) he saw one of the fairest creatures he had ever read about either in the Bible or elsewhere! It was a very strange thing she should be so different from everybody else: not even the clergyman's daughters—no, nor the Squire's daughters, for the matter of that—looked half so nice as pretty Polly Sweetlove, the housemaid at the Vicar's.

"Now look at that," said Joe, as he went along the lane on that Sunday when he first beheld this divine creature. "I'm danged if she beant about the smartest lookin o' any on 'em. Miss Mary beant nothing to her: it's a dandelion to a toolup."

So ever since that time Joe had slept less frequently in the hay-loft on a Sunday afternoon; and, be it said to his credit, had attended his church with greater punctuality. The vicar took great notice of the lad's religious tendencies, and had him to his night-school at the vicarage, in consequence; and certainly no vicar ever knew a boy more regular in his attendance. He was there waiting to go in ever so long before the school began, and was always the very last to leave the premises.

Often he would peep over the quick-set hedge into the kitchen-window, just to catch a glance of this lovely angel. And yet, so far as he could tell, she had never looked at him. When she opened the door, Joe always felt a thrill run through him as if some extraordinary thing had happened. It was a kind of jump; and yet he had jumped many times before that: "it wasn't the sort of jump," he said, "as a chap gits either from bein' frit or bein' pleased." And what to make of it he didn't know. Then Polly's cap was about the loveliest thing, next to Polly herself, he had ever seen. It was more like a May blossom than anything else, or a beautiful butterfly on the top of a water-lily. In fact, all the rural images of a rude but not inartistic mind came and went as this country boy thought of his beautiful Polly. As he ploughed the field, if he saw a May-blossom in the hedgerow, it reminded him of Polly's cap; and even the little gentle daisy was like Polly herself. Pretty Polly was everywhere!

Mr. and Mrs. Bumpkin, on a fine Sabbath afternoon, would take their pastime in the open air. First Mr. Bumpkin would take down his long churchwarden pipe from its rack on the ceiling, where it lay in close companionship with an ancient flint-gun; then he would fill it tightly, so as to make it last the longer, with tobacco from his leaden jar; and then, having lighted it, he and his wife would go out of the back door, through the garden and the orchard, and along by the side of the quiet river. By their side, as a matter of course, came Tim the Collie (named after Mrs. Bumpkin's grandfather Timothy), who knew as well as possible every word that was being said. If Mrs. Bumpkin only asked, "Where is Betsy?" (that was the head Alderney cow) Tim would bark and fly across to the meadow where she was; and then, having said to her and to the five other Alderney cows and four heifers, "Why, here's master and missus coming round to look at you, why on earth don't you come and see them?" up the whole herd would come, straggling one after the other, to the meadow where Mr. and Mrs. Bumpkin were waiting for them; and all would look over the hedge, as much as to say, "How d'ye do, master, and how d'ye do, missus; what a nice day, isn't it?" exactly in the same manner as men and women greet one another as often as they meet. And then there was the old donkey, Jack, whom Tim would chaff no matter when or where he saw him. I believe if Tim had got him in church, he would have chaffed him. It was very amusing to see Jack duck his head and describe a circle as Tim swept round him, barking with all his might, and yet only laughing all the while. Sometimes Jack, miscalculating distances—he wasn't very great at mathematics—and having no eye for situations, would kick out vigorously with his hind legs, thinking Tim was in close proximity to his heels; whereas the sagacious and jocular Tim was leaning on his outstretched fore-feet immediately in front of Jack's head.

Then there was another sight, not the least interesting on these afternoon rambles: in the far meadow, right under "the lids," as they were called, lived the famous Bull of Southwood Farm. He was Mrs. Bumpkin's pet. She had had him from a baby, and used to feed him in his infant days from a bottle by the kitchen fire. And so docile was he that, although few strangers would be safe in intruding into his presence, he would follow Mrs. Bumpkin about, as she said, "just like a Christian." The merits of this bull were the theme, on all appropriate occasions, of Mrs. Bumpkin's unqualified praise. If the Vicar's wife called, as she sometimes did, to see how Mrs. Bumpkin was getting on, Mrs. Bumpkin's "baby" (that is the bull) was sure to be brought up—I don't mean by the nurse, but in conversation. No matter how long she waited her opportunity, Mrs. Goodheart never left without hearing something of the exploits of this remarkable bull. In truth, he was a handsome, well-bred fellow. He had come from the Squire's—so you may be sure his breed was gentlemanly in the extreme; and his grandmother, on the maternal side, had belonged to the Bishop of Winchester; so you have a sufficient guarantee, I hope, for his moral character and orthodox principles. Indeed, it had been said that no dissenter dared pass through the meadow where he was, in consequence of his connection with the Establishment. Now, on the occasions when Mr. and Mrs. Bumpkin took their walks abroad through the meadows to see their lambkins and their bull skip, this is what would invariably happen. First, Mrs. Bumpkin would go through the little cosy-looking gate in the corner of the meadow, right down by the side of the old boat-house; then Mr. Bumpkin would follow, holding his long pipe in one hand and his ash-stick in the other. Then, away in the long distance, at the far end of the meadow (he was always up there on these occasions), stood "Sampson" (that was the bull), with his head turned right round towards his master and mistress, as if he were having his photograph taken. Thus he stood for a moment; then down went his huge forehead to the ground; up went his tail to the sky; then he sent a bellow along the earth which would have frightened anybody but his "mother," and started off towards his master and mistress like a ship in a heavy sea; sometimes with his keel up in the air, and sometimes with his prow under water: it not only was playful, it was magnificent, and anybody unaccustomed to oxen might have been a little terrified by the furious glare of his eyes and the terrible snort of his nostrils as he approached.

Not so Mrs. Bumpkin, who held out her hand, and ejaculated,

"My pretty baby; my sweet pet; good Sampson!" and many other expressions of an endearing character.

"Good Sampson" looked, snorted, danced, plunged and careered; and then came up and let Mrs. Bumpkin stroke and pat him; while Bumpkin looked on, smoking his pipe peacefully, and thinking what a fine fellow he, the bull, was, and what a great man he, Bumpkin, must be to be the possessor of "sich!"

Thus the peaceful afternoon would glide quietly and sweetly away, and so would the bull, after the interesting interview was over.

They always returned in time for tea, and then Mrs. Bumpkin would go to evening service, while Mr. Bumpkin would wait for her on the little piece of green near the church, where neighbours used to meet and chat of a Sunday evening; such as old Mr. Gosling, the market gardener, and old Master Mott, the head gardener to the Squire, and Master Cole, the farmer, and various others, the original inhabitants of Yokelton; discussing the weather and the crops, the probability of Mr. Tomson getting in again at the vestry as waywarden; what kind of a highway rate there would be for the coming year; how that horse got on that Mr. Sooby bought at the fair; and various other matters of importance to a village community. They would also pass remarks upon any striking personage who passed them on his way to church. Mr. Prigg, for instance, the village lawyer, who, they said, was a remarkably upright and down-straight sort of man; although his wife, they thought, was "a little bit stuck up like" and gave herself airs a little different from Mrs. Goodheart, who would "always talk to 'em jist the same as if she was one o' th' people." So that, on the whole, they entertained themselves very amicably until such time as the "organ played the people out of church." Then every one looked for his wife or daughter, as the case might be, and wished one another good night: most of them having been to church in the morning, they did not think it necessary to repeat the performance in the evening.



