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- Herbert Carter's Legacy - 5/39 -
The young man's face lengthened very perceptibly as he heard the small amount of his legacy, and he glared savagely at Mrs. Pinkerton, who showed a mirthful face at his discomfiture.
Her turn came next.
"To Josiah Pinkerton, his wife and children, I leave one hundred dollars apiece; also my best black pantaloons, which he or his wife may appropriate, as may be arranged between them."
All except the Pinkertons laughed at this sly hit, and even the lawyer smiled; but the stout lady flushed with rage and disappointment, and ejaculated: "Abominable!" The eyes of all were now directed to Herbert, who was the only one remaining. Could it be possible that the balance of the property was left to him? The fear of this made him the focus of unfriendly eyes, and he became restive and anxious.
"To my namesake, Herbert Carter, I leave a black trunk which I keep in my room, with all that it contains. To his mother I direct that the sum of one hundred dollars be paid."
This was not much, but it was more than Herbert had expected. He knew how welcome even one hundred dollars would be to his mother, and he looked satisfied--the only one of the party, except the old lady, who showed any pleasure at the contents of the will.
The relatives looked bewildered. All had been mentioned in turn, and yet but a small part--a very small part--of the estate had been disposed of. Mrs. Pinkerton bluntly expressed the general curiosity.
"Who's to have the rest, Mr. Spencer? "she demanded.
"I'm coming to that," answered the lawyer, quietly.
"All the rest and residue of my property, of whatever kind, I leave to the town of Randolph, to establish a high school, directing that not more than twenty thousand dollars be expended upon the building, which shall be of brick. I desire that the school shall be known as the Carter School, to the end that my name may be remembered in connection with what I hope will prove a public blessing." "That is all," said the lawyer, and he laid down the will upon the table.
WHAT CAME AFTERWARD
There was silence for a minute after the will was read. Mrs. Pinkerton fanned herself furiously, and looked angry and excited.
At length she said: "I wish to say that that is a very unjust will, Mr. Spencer."
"I am not responsible for it, Mrs. Pinkerton," answered the lawyer, quietly.
"I don't know what the rest of you think," said the angry lady, with a general glance around the office, "but I think the will ought to be broken."
"On what grounds?" asked Mr. Spencer.
"He had no right to put off his own flesh and blood with a beggarly pittance, and leave all his money to the town."
"Pardon me; whatever you may think of Mr. Carter's will, there is no doubt that he had a perfect legal right to dispose of it as he did."
"Then the laws ought to be altered," said Mrs. Pinkerton, angrily. "I don't believe he was sane when he made the will."
"If you can prove that," said the lawyer, "you can set aside the will; but not otherwise."
"My brother was in his right mind," here interposed Miss Nancy. "He always meant to give the town money for a school."
"No doubt you think he was sane," sneered Mrs. Pinkerton, turning upon the old lady. "You have fared better than any of us."
"Miss Nancy was most nearly related to the deceased," said the lawyer, "and she needed help most."
"It's all very well to talk," said the lady, tossing her head, "but me and mine have been badly used. I have hard work enough to support the family, and little help I get from him," she added, pointing to her unhappy husband.
"I'm workin' all the time," remonstrated Josiah. "You are unkind, Maria."
"I could hire a boy to do all your work for three dollars a week," she retorted. "That's all you help me. I've worried along for years, expectin' Mr. Carter would do something handsome for us; and now he's put us off with four hundred dollars."
"I get only one hundred," said the farmer.
"And I, too. It's a beastly shame," remarked Cornelius.
"Really," said the lawyer, "it appears to me unseemly to speak so bitterly so soon after the funeral."
"I dare say you like it well enough," said Mrs. Pinkerton, sharply. "You've got all our money to build a schoolhouse."
"It will not benefit me any more than the townspeople generally," said the lawyer. "For my part, I should have been glad if my late friend had left a larger sum to those connected with him by blood."
"Don't you think we could break the will?" asked Mrs. Pinkerton, persuasively. "Couldn't you help us?"
"You can attempt it, but I assure you in advance you haven't the ghost of a chance. You would only lose your money, for the town would strenuously oppose you."
The stout lady's face fell. She felt that the last hope was gone.
"All I can say is, that it's a scandalous thing," she concluded, bitterly.
"I should like to know what's in that trunk he left you," said Cornelius Dixon, turning to Herbert. "Maybe it's money or bonds. If it is, don't forget our agreement."
This drew attention to Herbert.
"To be sure," said Mrs. Pinkerton, whose curiosity was aroused, "Mr. Dixon may be right. Suppose we all go over to the house and open it."
Herbert looked irresolutely toward the lawyer.
"There is no objection, I suppose," said Mr. Spencer.
"I know what's in the trunk," said Miss Nancy.
Straightway all eyes were turned upon her.
"What is it?"
"It's clothes. My brother used to keep his clothes in that trunk."
Cornelius Dixon burst into a rude laugh.
"I say, Herbert, I congratulate you," he said, with a chuckle. "The old fellow's left you his wardrobe. You'll look like a peacock when you put 'em on. If you ever come to New York to see me, leave 'em at home. I wouldn't like to walk up Broadway with such a gawk as you'd look."
"Young man," said Miss Nancy, her voice tremulous, "it don't look well in you to ridicule my poor departed brother. He didn't forget you."
"He might as well," muttered Cornelius.
"I hope you won't laugh at my brother's gift," said the old lady, turning to Herbert.
"No, ma'am," said Herbert, respectfully. "I am glad to get it. I can't afford to buy new clothes often, and they can be made over for me."
"You wouldn't catch me wearing such old-fashioned duds," said Cornelius, scornfully.
"No one asked you to, young man," said the old lady, disturbed at the manner in which her brother was spoken of. "The boy's worth a dozen of you."
"Thank you," said Cornelius, bowing with mock respect. "I should like to ask," he continued, turning to the lawyer, "when I can get my legacy. It isn't much, but I might as well take it."
"As the amount is small, I will send you a check next week," said Mr. Spencer, "if you will leave me your address."
"And can I have my money, too?" demanded Mrs. Pinkerton. "It's a miserable pittance, but I owe it to my poor children to take it."
"I will send your husband a check also, next week, madam."
"You needn't send it to him. You may send it to me," said the lady.
"Part of it is mine," expostulated the husband, in meek deprecation.
"I can give you your part," said his wife. "Mr. Spencer, you may make the check payable to me."
"Be silent, Josiah! Don't make a fool of yourself," said his wife, in an imperious tone.
The poor man was fain to be silent, but the lawyer was indignant, and said: "Mr. Pinkerton, I will certainly not pay your legacy, nor your children's, to anyone but yourself. I will send Mrs. Pinkerton a check
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