The Marriage Settlement, by Samuel Warren

Experiences of a Barrister, and Confessions of an Attorney

"It is really time that a properly-qualified governess had charge of those girls," observed my wife, as Mary and Kate after a more than usually boisterous romp with their papa, left the room for bed. I may here remark, inter alia, that I once surprised a dignified and highly-distinguished judge at a game of blindman's buff with his children, and very heartily he appeared to enjoy it too. "It is really time that a properly-qualified governess had charge of those girls. Susan May did very well as a nursery teacher, but they are now far beyond her control. I cannot attend to their education, and as for you"—The sentence was concluded by a shrug of the shoulders and a toss of the head, eloquently expressive of the degree of estimation in which my governing powers were held.

"Time enough, surely, for that," I exclaimed, as soon as I had composed myself; for I was a little out of breath. "They may, I think, rub along with Susan for another year or two, Mary is but seven years of age"—

"Eight years, if you please. She was eight years old last Thursday three weeks."

"Eight years! Then we must have been married nine; Bless me, how the time has flown: it seems scarcely so many weeks!"

"Nonsense," rejoined my wife with a sharpness of tone and a rigidity of facial muscle which, considering the handsome compliment I had just paid her, argued, I was afraid, a foregone conclusion. "You always have recourse to some folly of that sort whenever I am desirous of entering into a serious consultation on family affairs."

There was some truth in this, I confess. The "consultations" which I found profitable were not serious ones with my wife upon domestic matters; leading, as they invariably did, to a diminution instead of an increase of the little balance at the banker's. If such a proposition could therefore be evaded or adjourned by even an extravagant compliment, I considered it well laid out. But the expedient, I found, was one which did not improve by use. For some time after marriage it answered remarkably well; but each succeeding year of wedded bliss marked its rapidly-declining efficacy.

"Well, well; go on."

"I say it is absolutely necessary that a first-rate governess should be at once engaged. Lady Maldon has been here to-day, and she"—

"Oh, I thought it might be her new ladyship's suggestion. I wish the 'fountain of honor' was somewhat charier of its knights and ladies, and then perhaps"—

"What, for mercy's sake, are you running on about?" interrupted the lady with peremptory emphasis. "Fountains of honor, forsooth! One would suppose, to hear you talk in that wild, nonsensical way, that you were addressing a bench of judges sitting in banco, instead of a sensible person solicitous for her and your children's welfare."

"Bless the woman," thought I; "what an exalted idea she appears to have of forensic eloquence! Proceed, my love," I continued; "there is a difference certainly; and I am all attention."

"Lady Maldon knows a young lady—a distant relative, in deed, of hers—whom she is anxious to serve"—

"At our expense."

"How can you be so ungenerous? Edith Willoughby is the orphan daughter of the late Reverend Mr. Willoughby, curate of Heavy Tree in Warwickshire, I believe; and was specially educated for a first-class governess and teacher. She speaks French with the true Parisian accent, and her Italian, Lady Maldon assures me, is pure Tuscan"—


"She dances with grace and elegance; plays the harp and piano with skill and taste; is a thorough artiste in drawing and painting; and is, moreover, very handsome—though beauty, I admit, is an attribute which in a governess might be very well dispensed with."

"True; unless, indeed, it were catching."

I need not prolong this connubial dialogue. It is sufficient to state that Edith Willoughby was duly installed in office on the following day; and that, much to my surprise, I found that her qualifications for the charge she had undertaken were scarcely overcolored. She was a well-educated, elegant, and beautiful girl, of refined and fascinating manners, and possessed of one of the sweetest, gentlest dispositions that ever charmed and graced the family and social circle. She was, I often thought, for her own chance of happiness, too ductile, too readily yielding to the wishes and fancies of others. In a very short time I came to regard her as a daughter, and with my wife and children she was speedily a prodigious favorite. Mary and Kate improved rapidly under her judicious tuition, and I felt for once positively grateful to busy Lady Maldon for her officious interference in my domestic arrangements.