CHAPTER III.

Showing how true it is that it takes at least two to make a bargain or a quarrel.

The day after the events which I have recorded, while the good farmer and his wife were at breakfast, which was about seven o'clock, Joe presented himself in the sitting-room, and said:

"Plase, maister, here be t' money for t' pig."

"Money for t' pig," exclaimed Mr. Bumpkin; "what's thee mean, lad? what pig?"

"Maister Snooks!" said Joe, "there ur be, gwine wi' t' pig in t' barrer."

Nothing shall induce me to repeat the language of Mr. Bumpkin, as he jumped up from the table, and without hat or cap rushed out of the room, followed by Joe, and watched by Mrs. Bumpkin from the door. Just as he got to the farmyard by one gate, there was Snooks leaving it by another with Mr. Bumpkin's pig in a sack in the box barrow which he was wheeling.

"Hulloa!" shouted the farmer; "hulloa here! Thee put un down—dang thee, what be this? I said thee shouldn't ave un, no more thee sha'n't. I beant gwine to breed Chichster pigs for such as thee at thy own price, nuther." Snooks grinned and went on his way, saying;

"I bought un and I'll 'ave un."

"An I'll 'ave thee, dang'd if I doant, afore jussices; t' Squoire'll tell thee."

"I doant keer for t' Squire no more nor I do for thee, old Bumpkin; thee be a cunnin' man, but thee sold I t' pig and I'll 'ave un, and I got un too: haw! haw! haw! an thee got t' money—nine-and-six—haw! haw! haw!"

Mr. Bumpkin by this time came up to him, but was so much out of breath, or "winded," that he was unable to carry on the conversation, so he just tapped the bag with his stick as if to be certain the pig was there, and sure enough it was, if you might judge by the extraordinary wriggling that went on inside the bag.

The indomitable Snooks, however, with the largest and most hideous grin I ever saw, pushed on with his barrow, and Mr. Bumpkin having now sufficiently recovered his breath, said,

"Thee see ur tak un, didn't thee, Joe?"

"Sure did ur," answered the lad. "I seed un took un clane out o' the stye, and put un in the sack, and wheeled un away."

"Ha! so ur did, Joe; stick to that, lad—stick to un."

"And thee seed I pay th' money for un, Joe, didn't thee?" laughed Snooks. "Seed I put un on t' poast, and thee took un oop—haw! haw! haw! I got t' pig and thee got t' money—haw! haw! haw! Thee thowt thee'd done I, and I done thee—haw! haw! haw!"

And away went Snooks and away went pig; but Snooks' laugh remained, and every now and then Snooks turned his head and showed his large yellow teeth and roared again.

The rage of Mr. Bumpkin knew no bounds. There are some things in life which are utterly unendurable; and one is the having your pig taken from you against your will and without your consent—an act which would be described legally as the rape of the pig. This offence, in Mr. Bumpkin's judgment, Snooks was guilty of; and therefore he resolved to do that which is considered usually a wise thing, namely, to consult a solicitor.

Now, if I were giving advice—which I do not presume to do—I should say that in all matters of difficulty a man should consult his wife, his priest, or his solicitor, and in the order in which I have named them. In the event of consulting a solicitor the next important question arises, "What solicitor?" I could write a book on this subject. There are numerous solicitors, within my acquaintance, to whom I would entrust my life and my character; there are some, not of my acquaintance, but of my knowledge, into whose hands, if I had one spark of Christian feeling left, I would not see my enemy delivered. There is little difference between one class of men and another as to natural disposition; and whether you take one or another, you must find the shady character. But where the opportunities for mischief are so great as they are in the practice of the Law, it is necessary that the utmost care should be exercised in committing one's interests to the keeping of another. Had Mr. Bumpkin been a man of the world he would have suspected that under the most ostentatious piety very often lurked the most subtle fraud. Good easy man, had he been going to buy a hay-stack, he would not have judged by the outside but have put his "iron" into it; he could not put his iron into Mr. Prigg, I know, but he need not have taken him by his appearance alone. I may observe that if Mr. Bumpkin had consulted his sensible and affectionate spouse, or a really respectable solicitor, this book would not have been written. If he had consulted the Vicar, possibly another book might have been written; but, as it was, he resolved to consult Mr. Prigg in the first instance. Now Mrs. Bumpkin, except as the mother of the illustrious Bull, has very little to do with this story. Mr. Prigg is one of its leading characters; but in my description of that gentleman I am obliged to be concise: I must minimize Prigg, great as he is, and I trust that in doing so I shall prospectively minimize all future Priggs that may ever appear on the world's stage. I do not attempt to pulverize him, that would require the crushing pestle of the legislature; but merely to make him as little as I can, with due consideration for the requirements of my story.

I should be thought premature in mentioning Prigg, but that he was a gentleman of great pretensions in the little village of Yokelton. Gentleman by Act of Parliament, and in his own estimation, you may be sure he was respected by all around him. That was not many, it is true, for his house was the last of the straggling village. He was a man of great piety and an extremely white neck-cloth; attended the parish church regularly, and kept his white hair well brushed upwards—as though, like the church steeple, it was to point the way at all times. He was the most amiable of persons in regard to the distribution of the parish gifts; and, being a lawyer it was not considered by the churchwardens, a blacksmith and a builder, safe to refuse his kind and generous assistance. He involved the parish in a law-suit once, in a question relating to the duty to repair the parish pump; and since that time everyone knew better than to ignore Mr. Prigg. I have heard that the money spent in that action would have repaired all the parish pumps in England for a century, but have no means of ascertaining the truth of this statement.

Mr. Prigg was a man whose merits were not appreciated by the local gentry, who never asked him to dinner. Virtue is thus sometimes ill-rewarded in this world. And Mrs. Prigg's virtue had also been equally ignored when she had sought, almost with tears, to obtain tickets for the County Ball.

Mr. Prigg was about sixty years old, methodical in his habits, punctilious in his dress, polite in his demeanour, and precise in his language. He wore a high collar of such remarkable stiffness that his shoulders had to turn with his head whenever it was necessary to alter his position. This gave an appearance of respectability to the head, not to be acquired by any other means. It was, indeed, the most respectable head I ever saw either in the flesh or in marble.

