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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesOrley Farm - Volume 2 - Chapter 78. The Last Of The Lawyers
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Orley Farm - Volume 2 - Chapter 78. The Last Of The Lawyers Post by :jazkat Category :Long Stories Author :Anthony Trollope Date :May 2012 Read :1996

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Orley Farm - Volume 2 - Chapter 78. The Last Of The Lawyers


"I should have done my duty by you, Mr. Mason, which those men have not, and you would at this moment have been the owner of Orley Farm."

It will easily be known that these words were spoken by Mr. Dockwrath, and that they were addressed to Joseph Mason. The two men were seated together in Mr. Mason's lodgings at Alston, late on the morning after the verdict had been given, and Mr. Dockwrath was speaking out his mind with sufficient freedom. On the previous evening he had been content to put up with the misery of the unsuccessful man, and had not added any reproaches of his own. He also had been cowed by the verdict, and the two had been wretched and crestfallen together. But the attorney since that had slept upon the matter, and had bethought himself that he at any rate would make out his little bill. He could show that Mr. Mason had ruined their joint affairs by his adherence to those London attorneys. Had Mr. Mason listened to the advice of his new adviser all would have been well. So at least Dockwrath was prepared to declare, finding that by so doing he would best pave the way for his own important claim.

But Mr. Mason was not a man to be bullied with tame endurance. "The firm bears the highest name in the profession, sir," he said; "and I had just grounds for trusting them."

"And what has come of your just grounds, Mr. Mason? Where are you? That's the question. I say that Round and Crook have thrown you over. They have been hand and glove with old Furnival through the whole transaction; and I'll tell you what's more, Mr. Mason. I told you how it would be from the beginning."

"I'll move for a new trial."

"A new trial; and this a criminal prosecution! She's free of you now for ever, and Orley Farm will belong to that son of hers till he chooses to sell it. It's a pity; that's all. I did my duty by you in a professional way, Mr. Mason; and you won't put the loss on my shoulders."

"I've been robbed;--damnably robbed, that's all that I know."

"There's no mistake on earth about that, Mr. Mason; you have been robbed; and the worst of it is, the costs will be so heavy! You'll be going down to Yorkshire soon I suppose, sir."

"I don't know where I shall go!" said the squire of Groby, not content to be cross-questioned by the attorney from Hamworth.

"Because it's as well, I suppose, that we should settle something about the costs before you leave. I don't want to press for my money exactly now, but I shall be glad to know when I'm to get it."

"If you have any claim on me, Mr. Dockwrath, you can send it to Mr. Round."

"If I have any claim! What do you mean by that, sir? And I shall send nothing in to Mr. Round. I have had quite enough of Mr. Round already. I told you from the beginning, Mr. Mason, that I would have nothing to do with this affair as connected with Mr. Round. I have devoted myself entirely to this matter since you were pleased to engage my services at Groby Park. It is not by my fault that you have failed. I think, Mr. Mason, you will do me the justice to acknowledge that." And then Dockwrath was silent for a moment, as though waiting for an answer.

"I have nothing to say upon the subject, Mr. Dockwrath," said Mason.

"But, by heaven, something must be said. That won't do at all, Mr. Mason. I presume you do not think that I have been working like a slave for the last four months for nothing."

Mr. Mason was in truth an honest man, and did not wish that any one should work on his account for nothing;--much less did he wish that such a one as Dockwrath should do so. But then, on the other side, in his present frame of mind he was by no means willing to yield anything to any one. "I neither deny nor allow your claim, Mr. Dockwrath," said he. "But I shall pay nothing except through my regular lawyers. You can send your account to me if you please, but I shall send it on to Mr. Round without looking at it."

"Oh, that's to be the way, is it? That's your gratitude. Very well, Mr. Mason; I shall now know what to do. And I think you'll find--"

Here Mr. Dockwrath was interrupted by the lodging-house servant, who brought in a note for Mr. Mason. It was from Mr. Furnival, and the girl who delivered it said that the gentleman's messenger was waiting for an answer.