Edith Willoughby had been domiciled with us about two years, when Mr. Harlowe, a gentleman of good descent and fine property, had occasion to call several times at my private residence on business relating to the purchase of a house in South Audley Street, the title to which exhibited by the venders was not of the most satisfactory kind. On one occasion he stayed to dine with us, and I noticed that he seemed much struck by the appearance of our beautiful and accomplished governess. His evident emotion startled and pained me in a much higher degree than I could have easily accounted for even to myself. Mr. Harlowe was a widower, past his first youth certainly, but scarcely more than two or three-and-thirty years of age, wealthy, not ill-looking, and, as far as I knew, of average character in society. Surely an excellent match, if it should come to that, for an orphan girl rich only in fine talents and gentle affections. But I could not think so. I disliked the man—instinctively disliked and distrusted him; for I could assign no very positive motive for my antipathy.

"The reason why, I cannot tell,
But I don't like thee, Dr. Fell."

These lines indicate an unconquerable feeling which most persons have, I presume, experienced; and which frequently, I think, results from a kind of cumulative evidence of uncongeniality or unworthiness, made up of a number of slight indices of character, which, separately, may appear of little moment, but altogether, produce a strong, if undefinable, feeling of aversion. Mr. Harlowe's manners were bland, polished, and insinuating; his conversation was sparkling and instructive; but a cold sneer seemed to play habitually about his lips, and at times there glanced forth a concentrated, polished ferocity—so to speak—from his eyes, revealing hard and stony depths, which I shuddered to think a being so pure and gentle as Edith might be doomed to sound and fathom. That he was a man of strong passions and determination of will, was testified by every curve of his square, massive head, and every line of his full countenance.

My aversion—reasonable or otherwise, as it might be—was not shared by Miss Willoughby; and it was soon apparent that, fascinated, intoxicated by her extreme beauty (the man was, I felt, incapable of love in its high, generous, and spiritual sense), Mr. Harlowe had determined on offering his hand and fortune to the unportioned orphan. He did so, and was accepted. I did not conceal my dislike of her suitor from Edith; and my wife—who, with feminine exaggeration of the hints I threw out, had set him down as a kind of polished human tiger—with tears intreated her to avoid the glittering snare. We of course had neither right nor power to push our opposition beyond friendly warning and advice; and when we found, thanks to Lady Maldon, who was vehemently in favor of the match—to, in Edith's position, the dazzling temptation of a splendid establishment, and to Mr. Harlowe's eloquent and impassioned pleadings—that the rich man's offer was irrevocably accepted, we of course forebore from continuing a useless and irritating resistance. Lady Maldon had several times very plainly intimated that our aversion to the marriage arose solely from a selfish desire of retaining the services of her charming relative; so prone are the mean and selfish to impute meanness and selfishness to others.

I might, however, I reflected, be of service to Miss Willoughby, by securing for her such a marriage settlement as would place her beyond the reach of one possible consequence of caprice and change. I spoke to Mr. Harlowe on the subject; and he, under the influence of headstrong, eager passion, gave me, as I expected, carte blanche. I availed myself of the license so readily afforded: a deed of settlement was drawn up, signed, sealed, and attested in duplicate the day before the wedding; and Edith Willoughby, as far as wealth and position in society were concerned, had undoubtedly made a surprisingly good bargain.

It happened that just as Lady Maldon, Edith Willoughby, and Mr. Harlowe were leaving my chambers after the execution of the deed, Mr. Ferret the attorney appeared on the stairs. His hands were full of papers, and he was, as usual, in hot haste; but he stopped abruptly as his eye fell upon the departing visitors, looked with startled earnestness at Miss Willoughby, whom he knew, and then glanced at Mr. Harlowe with an expression of angry surprise. That gentleman, who did not appear to recognize the new-comer, returned his look with a supercilious, contemptuous stare, and passed on with Edith—who had courteously saluted the inattentive Mr. Ferret—followed by Lady Maldon.

"What is the meaning of that ominous conjunction?" demanded Mr. Ferret as the affianced pair disappeared together.