Mr. Prigg had descended from the well-known family of Prigg, and he prided himself on the circumstance. How often was he seen in the little churchyard of Yokelton of a Sunday morning, both before and after service, pointing with family pride to the tombstone of a relative which bore this beautiful and touching inscription:—

HERE LIE THE ASHES OF MR. JOHN PRIGG, OF SMITH STREET, BRISTOL, ORIGINALLY OF DUCK GREEN, YOKELTON, WHO UNDER PECULIAR DISADVANTAGES WHICH TO COMMON MINDS WOULD HAVE BEEN A BAR TO ANY EXERTIONS RAISED HIMSELF FROM ALL OBSCURE SITUATIONS OF BIRTH AND FORTUNE BY HIS OWN INDUSTRY AND FRUGALITY TO THE ENJOYMENT OF A MODERATE COMPETENCY. HE ATTAINED A PECULIAR EXCELLENCE IN PENMANSHIP AND DRAWING WITHOUT THE INSTRUCTIONS OF A MASTER, AND TO EMINENCE IN ARITHMETIC, THE USEFUL AND THE HIGHER BRANCHES OF THE MATHEMATICS, BY GOING TO SCHOOL ONLY A YEAR AND EIGHT MONTHS.

* * * * *

HE DIED A BACHELOR ON THE 24TH DAY OF OCTOBER, 1807, IN THE 55TH YEAR OF HIS AGE; AND WITHOUT FORGETTING RELATIONS FRIENDS AND ACQUAINTANCES BEQUEATHED ONE FIFTH OF HIS PROPERTY TO PUBLIC CHARITY.

READER THE WORLD IS OPEN TO THEE. "GO THOU AND DO LIKEWISE." {22}

It was generally supposed that this beautiful composition was from the pen of Mr. Prigg himself, who, sitting as he did so high on his branch of the Family Tree,

COULD LOOK WITH PRIDE AND SYMPATHY ON THE MANLY STRUGGLES OF A HUMBLER MEMBER LOWER DOWN!

High Birth, like Great Wealth, can afford to condescend!

Mrs. Prigg was worthy of her illustrious consort. She was of the noble family of the Snobs, and in every way did honour to her progenitors. As the reader is aware, there is what is known as a "cultivated voice," the result of education—it is absolutely without affectation: there is also the voice which, in imitation of the well-trained one, is little more than a burlesque, and is affected in the highest degree: this was the only fault in Mrs. Prigg's voice.

Mr. Prigg's home was charmingly small, but had all the pretensions of a stately country house—its conservatory, its drawing-room, its study, and a dining-room which told you as plainly as any dining-room could speak, "I am related to Donkey Hall, where the Squire lives: I belong to the same aristocratic family."

Then there was the great heavy-headed clock in the passage. He did not appear at all to know that he had come down in the world through being sold by auction for two pounds ten. He said with great plausibility, "My worth is not to be measured by the amount of money I can command; I am the same personage as before." And I thought it a very true observation, but the philosophy thereof was a little discounted by his haughty demeanour, which had certainly gone up as he himself had come down; and that is a reason why I don't as a rule like people who have come down in the world—they are sure to be so stuck up. But I do like a person who has come down in the world and doesn't at all mind it—much better than any man who has got up in the world from the half-crown, and does mind it upon all occasions.

Mrs. Prigg, apart from her high descent, was a very aristocratic person: as the presence of the grand piano in the drawing-room would testify. She could no more live without a grand piano than ordinary people could exist without food: the grand piano, albeit a very dilapidated one, was a necessity of her well-descended condition. It was no matter that it displaced more useful furniture; in that it only imitated a good many other persons, and it told you whenever you entered the room: "You see me here in a comparatively small way, but understand, I have been in far different circumstances: I have been courted by the great, and listened to by the aristocracy of England. I follow Mrs. Prigg wherever she goes: she is a lady; her connections are high, and she never yet associated with any but the best families. You could not diminish from her very high breeding: put her in the workhouse, and with me to accompany her, it would be transformed into a palace."

Mr. Prigg was by no means a rich man as the world counts richness. No one ever heard of his having a "practice," although it was believed he did a great deal in the way of "lending his name" and profession to impecunious and uneducated men; who could turn many a six-and-eightpence under its prestige. So great is the moral "power of attorney," as contradistinguished from the legal "power of attorney."

But Prigg, as I have hinted, was not only respectable, he was good: he was more than that even, he was notoriously good: so much so, that he was called, in contradistinction to all other lawyers, "Honest Lawyer Prigg"; and he had further acquired, almost as a universal title, the sobriquet of "Nice." Everybody said, "What a very nice man Mr. Prigg is!" Then, in addition to all this, he was considered clever—why, I do not know; but I have often observed that men can obtain the reputation of being clever at very little cost, and without the least foundation. The cheapest of all ways is to abuse men who really are clever, and if your abuse be pungently and not too coarsely worded, it will be accepted by the ignorant as criticism. Nothing goes down with shallow minds like criticism, and the severest criticism is generally based on envy and jealousy.

Mr. Prigg, then, was clever, respectable, good, and nice, remarkably potent qualities for success in this world.

So I saw in my dream that Mr. Bumpkin, whose feelings were duly aroused, turned his eye upon Honest Lawyer Prigg, and resolved to consult him upon the grievous outrage to which he had been subjected at the hands of the cunning Snooks: and without more ado he resolved to call on that very worthy and extremely nice gentleman.



CHAPTER IV.

On the extreme simplicity of going to law.

With his right leg resting on his left, with his two thumbs nicely adjusted, and with the four points of his right fingers in delicate contact with the fingers of his left hand, sat Honest Lawyer Prigg, listening to the tale of unutterable woe, as recounted by Farmer Bumpkin.

Sometimes the good man's eyes looked keenly at the farmer, and sometimes they scanned vacantly the ceiling, where a wandering fly seemed, like Mr. Bumpkin, in search of consolation or redress. Sometimes Mr. Prigg nodded his respectable head and shoulders in token of his comprehension of Mr. Bumpkin's lucid statement: then he nodded two or three times in succession, implying that the Court was with Mr. Bumpkin, and occasionally he would utter with a soft soothing voice,

"Quite so!"

When he said "quite so," he parted his fingers, and reunited them with great precision; then he softly tapped them together, closed his eyes, and seemed lost in profound meditation.

Here Mr. Bumpkin paused and stared. Was Mr. Prigg listening?

"Pray proceed," said the lawyer, "I quite follow you;—never mind about what anybody else had offered you for the pig—the question really is whether you actually sold this pig to Snooks or not—whether the bargain was complete or inchoate."

Mr. Bumpkin stared again. "I beant much of a scollard, sir," he observed; "but I'll take my oath I never sold un t'pig."

"That is the question," remarked the lawyer. "You say you did not? Quite so; had this Joe of yours any authority to receive money on your behalf?"

"Devil a bit," answered Bumpkin.

"Excuse me," said Mr. Prigg, "I have to put these questions: it is necessary that I should understand where we are: of course, if you did not sell the pig, he had no right whatever to come and take it out of the sty—it was a trespass?"

"That's what I says," said Bumpkin; and down went his fist on Mr. Prigg's table with such vehemence that the solicitor started as though aroused by a shock of dynamite.

"Let us be calm," said the lawyer, taking some paper from his desk, and carefully examining the nib of a quill pen, "Let me see, I think you said your name was Thomas?"

"That's it, sir; and so was my father's afore me."

"Thomas Bumpkin?"

"I beant ashamed on him."