"SIR," said the note,

A communication has been made to me this morning on the
part of your brother, Mr. Lucius Mason, which may make
it desirable that I should have an interview with you.
If not inconvenient to you, I would ask you to meet me
to-morrow morning at eleven o'clock at the chambers of
your own lawyer, Mr. Round, in Bedford Row. I have
already seen Mr. Round, and find that he can meet us.

I am, sir,
Your very obedient servant,


J. Mason, Esq., J.P.
(of Groby Park).

Mr. Furnival when he wrote this note had already been over to Orley Farm, and had seen Lucius Mason. He had been at the farm almost before daylight, and had come away with the assured conviction that the property must be abandoned by his client.

"We need not talk about it, Mr. Furnival," Lucius had said. "It must be so."

"You have discussed the matter with your mother?"

"No discussion is necessary, but she is quite aware of my intention. She is prepared to leave the place--for ever."

"But the income--"

"Belongs to my brother Joseph. Mr. Furnival, I think you may understand that the matter is one in which it is necessary that I should act, but as to which I trust I may not have to say many words. If you cannot arrange this for me, I must go to Mr. Round."

Of course Mr. Furnival did understand it all. His client had been acquitted, and he had triumphed; but he had known for many a long day that the estate did belong of right to Mr. Mason of Groby; and though he had not suspected that Lucius would have been so told, he could not be surprised at the result of such telling. It was clear to him that Lady Mason had confessed, and that restitution would therefore be made.

"I will do your bidding," said he.

"And, Mr. Furnival,--if it be possible, spare my mother." Then the meeting was over, and Mr. Furnival returning to Hamworth wrote his note to Mr. Joseph Mason.

Mr. Dockwrath had been interrupted by the messenger in the middle of his threat, but he caught the name of Furnival as the note was delivered. Then he watched Mr. Mason as he read it and read it again.

"If you please, sir, I was to wait for an answer," said the girl.

Mr. Mason did not know what answer it would behove him to give. He felt that he was among Philistines while dealing with all these lawyers, and yet he was at a loss in what way to reply to one without leaning upon another. "Look at that," he said, sulkily handing the note to Dockwrath.

"You must see Mr. Furnival, by all means," said Dockwrath. "But--"

"But what?"

"In your place I should not see him in the presence of Mr. Round,--unless I was attended by an adviser on whom I could rely." Mr. Mason, having given a few moments' consideration to the matter, sat himself down and wrote a line to Mr. Furnival, saying that he would be in Bedford Row at the appointed time.

"I think you are quite right," said Dockwrath.

"But I shall go alone," said Mr. Mason.

"Oh, very well; you will of course judge for yourself. I cannot say what may be the nature of the communication to be made; but if it be anything touching the property, you will no doubt jeopardise your own interests by your imprudence."

"Good morning, Mr. Dockwrath," said Mr. Mason.

"Oh, very well. Good morning, sir. You shall hear from me very shortly, Mr. Mason; and I must say that, considering everything, I do not know that I ever came across a gentleman who behaved himself worse in a peculiar position than you have done in yours." And so they parted.

Punctually at eleven o'clock on the following day Mr. Mason was in Bedford Row. "Mr. Furnival is with Mr. Round," said the clerk, "and will see you in two minutes." Then he was shown into the dingy office waiting-room, where he sat with his hat in his hand, for rather more than two minutes.

At that moment Mr. Round was describing to Mr. Furnival the manner in which he had been visited some weeks since by Sir Peregrine Orme. "Of course, Mr. Furnival, I knew which way the wind blew when I heard that."

"She must have told him everything."

"No doubt, no doubt. At any rate he knew it all."

"And what did you say to him?"

"I promised to hold my tongue;--and I kept my promise. Mat knows nothing about it to this day."

The whole history thus became gradually clear to Mr. Furnival's mind, and he could understand in what manner that marriage had been avoided. Mr. Round also understood it, and the two lawyers confessed together, that though the woman had deserved the punishment which had come upon her, her character was one which might have graced a better destiny. "And now, I suppose, my fortunate client may come in," said Mr. Round. Whereupon the fortunate client was released from his captivity, and brought into the sitting-room of the senior partner.

"Mr. Mason, Mr. Furnival," said the attorney, as soon as he had shaken hands with his client. "You know each other very well by name, gentlemen."