"Marriage, Mr. Ferret! Do you know any just cause or impediment why they should not be joined together in holy wedlock?"

"The fellow's wife is dead then?"

"Yes; she died about a twelvemonth ago. Did you know her?"

"Not personally; by reputation only. A country attorney, Richards of Braintree, for whom I transact London business sent me the draught of a deed of separation—to which the unfortunate lady, rather than continue to live with her husband, had consented—for counsel's opinion. I had an interview with Mr. Harlowe himself upon the business; but I see he affects to have forgotten me. I do not know much of the merits of the case, but according to Richards—no great shakes of a fellow, between ourselves—the former Mrs. Harlowe was a martyr to her husband's calculated virulence and legal—at least not illegal, a great distinction, in my opinion, though not so set down in the books—despotism. He espoused her for her wealth: that secured, he was desirous of ridding himself of the incumbrance to it. A common case!—and now, if you please, to business."

I excused myself, as did my wife, from being present at the wedding; but everything, I afterwards heard, passed off with great éclat. The bridegroom was all fervor and obsequiousness; the bride all bashfulness and beauty. The "happy pair," I saw by the afternoon newspapers, were to pass the honeymoon at Mr. Harlowe's seat, Fairdown Park. The evening of the marriage-day was anything, I remember, but a pleasant one to me. I reached home by no means hilariously disposed, where I was greeted, by way of revival, with the intelligence that my wife, after listening with great energy to Lady Maldon's description of the wedding festivities for two tremendous hours, had at last been relieved by copious hysteria, and that Mary and Kate were in a fair way—if the exploit could be accomplished by perseverance—of crying themselves to sleep. These were our bridal compliments; much more flattering, I imagine, if not quite so honey-accented, as the courtly phrases with which the votaries and the victims of Hymen are alike usually greeted.

Time, business, worldly hopes and cares, the triumphs and defeats of an exciting profession, gradually weakened the impression made upon me by the gentle virtues of Edith Willoughby; and when, about fifteen months after the wedding, my wife informed me that she had been accosted by Mrs. Harlowe at a shop in Bond Street, my first feeling was one of surprise, not untinged with resentment, for what I deemed her ungrateful neglect.

"She recognized you then?" I remarked.

"Recognized me! What do you mean?"

"I thought perhaps she might have forgotten your features, as she evidently has our address."

"If you had seen," replied my wife, "how pale, how cold, how utterly desolate she looked, you would think less hardly of her. As soon as she observed me, a slight scream escaped her; and then she glanced eagerly and tremblingly around like a startled fawn. Her husband had passed out of the shop to give, I think, some direction to the coachman. She tottered towards me, and clasping me in her arms, burst into a passion of tears. "Oh, why—why," I asked as soon as I could speak, "why have you not written to us?" "I dared not!" she gasped. "But oh tell me, do you—does your husband remember me with kindness? Can I still reckon on his protection—his support?" I assured her you would receive her as your own child: the whispered words had barely passed my lips, when Mr. Harlowe, who had swiftly approached us unperceived, said, "Madam, the carriage waits." His stern, pitiless eye glanced from his wife to me, and stiffly bowing, he said, "Excuse me for interrupting your conversation; but time presses. Good-day." A minute afterwards, the carriage drove off."

I was greatly shocked at this confirmation of my worst fears; and I meditated with intense bitterness on the fate of a being of such meek tenderness exposed to the heartless brutalities of a sated sensualist like Harlowe. But what could be done? She had chosen, deliberately, and after warning, chosen her lot, and must accept the consequences of her choice. In all the strong statutes, and sharp biting laws of England, there can be found no clause wherewith to shield a woman from the "regulated" meanness and despotism of an unprincipled husband. Resignation is the sole remedy, and therein the patient must minister to herself.

On the morning of the Sunday following Edith's brief interview with my wife, and just as we were about to leave the house to attend divine service, a cab drove furiously up to the door, and a violent summons by both knocker and bell announced the arrival of some strangely-impatient visitor. I stepped out upon the drawing-room landing, and looked over the banister rail, curious to ascertain who had honored me with so peremptory a call. The door was quickly opened, and in ran, or rather staggered, Mrs. Harlowe, with a child in long clothes in her arms.