And then Mr. Prigg wrote out a document and read it aloud; and Mr. Bumpkin agreeing with it, scratched his name at the bottom—very badly scratched it was, but well enough for Mr. Prigg. This was simply to retain Mr. Prigg as his solicitor in the cause of Bumpkin v. Snooks.

"Quite so, quite so; now let me see; be calm, Mr. Bumpkin, be calm; in all these matters we must never lose our self-possession. You see, I am not excited."

"Noa," said Bumpkin; "but then ur dint tak thy pig."

"Quite true, I can appreciate the position, it was no doubt a gross outrage. Now tell me—this Snooks, as I understand, is the coal-merchant down the village?"

"That's ur," said Bumpkin.

"I suppose he's a man of some property, eh?"

Mr. Bumpkin looked for a few moments without speaking, and then said:

"He wur allays a close-fisted un, and I should reckon have a goodish bit o' property."

"Because you know," remarked the solicitor, "it is highly important, when one wins a case and obtains damages, that the defendant should be in a position to pay them."

This was the first time that ever the flavour of damages had got into Bumpkin's mouth; and a very nice flavour it was. To beat Snooks was one thing, a satisfaction; to make him pay was another, a luxury.

"Yes, sir," he repeated; "I bleeve he ave, I bleeve he ave."

"What makes you think so?"

"Wull, fust and foremust, I knows he lent a party a matter of a hundred pound, for I witnessed un."

"Then he hasn't got that," said the lawyer.

"Yes ur ave, sir, or how so be as good; for it wur a morgage like, and since then he've got the house."

Mr. Prigg made a note, and asked where the house was.

"It be widder Jackson's."

"Indeed; very well."

"An then there be the bisness."

"Exactly," said the lawyer, "horses and carts, weighing machines, and so on?"

"And the house he live in," said Bumpkin, "I know as ow that longs to him."

"Very well; I think that will be enough to start with." Now, Mr. Prigg knew pretty well the position of the respective parties himself; so it was not so much for his own information that he made these inquiries as to infuse into Bumpkin's mind a notion of the importance of the case.

"Now," said he, throwing down the pen, "this is a very serious matter, Mr. Bumpkin."

This was a comfort, and Bumpkin looked agreeably surprised and vastly important.

"A very serious case," and again the tips of the fingers were brought in contact.

"I spoase we can't bring un afore jusseses, sir?"

"Well, you see the criminal law is dangerous; you can't get damages, and you may get an action for malicious prosecution."

"I think we ought to mak un pay for 't."

"That is precisely my own view, but I am totally at a loss to understand the reason of such outrageous conduct on the part of this Snooks. Now don't be offended, Mr. Bumpkin, if I put a question to you. You know, we lawyers like to search to the bottom of things. I can understand, if you had owed him any money—"

"Owe un money!" exclaimed Bumpkin contemptuously; "why I could buy un out and out."

"Ah, quite so, quite so; so I should have supposed from what I know of you, Mr. Bumpkin."

"Lookee ere, sir," said the farmer; "I bin a ard workin man all my life, paid my way, twenty shillins in the pound, and doant owe a penny as fur as I knows."

"And if you did, Mr. Bumpkin," said the lawyer with a good-natured laugh, "I dare say you could pay."

"Wull, I bleeve there's no man can axe me for nothing; and thank God, what I've got's my own; and there aint many as got pootier stock nor mine—all good bred uns, Mr. Prigg."

"Yes, I've often heard your cattle praised."

"He be a blagard if ur says I owed un money."

"O, dear, Mr. Bumpkin, pray don't misunderstand me; he did not, that I am aware, allege that he took the pig because you owed him money; and even if you did, he could not legally have done so. Now this is not a mere matter of debt; it's a very serious case of trespass."

"Ay; zo 't be sir; that was my bleef, might jist as wull a tooked baacon out o' baacon loft."

"Just the same. Quite so—quite so!"

"And I want thee, Mr. Prigg, to mak un pay for't—mak un pay, sir; it beant so much th' pig."

"Quite so: quite so: that were a very trifling affair, and might be settled in the County Court; but, in fact, it's not the pig at all, it's trespass, and you want to make him answerable in damages."

"That's it, sir; you've got un."

"I suppose an apology and a return of the pig would not be enough."

"I'll make un know he beant everybody," said Bumpkin.

"Quite so; now what shall we lay the damages at?"

"Wull, sir, as for that, I doant rightly know; if so be he'd pay down, that's one thing, but it's my bleef as you might jist as wull try to dror blood out of a stoane as git thic feller to do what's right."

"Shall we say a hundred pounds and costs?"

Never did man look more astonished than Bumpkin. A hundred pounds! What a capital thing going to law must be! But, as the reader knows, he was a remarkably discreet man, and never in the course of his dealing committed himself till the final moment. Whenever anybody made him a "bid," he invariably met the offer with one form of refusal. "Nay, nay; it beant good enough: I bin offered moore." And this had answered so well, that it came natural to Bumpkin to refuse on all occasions the first offer. It was not to be wondered at then that the question should be regarded in the light of an offer from Snooks himself. Now he could hardly say "I bin bid moore money," because the case wasn't in the market; but he could and did say the next best thing to it, namely:—

"I wunt let un goo for that—'t be wuth moore!"

"Very well," observed Prigg; "so long as we know: we can lay our damages at what we please."

Now there was great consolation in that. The plaintiff paused and rubbed his chin. "What do thee think, sir?"

"I think if he pays something handsome, and gives us an apology, and pays the costs, I should advise you to take it."

"As you please, sir; I leaves it to you; I beant a hard man, I hope."

"Very good; we will see what can be done. I shall bring this action in the Chancery Division."

"Hem! I've eerd tell, sir, that if ever a case gets into that ere Coourt he niver comes out agin."

"O, that's all nonsense; there used to be a good deal of truth in that; but the procedure is now so altered that you can do pretty much what you like: this is an age of despatch; you bring your action, and your writ is almost like a cheque payable on demand!"

"Wull, I beant no lawyer, never had nothing to do wi un in my life; but I should like to axe, sir, why thee'll bring this ere case in Chancery?"

"Good; well, come now, I like to be frank; we shall get more costs?"

Mr. Bumpkin again rubbed his chin. "And do I get em?" he asked.

"Well, they go towards expenses; the other side always pays."

This was a stroke of reasoning not to be gainsaid. But Mr. Prigg had a further observation to make on the subject, and it was this:

"After the case has gone on up to being ready for trial, and the Judges find that it is a case more fitting to be tried in the Common Law Courts, then an order is made transferring it, that is, sending it out of Chancery to be tried by one of the other Judges."

"Can't see un," said Bumpkin, "I beant much of a scollard, but I tak it thee knows best."

Mr. Prigg smiled: a beneficent, sympathizing smile.

"I dare say," he said, "it looks a little mysterious, but we lawyers understand it; so, if you don't mind, I shall bring it in the Chancery Division in the first instance; and nice and wild the other side will be. I fancy I see the countenance of Snooks' lawyer."

