On the Wednesday the court reassembled in all its judicial glory. There was the same crowd, the same Lord Chief Justice, the same jury, and the same array of friendly lawyers. There had been a rumour that a third retinue of lawyers would appear on behalf of what was now generally called the Italian interest, and certain words which had fallen from the Solicitor-General on Monday had assured the world at large that the Italian interest would be represented. It was known that the Italian case had been confined to a firm of enterprising solicitors named Mowbray and Mopus, perhaps more feared than respected, which was supposed to do a great amount of speculative business. But no one from the house of Messrs Mowbray and Mopus was in court on the Wednesday morning; and no energetic barrister was ever enriched by a fee from them on behalf of the Italian widow. The speculation had been found to be too deep, the expenditure which would be required in advance too great, and the prospect of remuneration too remote even for Mowbray and Mopus. It appeared afterwards that application had been made by those gentlemen for an assurance that expenses incurred on behalf of the Italian Countess should be paid out of the estate; but this had been refused. No guarantee to this effect could be given, at any rate till it should be seen whether the Italian lady had any show of justice on her side. It was now the general belief that if there was any truth at all in the Italian claim, it rested on the survivorship, at the time of the Cumberland marriage, of a wife who had long since died. As the proof of this would have given no penny to anyone in Italy — would simply have shown that the Earl was the heir — Messrs Mowbray and Mopus retired, and there was an end, for ever and a day, of the Italian interest.
Though there was the same throng in the court as on the Monday, there did not seem to be the same hubbub on the opening of the day’s proceedings. The barristers were less busy with their papers, the attorneys sat quite at their ease, and the Chief Justice with an assistant judge, who was his bench-fellow, appeared for some minutes to be quite passive. Then the Solicitor-General arose and said that, with permission, he would occupy the court for only a few minutes. He had stated on Monday his belief that an application would be made to the court on behalf of other interests than those which had been represented when the court first met. It appeared that he had been wrong in that surmise. Of course he had no knowledge on the subject, but it did not appear that any learned gentleman was prepared to address the court for any third party. As he, on behalf of his client, had receded from the case, his Lordship would probably say what, in his Lordship’s opinion, should now be the proceeding of the court. The Earl Lovel abandoned his plea, and perhaps the court would, in those circumstances, decide that its jurisdiction in the matter was over. Then the Lord Chief Justice, with his assistant judge, retired for a while, and all the assembled crowd appeared to be at liberty to discuss the matter just as everybody pleased.
It was undoubtedly the opinion of the bar at large, and at that moment of the world in general, that the Solicitor-General had done badly for his client. The sum of money which was at stake was, they said, too large to be played with. As the advocate of the Earl, Sir William ought to have kept himself aloof from the Countess and her daughter. In lieu of regarding his client, he had taken upon himself to set things right in general, according to his idea of right. No doubt he was a clever man, and knew how to address a jury, but he was always thinking of himself, and bolstering up something of his own, instead of thinking of his case and bolstering up his client. And this conception of his character in general, and of his practice in this particular, became the stronger, as it was gradually believed that the living Italian Countess was certainly an impostor. There would have been little good in fighting against the English Countess on her behalf — but if they could have only proved that the other Italian woman, who was now dead, had been the real Countess when the Cumberland marriage was made, then what a grand thing it would have been for the Lovel family! Of those who held this opinion, the rector of Yoxham was the strongest, and the most envenomed against the Solicitor-General. During the whole of that Tuesday he went about declaring that the interests of the Lovel family had been sacrificed by their own counsel, and late in the afternoon he managed to get hold of Mr Hardy. Could nothing be done? Mr Hardy was of opinion that nothing could be done now; but in the course of the evening he did, at the rector’s instance, manage to see Sir William, and to ask the question, “Could nothing be done?”
“Nothing more than we propose to do.”
“Then the case is over,” said Mr Hardy. I am assured that no one will stir on behalf of that Italian lady.”
“If anyone did stir it would be loss of time and money. My dear Hardy, I understand as well as anyone what people are saying, and I know what must be the feeling of many of the Lovels. But I can only do my duty by my client to the best of my judgment. In the first place, you must remember that he has himself acknowledged the Countess.”
