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Chapter 41

CONCLUSION


The news was that Mr. Manning and Mark had just arrived at the Cedars. They had come by the last evening train. Why they had come back so unexpectedly no one knew, but the servant had heard that Mark was in poor health. This was true.

Mark, in Europe, had proved uncontrollable. He had given way to his natural love of drink, had kept late hours, and had seriously injured his constitution. In consequence of these excesses, he had contracted a fever, which alarmed him father and induced him to take the first steamer home.

"We won't call upon your stepfather this evening, Frank," said Col. Vincent; "but early Monday morning we will bring matters to a crisis."

Mr. Manning did not hear of Frank's presence in the village. He was fatigued with his rapid travel and kept at home. Besides, Mark was prostrated by his journey and didn't wish to be left alone.

It was, therefore, a surprise to Mr. Manning when on Monday morning, Col. Vincent was ushered into his presence, accompanied by Frank.

"Really, colonel," he said, recovering his composure, "you are very kind to call so soon. I hope you are well, Frank? Are you staying with the colonel? You must come back to your old home."

"Thank you, Mr. Manning, but I am living in New York. I am only passing a day or two with the colonel."

"It is very friendly in you to call, Col. Vincent."

"Mr. Manning," said Col. Vincent, gravely, "I am not willing to receive undeserved credit. Let me say, therefore, that this is a business, not a friendly, call."

"Indeed," said Manning, uneasily.

"The business is connected with my young friend Frank."

"I am ready to listen," said Mr. Manning. "If Frank wants a larger allowance, I am ready to give it."

"I venture to say for him that he will not be satisfied with that. Let me come to the point at once, Mr. Manning. Mrs. Manning's will has been found."

Mr. Manning started perceptibly, and his glance involuntarily wandered to that part of the wall behind which the will was discovered, for they were sitting in the very apartment where Mrs. Noonan had stumbled upon it.

"What do you mean, sir?"

"A will has been found, leaving the bulk of the property to Frank."

"Indeed! I am surprised. Is it a later will than the one which bequeathed the estate to me?" asked Mr. Manning, pointedly.

"It is Mrs. Manning's latest genuine will," said Col. Vincent, emphatically.

Mr. Manning started to his feet. He could not help understanding the colonel's meaning. It would have been idle to pretend it.

"What do you mean, Col. Vincent?" he asked, in a tone which he tried to make one of dignified resentment.

"I mean that Mrs. Manning made but one will, and that this bequeaths the property to Frank."

"How, then, do you account for the later will which was admitted to probate?"

"In this way. It was not what it purported to be."

Mr. Manning's sallow face flushed.

"What do you mean to insinuate?" he asked.

"That the last will was forged!" said Col. Vincent, bluntly.

"This is a very serious charge," said Mr. Manning, unable to repress his agitation. "You must allow me to say that I shall pay no attention to it. When you furnish proof of what you assert, it will be time enough to meet it. And now, gentlemen, if you have nothing further to say, I will bid you good-morning."

"I think you will find it best not to be in a hurry, Mr. Manning," said Col. Vincent. "The charge must be met here and now. I charge you with instigating and being cognizant of the fraud that has been perpetrated!"

"On what grounds, sir? Do you know I can sue you for libel?"

"You are welcome to do so, Mr. Manning. I have a witness who will clear me."

"Who is he?"

"Jonas Barton!"

If a bombshell had exploded in the room, Mr. Manning could not have looked paler or more thoroughly dismayed. Yet he tried to keep up a little longer.

"I don't know any man of that name," he answered, faintly.

"Your looks show that you do. I may as well tell you, Mr. Manning, that resistance is useless. We can overwhelm you with proof if we take the matter before the courts. But we do not care to do so. We have something to propose."

"What is it?" said Mr. Manning, faintly.

"The genuine will must be substituted for the fraudulent one. By it you will receive ten thousand dollars, and Frank will consent that you shall receive it. He will not ask you to account for the sums you have wrongfully spent during the last year, and will promise not to prosecute you, provided you leave this neighborhood and never return to it, or in any way interfere with him. To insure this, we shall have Jonas Barton's written confession, attested before a justice of the peace, ready for use, if needful. Do you accept?"

"I must," said Mr. Manning, despondently. "But I shall be a poor man."

"No man who has health and the use of his facilities is poor with ten thousand dollars," answered the colonel.

"Mark alone will spend more than the interest of this sum."

"Then you must prevent him. He will be better off if he has to earn his living, as Frank has done for the last year."

In less than a week the transfer was made, and Frank recovered his patrimony.

Mr. Manning and Mark went to Chicago, and perhaps further West; but nothing has been heard from them for years.

Frank didn't return to the Cedars. The place was let until he should wish to return to it.

By the advice of Col. Vincent, he resumed his preparation for college, and, graduating in due time, commenced the study of law.

Though rich enough to do without a profession, he felt that he should not be content to lead an aimless life.

He obtained for his school friend, Herbert Grant, the post of private secretary to Mr. Percival, and Herbert became nearly as great a favorite as himself.

Through Mr. Percival's kindness, Herbert was enabled, while still living at his house and attending to his duties as secretary, to enter Columbia College, and complete his course there, graduating with honor.

Herbert selected the medical profession, and, when he has completed his studies, will go abroad for a year with Frank, at the latter's expense, and, returning, open an office in New York.

While he is waiting for the patients and Frank for clients, the two will live together, and their common expenses will be defrayed by Frank.

"If I didn't like you so well, Frank," said Herbert, "I would not accept this great favor at your hands—"

"But since we are dear friends," interrupts Frank, with a smile.

"I know that you enjoy giving even more than I do the receiving."

"Enough, Herbert. We understand each other. I have no brother, Herbert, and if I had, I could not care more for him than I do for you. Without you, I should feel alone in the world."

Frank does not regret the year in which he was thrown upon his own resources. It gave him strength and self-reliance; and however long he may live, he will not cease to remember with pleasure the year in which he was "Making His Way."


THE END

Horatio Alger