This was a good argument, and perfectly satisfactory to the unsophisticated mind of Bumpkin.

"And when," he asked, "will ur come on, think'ee?"

"O, in due time; everything is done very quickly now—not like it used to be—you'd be surprised, we used to have to wait years—yes, years, sir, before an action could be tried; and now, why bless my soul, you get judgment before you know where you are."

How true this turned out to be may hereafter appear; but in a dream you never anticipate.

"I shall write at once," said "Honest Prigg," "for compensation and an apology; I think I would have an apology."

"Make un pay—I doant so much keer for the t'other thing; that beant much quonsequence."

"Quite so—quite so." And with this observation Mr. Prigg escorted his client to the door.



CHAPTER V.

In which it appears that the sting of slander is not always in the head.

Mr. Prigg lost no time in addressing a letter to the ill-advised Josiah Snooks with the familiar and affectionate commencement of "Dear Sir,'" asking for compensation for the "gross outrage" he had committed upon "his client;" and an apology to be printed in such papers as he, the client, should select.

The "Dear Sir" replied, not in writing, for he was too artful for that, but by returning, as became his vulgar nature, Mr. Prigg's letter in a very torn and disgusting condition.

To a gentleman of cultivated mind and sensitive nature, this was intolerable; and Mr. Prigg knew that even the golden bridge of compromise was now destroyed. He no longer felt as a mere lawyer, anxious in the interests of his client, which was a sufficient number of horse-power for anything, but like an outraged and insulted gentleman, which was more after the force of hydraulic pressure than any calculable amount of horse-power. It was clear to his upright and sensitive mind that Snooks was a low creature. Consequently all professional courtesies were at an end: the writ was issued and duly served upon the uncompromising Snooks. Now a writ is not a matter to grin at and to treat with contempt or levity. Mr. Snooks could not return that document to Mr. Prigg, so he had to consider. And first he consulted his wife: this consultation led to a domestic brawl and then to his kicking one of his horses in the stomach. Then he threw a shovel at his dog, and next the thought occurred to him that he had better go and see Mr. Locust. This gentleman was a solicitor who practised at petty sessions. He did not practise much, but that was, perhaps, his misfortune rather than his fault. He was a small, fiery haired man, with a close cut tuft of beard; small eyes, and a pimply nose, which showed an ostentatious disdain for everything beneath it.

Mr. Locust was not at home, but would return about nine. At nine, therefore, the impatient Snooks appeared.

"Yes," said Mr. Locust, as he looked at the writ, "I see this writ is issued by Mr. Prigg."

"Yes, sir."

"Did he not write to you before issuing it?—dear me, this is very sharp practice—very sharp practice: the sharpest thing I ever heard of in all my life."

"Wull, he did write, but I giv un as good as he sent."

"Dear me!" exclaimed Mr. Locust; "I am afraid you have committed yourself."

"No I beant, sir," said the cunning Snooks, with a grin, "no I beant."

"You should never write without consulting a solicitor—bear that in mind, Mr. Snooks; it will be an invaluable lesson—hem!"

"I never writ, sir—I ony sent un his letter back."

"Ah!" said Locust, "come now, that is better; but still you should have consulted me. I see this claim is for three hundred and fifty pounds—it's for trespass. Now sit down quietly and calmly, and tell me the facts." And then he took pen and paper and placed himself in position to take his retainer and instructions.

"Wull, sir, it is as this: a Sunday mornin—no, a Sunday mornin week—I won't tell no lie if I knows it—a Sunday mornin week—"

"Sunday morning week," writes Locust.

"I buyd a pig off this ere man for nine and six: well, o' the Monday mornin I goes with my barrer and a sack and I fetches the pig and gies the money to his man Joe Wurzel; leastways I puts it on the poast and he takes it up. Then out comes Bumpkin and swears I never bought un at all, gets in a rage and hits the bag wi' a stick—"

"Now stop," said the Lawyer; "are you quite sure he did not strike you? That's the point."

"Well, sir, he would a' done if I adn't a bobbed."

"Good: that's an assault in law. You are sure he would have struck you if you hadn't ducked or bobbed your head?"

"In course it would, else why should I bob?"

"Just so—just so. Now then, we've got him there—we've got him nicely."

Snooks' eyes gleamed.

"Next I want to know: I suppose you didn't owe him anything?"

"No, nor no other man," said Snooks, with an air of triumph. "I worked hard for what I got, and no man can't ax me for a farden. I allays paid twenty shillings in the pound."

The reader will observe how virtuous both parties were on this point.

"So!" said Locust. "Now you haven't told me all that took place."

"That be about all, sir."

"Yes, yes; but I suppose there was something said between you—did you have any words—was he angry—did he call you any names or say anything in an angry way?"

"Well, not partickler—"

"Not particular: I will judge of that. Just tell me what was said."

"When, sir?"

"Well, begin on the Sunday morning. What was first said?"

Then Snooks told the Solicitor all that took place, with sundry additions which his imagination supplied when his memory failed.

"And I member the price wull, becos he said 'You beant sellin coals, recollect, so you doant ave me."

"Ho! ho!" exclaimed Locust rubbing his hands, "You are sure he said that?" writing down the words carefully.

"I be."

"That will do, we've got him: we've got him nicely. Was anybody present when he said this?"

"Yes, sir. Joe were there, and t' best o' my belief, Mrs. Bumpkin."

"Never mind Mrs. Bumpkin. I don't suppose she was there, if you come to recollect; it's quite enough if Joe was present and could hear what was said. I suppose he could hear it?"

"Stood cloase by."

"Very well—that is slander—and slander of a very gross kind. We've got him."

"Be it?" said Snooks.

"I'll show you," said Locust; "in law a man slanders you if he insinuates that you are dishonest; now what does this Bumpkin do? he says 'you don't have me,' meaning thereby that you don't trick him out of his pig; and, 'you are not selling coals,' meaning that when you do sell coals you do trick people. Do you see?—that you cheat them, in fact rob them."

Snooks thought Mr. Locust the most wonderful man he had ever come across. This was quite a new way of putting it.

"But ur didn't say as much," he said, wondering whether that made any difference.

"Perfectly immaterial in law," said Mr. Locust: "it isn't what a man says, it's what he means: you put that in by an innuendo—"

"A what, sir? begging pardon—"

"It's what we lawyers call an innuendo: that is to say, making out that a man says so and so when he doesn't."

"I zee," said the artful Snooks, quick at apprehending every point. "Then if he called a chap a devilish honest man and the innu—what d'ye call it, meant he were a thief, you got him?"

"Well," said Mr. Locust, smiling, "that is going rather far, Mr. Snooks, but I see you understand what I mean."

"I thinks so, sir. I thinks I has your meanin."

"It's a very gross slander," observed Mr. Locust, "and especially upon a tradesman in your position. I suppose now you have lived in the neighbourhood a considerable time?"

"All my life, sir."

"Ah! just so, just so—now let me see; and, if I remember rightly, you have a vote for the County."

"I ave, sir, and allus votes blue, and that's moore."

"Then you're on our side. I'm very glad indeed to hear that; a vote's a vote, you know, now-a-days."

