Law Office of Alexander Lewis, September 1921
Alex rolled his eyes at his law clerk as he walked past the reception area and through to his office. She came in behind him.
"I thought the entire point of having my own practice was that I could set my own hours. So, I can never actually be late, can I?" he asked her pointedly.
"You can if your clients are kept waiting," she replied undeterred.
"I highly doubt they're in a hurry. They have nowhere else to go."
"Be that as it may, the new files have arrived and Court begins in an hour."
"An hour? Really, Michelle, and here I thought I would have to rush," he smirked.
He swept around the large desk and sat down. Michelle took her seat on the other side of his desk, pad and pen at the ready.
"No tea?" Alex frowned.
"No time," she answered. "If you hadn't been late…"
Alex sighed, giving her a knowing glance before focusing on his work.
He picked up the first folder from the neat stack of files placed in the centre of his desk. He flipped through it quickly, dictating brief instructions before handing it across to Michelle to take back. By the eighth folder, he glanced over at her with a raised eyebrow.
"Either your shorthand has improved remarkably or you haven't been writing down anything that I've said."
"I already figured out what you would say and wrote it all down in advance," she replied in a bored tone. "I looked over all of the files while waiting for you to show up late. I'm just checking off each set of instructions as you go through them and adding in anything I've missed."
"And have you missed anything?"
"Not as of yet, although you've missed quite a bit actually," she noted.
They smiled at each other.
"Just how long have we been working together?"
"Not long enough, apparently," she quipped.
"Right then," Alex pushed the stack across to her. "Is there anything in any of these files that I actually need to know about?"
"There is, on one particular matter," Michelle said carefully.
"Yes?" Alex looked at her, waiting for her to continue. "What is it?"
Michelle reached into the stack and fetched one of the folders, turning it around and opening it as she handed it back to him.
"This one is rather…interesting."
Alex glanced at the information sheet. "White male, blond hair, blue eyes, 36 years old, ah..." Alex smirked as he read further. "I see what you mean," he said, glancing up at her. "He drives an AC. Lovely car."
"That's not what I found interesting," Michelle rolled her eyes.
"Fine," Alex pouted, flipping the page and reading in greater detail. "Son of a Doctor and a Nurse, born and raised in Manchester, moved to Yorkshire in September 1912, practised law, mainly wills and conveyancing, next in line to be Earl of Grantham," Alex showed mild interest in the summary.
"Well you know how much sympathy I have for well-to-do lawyers," he smirked.
"He wasn't always well-to-do, at least not in the beginning. The fact that he's a lawyer doesn't matter either."
Alex turned another page. "Wife and an infant son. Well that's something but hardly what I would call enough to make a fuss over, Michelle."
"Keep going," she said patiently.
Alex shook his head and read on.
"Served in the army during the First World War, promoted to Captain, led a battalion at the Somme, among other campaigns, injured in combat, lost the use of his legs, returned home for convalescence, regained full function of his legs as a result of…"
Alex's eyes widened and he glanced at the page again.
Michelle smirked at him as he looked up at her.
"I don't believe it," Alex said as he flipped the pages and read the file once again.
"It isn't entirely on all four corners with the accepted cases, but there's far more there than we usually see. You've gone to the panel before with much less than what he's got. We have only one supporting affidavit, but it's a strong one."
Alex nodded, reading the file more intently. He finally closed it and got up from his desk.
"Refer all of the others to the Appeals Court. Someone else can handle them. It's rubber stamping mostly. Use Taylor, he could stand to spend some time among the masses."
Michelle rose and carried the stack of files as she walked behind him. She deposited the files on her desk and picked up an accordion folder filled with several briefs and another file folder.
"Call ahead and let them know I'm coming. Make sure they know where he is. I'll need to speak to him afterward, hopefully with good news. Give the clerk his name, but not the precise nature of the case. I'll also need the file on…"
Michelle handed Alex the accordion folder before he could finish his thought. They smiled at each other again.
"I do love you," he said softly.
"Yes, I know you do."
"Is this file updated?"
"Yes. Supplementary briefs with the additional information for you to pass up when you arrive. The file folder has everything we have on his wife…Lady Mary Crawley."
House of Lords, September 1921
Alex weaved through the crowds as he walked down the long hallway to the main chamber. He always enjoyed coming here. Unlike the other Courts, the House of Lords was properly constructed to resemble what it was – the highest Court in the land. Marble was everywhere – across the floors, the walls, even the door and window frames. Alex walked confidently and briskly towards the main chamber and the doors were opened for him as he entered.
