« ПретходнаНастави »
The solemn truth: On you the guilt!-
You suffer and had needs be strong,
Next evening fell ere old Bettine
Saw the good priest come down the way,
With good St. Thomas on his knee,
And he would smile benignantly;
FACTS IN THE CASE OF THE GREAT MORIARTY ESTATE.
WRITTEN FROM ORIGINAL PAPERS BY THE ESTATE SOLICITOR.
WHEN my too ambitious parents made a solicitor of me, little
did they think of the trouble they were entailing on the Hope of the House, or of the steepness and crowded state of the ladder, on the lowest rung of which they so proudly placed me. Visions of a Judgeship floated before their eyes, and the path to the Paradise of the Bench was strewn with bulky briefs, and crowded with importunate clients. How I survived my four years of honest study I hardly know. Perhaps the tobacco that shut out the vision of the money-demanding world, and the whiskey in moderation that moistened the dryness of the statutes, may have been the means of preserving for mankind a life that but for them might have terminated in a fit of the blues; but which is destined, perhaps, if not to add to the lustre of the Bench, at least to give dignity to the place of the crier.
Up to this time the briefs have not been either bulky or numerous, and clients have not, I may add, jostled one another in their struggle to reach my chambers. My friends in other lines of business have passed me on the road, some of them in their carriages, others on swifter feet and with more pushing shoulders. Brown, whose Latin I corrected at school, and whose English themes were mainly of my composition, now revels in the elevating pastime of groceries, lives in a stone house, and pities my professional impecuniosity. Smith has "turned his attention to coals" in a manner that promises him a speedy fortune now that coal stock is rising in the market. I, in the meantime, am wasting years in waiting for clients who do not come, and for a success to which, perhaps, I shall never attain.
But I have not been altogether without clients, as the following veracious history, taken from "original documents now in my possession," will testify.
Deborah Moriarty, nee O'Hoolihan, died suddenly on the blank day of the blank month, at Blanktown, in the year of Our Lord One Thousand Eight Hundred and Blank-ty One, intestate.
If that had been all that had happened, this history would never have been written. Deborah would have been dumped into her grave after a hearty and hilarious "wake," and the family solicitor, meaning me, would never have made out of the transaction the sum of seven pounds three and fourpence halfpenny, sterling money of Great Britain, besides collecting the materials for this veracious story. As a matter of fact, the descent of Deborah into the shades caused the rising up of a host of evil spirits. No sooner was her breath out of her body than her "frinds" took possession of the corpse, of the corpse's rooms, and the corpse's general belongings. One female "frind" undertook to "lay out" the poor craythure, and took possession of the poor craythure's clothes. Another bound herself benevolently to look after the "little things," meaning the business affairs of the deceased, who had kept a little shop in a poor quarter of the town. In the process of looking after these "little things," a wonder came to light. First, it was whispered in corners of houses; then it was mooted at corners of streets; then it began to be a regular topic of conversation in the quarter; the utmost excitement, in fine, prevailed over the startling fact that Deborah Moriarty had left a BANK BOOK!!
It was a hundred pounds! It was a thousand pounds!! It was a fortune for all her relations!!! The excitement grew so great that the chief creditor of the deceased, a merchant of standing, stepped in, and the landlord, an Alderman, took out administration. I was retained in the affairs of the "Estate." That Deborah should have had a bank book, and that Deborah should have an "estate," were two such remarkable things that the neighbourhood did not recover from the shock for a month. Every old woman who kept a shop became the object of popular adulation. Several elderly women set up shops instantly. And it was the dream of every little girl in the ward, as she knelt with her hands in the scrubbing tub, that she would be an old woman and keep a shop, and die leaving an estate to perpetuate her memory forever.
As soon as the necessary advertisements appeared, the claims upon the "estate" of Deborah were sent in. For a poor old woman with money in the Bank, it was wonderful how deeply in debt she was. For a poor old woman who had never had the reputation of having money in the Bank, it was wonderful how people had trusted her. For a poor old woman with a rather vixenish temper, it was wonderful what a "power" of nursing she had got. For a poor old woman who had no backing up at all in a financial way, it was wonderful how many people had lent her cash without any acknowledgment.
When we gathered in the bills against Deborah's estate, we found that her baker had a long account against her; that several of her female "frinds" had been retained to nurse her for ever so long at so much per week,-they all swore to it solemnly; that all her nurses had lent her cash in sums of four or five dollars at a time; that she had "promised to pay" her boarders for splitting up kindling wood; and, in fine, that a man who had never been known to do anything o' nights but hang round Deborah's store, had a large bill against her for "helping her in the shop."
