Read CHAPTER XVII of Orley Farm , free online book, by Anthony Trollope, on ReadCentral.com.

VON BAUHR

It will be remembered that Mr. Crabwitz was sent across from Lincoln’s Inn to Bedford Row to ascertain the present address of old Mr. Round.  “Mr. Round is at Birmingham,” he said, coming back.  “Every one connected with the profession is at Birmingham, except ­”

“The more fools they,” said Mr. Furnival.

“I am thinking of going down myself this evening,” said Mr. Crabwitz.  “As you will be out of town, sir, I suppose I can be spared?”

“You too!”

“And why not me, Mr. Furnival?  When all the profession is meeting together, why should not I be there as well as another?  I hope you do not deny me my right to feel an interest in the great subjects which are being discussed.”

“Not in the least, Mr. Crabwitz.  I do not deny you your right to be Lord Chief Justice, if you can accomplish it.  But you cannot be Lord Chief Justice and my clerk at the same time.  Nor can you be in my chambers if you are at Birmingham.  I rather think I must trouble you to remain here, as I cannot tell at what moment I may be in town again.”

“Then, sir, I’m afraid ­” Mr. Crabwitz began his speech and then faltered.  He was going to tell Mr. Furnival that he must suit himself with another clerk, when he remembered his fees, and paused.  It would be very pleasant to him to quit Mr. Furnival, but where could he get such another place?  He knew that he himself was invaluable, but then he was invaluable only to Mr. Furnival.  Mr. Furnival would be mad to part with him, Mr. Crabwitz thought; but then would he not be almost more mad to part with Mr. Furnival?

“Eh; well?” said Mr. Furnival.

“Oh! of course; if you desire it, Mr. Furnival, I will remain.  But I must say I think it is rather hard.”

“Look here, Mr. Crabwitz; if you think my service is too hard upon you, you had better leave it.  But if you take upon yourself to tell me so again, you must leave it.  Remember that.”  Mr. Furnival possessed the master mind of the two; and Mr. Crabwitz felt this as he slunk back to his own room.

So Mr. Round also was at Birmingham, and could be seen there.  This was so far well; and Mr. Furnival, having again with ruthless malice sent Mr. Crabwitz for a cab, at once started for the Euston Square Station.  He could master Mr. Crabwitz, and felt a certain pleasure in having done so; but could he master Mrs. F.?  That lady had on one or two late occasions shown her anger at the existing state of her domestic affairs, and had once previously gone so far as to make her lord understand that she was jealous of his proceedings with reference to other goddesses.  But she had never before done this in the presence of other people; ­she had never allowed any special goddess to see that she was the special object of such jealousy.  Now she had not only committed herself in this way, but had also committed him, making him feel himself to be ridiculous; and it was highly necessary that some steps should be taken; ­if he only knew what step!  All which kept his mind active as he journeyed in the cab.

At the station he found three or four other lawyers, all bound for Birmingham.  Indeed, during this fortnight the whole line had been alive with learned gentlemen going to and fro, discussing weighty points as they rattled along the iron road, and shaking their ponderous heads at the new ideas which were being ventilated.  Mr. Furnival, with many others ­indeed, with most of those who were so far advanced in the world as to be making bread by their profession ­was of opinion that all this palaver that was going on in the various tongues of Babel would end as it began ­in words.  “Vox et praeterea nihil.”  To practical Englishmen most of these international congresses seem to arrive at nothing else.  Men will not be talked out of the convictions of their lives.  No living orator would convince a grocer that coffee should be sold without chicory; and no amount of eloquence will make an English lawyer think that loyalty to truth should come before loyalty to his client.  And therefore our own pundits, though on this occasion they went to Birmingham, summoned by the greatness of the occasion, by the dignity of foreign names, by interest in the question, and by the influence of such men as Lord Boanerges, went there without any doubt on their minds as to the rectitude of their own practice, and fortified with strong resolves to resist all idea of change.

And indeed one cannot understand how the bent of any man’s mind should be altered by the sayings and doings of such a congress.

“Well, Johnson, what have you all been doing to-day?” asked Mr. Furnival of a special friend whom he chanced to meet at the club which had been extemporized at Birmingham.

“We have had a paper read by Von Bauhr.  It lasted three hours.”

“Three hours! heavens!  Von Bauhr is, I think, from Berlin.”

“Yes; he and Dr. Slotacher.  Slotacher is to read his paper the day after to-morrow.”