The chamber was half full but filling quickly. The list was short today and getting Alex's case on to the docket was easy. The Judges loved to listen to Alex almost as much as they loved rejecting his appeals. He always made the discussion entertaining, and he was relentless in his arguments.
He spread out his documents on the table in the order he would be referring to them. He glanced at them as he took his gown from his robes bag and pulled it over his suit with a flourish. Adjusting the garment across his shoulders, he pulled his vest down slightly and straightened his white tabs across his collar.
"Thank Heaven we don't need to wear the wigs anymore," he muttered.
He took up the stack of supplementary briefs and brought them to the clerk's desk.
"Mr. Lewis," the clerk nodded. "Your files are with the Judges. Do you have anything else that you want them to review?"
"Yes, I prepared these supplementary briefs to accompany my argument."
"Very well. We'll see that they get them."
A bell sounded ominously. Alex went back to his table and stood at attention with the rest of the audience as the panel of five Judges entered. They took their seats on the elevated bench and nodded to all assembled. Alex bowed low, keeping his eyes looking up at them.
"Anyone having business before the House, speak now and ye shall be heard!" the clerk announced. "You may be seated."
Alex stepped over to the lectern and placed a folder in front of him.
"Mr. Lewis," a Judge called. "We understand you have an appeal today?"
"Yes, Lord Gabriel," Alex answered. "I believe the materials are already before you. I can walk you through the facts if it pleases the panel."
"We've read the materials, Mr. Lewis," another Judge interjected. "I must admit that it seems a rather straightforward case. I don't know why you're bringing it before us, frankly. A lower Court should be able to deal with this candidate, shouldn't they?"
"I too thought it was relatively cut and dry, Lord Michael," Alex said smoothly. "However there are several particular facts of which I was made aware just this morning that place this case squarely within the Exception."
"The Exception?" another Judge said. "Are you quite sure about that, Mr. Lewis?"
"I am, my Lord."
"Mr. Lewis, your track record when raising the Exception is hardly stellar."
"It isn't, my Lord," Alex acknowledged. "However, I'm sure you will all agree that if even one successful case can be found, then it is worth every effort."
The Judges looked at each other and nodded.
"Counsel for the Appellant brings this motion for leave to appeal under the Exception test. Counsel has submitted supplementary materials for the consideration of the panel and we shall consider such materials with the oral submissions to be provided. Leave is granted to consider the within Appeal pursuant to the Exception test."
The clerk nodded that the endorsement had been recorded and the Judges turned back to Alex.
"You may proceed, Mr. Lewis."
"Thank you, my Lord."
"Let's get to it, Mr. Lewis. What precise facts are you submitting in support of your argument for the Exception to apply?"
"There are three, my Lord," Alex answered. "They are, in order, Necessity, Intervention and the Balance of Convenience favouring my client."
Whispers could be heard in the audience and the Judges looked at each other as they noted the summary.
"Beginning with Necessity. My client's wife just gave birth to a son, who will be the heir to the Grantham Estate of Downton, England. The lad will need guidance, particularly given the rash of changes occurring both to the Estate and across Europe. The changes to the Estate are part of a long term strategic plan that was prepared by my client. He's the only man capable of seeing the changes through, which shall benefit not only the family, but hundreds of tenants, villagers, visitors, tourists and children, to say nothing for the impact he will have when he is ultimately called to Parliament and to sit in the House."
"The economic conditions in England are far different now than they were before…what did they call it? World War I. Even if your client were available to guide the modernisation of the Estate, that certainly does not guarantee its survival."
"Correct, my Lord," Alex replied. "However, he is the best equipped to deal with these changes and to work with his family to wade through it. Without him, his widow, father-in-law and brother-in-law would be left to their own devices, and as we have put in the materials, there is ample evidence that neither is particularly well prepared for such a task."
"The British North America railway episode," a Judge smiled.
"Among others, yes, my Lord," Alex said calmly.
"None of that is particularly exceptional, Mr. Lewis. We're prepared to accept that the boy needs his father, and that your client has the potential to positively impact a great number of lives, but that's hardly unique."
"The three facts are to be taken together in context, my Lord, and no one factor is determinative in my submission."
"Fine. The second fact then?"
"Secondly, Intervention. His wife has been exceptionally inconsolable. We project she will be in mourning for beyond the usual six months, and already she has pulled back to have little to no interaction with the child. We further project attempts by the family to be less than convincing. She's admitted, and I quote, that 'half of herself is missing' without my client with her, and that she will 'love him until the last breath leaves her body.'"
"A grieving widow is hardly exceptional at all, Mr. Lewis."