But that wasn't all. As soon as it became known that Deborah Moriarty had died intestate, leaving an estate, every Moriarty in the city discovered that he or she was a cousin or half-brother, an uncle or a "frind" who had lent her cash. The rumor spread wider and wider. The Moriartys in this country, with diabolically litigious propensities, communicated with the Moriartys in the old country. The truth of the matter was not, as a matter of course, strictly adhered to; and the fortune that had been left in
America by Deborah Moriarty became the talk of every village in which a single Moriarty resided, and of every city in which the Moriartys had congregated.
Does the reader remember Thackeray's little essay in the Cornhill on "Thorns in the Cushion," and how pathetically he bewailed the postman that brought him so many letters? Well, there were thorns in my legal cushion too. All the Moriartys wrote out to
Brothers, sisters, uncles, cousins,
Moriartys by the dozens,
Grave old plodders and gay young friskers,
all poured out their gushing tenderness on the man who was supposed to have the wealth of the "Injies" left by Deborah in his hands for distribution. Some of them had got the story in an awfully twisted shape, and wrote to me for information. Some dropped private little letters full of rascality and flattery, desiring to be preferred in the distribution. Others got up meetings of the tribe; and, like the heirs of Anneke Jans, raised subscriptions, and appointed agents to negotiate the distribution of the great fortune of the defunct Deborah. Sim Moriarty wrote that he was informed that a man named Moriarty had died in our city, leaving a great fortune to his brother, and as he "onct" had a brother whose name was Moriarty, and who went to America, there was no doubt he was the same party that died, and he hoped I would send him the money. Thade Moriarty, Mike Moriarty, Tom Moriarty, Kate and Bridget and Maggie Moriarty all wrote to me, telling me of the relations they had in America, and requesting me to send them the money that had been left to them by the return of the mail. Every post from England brought me a file of letters from pestilent Moriartys. The postman grinned as he staggered playfully (like those facetious Eastern slaves that stagger woefully under the pretended gifts that guests should have brought to their masters) coming in with "another" batch of letters from those incendiary Moriartys. My sleep was disturbed by visions of armed factions of Moriartys, with double-barreled, breech-loading skillelahs. My very prayers were distracted by those blasphemous Moriartys; and when I invoked, after a fashion I had learned from a pious grandmother, " Matthew, Mark, Luke and John," to "bless the bed that I lay on," I did so with a hideous desire to grin, for I couldn't help associating even the
blessed saints with those maledictory Moriartys. And to complete my disgust with the case and the family and the estate, an event now occurred which for insolent audacity I have never seen surpassed. Up to this time the chief human characteristics that had been exhibited by the "claimants" of the estate were greed, false hood, meanness, malice; but at last a fellow bearing the family name appeared with a letter from the deceased Deborah, written freshly on new fashioned paper, though Deborah had been dead now nearly two years, and acknowledging her indebtedness to him, this blackguard Moriarty, in the sum of five hundred pounds or thereabouts. Thus forgery came in to crown the edifice of evil which the estate had reared. At this period we, that is the administrator and myself, concluded to hasten on the settlement of Deborah's "estate" in the Probate Court. An account was submitted, vouchers were examined, and the Judge of Probates approved of our dealings. And in order to give the reader a better idea of the value of this remarkable estate, and of the howl of disappointment there was in all Moriarty-dom, I submit a copy of the circular I addressed to the chief correspondents among that nation at the conclusion of the business:
SIR (or MADAM.)
Your frequent communications on the subject of the Moriarty estate have been neglected till now. I have the honor to inform you that the estate has at length been passed upon; and your share amounts to-nothing. In fact, you will be surprised, perhaps, to learn that the deceased had been for ten years or more a widow; that her family name was O'Hoolihan; and that the proper relations of the deceased have been paid their shares out of the estate, amounting, each share, to the sum of fifteen dollars and forty-seven cents. Hoping that this will be satisfactory to you, I remain, Yours, &c.,
PHILIP FIRMEN, Solicitor.
This concluded my dealings with the great estate of the Moriartys. Since that time I have had and seen a good deal of litigation of one kind and another, but never a case that afforded me so fine an opportunity of currying favor with the anti-legal parties who quote scripture against going to law. There is a passage in the Golden Legend, the exact words of which I do not at this moment remember; but which includes the idea that a priest who has passed years in the confessional cannot have any