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her fortune of £5,000 was paid by her father into the hands of the solicitor-trustee. By him the investment of the money in £3 per Cent Consols was duly reported, and by him the dividends were half-yearly remitted to the lady for some years.
At length rumours unfavourable to the character and conduct of this gentleman reached the ear of a solicitor who was well acquainted with the clergyman, and with his daughter's trustee at Cambridge, and who was also aware of the matrimonial arrangements, although he had not been consulted. In a very few days news burst forth that the banker's solicitor and trustee had absconded and fled from England. It was speedily ascertained, with the aid of a stockbroker, that the lady's fortune of £5,000 had not been invested in the funds at all! This astounding fact was immediately communicated to the clergyman and to the trustee at Cambridge, by the solicitor who had made the discovery, and, on the following day, the latter gentleman paid a visit to his friendly informant in London.
As matters then stood, it appeared but too clear that he was liable to make good the defalcation of his fugitive cotrustee. He had executed the settlement, and had signed a (formal) receipt for the money. He had neglected to see that the lady's fortune was at the proper time invested in the funds. He had neglected to ask for the printed certificate of the transfer. He had neglected to inquire, at any time during several years, whether the money had been so invested. He had not, on any occasion, as he was at liberty to do, applied at the bank to receive the dividend. He had confided the whole management of the trust affairs to his dishonest colleague.
In the course of their conversations; the solicitor inquired whether, about the time of the execution and completion of the settlement, any correspondence had passed between the two trustees. The gentleman addressed made answer that he would instantly return to Cambridge, and repeat his visit to London as early as possible.
The solicitors, of whose firm the fraudulent trustee had been one, were the representatives of an old and firmly established office, the junior partner being the culprit. On his departure, therefore, the office was represented by one gentleman only, who had risen from boyhood to become the head of the firm.
At the next interview between the anxious trustee and his adviser, the former produced several letters which he had received from his colleague. These letters referred to his receipt of the lady's fortune of £5,000, recommended the stock in which it would be wise to invest the money, and the time when, reported the precise amount of stock purchased in the names of the trustees, in pounds, shillings, and pence, with the specific sum which would be remitted to the lady halfyearly on receipt of the dividend, and were all signed in the name and style of the firm. These letters being shown to the remaining partner of the absconding trustee, he took the necessary steps to have a new trustee appointed, and invested .-£5,000 in the funds on the trusts of the settlement.
If the letters had been signed by the writer of them in his separate character of trustee, and with his own name alone, or if the college tutor had not carefully preserved them, so that, when so vitally needed, they were forthcoming, there can be little doubt that he, although perfectly innocent, would have been held to be liable.
Trustees rendered liable by accident, and want of evidence.
A Lady, advanced in years, bequeathed, by her will, a considerable sum of money to two trustees, in trust to be equally divided amongst the children of her nephew (a clergyman), living at the time of her death, the shares of sons to be paid at the age of twenty-one years, and of daughters at the like age, or on marriage, the interest to be applied for their maintenance and education in the meanwhile.
At the time of the decease of the testatrix, the family of her nephew consisted of three daughters and one son, he being the youngest. The two eldest daughters married, and their shares of the bequeathed money were made the subject of settlements executed on their several marriages. The third daughter also married, but she was the deluded victim of a fortune-hunter, and her marriage was clandestine. Having attained her majority, the trustees had paid over her fortune, which, by right of marriage, became the absolute property of her husband. The only son was yet a minor.
In this condition of the family, the father and mother being still alive, the solicitor who acted in the management of their affairs was called upon by a brother of the profession well known to him. His gravity of countenance and solemnity of manner betrayed unwelcome intelligence, although his expectant auditor knew nothing of the object of his visit. The usual greeting over, the visitor inquired whether the gentleman addressed was not concerned for the family to whom this narrative relates. Being answered in the affirmative, he drew from his pocket an office copy of the will already mentioned, and slowly read aloud all the clauses which related to the hequest to the clergyman's family, laying stress on some expressions as he passed on. Still ignorant of his purpose, and entirely at a loss to divine what was to succeed this grave prelude, the bewildered listener remained silent. Having folded up the will, and placed it on the table, the visitant laid before his anxious companion a certificate of the marriage of the clergyman and his lady, dated subsequently to the birth of their second daughter!
Amazed by this sudden and most disastrous communication, seeing at a glance the very calamitous circumstances into which the family might be plunged, if the certificate were genuine, yet unable to grasp all the possible consequences, the solicitor eagerly inquired what was intended?
The story was soon told. The prodigal husband of the third daughter had rapidly squandered the principal part of his wife's fortune. Amongst his loose associates, he had become acquainted with a low, clever, trickish attorney, who soon wormed himself into all the husband's affairs and secrets, and so far acquired the good graces of the lady, as to get from her all she knew of her own parents and family. With such slender materials, and (as a common observer would think) without specific motive, he set to work, discovered and obtained the certificate of a marriage which showed the two elder daughters to be illegitimate, and therefore not entitled to participate in the testatrix's bounty, and prepared to institute a suit in the Court of Chancery in order to recover from the two elder daughters and their trustees, or from the trustees of the will (no matter which), the moneys settled on the two marriages, and to divide the spoil between the third daughter and her brother, who, being still under age, was powerless.
At this juncture a quarrel between the two conspirators dissolved their connection, and the husband fell into the hands of the gentleman who made this astounding revelation to the family solicitor. "Surely," the latter exclaimed, "you will not lend yourself to so wicked, so disgraceful a proceeding!" "If I do not, another will," was the calm phlegmatic answer, followed by the inquiry whether the gentleman addressed would appear for all the defendants in the intended suit 1 The interview ended with an understanding that a short time would be allowed for communication with the parties interested.
With trembling steps and slow, and with a heavy heart, the solicitor sought an early but reluctant interview with the clergyman and his lady. To them he communicated, in delicate and hesitating terms, the object of his call, and the circumstances which caused it. To the great surprise of the lawyer, his intelligence was received by both with calm unruffled countenance. They were married on the continent, where they resided until after the birth of their second child. The subsequent marriage in England was solemnised solely in compliance with the lady's wish.
The mind of the solicitor was somewhat relieved. Here was a primd facie case. The probabilities were all in its favour. No one who knew the parties would doubt their veracity. But where was the evidence 1