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- Herbert Carter's Legacy - 3/39 -
"There, mother, I guess I've sawed wood enough to last you, unless you are very extravagant," said Herbert, reentering the kitchen, and taking off his cap. "Now is there anything else I can do? You know I shall be gone two days, or a day and a half at any rate."
"I think of nothing, Herbert. You had better go to bed early, and get a good night's rest, for you will have a hard day before you."
"So I will, but eight o'clock will be soon enough. Just suppose we should get a legacy, after all, mother. Wouldn't it be jolly?"
"I wouldn't think too much of it, Herbert. There isn't much chance of it. Besides, it doesn't seem right to be speculating about our own personal advantage when Uncle Herbert lies dead in his house."
There was justice in this suggestion, but Herbert could hardly be expected to take a mournful view of the death of a relative whom he hardly remembered, and who had appeared scarcely to be aware of his existence. It was natural that the thought of his wealth should be uppermost in his young nephew's mind. The reader will hardly be surprised to hear that Herbert, knowing only too well the disadvantages of poverty, should have speculated a little about his uncle's property after he went to bed. Indeed, it did not leave him even with his waking consciousness. He dreamed that his uncle left him a big lump of gold, so big and heavy that he could not lift it. He was considering anxiously how in the world he was going to get it home, when all at once he awoke, and heard the church clock strike five.
"Time I was on my way!" he thought, and, jumping out of bed, he dressed himself as quickly as possible, and went downstairs. But, early as it was, his mother, was down before him. There was a fire in the kitchen stove, and the cloth was laid for breakfast.
"What made you get up so early, mother?" asked Herbert.
"I wouldn't have you go away without breakfast, Herbert, especially for such a long walk."
"I meant to take something from the closet. That would have done well enough."
"You will be all the better for a good, warm cup of tea. Sit right down. It is all ready."
Early as it was, the breakfast tasted good. Herbert ate hastily, for he was anxious to be on his way. Knowing that he could not afford to buy lunch, he put the remnants of the breakfast, including some slices of bread and butter and meat, into his satchel, and started on his long walk.
HERBERT MEETS A RELATIVE
Herbert had never been to Randolph. In fact, he had never been so far away from Wrayburn. He was not afraid of losing his way, however. Here and there along the road guideposts were conveniently placed, and these removed any difficulty on that score.
When he had gone about six miles, the coach rattled by. It had started more than an hour later. Herbert turned out for the lumbering vehicle, and waited for it to pass. There was a boy on top, but such was the cloud of dust that he could not at first recognize him. It happened, however, that one of the traces broke, so that the driver was compelled to make a stop just as he overtook our hero. Then he saw that the boy on top was James Leech.
With James curiosity overcame his disinclination to speak to one so far beneath him.
"Where are you going. Carter?" he inquired.
"To Randolph," was the answer.
"Going to walk all the way?"
"I expect to," said Herbert, not relishing the cross-examination.
"Why don't you ride?"
James did not ask for information. He knew well enough already, but as there are purse-proud men, so there are boys who are actuated by feelings equally unworthy, and it delighted him to remind Herbert of his poverty. Herbert divined this, but he was proud in his way, and answered: "Because I choose."
"Well, you must like the dust, that's all," said James, complacently tapping his well-polished boot with a light cane which he had bought.
"Where are you going?" asked Herbert, thinking it about time for him to commence questioning.
"I'm going to Randolph, too," answered James, with unwonted affability. "I'm going to stop a few days with a friend of mine, Tom Spencer. His father's a rich man--got a nice place there. Didn't you ever hear of Mr. Spencer, the lawyer?"
"I don't think I have."
"That's his father. He makes a load of money by his law business. I think I shall study law some time. Perhaps I'll go into partnership with him. What are you going to be?"
"I don't know yet," said Herbert.
"I suppose you'll be a mechanic of some kind--a carpenter, or mason, or bricklayer."
"Perhaps so," said Herbert, quietly.
"What are you going to Randolph for?" asked James, with sudden curiosity.
"To attend my uncle's funeral."
"What's your uncle's name?"
"The same as mine."
"I suppose he was poor."
"No, he was rich."
"Was he?" repeated James, in some surprise. "What do you think he was worth?"
"About a hundred thousand dollars."
"Sho! you don't say so. Perhaps," continued James, with new-born respect, "he has left you something in his will."
"I don't think so."
"He hasn't shown any interest in us for six years, and I don't think he'll remember us now."
James looked thoughtful. He had never before heard of this relationship, or he would have treated Herbert differently. The mere fact of having a wealthy relative elevated our hero considerably in his eyes. Then, too, there was a possibility that Herbert would turn out a legatee.
"When is your uncle's funeral?" he inquired, after a pause.
"You won't get there in time. You had better get up and ride."
"No, I guess not."
"Well, perhaps I shall meet you at Randolph."
By this time the harness was repaired, the driver resumed his seat, and whipped up the horses to make up for lost time.
"I'm glad I don't think as much of money as James Leech," thought Herbert. "I suppose if my uncle would only leave us a good round sum, he would forget that I once wore patched pants, and accept me as his intimate friend."
This was exactly what James would have done, and Herbert showed that he was not wholly without knowledge of the world in forming the conjecture.
Pausing occasionally to rest, Herbert at length accomplished his journey, arriving at Randolph a little after noon. He stopped just outside the village and ate his frugal dinner, which by this time he was prepared to relish. He then took off his jacket and beat the dust out of it, dusted his shoes, and washed his face in a little brook by the roadside. Having thus effaced the marks of travel, he entered the village and inquired the way to the residence of his late uncle. He found out where it was, but did not go there yet, knowing that there would be preparations going on for the funeral. Neither did he go to the tavern, for he knew that he would be expected to dine there, and this was an expense which he did not feel able to incur. He threw himself down in the shade of a tree, and remained there until after he heard the church clock strike two. He was still lying there when a young man, smartly dressed, sporting a showy watch chain and locket and an immense necktie, came up the street and accosted him.
"I say, boy, can you tell me where old man Carter's house is?"
"Yes," said Herbert. "Do you want to go there?"
"Of course I do. I'm one of the relatives. I've come all the way from New York to attend the funeral."
"I'm one of the relations, too," said Herbert. "We'll go along together."
"By Jove, that's strange! How are you related to the old chap?" drawled the young man.
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