"That is true, my Lord, however I submit the evidence of mourning in support of an overall lengthy and detailed factual record of the exceptional love between this Lady and my client. There is a summary at Tab 3 of the supplementary brief. It's rather voluminous actually, and that's only the summary," Alex smiled.
The Judges flipped through the supplementary material. Alex waited, watching when the Judges would smirk, smile or even laugh quietly amongst themselves, pointing to particular images or passages that Michelle had included in the materials.
"They did enjoy a good argument, didn't they?" a Judge smirked.
"It reads like a saga, indeed," another agreed.
"Of particular note, my Lords," Alex paused, waiting to ensure he had their attention. "In relation to the argument on Intervention – she prayed for my client while he was at War, before they were betrothed actually."
The Judges turned to the applicable page.
"Praying for a loved one away at War is hardly exceptional, Mr. Lewis."
"Correct, my Lord. However, as you all know, it is quite exceptional for the prayer to be answered."
The Judges frowned as they read the next page of the supplementary brief, titled simply "The Miracle".
"The explosion killed all within its blast radius, except for my client," Alex said slowly, emphasizing each word.
"But he did lose his legs. So he did not emerge unscathed," a Judge noted.
"One could argue that it was the sacrifice of the Mason boy that saved your client, and not the prayer of his wife," another Judge suggested.
"That is a possibility," Alex conceded. "But Mr. Mason had nothing to do with the care of my client by Lady Mary, nor with her pledge that she would love him on any terms, and most certainly not with respect to my client's subsequent unexpected and miraculous recovery."
The Judges read the details intently.
"He was healed," Alex repeated for emphasis. "Because he was watched over from the moment the prayer was answered. The prayer of the woman who would become his wife and mother of his child."
Murmurs went through the room. The Judges looked at each other.
"There is also the matter of Intervention by sacrifice. The affidavit of Lavinia Swire is at Tab 8 of the supplementary brief. You will note that her last thoughts were of the happiness of my client, and further that one of her last acts on Earth was to recommend my client to her father. With respect to my client and his future wife, she states, and I quote, 'May they be happy, with my love'. We therefore have independent third party support for the exceptional nature of this relationship, from a woman who had every reason to despise the both of them, and yet did not."
"Mr. Lewis, I give you credit that this case is more compelling than others you have brought before us. But you haven't satisfied a rather crucial part of the test, have you?"
"Not yet, my Lord. I was just about to get to the point you are alluding to."
"The third relevant fact in support of my client's appeal is the Balance of Convenience. We have already seen evidence of an answered prayer, which is prima facie evidence of Intervention, as well as a sacrifice by another individual, which ultimately led to my client marrying his wife. I now submit to you that my client's candidacy is not properly up for consideration at this time because he ought to have been still subject to a Guardianship."
"A Guardianship, you say?"
"A Guardianship, my Lord. The wife's prayer and the Miracle together ought to have ensured that my client survived far beyond the age of 36. To be felled by a mere motor vehicle accident on the same day that his son and heir was born is hardly in keeping with a proper Guardianship. While I do not suppose to understand the reasons for the Guardianship not prevailing, I respectfully submit that it ought to have still remained in place."
Murmurs went up again through the crowd.
"Therefore," Alex pressed ahead. "My Lords, we have an exceptional need for my client in the lives of both his family and hundreds of others; we have an exceptional love between my client and his wife; and finally we have a prayer, a Miracle, a sacrifice and a Guardianship that should have prevented the horrible event from happening."
"Mr. Lewis, isn't it true that recklessness and disregard for one's own welfare would be grounds for the Guardianship to not apply?"
"Yes, my Lord, in theory that's correct," Alex said carefully.
"And isn't it also true that your client was travelling at an accelerated rate of speed at the time of his motor vehicle accident?"
"He was able to maintain control of the vehicle on the road, my Lord."
"But not to safely and easily avoid the collision with the lorry, correct?"
"Yes, my Lord."
"And is it not also true that prior to impact, your client was not in fact paying attention to the road ahead. It appears he figuratively had his head in the clouds as it were, correct?"
"He was looking up, my Lord."
"Indeed he was, possibly to his peril."
"Possibly, my Lord," Alex said. "However, in my respectful submission, such conduct was not sufficient for the Guardianship to expire."
