“I really can’t see why it should concern you,” said Margaret, sweetly, “but since you ask—I do. You couldn’t expect me to remain inconsolable forever, you know.”
Then the room blurred before her eyes. She stood rigid, defiant. She was dimly aware that Billy was speaking, speaking from a great distance, it seemed, and then after a century or two his face came back to her out of the whirl of things. And, though she did not know it, they were smiling bravely at one another.
“—and so,” Mr. Woods was stating, “I’ve been an even greater ass than usual, and I hope you’ll be very, very happy.”
[Illustration: “Billy unfolded it slowly, with a puzzled look growing in his countenance.”]
“Thank you,” she returned, mechanically, “I—I hope so.”
After an interval, “Good-night, Peggy,” said Mr. Woods.
“Oh—? Good-night,” said she, with a start.
He turned to go. Then, “By Jove!” said he, grimly, “I’ve been so busy making an ass of myself I’d forgotten all about more—more important things.”
Mr. Woods picked up the keys and, going to the desk, unlocked the centre compartment with a jerk. Afterward he gave a sharp exclamation. He had found a paper in the secret drawer at the back which appeared to startle him.
Billy unfolded it slowly, with a puzzled look growing in his countenance. Then for a moment Margaret’s golden head drew close to his yellow curls and they read it through together. And in the most melodramatic and improbable fashion in the world they found it to be the last will and testament of Frederick R. Woods.
“But—but I don’t understand,” was Miss Hugonin’s awed comment. “It’s exactly like the other will, only—why, it’s dated the seventeenth of June, the day before he died! And it’s witnessed by Hodges and Burton—the butler and the first footman, you know—and they’ve never said anything about such a paper. And, then, why should he have made another will just like the first?”
By and bye, “I think I can explain that,” he said, in a rather peculiar voice. “You see, Hodges and Burton witnessed all his papers, half the time without knowing what they were about. They would hardly have thought of this particular one after his death. And it isn’t quite the same will as the other; it leaves you practically everything, but it doesn’t appoint any trustees, as the other did, because this will was drawn up after you were of age. Moreover, it contains these four bequests to colleges, to establish a Woods chair of ethnology, which the other will didn’t provide for. Of course, it would have been simpler merely to add a codicil to the first will, but Uncle Fred was always very methodical. I—I think he was probably going through the desk the night he died, destroying various papers. He must have taken the other will out to destroy it just—just before he died. Perhaps—perhaps—” Billy paused for a little and then laughed, unmirthfully. “It scarcely matters,” said he. “Here is the will. It is undoubtedly genuine and undoubtedly the last he made. You’ll have to have it probated, Peggy, and settle with the colleges. It—it won’t make much of a hole in the Woods millions.”