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his said granddaughter, the Lady Eleanor De Vere. But if the title of Mowbray become extinct, then the said estates are to go to the then existing Earl of Cleveland, of the blood and family of the said John Cleveland, who may be alive at the time when the title of Mowbray so fails, to be held by him in tail male; and failing the heirs of his said grandchild, William, Earl of Mowbray, if there should be female descendants of the said John Cleveland left when the said estates pass to the heir male as aforesaid, then the said estates shall be charged with twenty thousand pounds as a provision for such female descendants, share and share alike."
Such was the loose composition of this remarkable settlement, and, considering its immense importance in the disposition of the real property of the settler, it is extraordinary how little it had ever been known to the parties most affected by its provisions. As to the Lord Cleveland alive at the time of his uncle's decease having been constituted legatee of the personal property, which as much surprised as it contented him, and having always understood that the real property was settled, as was natural, upon the grandchild or children of the deceased, the last Lord Mowbray was suffered to succeed without inquiry into any thing farther; the will commencing with a “Whereas, all my real estates are already settled on my grandchildren by my daughter Maria.” Then as to Colonel De Vere being almost always abroad, he had as little opportunity as disposition to sift into remote contingencies, satisfied by Mr. Dowlas, the trustee (who had instantly become the managing lawyer of Lord Mowbray), that his children were in the entail after the heirs of that lord should fail. Under these circumstances of ignorance or indifference, the deed itself was stolen by the honest Mr. Silverlock, which precluded all further knowledge; and Lady Constance being left sole inheritrix under the will of her father, who had succeeded, as of course, by an understood deed of settlement (though the understanding was merely general), there never had been a contemplation, either by the Clevelands or the De Veres, that her title could be contested.
But the deed being now forthcoming, its provisions admitted of a very different interpretation, according to the situation of the different parties. “It is clear," said the reasoning of Silverlock,"first, that Lady Constance, being a female, could not take what was to go to an heir male,
whoever that might be ; next, from the express mention that the Earl of Cleveland should succeed in the event of the title of Mowbray becoming extinct, and the estates continuing in tail male when they come to him or his family, it is clear that the heir male meant can only be the present earl.”
And to this opinion inclined Mr. Graves when he arrived and had perused the deed. This was an extremely cautious gentleman, if he might not be called timid; but who, by the help of a sleek clean skin, plain dress, and supple manners, had acquired and preserved considerable business, with the reputation of never plunging his clients into danger. We say inclined to this opinion, because he had never been known to give a positive one in his life; and we would not wish to hurt his reputation in this instance by asserting that he had departed from his usual practice. Lord Cleveland, it was said, employed him, because, while he always formed his own opinions, he was willing that their decision should be tempered by the other's caution. In the case before us, an instance of the propriety of this occurred; for no sooner was the history of the deed unfolded, than Mr. Graves blessed himself a thousand times, and besought his lordship to have nothing more to do with it. Lord Cleveland looking astonishment, the prudent Graves assured him that he was on the brink of a precipice; for that what he had done amountedto a compounding of felony, which was almost as great a crime in law as a proemunire itself.
The earl, to his consternation, told Mr. Graves that he would run the risk; but added, that as soon as he had derived such benefit as he felt he had a right to reap from the deed, he meant to restore it to the Mowbrays. The prudent solicitor here turned his prudence to the other side, and besought his patron against this in his most earnest manner, as such a proceeding, he said, might ruin the whole case. Upon the case itself, however, Mr. Graves could not be brought to any opinion which might be termed explicit, except his very full and free agreement with his noble client that it was a question very well worth trying.
The opinion of a very eminent conveyancer was now taken, who said there was a sea of uncertainty hanging about the words “heirs male,” and “heirs," or failing the heirs,” which were contradictory; as “heirs" and "failing the heirs" might mean heirs general, which would
certainly include Lady Constance. But there is also, added the opinion, a direct contradiction between the two positive enacting clauses, by which, on the extinction of the title of Mowbray, the estates shall go to Lord Cleveland; yet, on the failure of Lord Mowbray and his heirs (in which the extinction of the title is included) they are to go to the heir male of. Lady Eleanor. This is so irreconcilable, that it will probably vitiate the whole deed, and then Lady Constance will take as heir-at-law.
This was too far from satisfactory for Lord Cleveland to be content with it; and, accordingly, another opinion from another conveyancer, equally eminent, was taken, who said, that though the words “heirs” and “ failing the heirs," if left unexplained, would certainly include Lady Constance, yet there were abundant explanatory passages to oust her, and particularly the clause by which, on the extinction of the title of Mowbray, the estates should pass to the Cleveland family, and, emphatically, the provision of money for female descendants.