“By our advice,” said Mr Hardy.
“You mean by mine. Exactly so — but with such conviction on his own part that he positively refuses to be a party to any suit which shall be based on the assumption that she is not Countess Lovel. Let an advocate be ever so obdurate, he can hardly carry on a case in opposition to his client’s instructions. We are acting for Lord Lovel, and not for the Lovel family. And I feel assured of this, that, were we to attempt to set up the plea that the other woman was alive when the marriage took place in Cumberland, you, yourself, would be ashamed of the evidence which it would become your duty to endeavour to foist upon the jury. We should certainly be beaten, and, in the ultimate settlement of the property, we should have to do with enemies instead of friends. The man was tried for bigamy and acquitted. Would any jury get over that unless you had evidence to offer to them that was plain as a pikestaff, and absolutely incontrovertible?”
“Do you still think the girl will marry the Earl?”
“No; I do not. She seems to have a will of her own, and that will is bent the other way. But I do think that a settlement may be made of the property which shall be very much in the Earl’s favour.” When on the following morning the Solicitor-General made his second speech, which did not occupy above a quarter of an hour, it became manifest that he did not intend to alter his course of proceeding, and while the judges were absent it was said by everybody in the court that the Countess and Lady Anna had gained their suit.
“I consider it to be a most disgraceful course of proceeding on the part of Sir William Patterson,” said the rector to a middle-aged legal functionary, who was managing clerk to Norton and Flick.
“We all think, sir, that there was more fight in it,” said the legal functionary.
“There was plenty of fight in it. I don’t believe that any jury in England would willingly have taken such an amount of property from the head of the Lovel family. For the last twenty years — ever since I first heard of the pretended English marriage — everybody has known that she was no more a Countess than I am. I can’t understand it; upon my word I can’t. I have not had much to do with law, but I’ve always been brought up to think that an English barrister would be true to his client. I believe a case can be tried again if it can be shown that the lawyers have mismanaged it.” The unfortunate rector, when he made this suggestion, no doubt forgot that the client in this case was in full agreement with the wicked advocate.
The judges were absent for about half an hour, and on their return the Chief Justice declared that his learned brother — the Serjeant namely — had better proceed with the case on behalf of his clients. He went on to explain that as the right to the property in dispute, and indeed the immediate possession of that property, would be ruled by the decision of the jury, it was imperative that they should hear what the learned counsel for the so-called Countess and her daughter had to say, and what evidence they had to offer, as to the validity of her marriage. It was not to be supposed that he intended to throw any doubt on that marriage, but such would be the safer course. No doubt, in the ordinary course of succession, a widow and a daughter would inherit and divide among them in certain fixed proportions the personal property of a deceased but intestate husband and father, without the intervention of any jury to declare their rights. But in this case suspicion had been thrown and adverse statements had been made; and as his learned brother was, as a matter of course, provided with evidence to prove that which the plaintiff had come into the court with the professed intention of disproving, the case had better go on. Then he wrapped his robes around him and threw himself back in the attitude of a listener. Serjeant Bluestone, already on his legs, declared himself prepared and willing to proceed. No doubt the course as now directed was the proper course to be pursued. The Solicitor-General, rising gracefully and bowing to the court, gave his consent with complaisant patronage. “Your Lordship, no doubt, is right.” His words were whispered, and very probably not heard; but the smile as coming from a Solicitor-General — from such a Solicitor-General as Sir William Patterson — was sufficient to put any judge at his ease.
