The Old Man in the Corner
XXXI. The De Genneville Peerage
The man in the corner rubbed his chin thoughtfully, and looked out upon the busy street
"I suppose," he said, "there is some truth in the saying that Providence watches over
bankrupts, kittens, and lawyers."
"I didn't know there was such a saying," replied Polly, with guarded dignity.
"Isn't there? Perhaps I am misquoting; anyway, there should be. Kittens, it seems, live
and thrive through social and domestic upheavals which would annihilate a self-
supporting tom-cat, and to-day I read in the morning papers the account of a noble lord's
bankruptcy, and in the society ones that of his visit at the house of a Cabinet minister,
where he is the most honoured guest. As for lawyers, when Providence had exhausted all
other means of securing their welfare, it brought forth the peerage cases."
"I believe, as a matter of fact, that this special dispensation of Providence, as you call it,
requires more technical knowledge than any other legal complication that comes before
the law courts," she said.
"And also a great deal more money in the client's pocket than any other complication.
Now, take the Brockelsby peerage case. Have you any idea how much money was spent
over that soap bubble, which only burst after many hundreds, if not thousands, of pounds
went in lawyers' and counsels' fees?"
"I suppose a great deal of money was spent on both sides," she replied, "until that sudden,
"Which settled the dispute effectually," he interrupted with a dry chuckle. "Of course, it
is very doubtful if any reputable solicitor would have taken up the case. Timothy
Beddingfield, the Birmingham lawyer, is a gentleman who--well--has had some
misfortunes, shall we say? He is still on the rolls, mind you, but I doubt if any case would
have its chances improved by his conducting it. Against that there is just this to be said,
that some of these old peerages have such peculiar histories, and own such wonderful
archives, that a claim is always worth investigating--you never know what may be the
rights of it.
"I believe that, at first, every one laughed over the pretensions of the Hon. Robert Ingram
de Genneville to the joint title and part revenues of the old barony of Genneville, but,
obviously, he _might_ have got his case. It certainly sounded almost like a fairy-tale, this
claim based upon the supposed validity of an ancient document over 400 years old. It was
_then_ that a mediaeval Lord de Genneville, more endowed with muscle than common
sense, became during his turbulent existence much embarrassed and hopelessly puzzled
through the presentation made to him by his lady of twin-born sons.