Augustin was Otto von
Goff’s solicitor. He was hired originally by Otto’s
father-in-law, Friedrich von Puttkamer, to draw up the
prenuptial agreement between Otto and Friedrich.
He also oversaw the signing over of all of Otto’s fiancée,
Hildegard’s inheritance to Otto, so that when Friedrich died
Otto inherited everything “as my legitimately born son”
instead of being the caretaker of Hildegard’s property as
her husband. He
was then required to produce Wills for Otto, Hildegard,
Friedrich, and Friedrich’s wife, Clothild, on the occasion
of Otto and Hildegard’s marriage.
Friedrich died in the epidemic that swept through Prussia
while Otto and Hildegard were on their honeymoon, Herr
Augustin read out Friedrich’s new Will.
In the resulting
furor from Friedrich’s relatives, Herr Augustin was the
defensive solicitor for Otto and Hildegard.
prepared the paperwork, the barrister appeared at the bar in
front of the magistrate to present Otto’s defense.
When the case went
on to the land dispute tribunal, the barrister spoke, using
the documents prepared by Herr Augustin.
Augustin had considered that Friedrich was a wily old fox who
had tricked the very young and inexperienced Otto into
marrying his hopeless daughter, because no alert man with his
wits about him would have accepted Hildegard, not even to get
Herr Augustin could
see that Otto was smitten with Hildegard, and she with him,
but he could also see that Hildegard was a neurotic mess and
nowhere near strong and healthy enough to be a good wife and
mother, much less to take on the demanding role of Guttsherrin,
Lady of the Manor.
It was not his place
to warn Otto, his opinion was never asked, and by the time he
was hired to draw up the documents, they were for a done deal.
Augustin felt badly for Otto, who he considered to be
Friedrich’s hapless patsy.
Augustin had considered the challenge to Friedrich’s Will to
be a spurious case.
The estate was not
entailed away from the female line, so there was no reason
Hildegard couldn’t inherit it, even if she was utterly
unsuited to the responsibilities and obligations that would
bring to her. Although
he could see that the relatives had a point that the
inheritance had been taken from Hildegard and handed on
outside the family to Otto without the family’s consent, it
would still be inherited by Hildegard’s children, which it
would have anyway.
The only place he
could see that they had a point of law was that if Hildegard
had no children the inheritance would not revert to the von
Puttkamer family because of Friedrich’s wording that Otto
held it “as if he were my legitimately born son.”
If that point were
changed, Herr Augustin felt the von Puttkamers would have no
that the case would be decided that the heiress would inherit
her father’s estate whether her distant cousins liked it or
not, Herr Augustin didn’t even attend the final days of the
hearings, being busy on another case.
He was stunned and
chagrined to find that the land disputes tribunal had been
unable to come to a decisive verdict and had instead opted for
a King Solomon type of decision of dividing the baby in half,
so that the heiress maintained the family seat, but all of the
secondary pieces of property went to the cousins.
years Herr Augustin wondered what had happened to young Otto.
He believed it was most likely that he had ended up as one of
the impoverished gentry, living on a piece of land that
didn’t support itself, slaving away just to keep a leaky
roof over his head.
the years Herr Augustin’s hearing faded to the point where
he couldn’t do his work any more because he couldn’t hear
what clients or barristers were telling him. His
paperwork, knowledge of law, and skills didn’t diminish, but
without being able to hear what the clients told him, or to
discuss cases with the barristers he worked with, he could no
longer function as a solicitor and had to retire.
Augustin cosetted and fussed over her husband, afraid that
loss of hearing signaled the coming of the end. She
didn’t want anything to cause him any strain or upset, doing
everything she could to prevent the end from coming. His
misery at feeling useless after the loss of his life’s work
was ascerbated by his wife’s doting and pampering.
When Otto walked back into his life, it was as if he’d been
reborn. Here was his chance to prove to the world that
he was still alive.
Augustin was delighted to see that Otto had done well, was not
in poverty, and was taking Berthold von Puttkamer on again.
He began to think again, to laugh again, to plan, to get out
of the house, and to have a chance for a rematch on a case
that had bothered him for years. That he was able to
mentor a young barrister was an added fillip, making him feel
like a vital member of society again. He thoroughly
enjoyed Otto’s company, and always thought of him as a
“dear boy” even though Otto was no longer a green youth.