Then Serjeant Bluestone made his statement, and the case was proceeded with after the fashion of such trials. It will not concern us to follow the further proceedings of the court with any close attention. The Solicitor-General went away to some other business, and much of the interest seemed to drop. The marriage in Cumberland was proved; the trial for bigamy, with the acquittal of the Earl, was proved; the two opposed statements of the Earl, as to the death of the first wife, and afterwards as to the fact that she was living, were proved. Serjeant Bluestone and Mr Mainsail were very busy for two days, having everything before them. Mr Hardy, on behalf of the young lord, kept his seat, but he said not a word — not even asking a question of one of Serjeant Bluestone’s witnesses. Twice the foreman of the jury interposed, expressing an opinion, on behalf of himself and his brethren, that the case need not be proceeded with further but the judge ruled that it was for the interest of the Countess — he ceased to style her the so-called Countess — that her advocates should be allowed to complete their case. In the afternoon of the second day they did complete it, with great triumph and a fine flourish of forensic oratory as to the cruel persecution which their client had endured. The Solicitor-General came back into court in time to hear the judge’s charge, which was very short. The jury were told that they had no alternative but to find a verdict for the defendants. It was explained to them that this was a plea to show that a certain marriage which had taken place in Cumberland in 181 — was no real or valid marriage. Not only was that plea withdrawn, but evidence had been adduced proving that that marriage was valid. Such a marriage was, as a matter of course, prima facie valid, let what statements might be made to the contrary by those concerned or not concerned. In such case the burden of proof would rest entirely with the makers of such statement. No such proof had been here attempted, and the marriage must be declared a valid marriage. The jury had nothing to do with the disposition of the property, and it would be sufficient for them simply to find a verdict for the defendants. The jury did as they were bid; but, going somewhat beyond this, declared that they found the two defendants to be properly named the Countess Lovel, and Lady Anna Lovel. So ended the case of “Lovel v. Murray and Another’.
The Countess, who had been in the court all day, was taken home to Keppel Street by the Serjeant in a glass coach that had been hired to be in waiting for her. “And now, Lady Lovel,” said Serjeant Bluestone, as he took his seat opposite to her, “I can congratulate your ladyship on the full restitution of your rights.” She only shook her head. “The battle has been fought and won at last, and I will make free to say that I have never seen more admirable persistency than you have shown since first that bad man astounded your ears by his iniquity.”
“It has been all to no purpose,” she said.
“To no purpose, Lady Lovel! I may as well tell you that it is expected that His Majesty will send to congratulate you on the restitution of your rights.”
Again she shook her head. “Ah, Serjeant Bluestone — that will be but of little service.”
“No further objection can now be made to the surrender of the whole property. There are some mining shares as to which there may be a question whether they are real or personal, but they amount to but little. A third of the remainder, which will, I imagine, exceed — ”
“If it were ten times as much, Serjeant Bluestone, there would be no comfort in it. If it were ten times that, it would not at all help to heal my sorrow. I have sometimes thought that when one is marked for trouble, no ease can come.”
“I don’t think more of money than another man,” began the Serjeant.
“You do not understand.”
“Nor yet of titles — though I feel for them, when they are worthily worn, the highest respect,” as he so spoke the Serjeant lifted his hat from his brow. “But, upon my word, to have won such a case as this justifies triumph.”
“I have won nothing — nothing — nothing!”
“You mean about Lady Anna?”
“Serjeant Bluestone, when first I was told that I was not that man’s wife, I swore to myself that I would die sooner than accept any lower name; but when I found that I was a mother, then I swore that I would live till my child should bear the name that of right belonged to her.”
“She does bear it now.”
“What name does she propose to bear? I would sooner be poor, in beggary — still fighting, even without means to fight, for an empty title — still suffering, still conscious that all around me regarded me as an impostor, than conquer only to know that she, for whom all this has been done, has degraded her name and my own. If she does this thing, or, if she has a mind so low, a spirit so mean, as to think of doing it, would it not be better for all the world that she should be the bastard child of a rich man’s kept mistress, than the acknowledged daughter of an earl, with a countess for her mother, and a princely fortune to support her rank? If she marries this man, I shall heartily wish that Lord Lovel had won the case. I care nothing for myself now. I have lost all that. The king’s message will not comfort me at all. If she do this thing I shall only feel the evil we have done in taking the money from the Earl. I would sooner see her dead at my feet than know that she was that man’s wife — ay, though I had stabbed her with my own hand!”
The Serjeant for the nonce could say nothing more to her. She had worked herself into such a passion that she would listen to no words but her own, and think of nothing but the wrong that was still being done to her. He put her down at the hall door in Keppel Street, saying, as he lifted his hat again, that Mrs Bluestone should come and call upon her.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:01