|Chapter Title||HIS GREAT-AUNT'S CASE.|
|Newspaper Title||Adelaide Observer (SA : 1843 - 1904)|
|Trove Title||Sir Denis O'Donoghue. A Reminiscence of the English Bar|
HIS OEBA-T-ADHT S CASE.
"But bow about the bt. Kdmondsbury Assizes ?" I asked.
" I am going to tell you," continued O'Dono ghue. "After poor Lawrence died, I went'on Circuit as usual, but very much out of spirits at the loss of my friend and colleague, not to speak of my occupation and my income there from. Nor were these pains more than slightly tempered by the pleasures of idleness. Weil, in this state of mind I arrived at St. Edmonds bury.
"Now, about ten miles off lived my grand father's Bister, who had married a Captain in the Navy and was now a widow with a little fortune of her own, besides what had been left her by her husband. I had never seen her since I was a child, and was not likely to do so. She hadg quarrelled with our part of the family about things and people I knew nothing of, and I was quite prepared to suffer for the misfortunes or faults of my parents.
"I merely mention the 'fact of my having thus approached the neighbourhood of the old lady, though nothing was further from my thoughts than she was as I stood, along with a good many of our brethren in the Nisi Prins Court' while the Judge was charging the Grand Jury in the other.
• " In our Court they had just opened a party wall case, which seemed likely to go off on a reference. Presently the Crown Court was accessible, and more than half the Bar left the one which I was in. Scarcely had they done so, when Jawson came np to me. ' Look here, O'Donoghue,' said he, ' do yon think you could manage to look after this case for me P You'll have nothing to do but open the pleadiogs; Chyles and Perqnod are in it. They won't expect you to examine the witnesses. I am obliged to be in the other Court to defend one of the fellows charged with poaching at Lord Crawfish's, and I am told the witnesses are now before the Grand Jury and the bill may be ex pected down in a few minutes.'"
•' ut course 1 assented, ana i scarcely toougnc
a serious study of the pleadings to be a very pressing matter. I imagined I should only have to say — May it please your Lordship, gentlemen of the Jury,g John Jones, is the plaintiff and Samuel Smith the defendant, and the declaration complains that the defen dant assaulted and beat the plaintiff, and the defendant pleads, first, that he is not guilty ; and, secondly, that the plaintiff was trespassing on the defendant's land, and the defendant used no more force than sufficient to turn him off, and on these pleas issued is joined, or something eqally simple, which would require no wits and which no one would pay any attention to.
" However. I elbowed my way to a seat next to Oby lea, who was working up to the referenoe in the paity-wall case, and I opened my brief to see what I should have to do. To my astonish ment I found that my great-aunt teas one of the defendants ! I waB to appear in a cause against my great-aunt. Never mind, thought I, I'll opeD the pleadiDgs and be off into the other Oourt. I shall not be wanted here to examine any witnesses. Besides, no one knows she is ' my great-aunt, and I dare say she won't recog
nise me as her great nephew. And, even if she does, die must see that there is no one to blame but herself; why did not she engage me as her counsel ? Serve her right. And ss I addressed myself energetically to the study of the plead iDgs, which Beemed rather leDgtby, in fact very lengthy.
" Still, I thought they might be capable of succinct statement Here I was disappointed. The'action was for a conspiracy, One defen dant was charged with wilfully and maliciously selling, and the other with knowingly purchas ing, at an illusory price, a valuable property under a power of sale in a mortgage after the debt* had been.discharged. My great-aunt was the purchaser, the other defendant was the mortgagee. Well, there were five counts, and the defendants had several in their pleas. The mortgagee had pleaded three special pleas to each connt, and the general issue to four of them. My peat-aunt had pleaded nearly as many pleas, but they were differently arranged. There was a special replication to each special plea besides joinder of issue, then there were two or three special rejoinders to the replications, then came a surrejoinder, aDd lastly, a rebutter. <In addition to all this, there were three demnr rers, with which, of course, the Jury had nothing
"I mechanically withdrew my eyes from the painful picture, and thought of returning the brief to Jawson on the ground of my private feelings, my great-aunt &o. But Jawson'a poaching case, I was told, was already on. Then I thought of speaking to Chyles, or, at least, to Perquod. But Perquod was settling the terms of reference in the party-wall case with «he junior on the other side, while Chyles waa engaged in consoling the attorney who had warmly deprecated any arbritation.