Mr. Mason was very stiff in his bearing and demeanour, but remarked that he had heard of Mr. Furnival before.

"All the world has heard of him," said Mr. Round. "He hasn't hid his light under a bushel." Whereupon Mr. Mason bowed, not quite understanding what was said to him.

"Mr. Mason," began the barrister, "I have a communication to make to you, very singular in its nature, and of great importance. It is one which I believe you will regard as being of considerable importance to yourself, and which is of still higher moment to my--my friend, Lady Mason."

"Lady Mason, sir--" began the other; but Mr. Furnival stopped him.

"Allow me to interrupt you, Mr. Mason. I think it will be better that you should hear me before you commit yourself to any expression as to your relative."

"She is no relative of mine."

"But her son is. However,--if you will allow me, I will go on. Having this communication to make, I thought it expedient for your own sake that it should be done in the presence of your own legal adviser and friend."

"Umph!" grunted the disappointed litigant.

"I have already explained to Mr. Round that which I am about to explain to you, and he was good enough to express himself as satisfied with the step which I am taking."

"Quite so, Mr. Mason. Mr. Furnival is behaving, and I believe has behaved throughout, in a manner becoming the very high position which he holds in his profession."

"I suppose he has done his best on his side," said Mason.

"Undoubtedly I have,--as I should have done on yours, had it so chanced that I had been honoured by holding a brief from your attorneys. But the communication which I am going to make now I make not as a lawyer but as a friend. Mr. Mason, my client Lady Mason, and her son Lucius Mason, are prepared to make over to you the full possession of the estate which they have held under the name of Orley Farm."

The tidings, as so given, were far from conveying to the sense of the hearer the full information which they bore. He heard the words, and at the moment conceived that Orley Farm was intended to come into his hands by some process to which it was thought desirable that he should be brought to agree. He was to be induced to buy it, or to be bought over from further opposition by some concession of an indefinitely future title. But that the estate was to become his at once, without purchase, and by the mere free will of his hated relatives, was an idea that he did not realise.

"Mr. Furnival," he said, "what future steps I shall take I do not yet know. That I have been robbed of my property I am as firmly convinced now as ever. But I tell you fairly, and I tell Mr. Round so too, that I will have no dealings with that woman."

"Your father's widow, sir," said Mr. Furnival, "is an unhappy lady, who is now doing her best to atone for the only fault of which I believe her to have been guilty. If you were not unreasonable as well as angry, you would understand that the proposition which I am now making to you is one which should force you to forgive any injury which she may hitherto have done to you. Your half-brother Lucius Mason has instructed me to make over to you the possession of Orley Farm." These last words Mr. Furnival uttered very slowly, fixing his keen grey eyes full upon the face of Joseph Mason as he did so, and then turning round to the attorney he said, "I presume your client will understand me now."

"The estate is yours, Mr. Mason," said Round. "You have nothing to do but to take possession of it."

"What do you mean?" said Mason, turning round upon Furnival.

"Exactly what I say. Your half-brother Lucius surrenders to you the estate."

"Without payment?"

"Yes; without payment. On his doing so you will of course absolve him from all liability on account of the proceeds of the property while in his hands."

"That will be a matter of course," said Mr. Round.

"Then she has robbed me," said Mason, jumping up to his feet. "By ----, the will was forged after all."

"Mr. Mason," said Mr. Round, "if you have a spark of generosity in you, you will accept the offer made to you without asking any question. By no such questioning can you do yourself any good,--nor can you do that poor lady any harm."

"I knew it was so," he said loudly, and as he spoke he twice walked the length of the room. "I knew it was so;--twenty years ago I said the same. She forged the will. I ask you, as my lawyer, Mr. Round,--did she not forge the will herself?"

"I shall answer no such question, Mr. Mason."

"Then by heavens I'll expose you. If I spend the whole value of the estate in doing it I'll expose you, and have her punished yet. The slippery villain! For twenty years she has robbed me."

"Mr. Mason, you are forgetting yourself in your passion," said Mr. Furnival. "What you have to look for now is the recovery of the property." But here Mr. Furnival showed that he had not made himself master of Joseph Mason's character.