"Shut—shut the door!" she faintly exclaimed, as she sank on one of the hall seats. "Pray shut the door—I am pursued!"

I hastened down, and was just in time to save her from falling on the floor. She had fainted. I had her carried up stairs, and by the aid of proper restoratives, she gradually recovered consciousness. The child, a girl about four months old, was seized upon by Mary and Kate, and carried off in triumph to the nursery. Sadly changed, indeed, as by the sickness of the soul, was poor Edith. The radiant flush of youth and hope rendering her sweet face eloquent of joy and pride, was replaced by the cold, sad hues of wounded affections and proud despair. I could read in her countenance, as in a book, the sad record of long months of wearing sorrow, vain regrets, and bitter self-reproach. Her person, too, had lost its rounded, airy, graceful outline, and had become thin and angular. Her voice, albeit, was musical and gentle as ever, as she murmured, on recovering her senses, "You will protect me from my—from that man?" As I warmly pressed her hand, in emphatic assurance that I would shield her against all comers, another loud summons was heard at the door. A minute afterwards, a servant entered, and announced that Mr. Harlowe waited for me below. I directed he should be shown into the library; and after iterating my assurance to Edith that she was quite safe from violence beneath my roof, and that I would presently return to hear her explanation of the affair, I went down stairs.

Mr. Harlowe, as I entered, was pacing rapidly up and down the apartment. He turned to face me; and I thought he looked even more perturbed and anxious than vengeful and angry. He, however, as I coldly bowed, and demanded his business with me, instantly assumed a bullying air and tone.

"Mrs. Harlowe is here: she has surreptitiously left South Audley Street in a hired cab, and I have traced her to this house."


"Well! I trust it is well; and I insist that she instantly return to her home."

"Her home!"

I used the word with an expression significative only of my sense of the sort of "home" he had provided for the gentle girl he had sworn to love and cherish; but the random shaft found a joint in his armor at which it was not aimed. He visibly trembled, and turned pale.

"She has had time to tell you all then! But be assured, sir, that nothing she has heard or been told, however true it may be—may be, remember, I say—can be legally substantiated except by myself."

What could the man mean? I was fairly puzzled: but, professionally accustomed to conceal emotions of surprise and bewilderment, I coldly replied—"I have left the lady who has sought the protection of her true 'home,' merely to ascertain the reason of this visit."

"The reason of my visit!" he exclaimed with renewed fury: "to reconvey her to South Audley Street. What else? If you refuse to give her up, I shall apply to the police."

I smiled, and approached the bell.

"You will not surrender her then?"

"To judicial process only: of that be assured. I have little doubt that, when I am placed in full possession of all the facts of the case, I shall be quite able to justify my conduct." He did not reply, and I continued: "If you choose to wait here till I have heard Edith's statement, I will at once frankly acquaint you with my final determination."

"Be it so: and please to recollect, sir, that you have to deal with a man not easily baffled or entrapped by legal subtlety or cunning."

I reascended to the drawing-room; and finding Edith—thanks to the ministrations, medicinal and oral, of my bustling and indignant lady—much calmer, and thoroughly satisfied that nobody could or should wrest her from us, begged her to relate unreservedly the cause or causes which had led to her present position. She falteringly complied; and I listened with throbbing pulse and burning cheeks to the sad story of her wedded wretchedness, dating from within two or three months of the marriage; and finally consummated by a disclosure that, if provable, might consign Harlowe to the hulks. The tears, the agony, the despair of the unhappy lady, excited in me a savageness of feeling, an eager thirst for vengeance, which I had believed foreign to my nature. Edith divined my thoughts, and taking my hand, said, "Never, sir, never will I appear against him: the father of my little Helen shall never be publicly accused by me."

"You err, Edith," I rejoined; "it is a positive duty to bring so consummate a villain to justice. He has evidently calculated on your gentleness of disposition, and must be disappointed."

