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- Hard Cash - 120/145 -

before him: but there was only a single person in it. However, he increased his pace and got close behind it as it mounted the succeeding hill which was a high one. Walking leisurely behind it his quick eye caught sight of a lady's veil wrapped round the iron of the seat.

That made him instantly suspect this might be the dog-cart after all. But, if so, how came a stranger in it? He despised a single foe, and resolved to pump this one and learn where the others were.

While he was thinking how he should begin, the dog-cart stopped at the top of the hill, and the driver looked seaward at some object that appeared to interest him.

It was a glorious scene. Viewed from so great a height the sea expanded like ocean, and its light-blue waters sparkled and laughed innumerable in the breeze. "A beautiful sight, sir," said the escaped prisoner, "you may well stop to look at it." The man touched his hat and chuckled. "I don't think you know what I am looking at, sir," he said politely.

"I thought it was the lovely sea view; so bright, so broad, so _free._

"No, sir; not but what I can enjoy that a bit, too: but what I'm looking at is an 'unt. Do you see that little boat? Sailing right down the coast about eight miles off. Well, sir, what do you think there is in that boat? But you'll never guess. A madman."


"Curious, sir, isn't it: a respectable gentleman too he is, and sails well; only stark staring mad. There was two of 'em in company: but it seems they can't keep together long. _Our_ one steals a fisherman's boat, and there he goes down channel. And now look here, sir; see this steam-tug smoking along right in front of us: she's after him, and see there's my governor aboard standing by the wheel with a Bobby and a lady: and if ever there was a lady she's one;" here he lowered his voice. "She's that mad gentleman's wife, sir, as I am a living sinner."

They both looked down on the strange chase in silence. "Will they catch her?" asked Alfred at last, under his breath.

"How can we be off it? steam against sails. And if he runs ashore, I shall be there to nab him." Alfred looked, and looked: the water came into his eyes. "It's the best thing that can befall him now," he murmured. He gave the man half-a-crown, and then turned his horse's head and walked him down the hill towards Folkestone. On his arrival there he paid for his horse, and his untasted dinner, and took the first train to London, a little dispirited; and a good deal mortified; for he hated to be beat. But David was in good hands, that was one comfort; and he had glorious work on hand, love and justice. He went to an out of the way inn in the suburbs, and, when he had bought a carpet-bag and some linen and other necessaries, he had but one sovereign left.

His heart urged him vehemently to go at once and find his Julia: but alas! he did not even know where she lived; and he dared not at present make public inquiries: that would draw attention to himself, and be his destruction; for Wolf stood well with the police, and nearly always recaptured his truant patients by their aid before the fourteen days had elapsed. He determined to go first to a solicitor: and launch him against his enemies, while compelled to shirk them in his own person. Curious position! Now, amongst his father's creditors was Mr. Compton, a solicitor, known for an eccentric, but honourable man, and for success in litigation. Mr. Compton used to do his own business in Barkington, and employ an agent in London: but Alfred remembered to have heard just before his incarceration that he had reversed the parts, and now lived in London. Alfred found him out by the Directory, and called at his chambers in Lincoln's Inn Fields. He had to wait some time in the outer office listening to a fluent earnest client preaching within: but presently a sharp voice broke in upon the drone, and, after a few sentences, Mr. Compton ushered out a client with these remarkable words: "And as for your invention, it has been invented four times before you invented it, and never was worth inventing at all. And you have borrowed two hundred pounds of me in ninety loans, each of which cost me an hour's invaluable time: I hold ninety acknowledgments in your handwriting; and I'll put them all in force for my protection;" with this he turned to his head clerk: "Mr. Colls, take out a writ against this client; what is your Christian name, sir? I forget."

"Simon," said the gaping client, off his guard.

"Thank you, sir," said Mr. Compton with sudden politeness: then resuming hostilities--"A writ in the Common Pleas against Simon Macfarlane: keep it in your drawer, Colls, and if ever the said Macfarlane does me the honour to call on me again serve him with it on the spot; and, if not, not; good morning, sir." And with this he bolted into his own room and slammed its door. 'The clerks opened the outer door to Mr. Macfarlane with significant grins, and he went out bewildered sorely, yea even like one that walketh abroad in his sleep. "Now, sir," said Mr. Colls cheerfully to Alfred. But the new client naturally hesitated now: he put on his most fascinating smile, and said: "Well, Mr. Colls, what do you advise? Is this a moment to beard the lion in his den?"

