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- Herbert Carter's Legacy - 2/39 -
you go round with the others."
"Perhaps I had," said Herbert. "I'll run, so as not to keep the others waiting. Deacon Crossleigh is always in a hurry for his paper."
"Yes, the deacon's always in a fidget to know what's going on, particularly when Congress is in session. He takes a wonderful interest in politics."
Herbert ran up the street with a quick step, pausing a minute at his humble home.
"You are out of breath, Herbert. Have you been running?"
"Yes, I've got a letter for you, and I wanted to bring it before I went round with the rest."
"A letter! Where from?" asked the widow, with curiosity, for she held very little intercourse with the world outside of Wrayburn.
"It's postmarked Randolph, as well as I can make out. While you are reading it, I'll run and leave my letters, and be back to hear the news."
In a hurry to do all his errands and get back, Herbert ran all the way. While his eyes were fixed on one of the envelopes, he ran full against James Leech, who was walking up the street with a pompous air.
In the encounter James's hat came off, and he was nearly thrown down.
"What made you run into me?" he demanded, wrath-fully.
"Excuse me, James," said Herbert, recovering himself.
"You did it on purpose," said his enemy, glaring at him angrily.
"That isn't very likely," said Herbert. "I got hit as hard as you did."
"Your hat didn't get knocked off. Pick it up," said James, imperiously, pointing to it as it lay in the path.
"I will, because it is by my fault that it fell," said Herbert, stooping over and picking it up. "You needn't have ordered me to do it."
"The next time take care how you run against a gentleman," said James, arrogantly.
"Take care the next time to speak like a gentleman." said Herbert. "Good night! I must be off."
"Insolent beggar!" muttered James. "He don't know his place. How dare he speak to me in that way?"
WHAT THE LETTER CONTAINED
Half an hour later, Herbert reentered the cottage, breathless with running.
"Well, mother, what is it?" he asked.
"Uncle Herbert is dead," she answered.
"When did he die?"
"Yesterday morning. They wrote at once. The funeral is to take place to-morrow afternoon, at three o'clock."
"Uncle Herbert was rich, wasn't he, mother?"
"Yes, he must have left nearly a hundred thousand dollars."
"What a pile of money!" said Herbert. "I wonder how a man feels when he is so rich. He ought to be happy."
"Riches don't always bring happiness. Uncle Herbert was disappointed in early life, and that seemed to spoil his career. He gave himself up to money-making, and succeeded in it; but he lived by himself and had few sources of happiness."
"Then he had no family?"
"Do you think he has left us anything, mother?" asked Herbert, with something of hope in his tone.
"I am afraid not. If he had been disposed to do that he would have done something for us before. He knew that we were poor, and that a little assistance would have been very acceptable. But he never offered it. Even when your father was sick for three months, and I wrote to him for a small loan, he refused, saying that we ought to have laid up money to fall back upon at such a time."
"I don't see how a man can be so unfeeling. If he would only leave us a thousand dollars, how much good it would do us! We could pay up the mortgage on the house, and have something left over. It wouldn't have been much for him to do."
"Well, we won't think too much about it," said Mrs. Carter. "It will be wisest, as probably we should be only preparing ourselves for disappointment. Uncle had a right to do what he pleased with his own."
"Shall you go to the funeral, mother?"
"I don't see how I can," said Mrs. Carter, slowly. "It is twenty miles off, and I am very busy just now. Still one of us ought to go, if only to show respect to so near a relation. People would talk if we didn't. I think, as you were named for your Uncle Herbert, I will let you go."
"If you think best, mother. I will walk, and that will save expense."
"It will be too much for you to take such a walk. You had better ride."
"No, mother, I am young and strong. I can walk well enough."
"But it must be twenty miles," objected his mother.
"The funeral doesn't take place till three o'clock in the afternoon. I will get up bright and early, say at five o'clock. By nine I shall be halfway there."
"I am afraid it will be too much for you, Herbert," said Mrs. Carter, irresolutely.
"You don't know how strong I am," said Herbert; "I shan't get tired so easily as you think."
"But twenty miles is a long distance."
"I know that, but I shall take it easy. The stage fare is seventy-five cents, and it's a good way to save it. I wish somebody would offer me seventy-five cents for every twenty miles I would walk. I'd take it up as a profession."
"I am afraid I could earn little that way. I never was a good walker." "You're a woman," said Herbert, patronizingly. "Women are not expected to be good walkers."
"Some are. I remember my Aunt Jane would take walks of five and six miles, and think nothing of it."
"I guess I could match her in walking," said Herbert, confidently. "Is she alive?"
"No, she died three years since."
"Perhaps I take after her, then."
"You don't take after me, I am sure of that. I think, Herbert, you had better take seventy-five cents with you, so that if you get very tired with your walk over, you can come back by stage."
"All right, mother; I'll take the money, but I shall be sure not to need it."
"It is best to be prepared for emergencies, Herbert."
"If I am going to-morrow morning, I must split up enough wood to last you while I am gone."
"I am afraid you will tire yourself. I think I can get along with what wood there is already split."
"Oh, don't be afraid for me. You'll see I'll come back as fresh as when I set out. I expect to have a stunning appetite, though."
"I'll try to cook up enough for you," said his mother, smiling.
Herbert went out into the wood shed, and went to work with great energy at the wood pile. In the course of an hour he had sawed and split several large baskets full, which he brought in and piled up behind the kitchen stove.
Mrs. Carter could not be expected to feel very deep grief for the death of her uncle. It was now more than six years since they had met. He was a selfish man, wholly wrapped up in the pursuit of wealth. Had he possessed benevolent instincts, he would have offered to do something out of his abundance for his niece, who he knew found it very hard to make both ends meet. But he was a man who was very much averse to parting with his money while he lived. He lived on a tenth of his income, and saved up the rest, though for what end he could not well have told. Since the death of Mr. Carter, whose funeral he had not taken the trouble to attend, though invited, he had not even written to his niece, and she had abstained from making any advances, lest it might be thought that she was seeking assistance. Under these circumstances she had little hope of a legacy, though she could not help admitting the thought of how much a few hundred dollars would help her, bridging over the time till Herbert should be old enough to earn fair wages in some employment. If he could study two or three years longer, she would have been very glad, for her son had already shown abilities of no common order; but that was hardly to be thought
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