Any one would have thought, to hear Mr. Locust, that votes were scarce commodities, whereas we know that they are among the most plentiful articles of commerce as well as the cheapest.

"And you have, I think, a family, Mr. Snooks."

"Four on em, sir."

"Ah! how very nice, how laudable to make a little provision for them: as I often say, if a man can only leave his children a few hundreds apiece, it's something."

The solicitor watched his client's face as he uttered this profound truism, and the face being as open and genuine as was Snooks' character, it said plainly enough "Yes, I have a few hundreds."

"Well then," continued Mr. Locust, "having been in business all these years, and being, as times go, tolerably successful, being a careful man, and having got together by honest industry a nice little independency—"

Here the learned gentleman paused, and here, unfortunately, Snooks' open and candid heart revealed itself through his open and candid countenance.

"I believe," said Mr. Locust, "I am right?"

"You're about right, sir."

"Very charming, very gratifying to one's feelings," continued Mr. Locust; "and then, just as you are beginning to get comfortable and getting your family placed in the world, here comes this what shall I call him, I never like to use strong language, this intolerable blackguard, and calls you a thief—a detestable thief."

"Well, he didn't use that air word, sir—I wool say that," said Mr. Snooks.

"In law he did, my good man—he meant it and said it—he insinuated that you cheated the poor—you serve a good many of the poor, I think?"

"I do, sir."

"Well, he insinuated that you cheated them by giving short weight and bad coals—that is worse than being a thief, to my mind—such a man deserves hanging."

"Damn him," said Snooks, "that's it, is it?"

"That's it, my dear sir, smooth it over as you will. I don't want to make more of it than necessary, but we must look at it fairly and study the consequences. Now I want to ask you particularly, because we must claim special damage for this, if possible—have you lost any customers through this outrageous slander?"

"Can't say I have, rightly, sir."

"No, but you will—mark my words, as soon as people hear of this they will cease to deal with you. They can't deal with you."

"I hope not, sir."

"So do I; but let me tell Mr. Bumpkin" (here the learned man shook his forefinger as though it had been the often quoted finger of scorn) "that for every customer you lose we'll make him answerable in damages. He'll repeat this slander: take my advice and get some one to look out, and make a note of it—be on your guard!"

Snooks wiped the perspiration from his forehead and then threw his large coloured handkerchief into his hat, which he held by both hands between his knees,

"It be a bad case then, sir?"

"A very bad case for Bumpkin!" replied Mr. Locust; "let me have a list of your customers as soon as you can, and we shall see who leaves you in consequence of this slander. Does my friend, Mr. Overrighteous, deal with you? I think he does?"

"He do, sir, and have for five or six years—and a good customer he be."

"Ah! now, there's a man! Whatever you do don't let Mr. Overrighteous know of it: he would leave you directly: a more particular man than that can't be. Then again, there is my friend Flythekite, does he deal with you? Of course he does!"

"Yes, sir."

"And you'll lose him—sure to lose him."

Judging from Mr. Snooks' countenance it would have been small damage if he did.

"Ve-ry well," continued Locust, after a pause, "ve-ry well—just so." Then he looked at the copy of the writ and perceived that it was dated eighteen hundred and ninety something instead of eighteen hundred and seventy something. So he said that the writ was wrong and they ought not to appear; "by which means," said he, "we shall let them in at the start for a lot of costs—we shall let them in."

"And will that stash the action?" asked Snooks.

"It will not stash ours," said Locust. "I suppose you mean to go on whether he does or not? Your claim is for assault and slander."

"As you please, sir."

"No, no, as you please. I have not been called a thief—they haven't said that I sell short weight and cheat and defraud the poor: my business will not be ruined—my character is not at stake."

"Let un have it, sir; he be a bad un," and here he rose to depart. Mr. Locust gave him a professional shake of the hand and wished him good day. But as the door was just about to be closed on his client, he remembered something which he desired to ask, so he called, "Mr. Snooks!"

"Sir," said the client.

"Is there any truth in the statement that this Bumpkin beats his wife?"

"I doant rightly know," said Snooks, in a hesitating voice; "it may be true. I shouldn't wonder—he's just the sort o' man."

"Just enquire about that, will you?"

"I wool, sir," said Snooks; and thus his interview with his Solicitor terminated.

Now the result of the enquiries as to the domestic happiness of Bumpkin was this; first, the question floated about in a vague sort of form, "Does Bumpkin beat his wife?" then it grew into "Have you heard that Bumpkin beats his wife?" and lastly, it was affirmed that Bumpkin "really did beat his wife." And the scandal spread so rapidly that it soon reached the ears of plaintiff himself, who would have treated it with the contempt it deserved, knowing the quarter whence it came, but that it was so gross a calumny that he determined to give the lying Snooks no quarter, and to press his action with all the energy at his command.

After this there could be no compromise.

"I wish," said Snooks to himself, as he smoked his pipe that evening, "I could a worked one o' them there innerenders in my trade—I could a made summut on him."



CHAPTER VI.

Showing how the greatest wisdom of Parliament may be thrown away on ungrateful people.

The first skirmish between the two doughty champions of the hostile forces took place over the misdated writ. Judgment was signed for want of appearance; and then came a summons to set it aside. The Judge set it aside, and the Divisional Court set aside the Judge, and the Court of Appeal set aside the Divisional Court upon the terms of the defendant paying the costs, and the writ being amended, &c. &c. And I saw that when the Judge in Chambers had hesitatingly and "not without grave doubt" set aside the judgment, Mr. Prigg said to Mr. Locust, "What a very nice point!" And Mr. Locust replied:

"A very nice point, indeed! Of course you'll appeal?" And Mr. Quibbler, Mr. Locust's pleader, said, "A very neat point!"

"Oh dear, yes," answered Mr. Prigg.

And then Mr. Prigg's clerk said to Mr. Locust's clerk—"What a very nice point!" And Mr. Locust's clerk rejoined that it was indeed a very nice point! And then Mr. Locust's boy in the office said to Mr. Prigg's boy in the office, "What a very nice point!" And Mr. Prigg's boy, a pale tall lad of about five feet six, and of remarkably quiet demeanour, replied—

"A dam nice point!"

Next came letters from the respective Solicitors, suggesting a compromise in such terms that compromise became impossible; each affirming that he was so averse from litigation that almost any amicable arrangement that could be come to would be most welcome. Each required a sum of two hundred pounds and an apology in six morning papers. And I saw at the foot of one of Mr. Prigg's letters, when the hope of compromise was nearly at an end, these touching words:

"Bumpkin's blood's up!"

And at the end of the answer thereto, this very expressive retort:

"You say Bumpkin's blood is up; so is Snooks'—do your worst!"