“Then I think I shall go to London again.  But what did Von Bauhr say to you during those three hours?”

“Of course it was all in German, and I don’t suppose that any one understood him, ­unless it was Boanerges.  But I believe it was the old story, going to show that the same man might be judge, advocate, and jury.”

“No doubt; ­if men were machines, and if you could find such machines perfect at all points in their machinery.”

“And if the machines had no hearts?”

“Machines don’t have hearts,” said Mr. Furnival; “especially those in Germany.  And what did Boanerges say?  His answer did not take three hours more, I hope.”

“About twenty minutes; but what he did say was lost on Von Bauhr, who understands as much English as I do German.  He said that the practice of the Prussian courts had always been to him a subject of intense interest, and that the general justice of their verdicts could not be impugned.”

“Nor ought it, seeing that a single trial for murder will occupy a court for three weeks.  He should have asked Von Bauhr how much work he usually got through in the course of a sessions.  I don’t seem to have lost much by being away.  By-the-by, do you happen to know whether Round is here?”

“What, old Round?  I saw him in the hall to-day yawning as though he would burst.”  And then Mr. Furnival strolled off to look for the attorney among the various purlieus frequented by the learned strangers.

“Furnival,” said another barrister, accosting him, ­an elderly man, small, with sharp eyes and bushy eyebrows, dirty in his attire and poor in his general appearance, “have you seen Judge Staveley?” This was Mr. Chaffanbrass, great at the Old Bailey, a man well able to hold his own in spite of the meanness of his appearance.  At such a meeting as this the English bar generally could have had no better representative than Mr. Chaffanbrass.

“No; is he here?”

“He must be here.  He is the only man they could find who knows enough Italian to understand what that fat fellow from Florence will say to-morrow.”

“We’re to have the Italian to-morrow, are we?”

“Yes; and Staveley afterwards.  It’s as good as a play; only, like all plays, it’s three times too long.  I wonder whether anybody here believes in it?”

“Yes, Felix Graham does.”

“He believes everything ­unless it is the Bible.  He is one of those young men who look for an instant millennium, and who regard themselves not only as the prophets who foretell it, but as the preachers who will produce it.  For myself, I am too old for a new gospel, with Felix Graham as an apostle.”

“They say that Boanerges thinks a great deal of him.”

“That can’t be true, for Boanerges never thought much of any one but himself.  Well, I’m off to bed, for I find a day here ten times more fatiguing than the Old Bailey in July.”

On the whole the meeting was rather dull, as such meetings usually are.  It must not be supposed that any lawyer could get up at will, as the spirit moved him, and utter his own ideas; or that all members of the congress could speak if only they could catch the speaker’s eye.  Had this been so, a man might have been supported by the hope of having some finger in the pie, sooner or later.  But in such case the congress would have lasted for ever.  As it was, the names of those who were invited to address the meeting were arranged, and of course men from each country were selected who were best known in their own special walks of their profession.  But then these best-known men took an unfair advantage of their position, and were ruthless in the lengthy cruelty of their addresses.  Von Bauhr at Berlin was no doubt a great lawyer, but he should not have felt so confident that the legal proceedings of England and of the civilised world in general could be reformed by his reading that book of his from the rostrum in the hall at Birmingham!  The civilised world in general, as there represented, had been disgusted, and it was surmised that poor Dr. Slotacher would find but a meagre audience when his turn came.

At last Mr. Furnival succeeded in hunting up Mr. Round, and found him recruiting outraged nature with a glass of brandy and water and a cigar.  “Looking for me, have you?  Well, here I am; that is to say, what is left of me.  Were you in the hall to-day?”

“No; I was up in town.”

“Ah! that accounts for your being so fresh.  I wish I had been there.  Do you ever do anything in this way?” and Mr. Round touched the outside of his glass of toddy with his spoon.  Mr. Furnival said that he never did do anything in that way, which was true.  Port wine was his way, and it may be doubted whether on the whole it is not the more dangerous way of the two.  But Mr. Furnival, though he would not drink brandy and water or smoke cigars, sat down opposite to Mr. Round, and had soon broached the subject which was on his mind.

“Yes,” said the attorney, “it is quite true that I had a letter on the subject from Mr. Mason.  The lady is not wrong in supposing that some one is moving in the matter.”

“And your client wishes you to take up the case again?”

“No doubt he does.  He was not a man that I ever greatly liked, Mr. Furnival, though I believe he means well.  He thinks that he has been ill used; and perhaps he was ill used ­by his father.”

