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- THE GOLD BAG - 20/45 -


satisfied with my morning's work, and content to wait until after Mr. Crawford's funeral to do any further real work in the matter.

X

THE WILL

I went to the Crawford house on the day of the funeral; but as I reached there somewhat earlier than the hour appointed, I went into the office with the idea of looking about for further clues.

In the office I found Gregory Hall; looking decidedly disturbed.

"I can't find Mr. Crawford's will," he said, as he successively looked through one drawer after another.

"What!" I responded. "Hasn't that been located already?"

"No; it's this way: I didn't see it here in this office, or in the New York office, so I assumed Mr. Randolph had it in his possession. But it seems he thought it was here, all the time. Only this morning we discovered our mutual error, and Mr. Randolph concluded it must be in Mr. Crawford's safety deposit box at the bank in New York. So Mr. Philip Crawford hurried through his administration papers--he is to be executor of the estate--and went in to get it from the bank. But he has just returned with the word that it wasn't there. So we've no idea where it is."

"Oh, well," said I, "since he hadn't yet made the new will he had in mind, everything belongs to Miss Lloyd."

"That's just the point," said Hall, his face taking on a despairing look. "If we don't find that will, she gets nothing!"

"How's that?" I said.

"Why, she's really not related to the Crawfords. She's a niece of Joseph Crawford's wife. So in the absence of a will his property will all go to his brother Philip, who is his legal heir."

"Oho!" I exclaimed. "This is a new development. But the will will turn up."

"Oh, yes, I'm sure of it," returned Hall, but his anxious face showed anything but confidence in his own words.

"But," I went on, "didn't Philip Crawford object to his brother's giving all his fortune to Miss Lloyd?"

"It didn't matter if he did. Nobody could move Joseph Crawford's determination. And I fancy Philip didn't make any great disturbance about it. Of course, Mr. Joseph had a right to do as he chose with his own, and the will gave Philip a nice little sum, any way. Not much, compared to the whole fortune, but, still, a generous bequest."

"What does Mr. Randolph say?"

"He's completely baffled. He doesn't know what to think."

"Can it have been stolen?"

"Why, no; who would steal it? I only fear he may have destroyed it because he expected to make a different one. In that case, Florence is penniless, save for such bounty as Philip Crawford chooses to bestow on her."

I didn't like the tone in which Hall said this. It was distinctly aggrieved, and gave the impression that Florence Lloyd, penniless, was of far less importance than Miss Lloyd, the heiress of her uncle's millions.

"But he would doubtless provide properly for her," I said.

"Oh, yes, properly. But she would find herself in a very different position, dependent on his generosity, from what she would be as sole heir to her uncle's fortune."

I looked steadily at the man. Although not well acquainted with him, I couldn't resist giving expression to my thought.

"But since you are to marry her," I said, "she need not long be dependent upon her uncle's charity."

"Philip Crawford isn't really her uncle, and no one can say what he will do in the matter."

Gregory Hall was evidently greatly disturbed at the new situation brought about by the disappearance of Mr. Crawford's will. But apparently the main reason for his disturbance was the impending poverty of his fiancee. There was no doubt that Mr. Carstairs and others who had called this man a fortune-hunter had judged him rightly.

However, without further words on the subject, I waited while Hall locked the door of the office, and then we went together to the great drawing-room, where the funeral services were about to take place.

I purposely selected a position from which I could see the faces of the group of people most nearly connected with the dead man. I had a strange feeling, as I looked at them, that one of them might be the instrument of the crime which had brought about this funeral occasion.

During the services I looked closely and in turn at each face, but beyond the natural emotions of grief which might be expected, I could read nothing more.

The brother, Philip Crawford, the near neighbors, Mr. Porter and Mr. Hamilton, the lawyer, Mr. Randolph, all sat looking grave and solemn as they heard the last words spoken above their dead friend. The ladies of the household, quietly controlling their emotions, sat near me, and next to Florence Lloyd Gregory Hall had seated himself.

All of these people I watched closely, half hoping that some inadvertent sign might tell me of someone's knowledge of the secret. But when the clergyman referred to the retribution that would sooner or later overtake the criminal. I could see an expression of fear or apprehension on no face save that of Florence Lloyd. She turned even whiter than before, her pale lips compressed in a straight line, and her small black gloved hand softly crept into that of Gregory Hall. The movement was not generally noticeable, but it seemed to me pathetic above all things. Whatever her position in the matter, she was surely appealing to him for help and protection.

Without directly repulsing her, Hall was far from responsive. He allowed her hand to rest in his own but gave her no answering pressure, and looked distinctly relieved when, after a moment, she withdrew it.

I saw that Parmalee also had observed this, and I could see that to him it was an indication of the girl's perturbed spirit. To me it seemed that it might equally well mean many other things. For instance it might mean her apprehension for Gregory Hall, who, I couldn't help thinking was far more likely to be a wrongdoer than the girl herself.

With a little sigh I gave up trying to glean much information from the present opportunity, and contented myself with the melancholy pleasure it gave me simply to look at the sad sweet face of the girl who was already enshrined in my heart.

After the solemn and rather elaborate obsequies were over, a little assembly gathered in the library to hear the reading of the will.

As, until then, no one had known of the disappearance of the will, except the lawyer and the secretary, it came as a thunderbolt.

"I have no explanation to offer," said Mr. Randolph, looking greatly concerned, but free of all personal responsibility. "Mr. Crawford always kept the will in his own possession. When he came to see me, the last evening he was alive, in regard to making a new will, he did not bring the old one with him. We arranged to meet in his office the next morning to draw up the new instrument, when he doubtless expected to destroy the old one.

"He may have destroyed it on his return home that evening. I do not know. But so far it has not been found among his papers in either of his offices or in the bank. Of course it may appear, as the search, though thorough, has not yet been exhaustive. We will, therefore, hold the matter in abeyance a few days, hoping to find the missing document."

His hearers were variously affected by this news. Florence Lloyd was simply dazed. She could not seem to grasp a situation which so suddenly changed her prospects. For she well knew that in the event of no will being found, Joseph Crawford's brother would be his rightful heir, and she would be legally entitled to nothing at all.

Philip Crawford sat with an utterly expressionless face. Quite able to control his emotion, if he felt any, he made no sign that he welcomed this possibility of a great fortune unexpectedly coming to him.

Lemuel Porter, who, with his wife, had remained because of their close friendship with the family, spoke out rather abruptly

"Find it! Of course it must be found! It's absurd to think the man destroyed one will before the other was drawn."

"I agree with you," said Philip Crawford.

"Joseph was very methodical in his habits, and, besides, I doubt if he would really have changed his will. I think he merely threatened it, to see if Florence persisted in keeping her engagement."


THE GOLD BAG - 20/45

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