"My Lords the very principle of Guardianship is that it is bestowed upon individuals deemed worthy to receive it, sometimes due to their conduct and the way they have lived their lives, and sometimes because they are not due to have their candidacy considered until the appropriate time. In the case of my client, after everything that he has been through, his reasonable expectation must have been to enjoy a long life with the woman he loves and with his family. He would expect drama. He would expect hardship. He would expect adversity. He would expect all of this because his life to that point was defined by all manner of drama, hardship and adversity, particularly following his meeting Lady Mary in 1912. But to survive the War, and to be cured of his paralysis, and to finally marry the woman he loves, only to then be separated from her, to be denied the happiness that was hard won, is quite tragic, in my submission. A Guardianship is in place to ensure such tragedy does not occur. If this panel cannot exercise its discretion to achieve the proper result for my client, then what is the purpose of Guardianship? What is the purpose of our system? It exists, indeed, we exist, to address situations exactly like this one, and to put candidates such as my client, where they belong."
Further murmurs were heard across the chamber.
"Mr. Lewis," Lord Gabriel looked down at him. "Could this all not have very easily been avoided if your client had simply picked up the telephone rather than the keys to his motor?"
"Yes, my Lord," Alex smirked. "But are we not here to correct such errors in judgment?"
"Anything else to add, Mr. Lewis?"
"One last point, my Lord," Alex nodded, taking a breath to calm himself as he turned to the last page of his supplementary brief.
"Lady Mary told my client on the day of his motor vehicle accident that she hoped she would be allowed to 'be his Mary Crawley for all eternity...and no one else's'. They had just celebrated the birth of their son together. It is normal for new parents to be swept up in euphoria at such moments, but when we consider the history of this couple to that point, all that they survived, all that they endured, both self-inflicted and beyond their control, this hope, this plea, this love is what should have protected my client. He does not belong here, my Lords. Lady Mary does not deserve to have her hope cast aside. The Exception test was created for this exact situation. It is not a device that we should leave in our arsenal, never to be used and to only look at wistfully. Today, my Lords, I urge you to wield it."
"We shall take a recess and return with our decision."
The clerk called for attention and all rose. Alex stood at the lectern, looking over his notes once more. He had said everything he intended to say. The issue of his client's recklessness was a valid point, but he did not think it sufficient to deny his appeal on that basis alone. He looked up at the bright lights above the chamber and sighed.
"One time, that's all I ask," he whispered. "After all these years, you have to give me at least one."
After several moments, the bell sounded again and all rose to attention as the Judges re-entered the chamber.
Everyone took their seats once the Judges sat down. Alex steepled his fingers in front of him and waited. He stared straight ahead, focusing on a particular pattern in the marble of the elevated bench. He did not look at the Judges as they began to read their decision.
"This panel has considered the within appeal for application of the Exception test. Counsel for the Appellant submits that the Exception applies based on Necessity, Intervention and the Balance of Convenience. This panel has held in past decisions that all factors of the test are to be considered together, and that no one factor is determinative of the appeal."
"Turning now to the three factors. The Necessity factor is a threshold question, and in our view it has been met. It is clear that the Appellant's presence is required by a significant number of people, both as a result of his standing within his own family and his title within his community, both at Downton and in London, England. This panel accepts that the potential for positive impact is high and accordingly rules that Necessity has been proven."
"This panel notes that the evidence on Intervention is more comprehensive than most appeals that have come before it. We accept the evidence of a clear Prayer, a subsequent Miracle and a Sacrifice. While there are, in our experience, often individual incidents of the elements of an Intervention, and in particular, Prayer is very common, we agree with Mr. Lewis that this is a rare case where it is reasonable to assume a strong link between the Prayer and the Miracle. Accordingly, we rule that Intervention has been proven."
The audience whispered among themselves. Alex had never brought an appeal past the Intervention stage to date. No one had for centuries. Alex continued to stare straight ahead.
"Finally, the Balance of Convenience branch of the test is usually the most critical. Here this panel must weigh whether it is better to bring the Appellant's candidacy before the proper authority now, or grant the Exception to delay consideration to a future time. It is generally accepted that all candidates are to be judged upon their arrival and that convenience favours judgment in a timely manner. Mr. Lewis submits that the Balance of Convenience favours the Appellant in this case, due to his argument that the Guardianship that existed following the Prayer and Miracle ought to have remained in place at the time of the Appellant's motor vehicle accident. Indeed, Mr. Lewis submits that the Guardianship was re-affirmed on that very date by the expressed wishes of the Appellant's wife."
Alex blinked as the Judge paused.
"When considering the applicability and effectiveness of a Guardianship, this panel must determine not only whether a Guardianship existed at the material time, but also whether the Appellant was subject to the Guardianship when the incident took place. Factors such as recklessness, disregard for one's own welfare not in the context of saving others, arrogance and vanity may be weighed. In this case, we accept that a Guardianship existed following the Miracle suggested by Mr. Lewis. There is no evidence before this panel that the Guardianship did not exist as at the time the motor vehicle accident took place in September 1921. We do, however, find evidence of recklessness on the part of the Appellant, both in the manner in which he operated his motor vehicle, and his failure to keep a proper lookout. We also question the decision to drive to Downton Abbey from the hospital to collect his family, when summoning them by telephone would have been a far more recommended approach."
