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- Herbert Carter's Legacy - 4/39 -

"He was my mother's uncle."

"Was he? Well, I'm a second or third cousin, I don't know which. Never saw him to my knowledge. In fact, I wouldn't have come on to the funeral if I hadn't heard that he was rich. Expect to be remembered?"

"I don't think so. He hasn't taken any notice of mother or myself for years."

"Indeed!" said the young man, who was rather pleased to hear this intelligence. "Are there many relations, do you know?"

"I don't think there are."

"That's good. It makes our chance better, you know. I say, what's your name?"

"Herbert Carter."

"Same as the old man's?"


"Did he know you was named for him?"

"Of course."

"Then he may leave you something for the name," suggested the other, not very well pleased.

"I don't expect anything. What is your name?"

"Cornelius Dixon. I'm related to the old man on my mother's side."

"Are you in business in New York?" asked Herbert, who, in spite of the queer manners of his new relative, felt considerable respect for one who hailed from so important a city.

"Yes, I'm a salesman in a New York store. Where do you live?"

"In Wrayburn."

"Where's that?"

"About twenty miles from here."

"Some one-horse country town, I suppose. Are you in any business?"

"No," said Herbert, "but I'd like to be. Do you think you could get me a place in New York?"

"Well," said Cornelius, flattered by the belief in his influence which this inquiry implied, "perhaps I might. You can give me your name and address, so I can write to you if I hear of anything. If the old man only leaves me a few thousand dollars, I'll go into business for myself, and then I'd have an opening for you."

"I hope he will, then."

"So do I. That is where we both agree. But perhaps it will be you that will get the cash."

"I don't think so."

"If you do, put it into my hands, and go into partnership with me. I've got business experience, you know; while you're green, countrified, you know. It would never do for you to start alone."

"No, I shouldn't think of it."

"Then it's agreed, is it?" said Cornelius. "If I get a legacy, I'll take you into my store. If you get it, you will go into partnership with me."

"I'm willing," said Herbert, who really believed that his companion had as valuable business qualifications as he claimed. How was he to know that the pretentious Cornelius was only a salesman, at twelve dollars a week, in a dry-goods store on Eighth Avenue?

By this time they had reached the rather dingy-looking house of their deceased relative. The front door was open. They passed through the gate, and, entering, took their places with the mourners.



Apparently the deceased had but few relatives. But six persons were in a small room appropriated to the mourners when our hero and his new acquaintance entered. One of these, and far the most imposing in appearance, was a stout lady, who quite filled up the only armchair in the room. In a plain chair close by was a meek little man, three inches shorter, and probably not more than half her weight. A boy and girl, the children of the ill-matched pair, the former resembling the father, the latter the mother, were ranged alongside. Permit me to introduce Mr. and Mrs. Josiah Pinkerton, of Castleton, an adjoining town. Master Albert and Miss Nancy Pinkerton.

Mrs. Pinkerton is a milliner, and her husband is her clerk and errand boy. She has considerable business capacity, and makes enough to support the family comfortably, besides adding something annually to the fund in the savings bank. The relationship to the deceased is on the side of the husband, who is a cousin. This relationship has given rise to great expectations on the part of Mrs. Pinkerton, who fully expects to inherit half the estate of Mr. Carter.

"If we get it, Josiah," she has promised magnificently, "I'll buy you a new suit of clothes."

"But, Maria," expostulated the meek husband, "it will be left to me, not to you."

"Why so?" demanded she, frowning.

"Because he is my cousin, not yours."

"You indeed!" retorted the wife, angrily; "and what do you know about the use of money? Who supports the family, I should like to know?"

"I help," answered Josiah, meekly.

"And precious little you help," returned his wife, sarcastically. "So far as you are concerned, we should all be in the poor house long before this. No, Josiah, the money must come into my hands. I'll give you a good allowance, and hire an errand boy so that you needn't have to carry round bundles. You ought to be contented with that."

As no legacy had yet been received, Mr. Pinkerton thought it best not to continue the discussion. Indeed, he was rather afraid of his imperious wife, who held the reins of authority, and whom he did not dare to dispute.

The two other relations were, first, a brown-faced and brown-handed farmer, Alonzo Granger, and an old lady, of seventy or thereabouts-- Miss Nancy Carter, a sister of the deceased. For years she had lived on a small pension from her brother, increased somewhat by knitting stockings for the neighbors. She, indeed, was the only real mourner. The rest were speculating about how far they were likely to be benefited by the death of the deceased, of whom they had seen but little in life. Even Herbert, though impressed by the presence of death, could hardly be expected to feel deep grief for a man who had neglected his mother in his life.

Of the funeral rites it is unnecessary to speak. We are interested in what came afterwards.

The relations were quietly notified to meet at five o'clock in the office of Mr. Spencer, the lawyer, to whom had been intrusted the will of the late Mr. Carter. Those who have even a slight knowledge of human nature will not need to be told that the attendance of all was punctual. There was an anxious, expectant look on the faces of all-- not even excepting the old lady. She knew that if her brother had made no provision for her, she must go to the alms-house, and against this her honest pride revolted. She was willing to live on anything, however little, if she might live independently, as she had hitherto done. To feel herself dependent on public charity would indeed have been a hard trial for the poor old lady. Of all, probably Mrs. Pinkerton was the most confident. She had come to feel that her family was entitled to a large share of the estate, and she had gone so far as to decide just how she would invest it, and what new arrangements she would make, for she had no idea of consulting her husband on the subject.

The lawyer was a gentlemanly-looking man, whose face inspired confidence in his integrity--a remark which, unhappily, cannot be made of all in his profession. He took his seat at a table, and produced the will, which he considerately commenced reading at once. After the usual introduction, the will proceeded thus:

"To my sister Nancy I give the use of my house, rent free, as long as she shall live. I leave her also an income of two hundred dollars a year, which, as her wants are small, will be sufficient to maintain her in comfort."

The old lady breathed a sigh of relief. Her fears were removed. She could continue to live as she had been accustomed to do, and need not be beholden to private or public charity. Mrs. Pinkerton was not so well pleased. She felt almost as if she had been deprived of what belonged to her by right. She frowned at Miss Nancy, but the old lady was unconscious of the displeasure excited in the bosom of her imposing-looking relative.

The lawyer proceeded: "To my cousin, Alonzo Granger, I leave one hundred dollars; not because he needs it, for I understand that he is well-to-do, but as a mark of remembrance."

The farmer scowled slightly, and opened and closed his brown hands in dissatisfaction. He was well-to-do; but when was a man ever satisfied with that? He had counted upon a few thousands, with which he proposed to buy an adjoining farm. Mrs. Pinkerton, however, was pleased. There was so much the more for her.

"To Cornelius Dixon"--here Herbert's morning acquaintance began to feel excited--"I bequeath one hundred dollars, to buy a looking-glass and a new suit of clothes."

Herbert Carter's Legacy - 4/39

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