ft." While I was thus turning vainly to every quarter for help—oh horror of horrors!—an old lady, whose portrait I remembered, though I had forgotten herself, was brought into Oourt and seated exactly opposite me. She scowled at Chyles, but did not recognize me as her relative nor even as her opponent. There might yet be time to escape. No; escape was impossible! Moreover it was incompatible with honour. But there was yet time to master the pleading*. Another cause intervened between toe party wall case and ours, and by the time that was finished I might be able to go through the plead ing, and, best of all, Jawson might return.
"Jawson had formed a plan or scheme of the pleadings and had written it on a sheet of draft
?paper. I would study it. Yes; but it was only a scheme referring to the pleadings by numbers, and so I bad to go back to the brief for Jawton's marginal abstract of the pleadings. - I have no doubt that this concise statement of their effect was most admirably executed; but the writing was such as to be intelligible to none
" I took my eyes off the brief in despair. They encountered those of the old lady. She was looking angrily at me. She had seen the name of the cause written in large hand on the papers before me. She had evidently recognised me as an opponent, but not yet, I hoped, as a great nephew. She would soon, however, enquire after my name, and, for the first time, I con gratulated myself that so few knew it.
" A bright idea struck me. I wjuld be her opponent. I would perform the duties thus un generously cast upon me, and then I would escape and beg the reporters to insert Jawson's name instead of mine as I was only his locum tcnens, and thus I would make an eternal friend of Jawson, and avoid any offence to my great
" Now for my own scheme of the pleadings! Here was a new sheet of draft paper. First, I would copy Jawson's plan with the numbers, brackets, &c., then I would write a succinct state ment of each pleading against its number, and then I could face ,the_world and myself once
" I began. I had read each count and had written down its effect. I had just entered upon the sixteen pleas,say rather the thirty-two pleas, when Chyles announced that the inter vening case had been settled, and that they were quite ready in the case of Bowley against Isaacs and another. That 'another' was my great-aunt.
" My only chance was now in Perquod. But Perquod had left the Court: prjbibly thinking that the opening of the pleadings, to say nothing of Chyles' opening speech, would give him a few
"1 Oh you've got Jawson's brief, have you ?' said Chyles. ' All right, go on.'
'"Yes; I have been try ing-io speak to you ths pleadings'
" All right, never mind about the witnesses,' said Chyles;' we'll cell them. Go on with the pleadings.'
"I chanced just then to look up. The old lady's eyes met mine. She did not look at me as she did before, neither did she eye me as Bbe had done Chyles and Perquod. It was plain to me that some one had told her my name. She knew I was her great-nephew.
"*i tuiDK you saia you were rcaay, oromer
Chyles ?' said the Judge
"' Ready, my Lord,' said Chy lea.
"' We are quite ready for the defendant, my Lord,' said Yarnfortb, who represented the mortgagee.
•"Quite ready,'echoed Nice-eye, who was engaged for my great-aunt.
" It seemed to me as if every one was calling out ' quite ready' at the top of his voice. I really believe my great-aunt herself said' quite ready.'"
" • Now then go on!'" said Chyles. And I began. I stated the effect of the declaration and then I turned to the Judge:—
'"Here I must ask the indulgence of your Lordship,' I said,' the brLf in this case was only handed to me a short time ago by my friend Mr. Jawson, who found himself suddenly called upon to defend a prisoner in the other Court, and the time the papers have been in my hand has scarcely sufficed to enable me to do justice to the thirty-two pleas, the twenty-foor replica tions, the twelve rejoinders, the sis surre joinders, and the rebutters, which decorate this
"' Are there really so many 2' said the Judge, taking up the abstract with which he had been
" • Considering the defendants as severing in their pleas, and taking the general traverses distributively, those are the exact numbers.' I answered, ' and, with all desire to show proper respect to your Lordship and to afford assistance to the Jury, I fear, my Lord, it is rtally too much for vie.'