At Alfred's smile and address Colls fell in love with him directly, and assured him _sotto voce,_ and with friendly familiarity, that now was his time. "Why, he'll be as sweet as honey now he has got rid of a client." With this he took Alfred's name, and ushered him into a room piled with japanned tin boxes, where Mr. Compton sat, looking all complacency, at a large desk table, on which briefs, and drafts, and letters lay in seeming confusion. He rose, and with a benignant courtesy invited Alfred to sit down and explain his business.

The reader is aware our Oxonian could make a close and luminous statement. He began at the beginning, but soon disposed of preliminaries and came to his capture at Silverton. Then Mr. Compton quietly rang the bell, and with a slight apology to Alfred requested Colls to search for the draft of Mrs. Holloway's will. Alfred continued. Mr. Compton listened keenly, noted the salient points on a sheet of brief-paper, and demanded the exact dates of every important event related.

The story finished, the attorney turned to Colls, and said mighty coolly, "You may go. The will is in my pocket: but I made sure he was a madman. They generally are, these ill-used clients." (Exit Colls) "Got a copy of the settlement, sir, under which you take this ten thousand pounds?"

"No, sir."

"Any lawyer seen it?"

"Oh yes; Mr. Crauford, down at Barkington."

"Good. Friend of mine. I'll write to him. Names and addresses of your trustees?"

Alfred gave them.

"You have brought the order on which you were confined, and the two certificates?"

"Not I," said Alfred. "I have begged and prayed for a sight of them, and never could get one. That is one of the galling iniquities of the system; I call it 'THE DOUBLE SHUFFLE.' Just bring your mind to bear on this, sir: The prisoner whose wits and liberty have been signed away behind his back is not allowed to see the order and certificate on which he is confined--until _after_ his release: that release he is to obtain by combating the statements in the order and certificates. So to get out he must first see and contradict the lies that put him in; but to see the lies that put him in, he must first get out. So runs the circle of Iniquity. Now, is that the injustice of Earth, or the injustice of Hell?"

Mr. Compton asked a moment to consider: "Well, I think is of the earth, earthy. There's a mixture of idiocy in it the Devil might fairly repudiate. Young gentleman, the English Statutes of Lunacy are famous monuments of legislatorial incapacity: and indeed, as a general rule, if you want justice and wisdom, don't you go to Acts of Parliament, but to the Common Law of England."

Alfred did not appreciate this observation: he made no reply to it, but inquired, with some heat, "what he could do to punish the whole gang; his father, the certifying doctors, and the madhouse keepers?"

"Humph! You might indict them all for a conspiracy," said Mr. Compton; "but you would be defeated. As a rule, avoid criminal proceedings where you have a civil remedy. A jury will give a verdict and damages where they would not convict on the same evidence. Yours is just one of those cases where Temper says, 'indict!' but Prudence says, 'sue!' and Law, through John Compton, its oracle in this square, says, sue the defendant and no other. Now, who is the true defendant here, or party liable in law?"

"The keeper of the asylum, for one."

"No. If I remember right, all proceedings against him are expressly barred by a provision in the last statute. Let us see."

He took down the statutes of the realm, and showed Alfred the clause which raises the proprietor of a madhouse above the civic level of Prince Royal. "Curse the law," said Alfred bitterly.

"No, don't curse the Law. Curse the Act if you like; but we can't get on without the Law, neither of us. Try again."

"The certifying doctor, sir?"

"Humph!" said Mr. Compton, knitting his brows: "a jury might give you a verdict. But it would probably be set aside by the full court, or else by a court of error. For, unless you could prove informality, barefaced negligence, or _mala fides,_ what does it come to? A professional man, bound to give medical opinions to all comers, is consulted about you, and says he thinks you are insane: you turn out sane. Well, then, he was mistaken: but not more than he is in most of his professional opinions. We lawyers know what guesswork Medicine is: we see it in the witness-box. I hate suing opinions: it is like firing bullets at snipes in a wind. Try again."

Alfred groaned. "Why there is nobody left but the rogue who signed the order."

"And if you were a lawyer, that alone would tell you he is the defendant. Where a legal wrong has been committed by A. B. and C., and there is no remedy against A. or B., there must either be one against C., or none at all: but this Law abhors as Nature does a vacuum. Besides, this defendant has _done_ the wrong complained of. In his person you sue an act, not an opinion. But of course you are not cool enough to see all this just at first."

"Cool, sir," said Alfred despairingly; "I am frozen with your remorseless law. What, of all these villains, may I only attack one, and can't I imprison even him, as he has me? Such narrow law encourages men to violence, who burn under wrongs like mine."

Mr. Compton looked keenly at his agitated, mortified client, but made no

Hard Cash - 120/145

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