"No," shouted the angry man;--"no, by heaven. What I have first to look to is her punishment, and that of those who have assisted her. I knew she had done it,--and Dockwrath knew it. Had I trusted him, she would now have been in gaol."

Mr. Furnival and Mr. Round were both desirous of having the matter quietly arranged, and with this view were willing to put up with much. The man had been ill used. When he declared for the fortieth time that he had been robbed for twenty years, they could not deny it. When with horrid oaths he swore that that will had been a forgery, they could not contradict him. When he reviled the laws of his country, which had done so much to facilitate the escape of a criminal, they had no arguments to prove that he was wrong. They bore with him in his rage, hoping that a sense of his own self-interest might induce him to listen to reason. But it was all in vain. The property was sweet, but that sweetness was tasteless when compared to the sweetness of revenge.

"Nothing shall make me tamper with justice;--nothing," said he.

"But even if it were as you say, you cannot do anything to her," said Round.

"I'll try," said Mason. "You have been my attorney, and what you know in the matter you are bound to tell. And I'll make you tell, sir."

"Upon my word," said Round, "this is beyond bearing. Mr. Mason, I must trouble you to walk out of my office." And then he rang the bell. "Tell Mr. Mat I want to see him." But before that younger partner had joined his father Joseph Mason had gone. "Mat," said the old man, "I don't interfere with you in many things, but on this I must insist. As long as my name is in the firm Mr. Joseph Mason of Groby shall not be among our customers."

"The man's a fool," said Mr. Furnival. "The end of all that will be that two years will go by before he gets his property; and, in the meantime, the house and all about it will go to ruin."

In these days there was a delightful family concord between Mr. Furnival and his wife, and perhaps we may be allowed to hope that the peace was permanent. Martha Biggs had not been in Harley Street since we last saw her there, and was now walking round Red Lion Square by the hour with some kindred spirit, complaining bitterly of the return which had been made for her friendship. "What I endured, and what I was prepared to endure for that woman, no breathing creature can ever know," said Martha Biggs, to that other Martha; "and now--"

"I suppose the fact is he don't like to see you there," said the other.

"And is that a reason?" said our Martha. "Had I been in her place I would not have put my foot in his house again till I was assured that my friend should be as welcome there as myself. But then, perhaps, my ideas of friendship may be called romantic."

But though there were heart-burnings and war in Red Lion Square, there was sweet peace in Harley Street. Mrs. Furnival had learned that beyond all doubt Lady Mason was an unfortunate woman on whose behalf her husband was using his best energies as a lawyer; and though rumours had begun to reach her that were very injurious to the lady's character, she did not on that account feel animosity against her. Had Lady Mason been guilty of all the sins in the calendar except one, Mrs. Furnival could find it within her heart to forgive her.

But Sophia was now more interested about Lady Mason than was her mother, and during those days of the trial was much more eager to learn the news as it became known. She had said nothing to her mother about Lucius, nor had she said anything as to Augustus Staveley. Miss Furnival was a lady who on such subjects did not want the assistance of a mother's counsel. Then, early on the morning that followed the trial, they heard the verdict and knew that Lady Mason was free.

"I am so glad," said Mrs. Furnival; "and I am sure it was your papa's doing."

"But we will hope that she was really innocent," said Sophia.

"Oh, yes; of course; and so I suppose she was. I am sure I hope so. But, nevertheless, we all know that it was going very much against her."

"I believe papa never thought she was guilty for a moment."

"I don't know, my dear; your papa never talks of the clients for whom he is engaged. But what a thing it is for Lucius! He would have lost every acre of the property."

"Yes; it's a great thing for him, certainly." And then she began to consider whether the standing held by Lucius Mason in the world was not even yet somewhat precarious.

It was on the same day--in the evening--that she received her lover's letter. She was alone when she read it, and she made herself quite master of its contents before she sat herself to think in what way it would be expedient that she should act. "I am bound to relinquish to my brother-in-law my title to Orley Farm." Why should he be so bound, unless--? And then she also came to that conclusion which Mr. Round had reached, and which Joseph Mason had reached, when they heard that the property was to be given up. "Yes, Sophia, I am a beggar," the letter went on to say. She was very sorry, deeply sorry;--so, at least, she said to herself. As she sat there alone, she took out her handkerchief and pressed it to her eyes. Then, having restored it to her pocket, after moderate use, she refolded her letter, and put that into the same receptacle.