So far, so good; but the opinion went on to say, that these last clauses were wholly contradicted by the preamble, which might possibly let in the descendants generally of Maria, Countess of Mowbray; and then the contest would lie between Lady Constance and Lady Eleanor, or Mr. De Vere.
The last opinion was wormwood to the feelings of Lord Cleveland, as, not only was it adverse to his own claim, but set up that of another family, whose success, of all persons in the world, he least thought of, and most deprecated.
A third opinion was therefore taken, which crowned all his wishes.
“For though,” said the sage,“ it were doubtful (which it is not) whether Lord Cleveland or Lady Constance should take ; if there is one thing more certain than another, it is that none of the other descendants of Maria, Countess of Mowbray, can take. For, however it may be in wills, nothing can be more clear than the rule of law as to deeds, that the most definite statement of the party's intentions in a preamble shall go for nothing in opposition to a known technical form (bearing one, and one only meaning), or a plain, unambiguous provision, such as that upon the extinction of the title of Mowbray, the estates shall go to the existing Earl of Cleveland, in tail male."
As for Lady Constance's claim, the oracle asserted that it was not worthy consideration, females being ousted in express terms; and Mr. De Vere's was equally defenceless, as, though heir male to Lady Eleanor, Lady Eleanor herself had no claim; and that whole branch, therefore, could only come in under the implication of the preamble, which, as has been stated, can never stand against a positive, known, and technical form of conveyance.
Fortified by such a preponderance of opinion against the rights of Lady Constance, and the De Vere claim being too shadowy to think of, Lord Cleveland was resolved to take the field. But first he wished to disburthen himself of what, to do him justice, weighed heavily, if not upon his virtue, at least upon his fears for his reputation, namely, the treaty with the villain Silverlock. For this purpose he wrote a letter to Lord Clanellan, and in his quality of guardian ; in which he fairly enough stated the transaction, which, as he observed, had been thrust suddenly and unexpectedly upon him.
Finding myself, however,” said the letter, " as irrevocably as unaccountably plunged in an interview with a scoundrel, it was not easy for me to extricate myself, nor, for your sakes, any more than my own, to make an inactive retreat, and leave a document of such immense importance to one or other of us in his possession. I trust your lordship will agree with me, that it was of far more consequence for the rightful owner to repossess himself of this dced, than by conniving at the crime by which it had come to his possession, to let one wretch more loose upon the world. My first impulse was, indeed, to arrest him; but not only from his desperation this might have required more force than I was singly master of, but it might have endangered the entire and perfect possession of the writing. There was no time to plan, and I purchased a document to whieh I find I have no right, and which I am therefore ready to deliver to whomever your lordship will appoint, for the proper owner.
“ But though I have no right to the parchment, the rights with which its contents invest me, are, I find, incalculable. The law people have given their opinions, some more, some less favourable to me; but all unfavourable to the possession by Lady Constance of that part of her estates which her father derived from my family.
Upon this it is most necessary that I consult your lord. ship; and as it involves a question of still greater and dearer consequence to me than the estates themselves, I request of your complaisance that you will give me a meeting upon it before you communicate the contents of this packet to any human being.”
And what was it that was of greater and dearer consequence to Lord Cleveland than the estates themselves ? Is it possible that this worn-out son of the world could still continue to love a person who had so repeatedly, we will not say disdained, but declined his affection? Could the natural reaction of the heart be so different in him from all others, that he could still love, in spite of what he thought ill-usage, spite of anger, of thirst of revenge, and even of hopelessness itself?
It was even so; though were we to analyze this wayward heart correctly, we might find nothing really unnatural in these feelings. That a man may be refused, be angry, and desire revenge, and yet feel his breast filled with the object who has occasioned all this, is of every day's occurrence. Whether what he may feel be true tenderness, or only an uneasiness under slight, which nothing can effectually cure but success in the end, may be made a question. Yet, while the uneasiness continue, it may pass for love with the world, and even with the patient himself. But can he feel thus, and yet be really hopeless? We ask, on our parts, hopeless of what? If of inspiring real tenderness, which he perhaps cares not for, and possibly himself never fell, we say yes! If of producing soine change, of sacrificing to vanity, or of finally conquering whatever it was his object to conquer -We say no. When hopes, even such as these, are thoroughly abandoned, so is the pursuit.
Now, mark the application! Was Lord Cleveland capable of real love ? that love which alınost worships its object, and is the delight of a pure and delicate heart? In an earlier time we might be disposed to answer in the affirinative. The character and disposition of Constance had certainly moved him inore than ever he had been moved before ; and had he succeeded, his mind would have enjoyed the only chance it had of recovering its long-lost tone. But, as it was, that could not be. His desperation had banished those purer notions about her which had gleamed, though faintly, in his memorable conversation at Castle Mowbray with De Vere. They