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Laying Down The Law
Cowgirl Nymph
I wrote this to the Thimbleful Thursday prompt of "Lay Down the Law" for 500 words, plus or minus 10%.

“Legally speaking,” began Hudsto then he stopped. “Actually, I don’t know if there is any legal precedent for all of this.”

“Really?” Cardew pursed her lips. “This hasn’t happened before?”

“Well, Step One would have been illegal before the Public Offences Act was revised,” said Hudsto slowly. “So Ethward can fulfil that requirement, as long as he does it so that he is obscured by wheels and tray of his bullock dray while in the act.”

“His bullock dray?” Cardew was still pursing her lips. “I can’t imagine Ethward Montvane-Thibodaux driving a bullock team pulling anything.”

“Well, even with the changes to the Public Offences Act you can still only urinate in public if you’re a male bullock driver doing it against the wheel of your bullock dray,” explained Hudsto. “It’s a provision of the Carters and Carriers Act of 1856 and although it’s usually applied favourably to truck drivers these days, I think our illustrious Attorney–General will want to stick to the letter of the law when it’s happening on his front gate.”

Cardew demanded, “How will he get a bullock team and dray there?”

“Drive them, presumably,” replied Hudsto, “but first he has to obtain them and learn how to drive them – with some emphasis on steering, I imagine.”

“Very well. Now about this Step Two. As long as it doesn’t exclude the parties from inheriting at all, there’s nothing illegal about giving a beneficiary a larger inheritance for marrying in accordance with the deceased’s wishes.” Cardew tapped the documents in front of her with a pencil and added, “In fact I thought the family would have considered this degree of separation desirable, given the inbreeding issues in their milieu.”

“Plus it neatly meets all the requirements of the new Marriage Act,” agreed Hudsto. “The wider family wants to challenge the provision because the Kengharry girls are descended from old Theobald Montvane-Thibodaux before he had that accident with the bull, of course, but a generation ago they would have been out of bounds because of the Segregation Act.”

Cardew said drily, “Let me guess, the Kengharry ancestor was the result of Theobald fooling around with family property.”

“Yes, but Theobald was one of the people who complained loudest when the current Attorney General’s great-great-grandfather brought in the laws to stop slave owners freeing their chattels in their wills or leaving them to themselves. I’m just waiting for the Montchello branch of the family to realise that the Kengharrys are major beneficiaries in their own right.” Hudsto added, “Certainly the Montchello Montvane-Thibodauxes can’t claim they were financially dependent on the deceased but I can see them getting riled up about the Kengharrys getting the share he thought their ancestor should have gotten when Theobald died.”

“That’s the branch of the family that Cleopatra and Euphratra come from isn’t it? My mother used to work in their house.” Cardew asked primly, “Would it be unprofessional of me to come to the reading so I can see them hear that the money isn’t going to them and they can’t marry the heir?”

“They can’t marry Ethward if all the Kengharrys reject him?” Hudsto looked surprised.

“Haven’t you read Codicil Six yet?” Cardew smiled.

“I hadn’t,” he admitted as he read. “Oh my, oh my. Cat among the pigeons that one.”

  • All named pieces of legislation are completely fictional, although possibly bearing some resemblance to reality.

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Thank you, and you reminded me to link it back. :)

That's fascinating. I rather want to see the text of the will ... or at least hear about the rest of the clauses.

Do I understand correctly that Ethward is required to piss on the Attorney–General's doorstep to claim (some of) his inheritance? I'm very curious how these feuds have carried down the generations ...

His front gate - because getting to his front door could be trespassing. :)

All requirements very carefully worded so as to be doable legally, with sufficient effort?

Oh yes, because you can't make an inheritance dependent on an illegal act.

And I'm very curious about the deceased's relationship (social rather than familial) with Ethward, and who inherits what he might get if he opts not to follow through with the conditionals ...

Not the Montchello branch of the family!

And he wouldn't be encouraging the Kengharry girls not to marry Ethward, so charity?

I rather badly want to read the will in its entirety. But then I'd need to know all the statutes to figure out how our testator was pushing the boundaries of the law. And I'd need to know enough of the history of a (what sounds like) wealthy family with enough branches to thoroughly intermarry, and who somehow mostly still talk to each other. I'd also need to know the history of all the people who offended them.

Making one beneficiary have to pee on the Attorney General's gatepost to get his inheritance is a fine way of getting your descendants to get the revenge you were presumably unable to get during your own life. And knowing that you can make your beneficiary do so, legally, shows a remarkably detailed understanding of the law, and the decisions around it.

*puts on lawyer hat* I wonder: is there a technical difference between expressly freeing someone versus leaving them to themselves? Or does the rejoining of owner and property in one person extinguish the owner/chattel division and produce the same result -- for all purposes -- as freeing them? *removes lawyer hat*

I'm also trying to figure out where this is set. My current idea is somewhere in the American south, one of the states that was part of the Confederacy during the US Civil War. Based on the name Thibodaux, I'd guess Louisiana, but Montchello suggests rural Virginia. The historic slavery, plus the Segregation Act, both support the idea, but the US isn't the only place that had that sort of situation. It's just the one I'm most familiar with.

I think that it's safest to go with based on my understanding of US history, undoubtedly deeply flawed, and put it in a world one metaphorical step to the left or right of ours.

Particularly as I'm sure that my understanding of day to day legalities isn't based on US law.

The real trick is probably in extinguishing anyone elder claim to them.

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