The Marriage Settlement, by Samuel Warren
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
"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
"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
"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
"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
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
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
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
"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.
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
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."
"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
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?"
"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
"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 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.