We have all been so occupied with the war in Europe that few of us, I suppose, have even heard of another war which has been raging in the law courts for 150 days or so between two South African corporations over some question of property. It seems to have been marked by a good deal of frightfulness. In the closing scenes Mr. Hughes, one of the counsel, complained that he had been called a fool, a liar, a scoundrel, and so on by his opponent, and the judge lamented that the case had been the occasion of so much barristerial bitterness.
But it was not the light which the case threw on the manners of counsel that interested me. After all, these things are part of the game. They have no more reality than the thumping blows which the Two Macs exchange in the pantomime. I have no doubt that after their memorable encounter in the Bardell v. Pickwick case, Serjeant Buzfuz and Serjeant Snubbin went out arm-in-arm, and over their port in the Temple (where the wine is good and astonishingly cheap) made excellent fun of the whole affair. The wise juryman never takes any notice of the passion and tears, the heroics and the indignation of counsel. He knows that they are assumed not to enlighten but to darken his mind. I always recall in this connection the remark of a famous lawyer who rose to great eminence by the exercise of his emotions. He was standing by the graveside of a departed friend and observed that one of the mourners, a fellow—lawyer, was shedding real tears. “What a waste of raw material,” he remarked in a whisper to his neighbour. “Those tears would be worth a guinea a drop before a jury.”
What interested me in the case was the statement that the legal costs had been L150,000, and that Mr. Upjohn, K.C., alone had had a retainer of L1000, and had been kept going with a “refresher” of L100 a day. I like that word “refresher.” It has a fine bibulous smack about it. Or perhaps it is a reminiscence of “the ring.” Buzfuz feels a bit pumped by the day’s round. He has perspired his L100, as it were, and is doubtful whether he can come up to the scratch without a refresher. And so he is taken to his corner by his client and dosed with another L100. Then all his ardour returns. He sees the thing as clear as daylight—the radiant innocence of the plaintiff, the black perfidy of the defendant. To-morrow evening the vision will have faded again, but another L100 will make it as plain as ever. Yes, it is a good word—“refresher”—a candid word, an honest word. It puts the relation on a sound business footing. There is no sham sentiment about it. Give me another refresher, says Buzfuz, and I’ll shed another pailful of tears for you, and blacken both the defendant’s eyes for him.