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,
"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,
"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
"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 for her own share—one hundred dollars—since she desires it."
"I insist upon your sending me the children's money also," said the lady angrily. "He ain't fit to take charge of it."
"You may insist as much as you like, Mrs. Pinkerton," said the lawyer, coolly, "but it will be useless. As the head of the family, I shall send the money designed for the children to your husband."
"Do you call him the head of the family?" demanded the angry Maria. "I would have you to know, sir, that I am the head of the family."
"The law does not recognize you as such. As to the pantaloons, which form a part of the legacy, I will forward them to you, if you wish."
"Do you mean to insult me, sir?" gasped Mrs. Pinkerton, growing very red in the face.
"Not at all; but they were left either to you or your husband, as you might jointly agree."
The lady was about to decline accepting them at all, but it occurred to her that they might be made over to suit her husband, and so save the expense of a new pair, and, she directed that they should be sent to him.
Then, gathering her family about her, she strode majestically from the office, shaking off, metaphorically, the dust of her feet against it.
Next Mr. Granger, after a few words with the lawyer, departed. Mr.
Cornelius Dixon also announced that he must depart.
"Come and see me some time in the city," he said to Herbert, "and if you ever get a windfall just put it into my hands, and I'll go into business with you."
"I'll remember," said Herbert, "but I'm afraid it'll be a good while before that."
"I don't know about that. You can open a second-hand clothing store.
The old man's left you a good stock in trade. Good joke, isn't it?
Next Miss Nancy rose to go.
"Tell your mother to call and see me, my boy," she said, kindly, to
Herbert. "I wish my brother'd left her more, for I know she needs it."
"Thank you, Miss Nancy," said Herbert, respectfully; "but we don't complain. We are thankful for what we have received."
"You're the best of 'em," said the old lady, earnestly. "You're a good boy, and God will prosper you."
She went out, and of the eight heirs Herbert alone remained.
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