“But that can be no possible reason for badgering the life out of his father’s widow twenty years after his father’s death!”

“Of course he thinks that he has some new evidence.  I can’t say I looked into the matter much myself.  I did read the letter; but that was all, and then I handed it to my son.  As far as I remember, Mr. Mason said that some attorney at Hamworth had been to him.”

“Exactly; a low fellow whom you would be ashamed to see in your office!  He fancies that young Mason has injured him; and though he has received numberless benefits from Lady Mason, this is the way in which he chooses to be revenged on her son.”

“We should have nothing to do with such a matter as that, you know.  It’s not our line.”

“No, of course it is not; I am well aware of that.  And I am equally well aware that nothing Mr. Mason can do can shake Lady Mason’s title, or rather her son’s title, to the property.  But, Mr. Round, if he be encouraged to gratify his malice ­”

“If who be encouraged?”

“Your client, Mr. Mason of Groby; ­there can be no doubt that he might harass this unfortunate lady till he brought her nearly to the grave.”

“That would be a pity, for I believe she’s still an uncommon pretty woman.”  And the attorney indulged in a little fat inward chuckle; for in these days Mr. Furnival’s taste with reference to strange goddesses was beginning to be understood by the profession.

“She is a very old friend of mine,” said Mr. Furnival, gravely, “a very old friend indeed; and if I were to desert her now, she would have no one to whom she could look.”

“Oh, ah, yes; I’m sure you’re very kind;” and Mr. Round altered his face and tone, so that they might be in conformity with those of his companion.  “Anything I can do, of course I shall be very happy.  I should be slow, myself, to advise my client to try the matter again, but to tell the truth anything of this kind would go to my son now.  I did read Mr. Mason’s letter, but I immediately handed it to Matthew.”

“I will tell you how you can oblige me, Mr. Round.”

“Do tell me; I am sure I shall be very happy.”

“Look into this matter yourself, and talk it over with Mr. Mason before you allow anything to be done.  It is not that I doubt your son’s discretion.  Indeed we all know what an exceedingly good man of business he is.”

“Matthew is sharp enough,” said the prosperous father.

“But then young men are apt to be too sharp.  I don’t know whether you remember the case about that Orley Farm, Mr. Round.”

“As well as if it were yesterday,” said the attorney.

“Then you must recollect how thoroughly you were convinced that your client had not a leg to stand upon.”

“It was I that insisted that he should not carry it before the Chancellor.  Crook had the general management of those cases then, and would have gone on; but I said, no.  I would not see my client’s money wasted in such a wild-goose chase.  In the first place the property was not worth it; and in the next place there was nothing to impugn the will.  If I remember right it all turned on whether an old man who had signed as witness was well enough to write his name.”

“That was the point.”

“And I think it was shown that he had himself signed a receipt on that very day ­or the day after, or the day before.  It was something of that kind.”

“Exactly; those were the facts.  As regards the result of a new trial, no sane man, I fancy, could have any doubt.  You know as well as any one living how great is the strength of twenty years of possession ­”

“It would be very strong on her side, certainly.”

“He would not have a chance; of course not.  But, Mr. Round, he might make that poor woman so wretched that death would be a relief to her.  Now it may be possible that something looking like fresh evidence may have been discovered; something of this kind probably has been found, or this man would not be moving; he would not have gone to the expense of a journey to Yorkshire had he not got hold of some new story.”

“He has something in his head; you may be sure of that.”

“Don’t let your son be run away with by this, or advise your client to incur the terrible expense of a new trial, without knowing what you are about.  I tell you fairly that I do dread such a trial on this poor lady’s account.  Reflect what it would be, Mr. Round, to any lady of your own family.”

“I don’t think Mrs. Round would mind it much; that is, if she were sure of her case.”

“She is a strong-minded woman; but poor Lady Mason .”

“She was strong-minded enough too, if I remember right, at the last trial.  I shall never forget how composed she was when old Bennett tried to shake her evidence.  Do you remember how bothered he was?”

“He was an excellent lawyer, ­was Bennett.  There are few better men at the bar now-a-days.”

“You wouldn’t have found him down here, Mr. Furnival, listening to a German lecture three hours long.  I don’t know how it is, but I think we all used to work harder in those days than the young men do now.”  And then these eulogists of past days went back to the memories of their youths, declaring how in the old glorious years, now gone, no congress such as this would have had a chance of success.  Men had men’s work to do then, and were not wont to play the fool, first at one provincial town and then at another, but stuck to their oars and made their fortunes.  “It seems to me, Mr. Furnival,” said Mr. Round, “that this is all child’s play, and to tell the truth I am half ashamed of myself for being here.”

