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Chapter 8

HERBERT'S RETURN

Mrs. Carter awaited Herbert's return with interest. She felt lonely without him, for he had never before been away from home to stay overnight. But there was a feeling of anticipation besides. Her hopes of a legacy were not very strong, but of course there was a possibility of her uncle's having remembered them in his will.

"Even if it is only five dollars, it will be welcome," she thought.
"Where people are so poor as we are, every little helps."

She sat at her sewing when the stage stopped before the door.

"I'm glad he rode home," thought the widow; "the walk both ways would have been too fatiguing."

"But why does not Herbert come in at once?"

He had gone behind the coach, and the driver was helping him take down a trunk.

"Where did he get it?" thought his mother, in surprise.

"I guess you can get it into the house yourself," she heard the driver say.

"Yes, I'll manage it; you needn't wait," said Herbert.

The driver cracked his whip, and the lumbering old coach drove on.

"Oh, there you are, mother," said Herbert, looking toward the house for the first time. "I'll be with you in a minute."

And he began to draw the trunk in through the front gate.

"Where did you get that trunk, Herbert?" asked Mrs. Carter.

"Oh, it's my legacy," said Herbert, laughing. "Here it is," and he lifted it up, and laid it down in the front entry.

"What is inside?" asked his mother, with natural curiosity.

"It isn't full of gold and silver, mother, so don't raise your expectations too high. It contains some clothes of Uncle Herbert, out of which you can get some for me."

"I am glad of that, for you need some new clothes. Well, we were not forgotten, after all."

"You don't seem disappointed, mother."

"I might have wished for a little money besides, Herbert; but beggars cannot be choosers."

"But sometimes they get what they wish for. Uncle Herbert left you a legacy of a hundred dollars."

"A hundred dollars!" said Mrs. Carter, brightly. "Why, that will be quite a help for us. Was it left to me?"

"Yes, to you."

"It was kind in your uncle. My legacy is more than yours, Herbert."

"I don't know about that, mother; look here!"

And Herbert displayed his gold and silver.

"Here are fifty-two dollars that I found in the pocket of a vest. It belongs to me, for the will says expressly that I am to have the trunk and all it contains."

"I am really glad," said his mother, joyfully. "We are more fortunate than I expected. Sit down and tell me all about it. Who got the bulk of the property?"

"None of the relations. It is bequeathed to the town of Randolph, to found a high school, to be called the Carter School."

"Well, it will do good, at any rate. Didn't the other relations receive legacies?"

"Small ones; but they didn't seem very well satisfied. Do you know Mr. and Mrs. Josiah Pinkerton?"

"Slightly," said Mrs. Carter, smiling. "Were they there?"

"She was, and he was in attendance upon her. She didn't give him a chance to say much."

"I have always heard she kept him in good subjection. How did they fare?"

"They and their two children received a hundred dollars apiece. She was mad and wanted to break the will. Then there was a Mr. Granger, a farmer, who got the same; and Cornelius Dixon, also."

"I hope Aunt Nancy fared better. She is the best of them all." "She is allowed to occupy the house, rent free, and is to have an income of two hundred dollars a year as long as she lives."

"I am really glad to hear it," said Mrs. Carter, with emphasis. "She deserves all her good fortune. One of the best things her brother did in life was to allow her such an income as to keep her independent of public charity; I feared he would forget to provide for her."

"She seems a good old lady. She asked me to invite you to call and see her."

"I should like to do so, and if I ever have occasion to go to Randolph
I will certainly do so."

"Now, mother," said Herbert, when he had answered his mother's questions, "I want you to take this money, and use it as you need."

"But, Herbert, it was left to you."

"And if you use it I shall receive my share of it. By the way, your money will be sent you next week; so Mr. Spencer assured me."

"Who is Mr. Spencer?"

"The lawyer who read the will. He was very kind to me. It was at his house I spent the night. I got acquainted with his son, Tom, a fine fellow. I met also James Leech, whom I cannot compliment so highly. He was visiting Tom."

"I never thought him an agreeable boy." "Nor anyone else, I expect. He appears to think he can put on airs, and expects everybody to bow down to him because his father is a rich man."

"I hope you didn't quarrel with him," said Mrs. Carter, apprehensively.

"Oh, no, he sneered at me, as usual, and drew a ridiculous picture of my appearance with my uncle's clothes on."

"Do you mind what he says?" asked his mother, anxiously.

"A little," said Herbert, "but I can stand it if he doesn't go too far."

"He has an unhappy nature. I think his father must have been somewhat like him when he was young."

"So do I. He feels just as important as James. I like to see him strut round, as if he owned the whole village."

"He does own more of it than anyone else. Among the rest, he owns our house, in part."

"You mean he has a mortgage on it, mother?"

"Yes."

"Seven hundred and fifty dollars, isn't it?"

"Yes, Herbert."

"How much do you consider the whole worth?" asked our hero, thoughtfully.

"It cost your father fifteen hundred dollars. That is, the land— nearly an acre—cost three hundred dollars, and the house, to build, twelve hundred."

"Would it sell for that?"

"Not if a sale were forced; but, if anybody wanted it, fifteen hundred dollars would not be too much to pay."

"I wish the mortgage were paid."

"So do I, my son; but we are not very likely to be able to pay it."

"How fine it would have been if Uncle Herbert had left us, say eight hundred dollars, so that we might have paid it up, and still have had a little left for immediate use!"

"Yes, Herbert, it would have made us feel quite independent, but it isn't best speculating on what might have been. It is better to do the best we can with what we really have."

"I suppose you are right, mother; but it is pleasant to dream of good fortune, even if we know it is out of reach."

"The trouble is, our dreaming often interferes with our working."

"It shan't interfere with mine. I've got something to work for."

"Do you refer to anything in particular, Herbert?"

"Yes. I want to pay off this mortgage," answered Herbert, manfully.

"Some day, when you are a man, you may be able; but the time is too far off to spend much time upon it at present."

Herbert had moved to the window as the conversation went on. Suddenly he called to his mother: "Look, mother, there is Squire Leech riding up. He is pointing out our house to the man that is riding with him. Do you know who it is?"

"Yes, it is Mr. Banks, his new superintendent. He has just come into the village."

"I wonder why he pointed at our house?"

"Probably he was telling him that he had a mortgage on it."

"When does the interest come due on the mortgage?"

"Next week. I had only five dollars laid by to meet it, but, thanks to my legacy, I shall have no trouble in the matter."

"If you couldn't pay the interest, could the squire foreclose?"

"Yes, that's the law, I believe."

"And he would take advantage of it. But he never shall, if I can prevent it."

Horatio Alger