"Considering all of these factors collectively, the panel finds that the test for the Exception has been met. The evidence of recklessness and poor judgment is not sufficient to relieve the applicability of the Guardianship. Before we turn to the relief requested, we wish to make note of Mr. Lewis' learned submissions and assistance to this panel. His effort has been appreciated."
"Counsel for the Appellant has requested Resurrection as the appropriate remedy once the Exception test has been met. While this panel understands the argument in favour of such an extraordinary remedy, the evidence of recklessness, poor judgment and the overall character of the Appellant, which, while on the whole commendable, is not sufficient to justify Resurrection in our view. We therefore order that the Appellant's candidacy be adjourned to a later date, that the Appellant be elevated to Protector status with respect to his wife, Lady Mary Crawley, and that the Appellant be placed in the care of Mr. Lewis and his office for immediate Revelation and Education."
Alex rose on weak legs, standing stoically, still staring at the same piece of marble as the Judges rose and exited the chamber. They each looked over at him as they left, which was unheard of for a panel to do after rendering a decision. The clerk announced that the hearing was over and the audience rose and exited the chamber, discussing the verdict among themselves. Alex stood still, his face frozen.
"Mr. Lewis, sir," the clerk said quietly. "I'll have your things gathered up and sent back to your office with a copy of the Endorsement. You should go, Mr. Lewis. You have work to do, sir."
Alex looked blankly at the clerk.
"That was the finest argument I've ever heard, Mr. Lewis, if you don't mind me saying so."
Alex nodded. He turned, walked slowly from the chamber, his eyes still glazed over.
Law Office of Alexander Lewis, September 1921
He felt her fingers across his shoulder. Her touch was light, but he could feel the meaning behind it. It took supreme effort for Alex not to start crying there and then.
"It's all right," Michelle said softly, sitting down next to him on the couch and pulling him to her.
Alex sighed. He tried to resist as she leaned back and took him with her firmly.
"You don't have to comfort me," he protested. "It isn't part of a clerk's job."
"I'm your wife. It's part of my job. Now shut up and let me hold you."
He collapsed into her embrace, her fingers stroking his hair and his cheek. She smelled like strawberries.
"You're wearing the perfume that I bought for you," he laughed. "The one that you hate. I must really have taken a beating if you were willing to do that."
"You'll see later tonight the lengths I am prepared to go to for your comfort," Michelle replied with a smirk. "Wearing tacky perfume for you is just the beginning."
They sat there in his darkened office on the couch. There were no clocks, and neither of them cared about the time. She thought he may have fallen asleep, but she knew better.
"I'm very proud of you, you know," she said quietly. "Do you know how long it's been since an Appeal has been allowed? And based on the Exception test on top of that."
"I really thought we had a chance this time," he whispered against her neck, kissing her lightly. "It was when they praised my argument that I knew we were in the shit. They always compliment you before delivering bad news."
They remained silent for several more moments. They each thought the same thing.
"I'm so sorry, Michelle. I really wanted it to happen for us this time. I-"
"Shut up," she said firmly. "I'm with you. I don't care about the rest of it. I never have."
"But you deserve to be-"
"I said shut up." She kissed him and he stopped talking.
"He's going to be here soon," Michelle said gently after a while longer.
"What am I supposed to tell him?"
"Tell him the truth," she answered. "He's under your authority and you've been ordered to give him the Revelation and to Educate him. So that's what you're going to do."
"You do know we have to make him watch? The wreck, the funeral, the aftermath, everything."
"I know," she sighed.
"I almost wish I had lost completely. At least then he'd be able to move on."
"If I was still down there and you had the chance to be my Protector or to move on, what would you choose?"
"That's not fair. You already know what I did."
"Yes, and I love you for it. And you will need to trust that he is willing to do the same."
"It'll be different for him. It'll be much harder."
"I think the man that you described to the House of Lords can handle it, with the proper guidance," she smiled, kissing his forehead.
Alex raised his head and kissed Michelle firmly before rising from the couch. The lights came back on and he went out into the reception area, straightening his tie and suit jacket. He took a moment to compose himself before walking to the door.
He opened the door and nodded as his client stepped into the office.
"Matthew Crawley, pleased to meet you. My name is Alexander Lewis. You may call me Alex. I'm here to take you back to your wife."