As I desire to inform the lay reader as to the interesting course an action may take under the present expeditious mode of procedure, I must now state what I saw in my dream. The course is sinuosity itself in appearance, but that only renders it the more beautiful. The reader will be able to judge for himself of the simple method by which we try actions nowadays, and how very delightful the procedure is. The first skirmish cost Snooks seventeen pounds six shillings and eight-pence. It cost Bumpkin only three pounds seventeen shillings, or one heifer. Now commenced that wonderful process called "Pleading," which has been the delight and the pride of so many ages; developing gradually century by century, until at last it has perfected itself into the most beautiful system of evasion and duplicity that the world has ever seen. It ranks as one of the fine Arts with Poetry and Painting. A great Pleader is truly a great Artist, and more imaginative than any other. The number of summonses at Chambers is only limited by his capacity to invent them. Ask any respectable solicitor how many honest claims are stifled by proceedings at Chambers. And if I may digress in all sincerity for the purpose of usefulness, I may state that while recording my dream for the Press, Solicitors have begged of me to bring this matter forward, so that the Public may know how their interests are played with, and their rights stifled by the iniquitous system of proceedings at Chambers.

The Victorian age will be surely known as the Age of Pleading, Poetry, and Painting.

First, the Statement of Claim. Summons at Chambers to plead and demur; summons to strike out; summons to let in; summons to answer, summons not to answer; summonses for all sorts of conceivable and inconceivable objects; summonses for no objects at all except costs. And let me here say Mr. Prigg and Mr. Locust are not alone blameable for this: Mr. Quibbler, Mr. Locust's Pleader, had more to do with this than the Solicitor himself. And so had Mr. Wrangler, the Pleader of Mr. Prigg. But without repeating what I saw, let the reader take this as the line of proceeding throughout, repeated in at least a dozen instances:—

The Judge at Chambers reversed the Master;

The Divisional Court reversed the Judge;

And the Court of Appeal reversed the Divisional Court.

And let this be the chorus:—

"What a very nice point!" said Prigg;

"What a very nice point!" said Locust;

"What a very nice point!" said Gride (Prigg's clerk);

"What a d—- nice point!" said Horatio! (the pale boy).

Summons for particulars.—Chorus.

Further and better particulars.—Chorus.

Interrogatories—Summons to strike out.—Chorus.

Summons for further and better answers.—Chorus.

More summonses for more, further, better, and all sorts of things.—Chorus.

All this repeated by the other side, of course; because each has his proper innings. There is great fairness and impartiality in the game. Something was always going up from the foot of this Jacob's ladder called "the Master" to the higher regions called the Court of Appeal. The simplest possible matter, which any old laundress of the Temple ought to have been competent to decide by giving both the parties a box on the ear, was taken before the Master, from the Master to the Judge, from the Judge to the Divisional Court, and from the Divisional Court to the Court of Appeal, at the expense of the unfortunate litigants; while Judges, who ought to have been engaged in disposing of the business of the country, were occupied in deciding legal quibbles and miserable technicalities. All this I saw in my dream. Up and down this ladder Bumpkin and Snooks were driven—one going up the front while the other was coming down the back. And I heard Bumpkin ask if he wasn't entitled to the costs which the Court gave when he won. But the answer of Mr. Prigg was, "No, my dear sir, the labourer is worthy of his hire." And I saw a great many more ups and downs on the ladder which I should weary the reader by repeating: they are all alike equally useless and equally contemptible. Then I thought that poor Bumpkin went up the ladder with a great bundle on his back; and his face seemed quite changed, so that I hardly knew him, and I said to Horatio, the pale boy—

"Who is that going up now? It looks like Christian in the Pilgrim's Progress."

"Oh, no," said Horatio, "that's old Bumpkin—it's a regler sweater for him, ain't it?"

I said, "Whatever can it be? will he ever reach the top?"

Here Bumpkin seemed to slip, and it almost took my breath away; whereat the pale boy laughed, stooping down as he laughed, and thrusting his hands into his breeches pockets,

"By George!" he exclaimed, "what a jolly lark!"

"I hope he won't fall," I exclaimed. "What has he got on his back?"

"A DEMURRER," said Horatio, laughing. "Look at him! That there ladder's the Judicatur Act: don't it reach a height? There's as many rounds in that there ladder as would take a man a lifetime to go up if it was all spread out; it's just like them fire escapes in reaching up, but nobody ever escapes by it."

"It will break the poor man's back," said I, as he was a few feet from the top. And then in my dream I thought he fell; and the fright was so great that I awoke, and found I was sitting in my easy chair by the fire, and the pipe I had been smoking had fallen out of my hand.

* * * * *

"You've been dreaming," said my wife; "and I fear have had a nightmare." When I was thoroughly aroused, and had refilled my pipe, I told her all my dream.

Then cried she, "I hope good Mr. Bumpkin will get up safely with that great bundle."

"It doesn't matter," said I, "whether he do or not; he will have to bear its burden, whether he take it up or bring it back. He will have to bring it down again after showing it to the gentlemen at the top."

"What do they want to see it for?" cried she.

"They have no wish to see it," I replied; "on the contrary, they would rather not. They will simply say he is a very foolish man for his pains to clamber up so high with so useless a burden."

"But why don't they check him?"

"Because they have no power; they look and wonder at the folly of mankind, who can devise no better scheme of amusement for getting rid of their money."

"But the lawyers are wise people, and they should know better."

"The lawyers," said I, "do know better; and all respectable lawyers detest the complicated system which brings them more abuse than fees. They see men, permitted by the law, without character and conscience, bring disgrace on an honourable body of practitioners."

"But do they not remonstrate?"

"They do, but with little effect; no one knows who is responsible for the mischief or how to cure it."

"That is strange."

"Yes, but the time will come when the people will insist on a cheaper and more expeditious system. Half-a-dozen solicitors and members of the junior bar could devise such a system in a week."

"Then why are they not permitted to take it in hand?"

"Because," said I, "Old Fogeyism has, at present, only got the gout in one leg; wait till he has it in both, and then Common Sense will rise to the occasion."

"But what," quoth she, "is this fine art you spoke of?"

"Pleading!"

"Yes; in what consists its great art?"

"In artfulness," quoth I.

Then there was a pause, and at length I said, "I will endeavour to give you an illustration of the process of pleading from ancient history: you have heard, I doubt not, of Joseph and his Brethren."

"O, to be sure," cried she; "did they not put him in the pit?"

"Well, I believe they put him in the pit, but I am not referring to that. The corn in Egypt is what I mean."

"When they found all their money in their sacks' mouths?"

"Exactly. Now if Joseph had prosecuted those men for stealing the money, they would simply have pleaded not guilty, and the case would have been tried without any bother, and the defendants have been acquitted or convicted according to the wisdom of the judge, the skill of the counsel, and the common sense of the jury. But now suppose instead thereof, Joseph had brought an action for the price of the corn."

"Would it not have been as simple?"

