A Dead Man With Life In Him

It was difficult for O'Connell, even at an advanced period of his

professional career, to exhibit those powers as an advocate, which were

afterwards so finely developed; for the silk gown that encased inferior

merit gave a precedence to Protestant lawyers of even younger standing,

and he rarely had an opportunity of addressing a jury. This probably

induced him to cultivate with more ardor a talent for cross-examination,

which was unquestionably unrivalled, and which was displayed by him at a

very early period.

It exhibited itself very strongly in a trial on the Munster Circuit, in

which the question was, the validity of a will, by which property to

some amount was devised, and which the plaintiffs alleged was forged.

The subscribing witnesses swore that the deceased signed the will while

life was in him.

The evidence was going strong in favor of the will--at last O'Connell

undertook to cross-examine one of the witnesses. He shrewdly observed

that he was particular in swearing several times that life was in the

testator when the will was signed, and that he saw his hand sign it.

By virtue of your oath was he alive, said Mr. O'Connell.

By virtue of my oath, life was in him; and this the witness repeated

several times.

Now, continued O'Connell, with great solemnity, and assuming an air of

inspiration--I call on you, in presence of your Maker, before whom you

must one day be judged for the evidence you give here to-day, I solemnly

ask--and answer me at your peril--was it not a live fly that was in the

dead man's mouth when his hand was placed on the will?

'The witness fell instantaneously on his knees, and acknowledged it was

so, and that the fly was placed in the mouth of deceased to enable the

witnesses to swear that life was in him.

The intuitive quickness with which O'Connell conjectured the cause of

the fellow's always swearing that life was in him, obtained for him

the admiration of every one in Court, and very materially assisted in

securing his professional success.