I soon, however, found it was impossible to shake her resolution on this point; and I returned with a heart full of grief and bitterness to Mr. Harlowe.

"You will oblige me, sir," I exclaimed as I entered the room, "by leaving this house immediately: I would hold no further converse with so vile a person."

"How! Do you know to whom you presume to speak in this manner?"

"Perfectly. You are one Harlowe, who, after a few months' residence with a beautiful and amiable girl, had extinguished the passion which induced him to offer her marriage, showered on her every species of insult and indignity of which a cowardly and malignant nature is capable; and who, finding that did not kill her, at length consummated, or revealed, I do not yet know which term is most applicable, his utter baseness by causing her to be informed that his first wife was still living."

"Upon my honor, sir, I believed, when I married Miss Willoughby, that I was a widower."

"Your honor! But except to prove that I do thoroughly know and appreciate the person I am addressing, I will not bandy words with you. After that terrible disclosure—if, indeed, it be a disclosure, not an invention—Ah, you start at that"

"At your insolence, sir; not at your senseless surmises."

"Time and the law will show. After, I repeat, this terrible disclosure or invention, you, not content with obtaining from your victim's generosity a positive promise that she would not send you to the hulks"—

"Sir, have a care."

"Pooh! I say, not content with exacting this promise from your victim, you, with your wife, or accomplice, threatened not only to take her child from her, but to lock her up in a madhouse, unless she subscribed a paper, confessing that she knew, when you espoused her, that you were a married man. Now, sir, do I, or do I not, thoroughly know who and what the man is I am addressing?"

"Sir," returned Harlowe, recovering his audacity somewhat. "Spite of all your hectoring and abuse, I defy you to obtain proof—legal proof—whether what Edith has heard is true or false. The affair may perhaps be arranged; let her return with me."

"You know she would die first; but it is quite useless to prolong this conversation; and I again request you to leave this house."

"If Miss Willoughby would accept an allowance"—

The cool audacity of this proposal to make me an instrument in compromising a felony exasperated me beyond all bounds. I rang the bell violently, and desired the servant who answered it to show Mr. Harlowe out of the house. Finding further persistence useless, the baffled villain snatched up his hat, and with a look and gesture of rage and contempt, hurried out of the apartment.

The profession of a barrister necessarily begets habits of coolness and reflection under the most exciting circumstances; but, I confess, that in this instance my ordinary equanimity was so much disturbed, that it was some time before I could command sufficient composure to reason calmly upon the strange revelations made to me by Edith, and the nature of the measures necessary to adopt in order to clear up the mystery attaching to them. She persisted in her refusal to have recourse to legal measures with a view to the punishment of Harlowe; and I finally determined—after a conference with Mr. Ferret, who, having acted for the first Mrs. Harlowe, I naturally conjectured must know something of her history and connections—to take for the present no ostensible steps in the matter. Mr. Ferret, like myself, was persuaded that the sham resuscitation of his first wife was a mere trick, to enable Harlowe to rid himself of the presence of a woman he no longer cared for. "I will take an opportunity," said Mr. Ferret, "of quietly questioning Richards: he must have known the first wife; Eleanor Wickham, I remember, was her maiden name; and if not bought over by Harlowe—a by-no-means impossible purchase—can set us right at once. I did not understand that the said Eleanor was at all celebrated for beauty and accomplishments, such as you say Miss Willoughby—Mrs. Harlowe, I mean—describes. She was a native of Dorsetshire too, I remember; and the foreign Italian accent you mention, is rarely, I fancy, picked up in that charming county. Some flashy opera-dancer, depend upon it, whom he has contracted a passing fancy for: a slippery gentleman certainly; but, with a little caution, we shall not fail to trip his heels up, clever as he may be."

