‘I had not told you, worthy sir,’ I answered him, in a lower tone, ‘if I could have thought that your sense of right would be moved so painfully. But now I must beg to leave you, sir—for I see that the door again is open. I beg you, worshipful sir, to accept—’

Upon this he put forth his hand and said, ‘Nay, nay, my son, not two, not two:’ yet looking away, that he might not scare me.

‘To accept, kind sir, my very best thanks, and most respectful remembrances.’ And with that, I laid my hand in his. ‘And if, sir, any circumstances of business or of pleasure should bring you to our part of the world, I trust you will not forget that my mother and myself (if ever I get home again) will do our best to make you comfortable with our poor hospitality.’

With this I was hasting away from him, but he held my hand and looked round at me. And he spoke without cordiality.

‘Young man, a general invitation is no entry for my fee book. I have spent a good hour of business-time in mastering thy case, and stating my opinion of it. And being a member of the bar, called six-and-thirty years agone by the honourable society of the Inner Temple, my fee is at my own discretion; albeit an honorarium. For the honour of the profession, and my position in it, I ought to charge thee at least five guineas, although I would have accepted one, offered with good will and delicacy. Now I will enter it two, my son, and half a crown for my clerk’s fee.’

Saying this, he drew forth from his deep, blue bag, a red book having clasps to it, and endorsed in gold letters ‘Fee-book’; and before I could speak (being frightened so) he had entered on a page of it, ‘To consideration of ease as stated by John Ridd, and advising thereupon, two guineas.’

‘But sir, good sir,’ I stammered forth, not having two guineas left in the world, yet grieving to confess it, ‘I knew not that I was to pay, learned sir. I never thought of it in that way.’

‘Wounds of God! In what way thought you that a lawyer listened to your rigmarole?’

‘I thought that you listened from kindness, sir, and compassion of my grievous case, and a sort of liking for me.’

‘A lawyer like thee, young curmudgeon! A lawyer afford to feel compassion gratis! Either thou art a very deep knave, or the greenest of all greenhorns. Well, I suppose, I must let thee off for one guinea, and the clerk’s fee. A bad business, a shocking business!’

Now, if this man had continued kind and soft, as when he heard my story, I would have pawned my clothes to pay him, rather than leave a debt behind, although contracted unwittingly. But when he used harsh language so, knowing that I did not deserve it, I began to doubt within myself whether he deserved my money. Therefore I answered him with some readiness, such as comes sometimes to me, although I am so slow.

‘Sir, I am no curmudgeon: if a young man had called me so, it would not have been well with him. This money shall be paid, if due, albeit I had no desire to incur the debt. You have advised me that the Court is liable for my expenses, so far as they be reasonable. If this be a reasonable expense, come with me now to Lord Justice Jeffreys, and receive from him the two guineas, or (it may be) five, for the counsel you have given me to deny his jurisdiction.’ With these words, I took his arm to lead him, for the door was open still.

‘In the name of God, boy, let me go. Worthy sir, pray let me go. My wife is sick, and my daughter dying—in the name of God, sir, let me go.’

  By PanEris using Melati.

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