Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

“Well, then," said Sophia, riveting her maidenly orbs meekly upon a broken coal-scuttle; "well, then, sir, he kissed her in the dark !”

• Is that all ?”
“ Is it not enough, sir ? ”

“ It might have been enough,” replied Mr. Beanson, in the stumbling innocence which had been the bane of his life; "it might have been enough, madam, for the defendant, or for the plaintiff even, but it is hardly enough to ground an action of breach of promise upon."

Miss Garr was angry; Mr. Beanson puzzled; and both were silent. If he had seen a possible chance of securing his first brief in any other way, Mr. Archibald Beanson would most certainly have dismissed Sophia instanter.

Running his long fingers inanely through his red hair, “Madam !” he said at last, " I think I shall be obliged to consult Bishop on Marriage.”

"Now look here, sir," observed Miss Sophia, wrapping her ready-made cloak tighter around her, "if you keep on, I shall lose my patience and my good manners. Who in the world wants to consult the bishop on marriage? An ordinary minister, or even a justice of the peace, will do

I am not proud, sir.” Mr. Beanson, trying to look learned, succeeded in looking confused. Undoubling himself again, this time with abstruse deliberation—he went to a meagre bookcase, and returned to his desk. “It was this book," said he, I had reference to— Bishop on Marriage and Divorce !'”

“Well, now you begin to get sensible," remarked Miss Garr, in a tone and manner which, expressed in words, would have read, “I grant your pardon, sir, for your trivial mistake about ministers and bishops.”

Mr. Beanson opened the book, and, glancing over the table of contents, his eye rested on the heading of a chapter, which read thus--" Want of age.”

me.

66 that

In his utter helplessness, Archibald looked up again at Sophia and asked, “Is there any want of age in the parties ?”

Now look here, sir ; I did not come here to be insulted. You think I do not understand your irony. I would have you to know that I do.”

"I asked that question," said Mr. Beanson, soothingly, “with all due reverence for your age. This is the first time you have openly acknowledged that you are the plaintiff in the contemplated suit. I have known it all along, however; and I therefore assure you that the question about age was suggested wholly by my ignorance as to the other party—the defendant.”

Mr. Beanson, without perusing the commentary on this speech written in the face of his client, now glanced his eye back to the table of contents again. The question suggested this time seemed to that astute pundit an honest one, and based on sufficient grounds. “Want of mental capacity,” he read. “That's it,” he exclaimed.

There may be a want of mental capacity in one of the parties. Do

you

think the defence would make that out ?” inquired Mr. Beanson.

“It might be,” replied Miss Garr, still pursuing the thought into which she had been drifted, and in which she had gradually drowned some of her indignation at the unsuspecting Archibald. Lang's late conduct may have been dictated by insanity-proposing to Amelia after engaging himself to her, Sophia Garr ! “Really, Mr. Beanson, it might be."

“Indeed, madam? Then we must guard against that !”

The client looked inquiringly at the lawyer, who was for a moment wrapped in a mute study. “Can the defence, madam,” demanded Mr. Beanson at last, can-can they prove that you have ever been in Stockton, or any private insane asylum ?”

Here the reader who has visited the Sandwich Islands may pause to congratulate himself. Remembering the crater of Mauna Loa, he will have a more vivid idea of Miss Garr's feelings than anything but that molten sea of lava could possibly suggest. Sophia jumped indignantly to her feet, and poured a tide of epithets, so seething-hot, over the head of the astonished Archibald, that for a

[graphic][merged small]

moment he succumbed before it, blank and still as some patriarchal porpoise, lava-cooked and cast upon the beach of Hawaii.

“You wretch !” was the comparatively calm peroration of Miss Garr, "you—you horrid wretch! I have a mind to sue you for slander. How dare you put such a stigma on my character when you know, or ought to know, that George Lang is the one that is insane!”

"Oh, ah ! George Lang, my employer?” exclaimed Mr. Beanson, coming to life. “That's the gentleman you would prosecute. Well, now!”

To the intense astonishment of Archibald an increasing bitterness of manner succeeded, and he said, “If you are not insane, madam, you are certainly in your dotage. Why, look at this desk, here! Every one of these papers is a deed made out by order of the gentleman you would rob. Go along with your breach of promise! The court would send you to an asylum as sure as guns !”

Mr. Beanson's face grew brighter as his indignation grew, and his entire head was girt about with an unwonted appearance of youth. Sophia's rough handling, like sandpaper upon an antique bust, had rubbed some of the yellow mould away—had lifted that mysterious veil woven by the semblance of years, and had opened up to her eyes and ours, the perfect glories of Mr. Beanson's Golden Age.

"You came here, no doubt, madam,” continued Archibald, with no such interruption as the foregoing paragraph ; “in fact, I feel sure, madam, you came here to prevail on me to enter into a plot against my only present employer, and may be (here Mr. Beanson was very bitter in the curl of his lip and his general tone), may be?-no, I am sure, too, that you would attempt to marry me at last, as a meet punishment for being your accomplice. Oh! I see it in your eye, madam; you need not deny it!”

Miss Garr, at one time or another, since she had read Mr. Beanson's name on his card, might have thought vaguely of “prospecting” him for a husband, in case of the failure of all other claims; but to do her justice, it was only ineffable rage that Archibald saw in her eye, as he repeated—though Sophia had not attempted to speak“You need not deny it, for I tell you I see it in your eye! and as for Mr. Lang, I am doing his notary business, and a great deal of it, too, especially of late. He is selling hosts of property-hosts of property, madam, in the name and with the written consent of the Claytons. Why, the very heaviest sale is to be made to-day. Now what does this mutual confidence presuppose ? Madam,” said Mr. Beanson, rising and assuming an air of mock politeness, "if you were as sure that you are sane, as I am that he is going to marry the daughter of Mrs. Clayton, you would not have taken up so much of my valuable time from Mr. Lang's business. But, madam, this is the door,” concluded Mr. Beanson with an urbane wave of the hand, as he resumed his seat and began silently to arrange the papers before him.

Miss Sophia, white with rage, did not stir or speak.

Involuntarily the hands of Mr. Beanson paused in the labours they had undertaken, and fell heavily, one on each side of his chair, almost to the floor. As he sat and gazed at the still shape before him, the idea of the ghost in Hamlet was suddenly suggested to the fertile mind of Mr. Beanson. This was not a remarkable conception, taken apart from its consequences; yet Mr. Beanson, forgetting the matter of gender, not only congratulated himself on the aptness of the allusion, though not expressed in words, but actually chuckled, and at last, laughed outright, as an encouragement to his own genius.

Had it not been for this fatal laugh, Miss Garr could have spoken, and her speech might have been terrible. But something came perversely up into her throat. Turning briskly upon her heel, she darted through the door to be in advance of her own tears; and she and the first brief of Mr. Archibald Beanson disappeared together.

Ralph Keeler.

« ZurückWeiter »