A stronger wrestler than either of us was upon the track of the unhappy man. Edith had not been with us above three weeks, when one of Mr. Harlowe's servants called at my chambers to say that his master, in consequence of a wound he had inflicted on his foot with an axe, whilst amusing himself with cutting or pruning some trees in the grounds at Fairdown, was seriously ill, and had expressed a wish to see me. I could not leave town; but as it was important Mr. Harlowe should be seen, I requested Mr. Ferret to proceed to Fairdown House. He did so, and late in the evening returned with the startling intelligence that Mr. Harlowe was dead!

"Dead!" I exclaimed, much shocked. "Are you serious?" "As a judge. He expired, about an hour after I reached the house, of tetanus, commonly called locked-jaw. His body, by the contraction of the muscles, was bent like a bow, and rested on his heels and the back part of his head. He was incapable of speech long before I saw him; but there was a world of agonized expression in his eyes!"

"Dreadful! Your journey was useless then?"

"Not precisely. I saw the pretended former wife: a splendid woman, and as much Eleanor Wickham of Dorsetshire as I am. They mean, however, to show fight, I think; for, as I left the place, I observed that delightful knave Richards enter the house. I took the liberty of placing seals upon the desks and cabinets, and directed the butler and other servants to see that nothing was disturbed or removed till Mrs. Harlowe's—the true Mrs. Harlowe's—arrival."

The funeral was to take place on the following Wednesday; and it was finally arranged that both of us would accompany Edith to Fairdown on the day after it had taken place, and adopt such measures as circumstances might render necessary. Mr. Ferret wrote to this effect to all parties concerned.

On arriving at the house, I, Ferret, and Mrs. Harlowe, proceeded at once to the drawing-room, where we found the pretended wife seated in great state, supported on one side by Mr. Richards, and on the other by Mr. Quillet the eminent proctor. Edith was dreadfully agitated, and clung frightened and trembling to my arm. I conducted her to a seat, and placed myself beside her, leaving Mr. Ferret—whom so tremendous an array of law and learning, evincing a determination to fight the matter out à l'outrance, filled with exuberant glee—to open the conference.

"Good-morning, madam," cried he, the moment he entered the room, and quite unaffected by the lady's scornful and haughty stare: "good-morning; I am delighted to see you in such excellent company. You do not, I hope, forget that I once had the honor of transacting business for you?"

"You had transactions of my business!" said the lady, "When, I pray you?"

"God bless me!" cried Ferret, addressing Richards, "what a charming
Italian accent; and out of Dorsetshire too!"

"Dorsetshire, sir?" exclaimed the lady.

"Ay, Dorsetshire, to be sure. Why, Mr. Richards, our respected client appears to have forgotten her place of birth! How very extraordinary!"

Mr. Richards now interfered, to say that Mr. Ferret was apparently laboring under a strange misapprehension. "This lady," continued he, "is Madame Giulletta Corelli."

"Whe—e—e—w!" rejoined Ferret, thrown for an instant off his balance by the suddenness of the confession, and perhaps a little disappointed at so placable a termination of the dispute—"Giulletta Corelli! What is the meaning of this array then?"

"I am glad, madam," said I, interposing for the first time in the conversation, "for your own sake, that you have been advised not to persist in the senseless as well as iniquitous scheme devised by the late Mr. Harlowe; but this being the case, I am greatly at a loss to know why either you or these legal gentlemen are here?"

The brilliant eyes of the Italian flashed with triumphant scorn, and a smile of contemptuous irony curled her beautiful lip as she replied—"These legal gentlemen will not have much difficulty in explaining my right to remain in my own house."

"Your house?"

"Precisely, sir," replied Mr. Quillet. "This mansion, together with all other property, real and personal, of which the deceased Henry Harlowe died possessed, is bequeathed by will—dated about a month since—to this lady, Giulletta Corelli."

"A will!" exclaimed Mr. Ferret with an explosive shout, and turning to me, whilst his sharp gray eyes danced with irrepressible mirth—"Did I not tell you so?"

"Your usual sagacity, Mr. Ferret, has not in this instance failed you. Perhaps you will permit me to read the will? But before I do so," continued Mr. Quillet, as he drew his gold-rimmed spectacles from their morocco sheath—"you will allow me, if you please, to state that the legatee, delicately appreciating the position of the widow, will allow her any reasonable annuity—say five hundred pounds per annum for life."