"You shall see. The facts would have been stated with some accuracy and a good deal of inaccuracy, and a good many things which were not facts would have been introduced. Then the defendants in their statement of defence would have denied that there was any such place as Egypt as alleged; {52} denied that Pharaoh was King thereof; denied that he had any corn to sell; denied that the said Joseph had any authority to sell; denied that they or any of them went into Egypt; denied that they ever saw the said Joseph or had any communication with him whatever, either by means of an interpreter or otherwise; denied, in fact, everything except their own existence; but in the alternative they would go on to say, if it should be proved that there was a place called Egypt, a man called Pharaoh, an agent of his called Joseph, and that the defendants actually did go to Egypt, all of which they one and all absolutely deny (as becomes men of honour), then they say, that being large corn-merchants and well known to the said Joseph, the factor of the said Pharaoh, as purchasers only of corn for domestic purposes, and requiring therefore a good sound merchantable article, the said Joseph, by falsely and fraudulently representing that certain corn of which he, the said Joseph, was possessed, was at that time of a good sound and merchantable quality and fit for seed and domestic purposes, by the said false and fraudulent representations he, the said Joseph, induced the defendants to purchase a large quantity thereof, to wit, five thousand sacks; whereas the said corn was not of a good sound and merchantable quality and fit for seed and domestic purposes, but was maggoty from damp, and infected with smut and altogether worthless, as he, the said Joseph, well knew at the time he made the said false representations. The defendants would also further allege that, relying on the said Joseph's word, they took away the said corn, but having occasion at the inn to look into the said sacks, they found that the said wheat was worthless, and immediately communicated with the said Joseph by sending their younger brother Simeon down to demand a return of the price of the said corn. But when the said Simeon came to the said Joseph the said Joseph caught him, and kicked him, and beat him with a great stick, and had him to prison, and would not restore him to his brethren, the defendants. Whereupon the defendants sent other messengers, and at length, after being detained a long time at the said inn, the said Joseph came down, and on being shown the said corn, admitted that it was in bad condition. Whereupon the defendants, fearing to trust the said Joseph with the said sacks until they had got a return of their said money, demanded that he, the said Joseph, should put the full tale of every man's money in the sack of the said man; which thing the said Joseph agreed to, and placed every man's money in the mouth of his said sack. And when the said man was about to reach forth his hand to take his said money, the said Joseph seized the said hand and held him fast—."

"Stop, stop!" cried my wife; "the said Joseph had not ten hands. You must surely draw the line somewhere."

"No, no," said I, "that is good pleading; if the other side should omit to deny it, it will be taken by the rules of pleading to be admitted."

"But surely you can't admit impossibilities!"

"Can't you, though!" cried I. "You can do almost anything in pleading."

"Except, it seems to me, tell the truth."

"You mustn't be too hard upon us poor juniors," cried I. "I haven't come to the Counterclaim yet."

"O don't let us have Counterclaims," quoth she; "they can have no claim against Joseph?"

"What, not for selling them smutty wheat?"

"Nonsense."

"I say yes; and he'll have to call a number of witnesses to prove the contrary—nor do I think he will be able to do it."

"I fail now," said my wife, "to see how this pleading is a fine art. Really, without joking, what is the art?"

"The art of pleading," said I, "consists in denying what is, and inducing your adversary to admit what isn't."



CHAPTER VII.

Showing that appropriateness of time and place should be studied in our pastimes.

The next night, sitting over the cheerful fire and comfortably resting after the labours of the day, I dreamed again, and I saw that Horatio Snigger was "the Office Boy" of Mr. Prigg. He had been in the employment of that gentleman about two years. He was tall for his money, standing, in his shoes, at least five feet six, and receiving for his services, five shillings and sixpence a week, (that is, a shilling for every foot and a penny for every odd inch), his last rise (I mean in money,) having taken place about a month ago.

Horatio was a lad of as much spirit as any boy I ever saw. I do not believe he had any liking for the profession, but had entered it simply as his first step in life, utterly in the dark as to whither it would lead him. It was, I believe, some disappointment to his father that on no occasion when he interrogated him as to his "getting on," could he elicit any more cheering reply than "very well." And yet Horatio, during the time he had been with Mr. Prigg, had had opportunities of studying character in its ever-varying phases as presented by Courts of Justice and kindred places.

"Kindred places!" Yes, I mean "Judges' Chambers," where any boy may speedily be impressed with the dignity and simplicity of the practice of the Law, especially since the passing of the Judicature Act. To my lay readers who may wish to know what "Judges' Chambers" means, I may observe that it is a place where innumerable proceedings may be taken for lengthening a case, embarrassing the clients, and spending money. It is, to put it in another form, a sort of Grands Mulets in the Mont Blanc of litigation, whence, if by the time you get there you are not thoroughly "pumped out," you may go on farther and in due time reach the top, whence, I am told, there is a most magnificent view.

But even the beauty of the proceedings at Judges' Chambers failed to impress Horatio with the dignity of the profession. He lounged among the crowds of chattering boys and youths who "cheeked" one another before that august personage "the Master," declaring that "Master" couldn't do this and "Master" couldn't do that; that the other side was too late or too soon; that his particulars were too meagre or too full; or his answers to interrogatories too evasive or not sufficiently diffuse, and went on generally as if the whole object of the law were to raise as many difficulties as possible in the way of its application. As if, in fact, it had fenced itself in with such an undergrowth of brambles that no amount of ability and perseverance could arrive at it.

From what I perceived of the character of Horatio, I should say that he was a scoffer. He was a mild, good-tempered, well-behaved boy enough, but ridiculed many proceedings which he ought to have reverenced. He was a great favourite with Mr. Prigg, because, if anything in the world attracted the boy's admiration, it was that gentleman's pious demeanour and profound knowledge. But the exuberance of the lad's spirits when away from his employer was in exact proportion to the moral pressure brought to bear upon him while in that gentleman's presence. As an illustration of this remark and proof of the twofold character of Horatio, I will relate what I saw after the "Master" had determined that the tail of the 9 was a very nice point, but that there was nothing in it. They had all waited a long time at Judge's Chambers, and their spirits were, no doubt, somewhat elated by at last getting the matter disposed of.

Horatio heard Mr. Prigg say to Mr. Locust, "What a very nice point!" and had heard Mr. Locust reply, "A very nice point, indeed!" And Mr. Gride, the clerk, say, "What, a very nice point!" and somebody else's clerk say, "What a very nice point!" And Horatio felt, as a humble member of the profession, he must chime in with the rest of the firm. So, having said to Locust's boy, "What a dam nice point!" he went back to his lonely den in Bedford Row and then, as he termed it, "let himself out." He accomplished this proceeding by first taking off his coat and throwing it on to a chair; he next threw but his arms, with his fists firmly clenched, as though he had hardly yet to its fullest extent realized the "niceness" of the point which the Master had determined. The next step which Horatio took was what is called "The double shuffle," which, I may inform my readers, is the step usually practised by the gentleman who imitates the sailor in the hornpipe on the stage. Being a slim and agile youth, Horatio's performance was by no means contemptible, except that it was no part of his professional duty to dance a Hornpipe. Then I saw that this young gentleman in the exuberance of his youthful spirits prepared for another exhibition of his talent. He cleared his throat, once more threw out his arms, stamped his right foot loudly on the floor, after the manner of the Ethiopian dancer with the long shoe, and then to my astonishment poured forth the following words in a very agreeable, and, as it seemed to me, melodious voice,—

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