“And you’ll look into that matter yourself, Mr. Round?”

“Yes, I will, certainly.”

“I shall take it as a great favour.  Of course you will advise your client in accordance with any new facts which may be brought before you; but as I feel certain that no case against young Mason can have any merits, I do hope that you will be able to suggest to Mr. Mason of Groby that the matter should be allowed to rest.”  And then Mr. Furnival took his leave, still thinking how far it might be possible that the enemy’s side of the question might be supported by real merits.  Mr. Round was a good-natured old fellow, and if the case could be inveigled out of his son’s hands and into his own, it might be possible that even real merits should avail nothing.

“I confess I am getting rather tired of it,” said Felix Graham that evening to his friend young Staveley, as he stood outside his bedroom door at the top of a narrow flight of stairs in the back part of a large hotel at Birmingham.

“Tired of it!  I should think you are too.”

“But nevertheless I am as sure as ever that good will come from it.  I am inclined to think that the same kind of thing must be endured before any improvement is made in anything.”

“That all reformers have to undergo Von Bauhr?”

“Yes, all of them that do any good.  Von Bauhr’s words were very dry, no doubt.”

“You don’t mean to say that you understood them?”

“Not many of them.  A few here and there, for the first half-hour, came trembling home to my dull comprehension, and then ­”

“You went to sleep.”

“The sounds became too difficult for my ears; but dry and dull and hard as they were, they will not absolutely fall to the ground.  He had a meaning in them, and that meaning will reproduce itself in some shape.”

“Heaven forbid that it should ever do so in my presence!  All the iniquities of which the English bar may be guilty cannot be so intolerable to humanity as Von Bauhr.”

“Well, good-night, old fellow; your governor is to give us his ideas to-morrow, and perhaps he will be as bad to the Germans as your Von Bauhr was to us.”

“Then I can only say that my governor will be very cruel to the Germans.”  And so they two went to their dreams.

In the mean time Von Bauhr was sitting alone looking back on the past hours with ideas and views very different from those of the many English lawyers who were at that time discussing his demerits.  To him the day had been one long triumph, for his voice had sounded sweet in his own ears as, period after period, he had poured forth in full flowing language the gathered wisdom and experience of his life.  Public men in England have so much to do that they cannot give time to the preparation of speeches for such meetings as these, but Von Bauhr had been at work on his pamphlet for months.  Nay, taking it in the whole, had he not been at work on it for years?  And now a kind Providence had given him the opportunity of pouring it forth before the assembled pundits gathered from all the nations of the civilised world.

As he sat there, solitary in his bedroom, his hands dropped down by his side, his pipe hung from his mouth on to his breast, and his eyes, turned up to the ceiling, were lighted almost with inspiration.  Men there at the congress, Mr. Chaffanbrass, young Staveley, Felix Graham, and others, had regarded him as an impersonation of dullness; but through his mind and brain, as he sat there wrapped in his old dressing-gown, there ran thoughts which seemed to lift him lightly from the earth into an elysium of justice and mercy.  And at the end of this elysium, which was not wild in its beauty, but trim and orderly in its gracefulness, ­as might be a beer-garden at Munich, ­there stood among flowers and vases a pedestal, grand above all other pedestals in that garden; and on this there was a bust with an inscription: ­“To Von Bauhr, who reformed the laws of nations.”

It was a grand thought; and though there was in it much of human conceit, there was in it also much of human philanthropy.  If a reign of justice could be restored through his efforts ­through those efforts in which on this hallowed day he had been enabled to make so great a progress ­how beautiful would it be!  And then as he sat there, while the smoke still curled from his unconscious nostrils, he felt that he loved all Germans, all Englishmen, even all Frenchmen, in his very heart of hearts, and especially those who had travelled wearily to this English town that they might listen to the results of his wisdom.  He said to himself, and said truly, that he loved the world, and that he would willingly spend himself in these great endeavours for the amelioration of its laws and the perfection of its judicial proceedings.  And then he betook himself to bed in a frame of mind that was not unenviable.

I am inclined, myself, to agree with Felix Graham that such efforts are seldom absolutely wasted.  A man who strives honestly to do good will generally do good, though seldom perhaps as much as he has himself anticipated.  Let Von Bauhr have his pedestal among the flowers, even though it be small and humble!