"Will she really though?" cried Mr. Ferret, boiling over with ecstacy.
"Madam, let me beg of you to confirm this gracious promise."

"Certainly I do."

"Capital!—glorious!" rejoined Ferret; and I thought he was about to perform a salutatory movement, that must have brought his cranium into damaging contact with the chandelier under which he was standing. "Is it not delightful? How every one—especially an attorney—loves a generous giver!"

Mr. Richards appeared to be rendered somewhat uneasy by these strange demonstrations. He knew Ferret well, and evidently suspected that something was wrong somewhere. "Perhaps, Mr. Quillet," said he, "you had better read the will at once."

This was done: the instrument devised in legal and minute form all the property, real and personal, to Giulletta Corelli—a natural-born subject of his majesty, it appeared, though of foreign parentage, and of partially foreign education.

"Allow me to say," broke in Mr. Ferret, interrupting me as I was about to speak—"allow me to say, Mr. Richards, that that will does you credit: it is, I should say, a first-rate affair, for a country practitioner especially. But of course you submitted the draught to counsel?"

"Certainly I did," said Richards tartly.

"No doubt—no doubt. Clearness and precision like that could only have proceeded from a master's hand. I shall take a copy of that will, Richards, for future guidance, you may depend, the instant it is registered in Doctors' Commons."

"Come, come, Mr. Ferret," said I; "this jesting is all very well; but it is quite time the farce should end."

"Farce!" exclaimed Mr. Richards.

"Farce!" growled doubtful Mr. Quillet.

"Farce!" murmured the beautiful Giulletta.

"Farce!" cried Mr. Ferret. "My dear sir, it is about one of the most charming and genteel comedies ever enacted on any stage, and the principal part, too, by one of the most charming of prima donnas. Allow me, sir—don't interrupt me! it is too delicious to be shared; it is, indeed. Mr. Richards, and you, Mr. Quillet, will you permit me to observe that this admirable will has one slight defect?"

"A defect!—where—how?"

"It is really heart-breaking that so much skill and ingenuity should be thrown away; but the fact is, gentlemen, that the excellent person who signed it had no property to bequeath!"


"Not a shilling's worth. Allow me, sir, if you please. This piece of parchment, gentlemen, is, I have the pleasure to inform you, a marriage settlement."

"A marriage settlement!" exclaimed both the men of law in a breath.

"A marriage settlement, by which, in the event of Mr. Harlowe's decease, his entire property passes to his wife, in trust for the children, if any; and if not, absolutely to herself." Ferret threw the deed on the table, and then giving way to convulsive mirth, threw himself upon the sofa, and fairly shouted with glee.

Mr. Quillet seized the document, and, with Richards, eagerly perused it.
The proctor then rose, and bowing gravely to his astonished client, said,
"The will, madam, is waste paper. You have been deceived." He then left
the apartment.

The consternation of the lady and her attorney may be conceived. Madam Corelli, giving way to her fiery passions, vented her disappointment in passionate reproaches of the deceased; the only effect of which was to lay bare still more clearly than before her own cupidity and folly, and to increase Edith's painful agitation. I led her down stairs to my wife, who, I omitted to mention, had accompanied us from town, and remained in the library with the children during our conference. In a very short time afterwards Mr. Ferret had cleared the house of its intrusive guests, and we had leisure to offer our condolences and congratulations to our grateful and interesting client. It was long before Edith recovered her former gaiety and health; and I doubt if she would ever have thoroughly regained her old cheerfulness and elasticity of mind, had it not been for her labor of love in superintending and directing the education of her daughter Helen, a charming girl, who fortunately inherited nothing from her father but his wealth. The last time I remember to have danced was at Helen's wedding. She married a distinguished Irish gentleman, with whom, and her mother, I perceive by the newspapers, she appeared at Queen Victoria's court in Dublin, one, I am sure, of the brightest stars which glittered in that galaxy of beauty and fashion.