"Papa," said she, that evening, "what will Mr. Lucius Mason do now? will he remain at Orley Farm?"

"No, my dear. He will leave Orley Farm, and, I think, will go abroad with his mother."

"And who will have Orley Farm?"

"His brother Joseph, I believe."

"And what will Lucius have?"

"I cannot say. I do not know that he will have anything. His mother has an income of her own, and he, I suppose, will go into some profession."

"Oh, indeed. Is not that very sad for him, poor fellow?" In answer to which her father made no remark.

That night, in her own room, she answered her lover's letter, and her answer was as follows:--

Harley Street, March, 18--.


I need hardly tell you that I was grieved to the heart by
the tidings conveyed in your letter. I will not ask you
for that secret which you withhold from me, feeling that
I have no title to inquire into it; nor will I attempt to
guess at the cause which induces you to give up to your
brother the property which you were always taught to
regard as your own. That you are actuated by noble motives
I am sure; and you may be sure of this, that I shall
respect you quite as highly in your adversity as I have
ever done in your prosperity. That you will make your way
in the world, I shall never doubt; and it may be that the
labour which you will now encounter will raise you to
higher standing than any you could have achieved, had the
property remained in your possession.

I think you are right in saying, with reference to our
mutual regard for each other, that neither should be
held as having any claim upon the other. Under present
circumstances, any such claim would be very silly. Nothing
would hamper you in your future career so much as a long
marriage engagement; and for myself, I am aware that the
sorrow and solicitude thence arising would be more than I
could support. Apart from this, also, I feel certain that
I should never obtain my father's sanction for such an
engagement, nor could I make it, unless he sanctioned it.
I feel so satisfied that you will see the truth of this,
that I need not trouble you, and harass my own heart by
pursuing the subject any further.

My feelings of friendship for you--of affectionate
friendship--will be as true as ever. I shall look to your
future career with great hope, and shall hear of your
success with the utmost satisfaction. And I trust that
the time may come, at no very distant date, when we may
all welcome your return to London, and show you that our
regard for you has never been diminished.

May God bless and preserve you in the trials which are
before you, and carry you through them with honour and
safety. Wherever you may be I shall watch for tidings of
you with anxiety, and always hear them with gratification.
I need hardly bid you remember that you have no more
affectionate friend

Than yours always most sincerely,


P.S.--I believe that a meeting between us at the present
moment would only cause pain to both of us. It might drive
you to speak of things which should be wrapped in silence.
At any rate, I am sure that you will not press it on me.

Lucius, when he received this letter, was living with his mother in lodgings near Finsbury Circus, and the letter had been redirected from Hamworth to a post-office in that neighbourhood. It was his intention to take his mother with him to a small town on one of the rivers that feed the Rhine, and there remain hidden till he could find some means by which he might earn his bread. He was sitting with her in the evening, with two dull tallow candles on the table between them, when his messenger brought the letter to him. He read it in silence very deliberately, then crushed it in his hand, and threw it from him with violence into the fire.

"I hope there is nothing further to distress you, Lucius," said his mother, looking up into his face as though she were imploring his confidence.

"No, nothing; nothing that matters. It is an affair quite private to myself."

Sir Peregrine had spoken with great truth when he declared that Lucius Mason was able to bear adversity. This last blow had now come upon him, but he made no wailings as to his misery, nor did he say a word further on the subject. His mother watched the paper as the flame caught it and reduced it to an ash; but she asked no further question. She knew that her position with him did not permit of her asking, or even hoping, for his confidence.

"I had no right to expect it would be otherwise," he said to himself. But even to himself he spoke no word of reproach against Miss Furnival. He had realised the circumstances by which he was surrounded, and had made up his mind to bear their result.

As for Miss Furnival, we may as well declare here that she did not become Mrs. Staveley. Our old friend Augustus conceived that he had received a sufficient answer on the occasion of his last visit to Harley Street, and did not repeat it immediately. Such little scenes as that which took place there had not been uncommon in his life; and when in after months he looked back upon the affair, he counted it up as one of those miraculous escapes which had marked his career.

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