"' Well, brother Chyles, can you come to the assistance of your colleague ?' said the Judge.
"' Indeed, my Lord, as I did not come pre pared to execute his task, I am hardly in a position to ridicule his frank confession of incapacity. I must admit the difficulty arising from the multiplicity of the pleadings.'
" • I understand,' said His Lordship;' I have the abstract before me and I will try to state the pleadings to the Jury myself, and, if I make any mistake, perhaps you an dthe defendant's counsel will set me right.'
" I sank down in my seat no doubt with the appearance of a man released from a heavy burden. The Judge explained the pleadings to the Jury, and the old lady regarded me mean while with an altered expression, which afforded me intense relief.
" Perquod came in to the assistance of Ohyles,
and wondered what it cotild all mean. 1
thanked the Judge when he had finished the pleadings, and so did Ohyles, and then, just as Ohyles rose to open the ease to the Jury, I left the Oourt. Sic me eervavit Apolla !
"Feeling inclined to invigorate the body after so mnch wear and tear of the mind, I walked across to the mess-room in anticipation of lnnch which was just then being laid. I waited there till they brought it. Then I sat down to the table by myself hoping it wonld be long before any one joined me. Presently two or three others came in and 1 gleaned from their con versation that the canse now on was likely to be arranged, by a reconveyance of the estate in question, leaving certain amounts to be settlod by a reference; so I walked back again towards
" As I approached the door the Sheriff's men and the police were trying to keep a space for an old lady who was being handed into a iBath chair. I caught her eye. It was my great
'"Ah Denis!' said she,' is that you? and I haven't seen ye since ye were a lad. And so ye couldn't plead the cause against your old aunt ? It was too much for ye, wasn't it ?'
" She held out her hand and I kissed it.
'Ah!' she continued, 'andif ye'd pleaded the canse against me ye wouldn't have been a true O'Donoghue.for though we've always quarrelled in private in a genteel fashion, ye know, the publio has never been allowed to take part in our broils. And they tell me ye did well at College, Denis, and Bi> like your nnole ye are too, more than like your own father a long way. And I shouldn't wonder if they made ye a Ohie Justice or a Chancellor someday. Now if ye wouldn't mind walking by the side o' the chair?'
"I accompanied her to her lodgings. The case had been settled subject to a partial reference. The attorney came to see her and explain the position of the business. I assisted him in his explanations, and the old lady appealed to me now and then to know if all was right.
" She then launched out into a long encomium on my merits, and talked of the honours I had won at Dublin from my winning the ^stolar sbip in a round jacket down to my later achieve ments, and how no one spoke like me at the debating club, | but be wouldn't plead the cause against his old aunt,' she went ao, 'it was too much for him'—here the attorney and I made faces to prevent laughing—'and he standi as gcod a chance o' being made a Chief Justice
or a Chancellor as any of them for all the guineas they make, and his nncle was Chairman of Sessions, and he had two Judges and a half a score o'. Councillors on his mother's side.'
" All this astonished the attorney, who had probably never seen or heard of me before.
"Then the old lady took me home and kept me with her for a week, thongh it was mighty dull, and seemed to like me very much; for when I came away, she said, 'Tie right ye should have some allowance, Denis darling, for yonr father can't give ye mnch I know, so I'll give ye two hundred a year till ye can keep yourself, and I'll leave ye something when I'm dead, for I've no children, and here's a hundred pounds to begin with, and come down and see me whenever ye can, and wonld ye mind taking this note to the lawyer as ye're going through the town ?'
" I kissed the old lady and took the note, and, thongh I never read a word of it, I can guess its contents as well as you can. So now I am provided for as well as if I were working at the papers with poor Lawrence.
• But now it is vacation," said I, " I suppose you will remember the old lady's invitation ?"
" The moment I have finished my article for the nest number of Blunt's Magazine," said he, " I am going down to see her. Mow did you ever hear of so good a result from not being able to open the pleadiDgs ?"