“Now, what would you call that name, Walters?—to me it looks like Stimmens, or Stunners, or something of the kind!”
“Never mind the name,” exclaimed Walters—“skip that—let me hear the rest of the letter; we shall find out who he is soon enough, in all conscience.”
“Well, then,” resumed Mr. Balch—“This gentleman, Mr.——, is a resident in your city; and he will, no doubt, take an early opportunity of calling on you, in reference to the matter. It is my opinion, that without a will in their favour, these children cannot oppose his claim successfully, if he can prove his consanguinity to Mr. Garie. His lawyer here showed me a copy of the letters and papers which are to be used as evidence, and, I must say, they are entirely without flaw. He proves himself, undoubtedly, to be the first cousin of Mr. Garie. You are, no doubt, aware that these children being the offspring of a slave-woman, cannot inherit, in this State (except under certain circumstances), the property of a white father. I am, therefore, very much afraid that they are entirely at his mercy.”
“Well, then,” said Walters, when Mr. Balch finished reading the letter, “it is clear there is an heir, and his claim must be well sustained, if such a man as Beckley, the first lawyer in the State, does not hesitate to endorse it; and as all the property (with the exception of a few thousands in my hands) lies in Georgia, I’m afraid the poor children will come off badly, unless this new heir prove to be a man of generosity—at all events, it seems we are completely at his mercy.”
“We must hope for the best,” rejoined Mr. Balch. “If he has any heart, he certainly will make some provision for them. The disappearance of that will is to me most unaccountable! I am confident it was at his house. It seemed so singular that none of his papers should be missing, except that—there were a great many others, deeds, mortgages, &c. scattered over the floor, but no will!”
The gentlemen were thus conversing, when they heard a tap at the door. “Come in!” cried Mr. Balch; and, in answer to the request, in walked Mr. George Stevens.
Mr. Walters and Mr. Balch bowed very stiffly, and the latter inquired what had procured him the honour of a visit.
“I have called upon you in reference to the property of the late Mr. Garie.” “Oh! you are acting in behalf of this new claimant, I suppose?” rejoined Mr. Balch.
“Sir!” said Mr. Stevens, looking as though he did not thoroughly understand him.
“I said,” repeated Mr. Balch, “that I presumed you called in behalf of this new-found heir to Mr. Garie’s property.”
Mr. Stevens looked at him for a moment, then drawing himself up, exclaimed, “I AM THE HEIR!”
“You!—you the heir!” cried both the gentlemen, almost simultaneously.
“Yes, I am the heir!” coolly repeated Mr. Stevens, with an assured look. “I am the first cousin of Mr. Garie!”